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Right Speech in Buddhism

Moral Discipline

The Noble Eightfold Path is a path to liberation, which is described as happiness, inner peace, and freedom from suffering in this lifetime. It is also the path that releases us from future rebirths into realms of suffering.

Right Speech, also called Wise Speech or Virtuous Speech, is speech that gives rise to peace and happiness in oneself and others.

Right speech means abstention

1. From telling lies

2. From backbiting and slander and talk that may bring about hatred, enmity, disunity, and disharmony among individuals or groups of people

3. From harsh, rude, impolite, malicious, and abusive language

4. From idle, useless, and foolish babble and gossip.

When one abstains from these forms of wrong and harmful speech one naturally has to speak the truth, has to use words that are friendly and benevolent, pleasant and gentle, meaningful, and useful. One should not speak carelessly: speech should be at the right time and place. If one cannot say something useful, one should keep “noble silence.”


Using speech in certain ways assures suffering, while speaking in other ways creates happiness.


Re-framed in the positive, these guidelines urge us to say only what is true, to speak in ways that promote harmony among people, to use a tone of voice that is pleasing, kind, and gentle, and to speak mindfully in order that our speech is useful and purposeful.

Right Speech is a mindfulness practice. By undertaking this practice, we commit to greater awareness of our body, mind, and emotions.

Mindfulness makes it possible to recognize what we are about to say before we say it, and thus offers us the freedom to choose when to speak, what to say, and how to say it. With mindfulness, we see that the heart is the ground from which our speech grows. We learn to restrain our speech in moments of anger, hostility, or confusion, and over time, to train the heart to more frequently incline towards wholesome states such as love, kindness and empathy. From these heart states Right Speech naturally arises.

We repeatedly observe that different kinds of speech create different kinds of results. Using speech in certain ways assures suffering, while speaking in other ways creates happiness.


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