Right speech or the use of proper language
With right action, and right livelihood, right speech is a component of Proper Ethical conduct which is one of the 3 pillars of the 4th Noble true or the Noble 8thfold path. The other 2 pillars are Proper Wisdom ( right view and right thought /intention) and proper Mental discipline ( right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration).
What Right speech has to do with Zen practice? The following has the answer.
The Buddha himself was considering proper speech a very important tool to minimize suffering because words, either vocal or written, are very powerful.
It can create pleasure or pain as you know from personal experience.
Therefore cultivating a proper speech is part of our arsenal achieving serenity and loving-kindness. The Buddha talked a lot about achieving the Right speech. As usual,his advises are clear and based on absolute common sense.
Let us go through a modern version of his teaching presented in a form of questions.
The Buddha warns about the danger of telling a deliberate lie. Boomerang effect.
Divisive , impolite, abusive, malicious, harmful speech on purpose, gossiping, back talking are often based on hatred, jealousy, and ill-will must be avoided.
Speech spoken with hatred, anger, sarcasm, demeaning, insulting or with the intention to rebuke or to harm creates suffering not only on the receiver but also on the speaker/writer. The antidote is thinking before talking. The Buddha is asking to speak words which are affectionate, polite, respectful, likable, and agreeable.
The Buddha is asking “To use words which are careful, relevant, meaningful, and with positive impacts to the listener and reader”.
This guideline is often expressed as “ Is it kind”. This is the equivalent of Metta or
Talking out from anger or any emotional reaction can be very detrimental.
Sometimes it is wiser to stay silent but it can be challenging while facing injustice.
Interestingly enough the Buddha himself taught to his followers to avoid
“ speaking without saying anything” as a way to impress others and to listen to ourselves.
In other words: a speech must be meaningful and useful to other not to the speaker.
Vocal or written words are profound proxy of what we are as living beings.
They are one of the windows of our thoughts and feelings.
As a perfect mirror of what we are, it reflects our emotional and cognitive personality very well. In fact, it is use evryday in the public and private sectors to assess our personality traits and psychometric profile. The Buddha was ahead of his time.