Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Buddhist "Wrong Speech"

There are Ten Courses of Unwholesome Conduct in Buddhism. As this list makes clear, there are more items related to verbal misconduct than to any other category of behavior.

  1. PHYSICAL: killing
  2. stealing
  3. sexual misconduct
  4. VERBAL: lying
  5. slander
  6. harsh speech
  7. empty chatter
  8. MENTAL: covetousness
  9. ill will
  10. wrong views (A.N., X, 206)

"Empty chatter" (often mistranslated as "gossip") in particular involves the following:

ANIMAL TALK (BPS Buddhist Dictionary term: tiracchana-katha)

This is the name in the texts for the following: "Talk about kings and robbers, ministers and armies, danger and war, eating and drinking, clothes and dwellings, garlands and scents, relations, chariots, villages and markets, towns and districts, women and heroes, street talks, talks by the well, talk about those departed in days gone by, tittle-tattle, talks about [the origin of the] world and sea, about gain and loss" (A.X., 69 ff.).

In the commentaries four further kinds [of unprofitable speech] are enumerated, thus bringing the number to 32, as mostly counted, namely: talk about sensuous enjoyment, self-mortification, eternity, and self-annihilation.

Such talk distracts and often obsesses the mind to no advantage. While some of these things may be important from time to time for persons to know, it is certainly of no profit to meditators and spiritual seekers (such as conscientious monastics).

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