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Episode 8 Transcript: The Power Of Speech

Episode 8, 7 December 2014, The Power Of Speech. [07:06]


Intro: Welcome to Buddhism Guide’s Audio blog.

This Episode: The Power Of Speech. [00:17]

1. Speech is a very powerful tool. [00:20]

  • If we hit someone, it will hurt them for a short time and then go away, but if we verbally attack someone, those words can stay with them for many years.
  • On the other hand, well thought-out words can stop conflict, make friends, and heal rifts.
  • This is the power of speech, and this is why Gautama Buddha included Right Speech in the Eightfold Path.
  • Right Speech can be divided into four parts:
    1. refrain from lying,
    2. refrain from divisive speech,
    3. refrain from harsh words, and
    4. refrain from gossiping.

2. Lying. [01:07]

  • When we tell lies it is obviously going to hurt and mislead others, but it will also harm ourselves.
  • Nobody like a liar, and once you get the reputation it is difficult to lose it.
  • Whenever you tell people things they will not believe you, even if it’s true.
    • They will try to avoid you, and you will find it difficult to make friends.
    • This will of course make you angry and frustrated, but you will only have yourself t0 blame.
  • There is a bigger picture here too, as lying can affect the whole of society, especially if the lie comes from a person of responsibility and trust.
    • I am thinking here of politicians.
      • There are not many people in the world these days that fully trust their politicians.
      • You hear people say that they only voted for this particular politician because he’s the best of a bad bunch.
    • The reason for this is, because they have told so many lies over the years that nobody trusts them.
  • We must remember that we do not like to be lied to, so don’t lie to others.
  • This will free your mind of any guilt and leave it more peaceful.

3. Divisive Speech. [02:30]

  • Divisive speech refers to speech that is intended to create a rift or division between people.
  • It is used to alienate one person, or a group, from another.
  • People generally do such things when driven by hatred of a person, or to win affection for themselves, or if they are jealous of someone else’s success, or even out of some perverse pleasure of seeing someone fall from grace.
  • You can see this type of divisive speech in all walks of life, but it is more prominent within groups and in the workplace.
  • What is the antidote to divisive speech?
    • It is speech that promotes friendship and harmony.
    • Speech based on kindness and compassion, which wins the trust and affection of others.

4. Harsh Words. [03:30]

  • Harsh words are usually born out of anger, and cause harm and pain to the hearer.
    • Swear words,
    • bitter words, spoken in anger,
    • words used for scolding someone, or
    • words that belittle the hearer, or someone close to them, are all examples of harsh words.
  • They are designed to take away someone’s dignity.
  • Harsh words may make you feel good temporarily, but the receiver will feel downhearted.
  • These words are usually spoken in the spur of the moment, and so are not as severe as words which are premeditated.
  • There are several antidotes to harsh words, but the most important one is patience.
    • If we are patient, and respect other people’s shortcomings, and do not react to others’ criticism;
    • If we bear abuse without the urge to retaliate;
    • Or respect other’s view points, we will not feel the need to let loose a barrage of abusive words.

Gossiping. [04:39]

  • Gossiping is shallow and pointless.
  • It is a form of communication that adds absolutely no value to anyone’s lives.
  • It stems from the Three Poisons:
    1. Desire,
    2. Anger, and
    3. Unawareness.
  • All it does is stir up everyone’s emotions and lead to negative feelings between all parties.
  • To counter this, which is not easy, you should watch what you say, when you say it, and to whom.
  • You should think before you speak.
  • I believe to ensure we have Right Speech, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
    • Is what I’m going to say useful?
    • Is it going to hurt someone?
    • Is my speech motivated by desire, anger, or unawareness?
    • Would I like other people to say the same things to me?
  • If we check our speech before we open our mouths, we will never speak words that do harm.
  • Sometimes, it is more powerful to say nothing at all.

The Written Word. [05:50]

  • Before I finish, I just want to say something about the written word.
  • In Gautama Buddha’s day this was not a problem, so he didn’t mention the right written word, but today it is becoming a problem.
  • The written words I am talking about are newspapers, magazines, the internet and social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Obviously, freedom of speech is a human right, but if your written words are going to harm others, or stir up trouble, they should not be written.
  • If you are going to write something down, you should check your motivation.
    • Is it going to be productive and helpful?
    • Or, is it going to harm, or waste the reader’s time?

Outro. [06:46]

  • You can find more information about this subject in Karma Yeshe Rabgye’s books at
    1. The best way to catch a snake – A Practical Guide to the Buddha’s Teachings;
    2. Life’s meandering path – A Secular Approach to Gautama Buddha’s Guide to Living;
    3. Ripples in the stream – A Pragmatic Journey Through Gautama Buddha’s Teachings.
  • They’re available now, from Amazon and Kindle.
  • Thank you for listening, and I hope you enjoyed this blog post.




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