Right Speech

I used to enjoy participating in discussions. Despite the knowledge that there are always many sides to a story, I still believed that my own subjective (and flawed!) viewpoints were somehow “more appropriate” and would lead to “better understanding”. Intending to be “objective”, I took sides, sometimes even fervently. Trying to make things right, I often made things worse.

Recently, however, my urge to take sides decreases. Beyond all belief systems and viewpoints I wish to discover relations and structures – something that remains “invariant” under any possible viewpoint, similar to mathematical and physical concepts (e.g. symmetry groups, isomorphisms, general covariance).

Still I can sense something “not quite right” about most of my utterances, including this posting right here and now. Whenever I speak or write, it seems to me that a subtle form of “tunnel vision” arises, like a growing “blind spot” that I cannot see. Indeed there is some benefit in remaining silent: you can listen better, and thus you might understand more.

As for my favourite “speech guideline”, Gotama Siddhattha mentions these five factors of Right Speech: a well-spoken statement is thus spoken …

– at the right time
– in truth
– affectionately
– beneficially
– with a mind of good-will

… all of which probably sounds “obvious”, yet it seems much easier said than done. The “right time” (or proper/appropriate time) cannot be enforced by will, it has to be recognized through “wisdom” (carefully developed on its own). As for “beneficial”, wishful thinking alone is not enough. The “mind of good-will” co-determines the long-term effects of any bodily, verbal or mental action.

One must be honest with oneself, though – to apply even the slightest trace of self-deception concerning any of these factors defeats their very purpose. Understanding becomes difficult without integrity, both for oneself and others.

Interestingly, the dichotomy “(un)endearing & (dis)agreeable to others” has no effect in light of these factors. You don’t necessarily have to say what others expect to hear. Just remain completely aware of it all. – Easy, huh? :-)

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