Take the 2-minute tour ×
Buddhism Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people practicing or interested in Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I stumbled upon a question about the danger in lying and Andrei's answer caught my attention. He claims that '...key qualities of good character are: Honesty, Integrity, Responsibility'. Then it made me wonder - is being politically correct an obstacle on the way to enlightenment?

By the term political correctness I understand 'enforced language, ideas, or policies that address perceived discrimination against political, social or economical groups ("protected classes")'. It seems that lots of public figures no longer say that they really think but they mince their words so as not to offend any of the groups. Media also don't report certain facts/events/results of studies in fear of offending some groups which won't feel comfortable upon hearing those news. Most of the time it is not based on honesty and clearly this leads to violated integrity. In everyday life we also seem to be forced into political correctness. Challenging someone's views can be perceived as an attack and more and more jokes are perceived as offending (although it used to be a great virtue to be able to laugh at oneself).

I would be mostly interested in what contemporary Buddhist teachers and masters think about this topic. Please refrain from sharing personal opinion if it's not based on specific teachings. I am looking for advice from Buddhist masters and texts mostly.

share|improve this question
    
"Please refrain from sharing personal opinions, I am looking for advice from Buddhist masters and texts only." This does go against the Buddha's teachings. Buddha said "Be islands unto yourselves". He said to look with your own personal experience and not rely on masters or text only. –  Christopher Lee Aug 29 at 13:28
    
Whenever the question is too 'opinion-based' it usually gets closed. If your opinion is based on the Buddhist teachings, please share those teaching. –  Rabbit Aug 29 at 13:30
1  
That I can agree with. "Take refuge in yourselves, not in anything else. In you are Buddha, Dharma,and Sangha. Don't look for things that are far away. Everything is in your own heart. Bean island unto yourself." –  Christopher Lee Aug 29 at 13:32
    
"Political correctness" is what US conservatives use to disparaging discuss how people on the left try to speak carefully and not cause offense to women, disabled, blacks, and other minorities. The subtext is that conservatives find the idea that anyone deserves protection, in law or chit chat, to be repugnant. I find the whole ideology behind "political correctness" to be devoid of compassion-- indeed its an ideology of contempt for compassion (in the sense of trying to feel the pain of the less fortunate). –  MatthewMartin Aug 30 at 14:39
    
@MatthewMartin very well-said and good point on compassion. The problem is that many people (including Buddhists) try to be 'nice to others' and they implement PC in their own behaviour. I'm just trying to find any teachings from Buddhist masters that would openly address the issue of PC as it is nowadays virtually all-pervading... –  Rabbit Aug 30 at 14:50

2 Answers 2

This sounds like an issue best analyzed according to the Buddha's teachings on right speech. The Buddha famously expounded how he personally determined how to decide on what to say in the Abhaya Sutta, saying:

[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."

Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.058.than.html

In essence, one should consider four factors of truth, benefit, agreeability, and timeliness. The relevant point here is that even if one might say something that is true, if there is no real benefit to be gained from it, then you shouldn't say it. Certainly not all cases of political correctness fall into this, but it isn't dishonest to hold back from saying something if it will lead to no good.

share|improve this answer
    
But how to know whether it brings benefit? It seems that by hiding difficult truths we may have immediate results in ppl not being offended, but in the long term we spread views that lack integrity. Also, maybe sometimes it is good that people face the truth? –  Rabbit Aug 29 at 17:57
    
@Rabbit: Not speaking is not the same as spreading false views. If revealing a certain truth causes harm, you can simply stay silent or talk about a different topic. –  Sankha Kulathantille Aug 30 at 0:47
    
@SankhaKulathantille do you suggest that media should not report certain facts simply because some group finds it offending? I will refrain from giving concrete examples, Internet is full of those, please browse them yourself. –  Rabbit Aug 30 at 1:24
1  
Read #3 in this answer. The media should report if it is beneficial to people and timely, even if some group might find it offensive. –  Sankha Kulathantille Aug 30 at 1:28
    
@SankhaKulathantille thank you for this remark. It is the first time when someone clearly showed me that political correctness might indeed be against the right speech. It is really reassuring, thank you. –  Rabbit Aug 30 at 1:41

Recent Authoritative Answer - this is from the book At The Feet of The Master which was written by Alcyone (Krishnamurti when he was a boy, thus about 100 years ago), available in its entirety online: "Everything that you say should be true, kind and helpful, and be needed now." I think this summarizes the points others have made, is a direct quote, and is very easy to recall. Putting it to use is another matter : )

share|improve this answer
    
This is just a summary of the teaching on the right speech. What I'm looking for is an advice on how to put it in use in a very specific setting - political correctness. –  Rabbit Aug 29 at 18:10
    
If what you wish to say is true and helpful, think of how others will take it. –  user759 Aug 29 at 18:16
    
The problem is that even scientific truths are offending to some. By claiming that evolution is a correct scientific theory you already offend some group of people. So shall we hide/bend such truths not to offend others? –  Rabbit Aug 29 at 18:25
    
Consider whether helpfulness outweighs offensiveness in the particular case. Even difficult truths can be conveyed kindly, if necessary. –  user759 Aug 29 at 18:39
    
So shall media report scientific truths in a watered-down way to make sure no one is offended? Thank you for your personal advice, I really appreciate it, but I am mostly interested whether some Buddhist teachers approached the problem of PC directly. –  Rabbit Aug 29 at 18:54

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.