yesterday, April 8th, Buddhists commemorated the birth of Siddartha Gautama, the Indian prince who would become the Buddha, the awakened one. over 2500 years have passed since then and his teachings on suffering, the causes of suffering, and the path out of suffering still resonate. how do we relate to our world and to ourselves in a way that is open-hearted and sane, recognizing our interconnection and interdependence, and living in a way that is loving, compassionate, and balanced, living in equanimity? the Buddha provided a path and practices to engage life in such a way.
when we think of Buddhism or Buddhist practice, meditation quickly comes to mind. meditation practice is part of the path. however, often overlooked, is ethical practice as part of the path, something the Buddha regularly emphasized. ethical living is the ground upon which we live a life that benefits and doesn’t bring or add to harm. how to live in a way that is non-harming can be obvious in some instances, but more subtle and nuanced in others.
the principles of ethical living (our precepts in Buddhism) can be observed and practiced by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. principles such as not killing or harming, right speech, etc. in our current times with the proliferation of harmful and divisive rhetoric, along with alternative facts (aka lies) and propaganda, practicing Right Speech is desperately needed.
below, Roshi Joan Halifax presents what the Buddha said about Right Speech:
The Buddha identified five conditions we are to explore in relation to speech.
1. Do I speak at the right time or not? Is this the right time? Really stepping back to see if this is the right moment.
2. Do I speak the facts or not. Am I saying what’s really true?
3. Am I speaking harshly or gently?
4. Do my words benefit beings or not?
5. What is my motivation? Do I speak with a good heart or is my heart malicious?
these are, indeed, good and beneficial guidelines to live by for our speech. may we learn to use our words beneficially and with love.
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