Wisdom Spotlight

By Samye Institute

Wisdom Spotlight - Issue #6 - Right Speech and the Ten Precepts





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Wisdom Spotlight

July 5 · Issue #6 · View online

A monthly spotlight on Dharma education and practice resources from Samye Institute.

Dear Student,
Short tempers and judgements can arise easily while most of us are housebound or are working in extremely difficult situations. Fear abounds due to the pervasive insecurity of our health, resources, society and government.
It’s so easy to become reactive especially in our communications. By considering Right Speech we may be able to observe our mind and behavior reducing negative situations.
In the articles listed below, Phakchok Rinpoche discusses ethics and the use of the Ten Precepts as concise guidelines for well-intentioned behavior. The precepts often take a negative, prohibitive form listing activities and attitudes that lead to harmful situations. The positive forms, such as speaking gently, encourage behaviors that are supportive of wholesome conditions. 
The ten are divided into the three doors- body, speech and mind. There are three for the activities of the body- not to kill, not to steal (or take what is not given), and not to engage in sexual misconduct. Three are for the attitudes of the mind- do not covet, do not harbor ill will, do not hold wrong views (doubt). 
But there are four for speech which indicates the importance of this door. Speech solidifies our thoughts, characterizes our relationships, and determines our boundaries. Speech includes gestures, facial expressions and body postures which can affect the meanings of what is said.
The Four Non -Virtuous Precepts of Speech are commonly presented as:
  • Do not lie
  • Do not engage in divisive talk
  • Do not speak harshly
  • Do not engage in idle speech 
Thanissaro Bhikku says, “each of these practices is to be judged, not categorically as good or bad, but as to whether it is conducted in a way that yields beneficial or unbeneficial results.” We are encouraged to reflect on our intentions and correct our behavior accordingly. With regards to speech, we need to examine our motivations and evaluate the context in which we are speaking if we intend a wholesome result.
Investigating the intention and context of our speaking habits in personal face-to-face interactions and on social media can reveal our level of awareness and the depth of our consideration for others. Such scrutiny can offer means to reduce our obstacles and strengthen our relationships.
  • Lying - By substituting ‘deceive’ for ‘lie’, the intention of this kind of speech is more readily discerned. This is the case of speaking with the intent to manipulate someone using misrepresentation. We can call this fake news. We’ve all come across situations where the factual truth may be irrelevant or unnecessarily harmful and we choose not to speak of it. The distinctive factor is the presence of a motivation to mislead someone especially to our benefit.
  • Divisive talk - This occurs when one has the intent to cause a rift between individuals, to elevate one’s worth at the expense of another, or to create a schism in the group- a family, sangha, nation. Divisive talk destroys interactions, creates fear, and inhibits positive change .
  • Harshness - Here one is speaking with the intent to hurt another’s feelings or belittle them. Speaking loudly or roughly may or may not be present. This motivation causes emotional pain, harms relationships, and promotes fear and resentment.
  • Idle talk - This refers to irrelevant conversation that wastes another person’s time. Here one is absorbed in one’s own interests without paying attention to the reciprocity of the conversation. It’s broadcasting our thoughts without engaging mutually with another. 
After checking that our motivation is not to enhance the self at the expense of others, we can then evaluate the context of the situation to create positive conditions for communication. The following suggestions may be of help:
  • Select the proper time and place especially for difficult conversations
  • Pay attention to the state of others- are they distressed, happy, able to engage in the conversation or topic at hand
  • Speak with precision to enhance accuracy - i.e. avoid exaggerations
  • Mind your manners- establish a friendly, non-threatening and respectful basis when interacting with others
  • Avoid threatening gestures and facial expressions
  • Learn to listen to others in the conversation
  • Communicate with Dharmic principles - do not cause harm, do good, tame your mind. 
Social Media and Right Speech
Social Media presents some different challenges due to the nature of this format. The full audience is unknown. The format does not include one’s own immediate gestures while speaking. (Emojis and GIFs, while often clever, are contrived, not spontaneous). The brevity of the message limits consideration. The reciprocity of discussion is less immediate.
Considering the limitations of social media ask before posting:
  • What is my intention-to attract attention, to manipulate others, to enhance my self-importance, to avoid loneliness?
  • Who are the recipients?
  • Could it cause harm to any recipient?
  • Is it timely- a rehash of previous content or an appropriate reminder?
  • Is it full of reactive emotions or harsh speech?
  • Is it accurate?
  • Is it beneficial or useful?
  • Is the message and intent consistent with Dharmic principles avoid harm, help others, tame your mind.
With Blessings.
Ani Marcia

