False speech – lying is to be avoided not only because it often harms others, but because it goes against the Buddhist value of seeking the truth and seeing things “as they really are”. The more a person deceives others, the more he is likely to deceive himself; thus his delusion and spiritual ignorance increase. Lying also makes for a more complicated life; the truth is easier to remember than a network of lies.
Divisive speech – causing a listener to think less of some third party.
Harsh speech – such as angry words.
Frivolous speech – idle chatter.
Right speech delights in speaking of people’s good points, so as to spread harmony rather than discord; it is ‘gentle, pleasing to the ear, affectionate, going to the heart, courteous’; it is spoken ‘at the right time, in accordance with fact, about the goal, about Dhamma, about moral discipline’ so as to be ‘worth treasuring’ (Majjhima Nikaya, III.49).
This description clearly shows a very comprehensive concern with verbal behaviour (the same now applies to, for example, emailing).
The final item, dealing with chatter, is more emphasized in a meditative setting, but in general stresses the need to use one’s words wisely: to inform, aid or express kindness to others, and not just for the sake of opening one’s mouth.
Source: Excerpted and adapted from Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices, 2nd ed, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pages 83, 276-277.
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Right Speech is the ability to speak truthfully and harmlessly. Right Speech comes naturally from Right Thought, since our speech is a direct expression of our thoughts. Our speech should never be cruel or hurtful to others. Our words should not create hatred, misunderstanding, or suffering. Right speech means we do not lie, slander, or speak in ways that create resentment, conflict, division, or disharmony among individuals or groups. Right speech means not speaking in ways that are harsh, rude, impolite, abusive, or malicious. We refrain from idle, useless, and foolish talk or gossip.
In this way, we cultivate the ability to speak the truth; we learn to use words that are friendly, gentle, benevolent, and meaningful. Right Speech means speaking kindly and wisely at the right time and place. When we are not able to speak in ways that are useful, kind, or uplifting, we may consider the wisdom of remaining in noble silence. We should understand that spiritual or religious conversation or truthfulness alone is not Right Speech. Abstinence from unwholesome speech is the essence of Right Speech. Through the practice of Right Speech we cultivate ethical conduct (personal integrity/sila) and establish the essential foundation of the Path.
Source: SourcePoint Global Outreach, The Heart of Dharma Collection (Mount Shasta, CA: Naljor Prison Dharma Service, n.d.) http://sourcepointglobaloutreach.org/what-we-offer/