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Excerpted from Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment by Lama Surya Das. Copyright© 1998 by Lama Surya Das. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"When the Buddha talked about Right Speech or impeccable speech, what he meant was excellent speech that reflected inner wisdom, clear vision, and Buddha-nature."

Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within
Part 2

With your words you confirm to the world, and yourself, what you think is important. Words help concretize our thoughts and concepts; they define our priorities, reify our ideas and opinions, and express our worldview and intentions. Words have power; to be specific, your words have power. We can use speech patterns to help us communicate with others in a more considered, conscious way, or we can be careless and create trouble with our words--trouble for ourselves as well as others.

In the context of Dharma, speech is a particularly compelling issue because to reflect upon speech is to think about self, non-self, and others. Don't most of us use speech as an expression of ego and the need to hang on to and confirm our illusory self? Don't we use speech to communicate that we exist? "I'm here," we say, confirming and marking out our territorial space. To some extent, we all habitually use words to express ego and a false self. By putting forth our views, we use speech to shore up the concrete citadel of ego and the notion of "me" and "mine." We tell ourselves and others stories about ourselves and our lives. We speak to others; we speak to ourselves. What do we say? And why do we say it?

When the Buddha talked about Right Speech or impeccable speech, what he meant was excellent speech that reflected inner wisdom, clear vision, and Buddha-nature. The instructions that come down to us from the Buddha concerning everyday speech are simple yet profound. On a mundane level, we are instructed as follows:

Speak the Truth, Tell No Lies

On this point, the Buddha's advice was remarkably straightforward. He said: "If he is called to tell what he knows, he answers if he knows nothing: 'I know nothing.' And if he knows, he answers, 'I know.' If he has seen nothing, he answers: 'I have seen nothing.' And if he has seen, he answers: 'I have seen.' Thus, he never knowingly speaks a lie, neither for the sake of his own advantage, nor for the sake of another person's advantage, nor for the sake of any advantage whatsoever."

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