Scriptural

Metta Sutta – Chapter 5

Straightforward and gentle in speech,

Humble and not conceited,

Contented and easily satisfied,

Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.

“Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness” (Sn 1.8), translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 2 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.08.amar.html .

Continuing our exploration of the Metta Sutta.

When it comes to Buddhist practice, we cannot emphasize enough, the importance of skillful speech. Our speech is a communication tool and it verbalize our thoughts. Much of what is going on in our mind will be reflected in what we say and how we say it.

If we want to know the level of someone’s practice, or even their character; just observe what comes out of their mouth.

How does our speech affect out mind?

For beginners, it is easier for us to train our mind by observing rules. This is because we are still not mindful of our train of thoughts. When we make an effort to control our speech, it indirectly condition our mind too. For example, when we constantly try to say kind things, our mind will be influenced to think nice thoughts. And when we abstain from harsh speech, our mind will learn to reject harsh thoughts. It is a simple logic that escape many people.

That is why in Chinese Buddhism, the emphasis is

  1. 戒 (PRECEPTS) – Actions and speech
  2. 定(SAMANDHI)- Mind
  3. 慧 (WISDOM) – Enlightenment

It is interesting to note how Buddha paired the 2 requisites together in this Theravada sutta. Straightforwardness and gentle. As we probably would have experience it sometime in life, a straightforward reply might not be the most gentle respond.

Starting with the “How do I look?” question. While we wish to be truthful and straightforward in our reply, we will also need to be gentle. When we are only concern about ourselves, we become rigid and uncaring in our spiritual practice. Practicing truthfulness and straightforwardness is a very important practice because we do not want our mind to deceive ourselves. Especially when we are at important milestone during our meditation.

If we are only concern about our own spiritual well-being, then we couldn’t care less about how our audience feel. That is what we meant by saying a practitioner is adopting a Hinayana approach. No matter what kind of Buddhist traditions, there will be such practitioners. They could be carrying vajra and bell or chanting lotus sutra, but they live for their own spiritual well-being only.

In this instance, the Buddha had put 1 and 1 together and made it clear for us. While we are concerned about our spiritual development, we shouldn’t do it at the expense of hurting others.

Therefore, besides being straightforward in the way we speak, we also need to ensure that our speech is gentle and kind. When we try to speak in the most appropriate and gentle manner without compromising our truthfulness, we will develop wisdom and skillfulness in our mind.

May all be well and happy


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