Wisdom Spotlight on Ethical Behavior
Several blogs posted on www.samyeInstitute.org address ethical behavior and the ten precepts. Many provide reflections and techniques to aid our investigations.
Ethical Behavior in Buddhism: The Virtues
Advice from King Trisong Detsen for Responsible People
Distilling the Dharma - Three Core Principles
Qualities of Good Human Beings
Reflections Upon Wakening
Latest Wisdom Blogs
Samye Institute posts regular wisdom blogs, covering various aspects of Buddhist practice, ritual and education. Here’s what we posted in the last month.
Being Benevolent to Your Neighbors
Being Honest and Modest
Guru Rinpoche Day Message: How to Be Pure
Dzamling Chi Sang (World Sang Offering Day)
Today, the 15th day of the fifth Tibetan month, we celebrate Dzamling Chi Sang (World Sang Offering Day), a powerful purification practice which removes the impurities in the mind streams of practitioners and all sentient beings.
More importantly, we celebrate and commemorate Guru Rinpoché’, Khenchen Bodhisattva and Gyalpo Trisong Detsen’s completion of the inconceivable Samye monastery more than 1200 years ago. This day is marked by extensive offerings of sang to all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, protectors and all beings.
We present the following resources to help you learn more and to support your practice.
Sang Pūjā - A Cleansing Smoke Offering Practice
The Concise Sang Offering: Practice Support Program
Concise Tukdrup Cleansing Offering | Lhasey Lotsawa - Translations & Publications
Educational Resources on Samye Institute
For those of you who want to learn in more detail, we have the following courses available on our platform. Each course is presented in a structured way and also has access to forums and instructor support.
About the Author
Ani Marcia was a resident for 16 years at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde in California engaged in study and center administration. Prior to that she was a student at Green Gulch Zen Center near San Francisco for a decade. She was a midwife and midwife educator prior to her move to Gomde. She now lives in Singapore near her family and is involved at Ranjgung Yeshe Oddiyana.
About Samye Institute
Do you know that we’ve published over 500 pieces of content since our inception? On SamyeInstitute.org we offer a large archive of audio, video, and written teachings including many teachings directly from Phakchok Rinpoche.
All of these articles include key points and many offer reflection exercises or contemplations. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to or watch these teachings before, we hope that you will take the time to explore them.
We encourage you to regularly browse the archive or search it for topics that may be of particular interest.
Support Us
Here are a few ways you can support Samye Institute and it’s activities.
  • ​A regular or one-time donation - We are a non-profit organization that relies heavily on volunteer and donor support. You can either become a supporting member by making a regular monthly donation or make a one-time donation by visiting https://samyeinstitute.org/donate.
  • Volunteer your time and skills - We welcome you to form an auspicious connection with Samye Institute and to volunteer your time or skills. To view our application form, please visit https://samyeinstitute.org/volunteer
  • Contribute to a fund for retreatants - One of our deeply held principles at Samye is to facilitate and inspire long-term retreat amongst our global community. We have recently made a small fund available to support dedicated and serious practitioners who want to spend time in retreat. If you would like to contribute to this fund, please visit https://samyeinstitute.org/donations/retreat-fund.
  • Sponsor our monks’ education and living expenses - You can help support our young monks living at the Lotus Light Dharma Institute in Chapagaon, our artisan monks living at our Riwoche Monastery near Boudha and our Tibetan medicine doctors and students practicing near Boudha by visiting https://samyeinstitute.org/donations/monk-sponsorship.
  • Set up a local Dharma-stream group - Dharma-stream is a series of regular video teachings directly from Phakchok Rinpoche, designed to be viewed in a group setting. For more information about Dharma-stream and how to start a group, please visit https://samyeinstitute.org/dharma-stream.
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