The Next Buddha is Sangha

Words Have Tremendous Power

The teaching of ethical conduct or integrity is the second of the three limbs of the Eightfold Path. Sila (ethics) includes wise speech, wise action, and wise livelihood that do no harm. The practice is twofold: to resolve to do no harm and to do only that which is wholesome and skillful. The Buddha said that skillful actions have freedom from remorse as their purpose. They are a conscious choice to refrain from behavior that causes fear, confusion and suffering. There are increasing levels of subtlety in them.

Speech is a strong conditioning force in our lives. The Buddha cautioned against four unskillful ways of speaking: false speech or lying, angry or aggressive speech, gossip, and frivolous or useless talk. That covers a lot of what is said in modern life! So how do we take these guidelines as our practice? How do we reflect on and come back to them again and again? Words have tremendous power to harm and to heal. Knowing this, we endeavor to communicate in a way that facilitates openness and freedom rather than constriction and suffering.

Our understanding and intention inform and guide our actions so that speech emanates from a wholesome place. It begins in our mind-hearts: we can be aware of how many of your thoughts are not true, have a judgmental or harsh tone, are gossip, are useless. Note thoughts within the 4 categories before giving voice to them. Practice carefully enough to see the motivation before speech—and refrain when it is not motivated by metta or care. You can do it!