Right Speech

6 minute read

Eightfoldpath

In this short article I will talk about right speech which is one of the eightfold paths. Right speech encompasses anything you say to others and yourself, even with talking in your mind you should practice right speech.

A key thing in right speech is to not tell lies to anybody, but you don’t need to tell everyone your whole life, but just have speech which is consistent with the truth as you know it to be, and which is relevant to the discussion at hand. The reason this causes suffering is because you need to constantly keep track of what you have told people all the time in order to be organized with yourself, and so if you are always lying then it will cause much suffering to yourself in keeping track of what you have and haven’t told others because it causes you suffering in the sense that you just are not organized and it can be a bit much on yourself keeping track on who you have told what to whom. It also hinders your soul because when you don’t tell people the truth as you know it to be then it brings death to the soul, but also it hurts others which brings death to yourself.

Another aspect of right speech is talking at the correct time when it is your time to speak during conversations - which is something that I cannot really read, I guess for me it’s due to confidence in a way and feeling like I am a bad person in doing this, which is just silly really, but also I speak out of turn a lot because my own personality and ego gets in the way and also my anxiety can also take control over me. It’s also about having relevant conversations to the correct people at the right time and realizing when the correct time for discussion on xyz is. For example, you shouldn’t disturb someone who is sleeping to talk about moving from your house.

Right speech is also about avoiding idle talk, gossip and speaking ill of others, because essentially it causes others suffering if they find out about you talking ill about them, but it causes yourself suffering in the sense that its low vibrational level talk which hinders your soul (for me at least) and is mostly just piety to talk about these kinds of things, because its zero sum – in the sense that you don’t really get much and the other party doesn’t really get much from it either – except fulfilling their own egos. Its also about showing others respect for all their idiosyncrasy, faults and characters by avoiding talking ill of them and avoiding lying to them.

A further aspect of Right Speech is knowing when to be silent during conversation – even if someone asks you a question directly to you because it adds to the conversation even not answering someone’s question. But of course, this isn’t an excuse to not talk to people during conversation but is another aspect of right speech which I thought I would mention here.

Right speech is also about using the correct use of your language (whichever language that you speak in) and ensuring that you can present yourself in a way that you would like to be presented to others.

Its also about not hurting others through your words - which I think is quite important because it brings death to the soul, but also hurts the other person. There is a time and place for every conversation and some things are better left unsaid sometimes.

Lastly the final aspect of right speech is having healthy, good, meaningful conversations to others about things which are of importance to either them or yourself and also having the appropriate body language – tone of voice – energy level during conversation. This causes suffering to yourself because you should come across in conversation in saying what you mean and tone of voice, body language and energy level is what matters if you don’t then it undermines yourself and brings death to the soul because you are not able to come across and present to the world what you mean – which causes suffering and causes others to misconstrue. In other words, say what you mean.

For me its also about control – because I feel that by not being 100% truthful it will free me from suffering because I feel that others cause me suffering in how they judge me (or how I perceive they will judge me), but really, I cause myself suffering by not adhering to the eightfold path as best as I can. Which also plays into this fault I have that you need to fight fire with fire. Its just difficult for me to really accept this, I guess. I also need to understand more why there is nothing is permanent, and everything is in constant change. But then again what’s the worst judgement someone can really make about me – and who are they to make that judgement upon me? The only judgement I should give is to myself and I should judge myself fairly.

In conclusion, right speech is not lying to others, having good conversations with people using the correct body language and tone of voice, speaking to others at the correct times in conversations. But its also about ensuring that you avoid from idle talk, gossip and speaking ill of others (even in your own mind and in a way plays a lot into judging others which is something that everyone should strive to do because it causes others suffering how others are judged – which isn’t good). Its also about saying what you mean and believing in what you say because its important to do that to free yourself from suffering.

Update 1: 08/03/22

Right Speech is also about having conversations when appropriate and meaning in what you say i.e saying something and then having an ulterior motive because this brings suffuring.

Update 2: 18/03/22

What is really important about Right Speech is to ensure that you understand why not having right speech causes you suffering. I recommend that you read this amazing resource on Right Speech that I got from /r/buddhism on Reddit.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-vaca/index.html

This has helped me to really understand that I have given way to divisive speech a lot in my life, which others can and do pick up on and really its just immature to have this kind of speech and really plays into how I still haven’t quite mastered right intention yet, but I feel I need to work on right speech because it does cause me suffering and causes many suffering. I guess this article wasn’t and isn’t a bad start to understanding what right speech really looks like, but the Buddha in that article I linked there I think did a better job at explaining it than I did.

Update 3: 04/04/22

Of course I am very new to Buddhism so take what I say with a pinch of salt and there are other resources listed below which may help you understand Buddhism a little better.

Resources:

Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen https://www.amazon.co.uk/Buddhism-Plain-Simple-Arkana-Steve/dp/0140195963/ref=sr_1_5?crid=34M92RA2NH4SR&keywords=buddhism&qid=1649083246&sprefix=buddhism%2Caps%2C79&sr=8-5\

Unhindered: A mindful path through the Five Hindrances by Gill Fronsdal https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unhindered-Mindful-Path-Through-Hindrances/dp/0989833402/ref=sr_1_1?crid=NPAIHMT6E263&keywords=unhindered+a+mindful+path+through+the+five+hindrances&qid=1649084275&sprefix=unhindered+a+mindful+path+through+the+five+hindrances%2Caps%2C55&sr=8-1\

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/index.html\

https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/the-five-hindrances-handouts/