An important Buddhist practice that brings tons of happiness to a family is Right Speech.
Right speech basically means speaking only stuff that benefits others, at the right time, in the right manner and to of course, avoid harmful speech.
This takes considerable effort because we tend to be very relaxed around our family. In another word, we usually take them for granted. For non-practitioners, being relax usually translate to not being mindful.
On the other hand, when we are socialising with friends and colleagues, we tend to be mindful of what we say, least we offend them. So it is kind of illogical. We end up hurting people we truly care…..
Therefore, the objective of this practice is to cultivate mindfulness in our speech. Ultimately it becomes a habit. We will then, be naturally mindful of what we say at all time. We treat everyone equally, saying only good things at all time.
So what is right speech in the family?
1. Kind and beautiful words.
We look at the positive side of people we love and be generous with words of appreciation and encouragement. So remember to praise the effort of someone’s cooking even if it taste horrible. Praise their little acts of kindness and consideration. By acknowledging each other’s strength and positive traits, we encourage wholesome acts within the family.
2. Melodious tone
Not saying that we have to sing our words but rather, be mindful of our tone when we speak. Preferably, an even tone that is not tainted by impatience, frustration or aversion. Sometimes we are not mindful of our emotion and it affects our tone. A simple “I am busy now, can you give me a minute.” will sound very different when said in a happy tone instead of a grouchy one.
Just like medicine, sometimes beneficial words are hard to swallow because they are bitter. Just as a doctor may coat medicine with sweet to help a child, sometimes we have to speak with skill to benefit another. To benefit others, we have to let go of our self and truly try to understand our family, consider their point of views before even speaking. In short, just like dispensing medicine, we have to do it with care and skill.
4. Timely speech
It is already busy at work and sometimes we only have that 2 to 3 hours at home with our love ones. We became anxious about getting our point across. Our objective is to get our point across but when we do that, we neglect one important thing. Is the recipient of our message ready to receive? If they are not, then our “gift” of speech becomes meaningless at best and turns into a misunderstanding in the worst case scenario.
Another consideration is location. Sometimes we can be saying the most inappropriate things at the most inappropriate time. For example, family dinner?
5. Words of truth
Speaking only truth and avoiding lies promotes trust in the family.
However, getting the truth can be a challenge.
We may not see the complete picture at all times. The problem is made more complicated when we project our delusion to half truths. Consequently, we ended up accusing our love ones, of things that they never did or never intended.
At times, we are even confuse about ourselves. We do not really know what we want. When we are confused, we confuse others.
In such situations, words of truth becomes impossible.
That is why, it is important for us to be calm and mindful of what we want to say. It is also important that we do not jump to conclusion and make groundless assumptions.
The advise to hold our tongue is good. Do not speak hastily and regret later. Take a little bit of zen moment to find ourselves. Know our mind, establish the facts. Then communicate.
6. Speak with good-will
To do that, we have to let go of ourselves and purely think about being kind and helpful to others. Speak only words that are born out of good will. Before we speak,take a moment to reflect. Am I really saying this out of goodwill for the other party or am I speaking to protect my own interest and ego?
Good-will is from loving kindness and compassion. True kindness and compassion is selfless.
One common mistake about goodwill, is to project our life experience as an ultimate truth. We tend to believe that our way of life is the best, or we know best. Being egoistic, we mistakenly believe that we are advising people for their benefit. That is when we give advise such as “Don’t waste your time on your hobbies”- and we have people who build a good career out of their hobbies and enjoy their work everyday.
“Stop hanging out with so and so.” – and we ended up breaking a beautiful friendship or romance
“If you choose a gay lifestyle, that will be the end of you!” – It is not a choice, love just happen. Gay people can live responsibly and contribute positively to the society and family too.
7. Words that brings harmony
It is important to have harmony at home. Therefore, words that promote harmony becomes important. It is similar to team building. We say things that promote bonding and team spirit in a family. We respect every member equally and avoid favouritism.
Conversely, we avoid divisive words.
Speaking bad about a family member behind their back is very negative. Especially if we have an intention of “bringing people over to our side” Once we have the notion of your camp versus my camp, the family is already splitted in our mind. It will not heal anything but only create a deep cut.
Sometimes not saying anything is the best. It is a no brainer to hold our tongue when we are feeling off the color. However, it may also be good to hold our tongue when we are euphorically high. So happy that we become intoxicated and frivolous in our speech.
Although there is no ill-will in our speech, we may still be tainted by ignorance. Especially, ignorance about other’s feeling.
For example, your daughter just became conscious of her look in school and feels bad about herself, she felt that she is oversized. She return from school and you address her as pumpkin from the kitchen? Yah, it can make the day worse for her….
Again it takes mindfulness to know what in our mind, is driving our speech.
By now, it is apparent that right speech requires a lot of mindfulness. Not only do we need to be mindful of our words, we also need to be mindful of our thoughts that is influencing our words. Therefore, Buddhist practice emphasize mind training such as meditation and chanting. Mind training help us quiet down our busy mind and become mindful of what is going on, inside and outside of us.
May all be well and happy.
Indeed, Jamyang, skillfulness in words, thoughts and actions is one the most important daily practice. Thank you for your wise share.
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Thank you Cornelia. Glad to hear from you as always. Amitabha Buddhaya 🙏
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This is a very inspiring and insightful piece to read. You have written it in the right way in the right time and in the right place to really bless me with your kindness. I struggle with my speech from time to time, just yesterday I said something hurtful to someone very dear to me. Although I said sorry 😐 it left such a bad taste in my mouth not to mention in her ears. Are there teachings on apologies that you know of?
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Yes, I have experience that many times too. I think the best action is to apologise promptly and try do many more good deeds in return. Show more love and kindness etc. Personally, the understanding of non-self help me deal with burden of guilt and take proactive action to create new positive karma. Start afresh.
But, for the person whom I have hurt, it really depends on what they want. Sometimes, they just do not want to see me at that point in time and I have to respect their wish. Having planted anger in someone else’s mind, I guess I can only try my best to make them happy again.
I guess the best apologies comes from right motivation and our follow up actions…..
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Yes especially the follow up actions