Right Speech: Noble Eightfold Path Part 2

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Right speech may be one of the hardest tenants of the Noble Eightfold Path to follow. It is one that I find challenging at every turn!

Buddha laid out the following guidelines for Right Speech:

1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully.

2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others.

3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others.

4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth.

Buddha sets the bar high for us trouble-making human beings! Yet we can’t deny the pain and frustration that wrong speech can bring to our lives on a daily basis. Our words have such power over us that they creep into our muscles and bones — they have the power to give us life or cripple our souls.

Many of us seem to feel we have the no lying part of Right Speech down, but very few of us have mastered the art of not talking badly about our neighbors/co-workers/friends/family members, or using words that offend, or engage in idle chatter throughout the day.

I have to be the first to admit that I love to chatter – love to comment on things and discuss and talk and talk and talk. And sometimes it gets so darn tiring. It’s actually freeing for me to realize that I just can be still and should be still more often. And when I’m being still, I’m learning to be a better listener.

Surrounding talking about others, I find it all too easy to be entertained by the latest gossip — to hear the rundown on what Jane did yesterday, or what Tom is doing today, and about how Jane and Tom got into an argument over x,y and z. I listen and engage in the drama-filled gossip session, and I find myself tired and a bit stressed by the end. Jane and Tom’s x, y’s and z’s become my problems indirectly — and yep…my muscles and bones feel it.

It is said that we don’t use our minds to their fullest potential, and just maybe this has to do partially, or maybe even majorly with the words we choose to use and how much we engage in idle chatter. Sometimes we babble on about how we don’t want to do something, or how silly it is we have to perform a certain action, etc. And by the time we are done going on and on and on, the thing that we dread would be completed and our minds reeling from the high from performing a task successfully.

Or we blurt out something and wish we could reel it back in — and then we spend the rest of the day thinking about (while wasting mental energy) what we said. We worry about the repercussions of our words.

In a nutshell, we are our words. Our words shape and mold much of our daily experience.

I make mistakes each day. I choose words that I regret…but I need to remind myself that I can stop my words right as they are about to come out of my lips. And I can breathe…and let my ill-feelings pass. And if I fail and those words come spewing out of my mouth. I’ll try again and again and again…and maybe…just maybe…I’ll be on the Right Speech path one fine day.

-Post by Jen Engevik of Project BE Bold

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3 Comments

  1. This is so very true! In reading this I find myself wanting to expand my mind by changing my words, or by adding a new thought pattern to the words that I use.
    A new way to express kindness or a new description for something beautiful can always be found if we look.
    It is important for us to surround ourselves with good words and with the good use of words.

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