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17 million words and counting!
Vidyamala, Manchester, UK
Ratnavyuha, Auckland, NZ
Ratnaghosha, FBA Chairman
Candradasa, FBA Team
Suriyavamsa, Glasgow, UK
Coleen, FBA Team
Buddhasiha, Ipswich, UK
Padmavajri, East Sussex
You can also listen to this talk.
... your mind.
And very often it happens that even to those who are supposedly nearest and dearest to us, we can't say what we really think. We can't really speak the truth. Very often you can't speak the truth to your own mother or father, you can't speak the truth to your own son or daughter, or to your own husband or to your own wife, or your own friend, or your own employer or employee. Something holds you back. There's something which you can't say, something which you feel is not proper to say, or something which you feel you dare not say, or something which you're even afraid to say, or something which you think might hurt so you'd better not say it. But so often we find that the truth is held back and even if we know the truth, and we can't even speak the truth until we know it, but even when we know it, we very often hold it back and don't speak it or at least don't speak it in its fullness. You know when you go into the witness box in court you're supposed to swear to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you're a Buddhist, of course, you'll affirm and not take an oath. But the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and very, very few people find it possible to speak that to very, very few people again. So that if it ever happens that in any of the relationships of life, whether it is to a parent, or to a friend, or to a husband or to a wife, if it ever so happens that we can at least for once, speak the truth in its fullness, say what we really think, say what we really know in the fullest possible sense, then this comes as a very, very great relief, the fact that for once one has really broken through as it were and has really uttered one's whole mind.
We all know very well that it sometimes happens that we're worried about something, that we've been turning it over in our mind for a long time, we're very anxious, it may be something to do with our health, or our finances, or somebody with whom we're concerned or involved, but for some time it may be we're not able to talk about this to anybody, so it becomes as it were a sort of heavier and heavier burden. But if it ever so happens that we're able one day just to speak about this, just to tell someone - it may be a friend, it may even be a doctor, it may even of course be the psychoanalyst - but when the time comes and we're able to speak out and tell what we have kept so far in our minds, we are able to communicate this, then we find that it's as though a great weight has been lifted from the mind and we feel free.
We may go so far as to say that it's only when we're speaking the truth in the fullest sense that we are really and truly being ourselves. In other words we are giving expression then to what we are, not what we appear to be, or would like to appear to be, but what we are and what we know also we are. So this is speaking the truth. This is the first degree, or first level as it were, of communication, and this in itself is difficult enough to achieve.
(end of side one) Now the truth is never as it were spoken in a vacuum. You may have some truth to speak but you don't go out into the garden and just speak the truth among the trees and the flowers. You don't do that. It isn't psychologically possible apparently.
So the truth is always spoken to someone, and this brings us to the second level of Right Speech, or the second stage of communication, which is that Right Speech, or Perfect Speech is affectionate, or is loving. Now what does this mean? It doesn't mean that it's affectionate in the ordinary sense, in the sort of gushing, sentimental sense. If someone comes along and starts talking to you and calls you dear or darling, it isn't necessarily affectionate. It may be something else behind it. So when we say that Right Speech or Perfect Speech is affectionate or loving we don't mean this sort of thing. When we say that Right Speech, or the truth, should be affectionate, should be loving, we mean that the truth should be spoken in full awareness of the person to whom one is speaking. But how many people can do this? How often do people speak the truth or even speak at all with full awareness of the person to whom they are speaking? If we just reflect we'll recollect, perhaps even to our horror, that usually when we speak to people, or even when they speak to us, we don't really look at the other person, this is the first thing. We don't even look at the other person. Either you look at their ear, or you look down a bit, or you look a bit above their head, or you look a little to the side, but you don't really look at the person to whom you are speaking. So because you don't even look at them, you can't be really aware of the other person.
Now there are many definitions of love, and the Rev. Jack [Horton] only a few minutes ago when we were waiting to come in remarked that he was surprised to see how many books there were lying about this retreat centre all about love. Well I've read myself some of those books and they give some excellent definitions of love, but there's one more definition which is perhaps possible. I think for the purposes of this context, this talk, we may say that love, love is the awareness of the being of another person. Let me repeat that, love is the awareness of the being of another person.
And this means, or from this it follows, that we can't speak truthfully, we can't speak affectionately to another person, for the simple reason that we don't know them. We're not aware of them. We don't see them as they are, because we don't even take the trouble to look. If we look at all, if we are aware - or conscious I should say - to any extent of them, we tend to see them in terms of our own emotional reactions to them, just like the weather. If we want to go out, well, the sun is shining, so we say it's a lovely day. But if the farmer was looking out of the window and if he wanted rain for his crops, well if it was raining heavily he would say, it's a lovely day.
So our judgements in this way tend to be subjective. And it's just like that with regard to people: we see them in terms of our own emotional reactions to us. If they do or if they say to us what we like, we say how good they are, how kind they are and so on. But usually we never get to the core of the person himself or herself because we're never aware of them, never know them, and if we communicate at all we tend to communicate with our own mental projections onto that person. And this is why there are so many misunderstandings between people and so many disappointments, why so often we're disappointed by the people we meet, and the people with whom we come into contact, even the people that we've known for a long time, because we're not really in contact or communication with or aware of them, but only of and with our own mental, emotional projections.
Now if we are really aware of someone, if we are really aware of, if we really know, truly know the person to whom we are speaking, then we shall also know what it is that they need, and this brings us to the third level of Right Speech, or third stage of communication, that we should speak that which is useful. Now, not useful just in the ordinary sense, but useful in the sense of what promotes the growth, especially the spiritual growth, of the person to whom we are speaking, what helps them in the language or in the words of the Dhammapada to become peaceful. Now this useful speech doesn't necessarily consist in specifically spiritual instruction - it doesn't mean that you've got to be talking about nirvana, or about right means of livelihood, or anything of that sort, but it means that through your awareness of that other person, through your appreciation of their needs, you speak, or you are in such a way, of such a kind, that they are stimulated and their growth is promoted. Your sensible subject can be anything you like, it hardly matters.
What it really means is, we may say, that we should speak to people in such a way that they are raised in the scale of being and of consciousness, and not lowered. In other words, by speaking what is useful, we mean speaking in such a way that the people to whom we speak become really more alive. If we can't sort of inspire them spiritually, or stimulate them spiritually at least we can be positive and we can be appreciative, not all the time negative and critical.
You know that some people you meet have a sort of very depressing effect upon you.
Whatever you want to do they've got a reason for not doing it. They always sort of dampen your enthusiasm just like a sort of wet day. And sometimes we describe such people colloquially as being a wet week. And this is what sometimes they are. They have a sort of very depressing and negative effect upon us. So this is very bad.
So we should watch ourselves also in this way and try to be positive, try to be appreciative, and try to be constructive. I remember some time ago talking to somebody about someone whose name at least many of you know and that is Lama Govinda, and it did occur to me while I was speaking to this person about Lama Govinda that in the course of the time that I've known him, which is now I think practically twenty years, and we've had quite a bit of contact and correspondence, I think I can say that I never remember any occasion on which Lama Govinda was negative, or on which he really disapproved of anything or even criticized anything. Whatever one suggested, or put up, or whatever he commented upon, he was always in a very positive and constructive and appreciative sort of way. And even if confronted by a rather unpromising sort of situation, he would still manage somehow to be quite positive about it and not negative.
And this is I would say a very rare sort of quality, or a very rare faculty, and one which we should ...