Yes, we are meeting 'in-person'

Exciting News! For those of you in the Vancouver / Camas area we are meeting again in-person at the Breathe Wellness Company. If you are comfortable meeting with us in-person at this time then please join us at 7pm on Sundays. Plan on arriving ten minutes before to get settled. We will be following all current WA State guidelines and I ask that you are mindful and respectful of other people's comfort levels. I will be wearing a mask but will remove it once we are settled and distanced to lead the meditation. For now we will not be having after-meditation tea but hopefully soon. I will be updating our website with the latest details so check back here if you are unsure.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Skillful Words

Skillful Words

A recurring theme in what I write is that we can all agree that if everyone else was more loving and compassionate in their words and actions then this world would be a better place. Of course the corollary to this is that the only person I can actually change is my self - that at the end of the day it is incumbent on each of us to choose to be more loving and compassionate.

With everything that is going on in the world at the moment it is easy to focus outwards, to concentrate on where we think the blame lies. We see the actions and speech of others and condemn them. This is especially true at the moment when we think of the influence of social media, where continued intentional and unintentional mistruths and divisive words seem to be tearing us apart.

And yes, we can all agree that if everyone else was more truthful and compassionate in their words and actions the world would be a better place. But of course, once again, we each have to take responsibility that it is our own words and actions we have to look at, we can only change our selves.

The good news is that in the Pali writings there is very clear and guidance for how we should post on social media. Yes, you heard that right - some two thousand year-old writings can give us clear guidance on social media behavior.

In the Abhaya Sutta Prince Abhaya asks The Buddha (who here refers to himself as 'The Tathagata') a tricky questions about speech:

...Prince Abhaya took a lower seat and sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "Lord, would the Tathagata say words that are unendearing & disagreeable to others?"

"Prince, there is no categorical yes-or-no answer to that."
...

[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."
Now, as is typical in these older writings, there is a lot of near-repetition here, where just a few words are changed in each paragraph. If you read carefully you will see that there is a clear logic to the words (the programmer in me sees this as a classic IF...ELSE or CASE statement!).  If you find this a little dense then the translator, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, gives a very clear summary in his introduction:

In this discourse, the Buddha shows the factors that go into deciding what is and is not worth saying. The main factors are three: whether or not a statement is true, whether or not it is beneficial, and whether or not it is pleasing to others. The Buddha himself would state only those things that are true and beneficial, and would have a sense of time for when pleasing and unpleasing things should be said. Notice that the possibility that a statement might be untrue yet beneficial is not even entertained.

As I say, this is very clear advice and can be directly applied to all of our speech and interaction with others - and is directly relevant to how we might choose - or not choose - to post on social media. Ask three things - is what I am going to say true? Is it beneficial for the reader/hearer? Will it be pleasing to them?

If the words are untrue or not beneficial then we should say nothing. If they are true and beneficial then we ask whether they will be pleasing to hear. Having determined that, we ask whether this is the right time to say them. Note that something can be true, beneficial and pleasing, but we still choose not to say them. If they are true and beneficial and unpleasing (disagreeable) then we take extra care in what we say. Why? As we are told "Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings" - in other words, we choose whether or not to say something through a sense of compassion. If we are posting from anger or indignation then that is not right speech.

I have done my best to ensure what I say here is true, and I hope that it is both beneficial and pleasant to read. Hopefully I got the timing right too!

Metta, Chris.

I have linked below a meditation on being skillful (Kusala) in our speech. Feel free to listen and use it in whatever way supports your practice.



 

"Abhaya Sutta: To Prince Abhaya" (MN 58), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.058.than.html .

 

 Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

 

 

 

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