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At what point does the discussion of others become wrong speech?

"Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord."

Being that I am not an arahat, I need to work through occurrences, sometimes my mind is not enough, so doing so with other people could be helpful. But to talk through some events by those committing wrong speech, wrong action - with those that one considers capable of adding something positive - necessitates their exposition as wrong speakers etc, so is certainly close to creating rifts.

I understand that the above has right intention - no desire to spread rumours or damage others' opinion of others, but how to decide whether it is wrong speech?

I suppose choosing a person that is not easily susceptible to jumping on disconcord, that differentiates between direct and indirect experience, and that aims to solve problems is a start, but is there anything from the texts?

7

From Abhaya sutta:

[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."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.058.than.html

This sutta is also interesting, because it suggests that being silent can sometimes be wrong speech in a sense. There may be situations where we need to speak up to prevent harm. Right speech then becomes a question of knowing when to remain silent and when to speak up. Timing becomes a factor.

What is considered factual, true, beneficial, endearing & agreeable, and not least proper timing will probably always be subjective to a certain degree, so it's hard to draw a clean cut line between right/wrong speech. One will always need be mindful to make good judgements, i suppose.

1

The main factor is the intent. If one repeats something with the intention of bringing discord, then it is divisive speech.

If one says something without the intention of discord then it is OK, regardless of the consequences.

1

If there is doubt, refraining from speech is immediately effective.

Yet sometimes there is a need to speak of others. Sometimes there is a need to accuse. In these cases:

A mendicant who wants to accuse another should first establish five things in themselves. I will speak at the right time, not at the wrong time. I will speak truthfully, not falsely. I will speak gently, not harshly. I will speak beneficially, not harmfully. I will speak lovingly, not from secret hate. A mendicant who wants to accuse another should first establish these five things in themselves. --AN10.44

As an example, this happened recently when a grandmother, worried about her grandson, intervened and spoke out.

1

The Buddha didn't just emphasize the truthfulness of one's speech but also its timeliness/appropriateness:

So too, prince, such speech as the Tath›gata knows to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, and which is also unwelcome and disagreeable to others: such speech the Tath›gata does not utter. Such speech as the Tath›gata knows to be true and correct but unbeneficial, and which is also unwelcome and disagreeable to others: such speech the Tath›gata does not utter. Such speech as the Tath›gata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial, but which is unwelcome and disagreeable to others: the Tath›gata knows the time to use such speech.613 Such speech as the Tath›gata knows to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, but which is welcome and agreeable to others: such speech the Tath›gata does not utter. Such speech as the Tath›gata knows to be true and correct but unbeneficial, and which is welcome and agreeable to others: such speech the Tath›gata does not utter. Such speech as the Tath›gata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial, and which is welcome and agreeable to others: the Tath›gata knows the time to use such speech. Why is that? Because the Tath›gata has compassion for beings.” ~ MN 58 ~

  • Haha, did we make the same reply simultaneously? – Erik Aug 6 at 19:59
  • Very interesting indeed! – santa100 Aug 7 at 14:10
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What produces right speech? Like the wheel of a cart follows the ox, if a mind is very agitated, full of ignorance it will be difficult to produce beneficial Noble speech. If the being or mind is calm, compassionate, and clearly seeing, unlikely the words will cause harm.

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I have heard from a sermon that, If you lie and the result is a good thing then the bad kamma that you gain from lying is canceled out by the good kamma which is the result of lying.

For Eg: 1) Parents often lie for their children so that they eat. The intent of the parent is wholesome therefore even if the parent lies the good kamma is more than the bad kamma, which cancels out the bad kamma.

2) A doctor who knows that a patient is going to die withing a few days won't say that the patient would die soon but would say that he will survive. This will make the patient have a firm determination to live which might even result him in not dying at that moment, thereby the doctor saved a life through a lie.

I don't have sutta's for my claim, but you can refer this video (it's in Sinhala)

  • If people remain confused, how can they reach enlightenment? – Crystal Ship Aug 9 at 15:44

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