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12. Right Speech

06/05/202008:36(Xem: 351)
12. Right Speech

Phat Thanh Dao_10

Venerable Sumangalo

It is not always easy to understand the Eightfold Path when we take the points one by one. Speech and action often go together. They show to all who know us what is going on in our minds. For this lesson, however, we shall consider only speech, and leave action in its usual fourth place. But as we go on with trying to understand the meaning of Right Speech, we ought to take note of the fact that Right Action follows immediately after Right Speech. There is a close connection between the two.

There are not many real secrets in our lives. The kind of speech we use tells to all who know us what kind of people we are. Wise people do not use foolish speech; fools do not talk like sages. Kindly people do not use cruel or harsh language. Those who are cruel by nature may try hard to deceive others by using soft and kindly speech but, sooner or later, their true nature reveals itself. “The cat always gets out the bag.”

Right speech must be both minus (-) and plus (+). That is, it must be minus untruthfulness, minus anger and all ugliness. Our speech must be free form deceit, gossip and stupid chatter. We must speak in such a way that our kind and gentle words or reasonableness will bring happiness to all with whom we talk. If we cannot bring happiness to others by our words, at least we must not injure them by wrong speech. Lying is one of the worst forms of wrong speech. A lie that causes hurt to someone else is worst of all. It is also wrong to tell the truth in such a way as to cause sadness or injury to others. At times it is better just to remain silent. Sometimes the Lord Buddha “Kept the noble silence of the wise.” He showed us, by His example, that silence is sometimes better than speech, even truthful speech.


Once, a long time ago, a certain village was greatly troubled by a wolf that came from its hiding place in the forest and ate the villagers’ sheep. It was necessary to keep a constant watch for the wolf so that the men of the village could come with sticks and drive away the fierce animal whenever the watchers called out “Wolf! Wolf!”

One day a boy was given the duty of watching the sheep. Soon he saw the wolf coming out of the forest and, at once the boy cried loudly “Wolf, Wolf” and the men came running and drove the wolf away. The boy greatly enjoyed watching this exciting scene and wished to see it again. He waited a little while and then gave the alarm again. The villagers came running, but there was no wolf. They scolded the boy and warned him not to give a false alarm again. But his desire for excitement got the better of him, and soon he sounded another false alarm. All the men came running with sticks ready to beat the wolf away, but there was no wolf. Once more they scolded the boy and then went back to their work.

Later on that same day, the wolf came out of the forest and the boy cried “Wolf! Wolf!”, but no one came to drive away the animal. No one believed the boy was telling the truth. The wolf killed many of the sheep and caused great loss to the villagers. In many lands there is an ancient proverb that is good for all of us to remember, “A liar is not believed when he tells the truth”.



Let Truth upon thy lips

Its seal impress

To guard thee form deceit

And false excess.


Let Purity pervade

Thine every word,

Lest that which may defile

From thee be heard.


Let Love unto thy voice

Its music lend,

Then shalt thou gladden all

And none offend.

Let Wisdom thee restrain
Lest thou betray,

Or idle tales repat

To cause dismay.

Thus let Right Speech reveal

In every hour

The Buddha-life within,

Thy guiding power.

                   -A. R. Zorn.



  1. Is a person’s speech a good way to judge his character?
  2. Do wise men talk like fools? Do fools talk like wise men?
  3. What is meant by the old Chinese saying, “An empty pot makes the most noise?”
  4. If a person is known to be a liar, do people believe him when he tells the truth?
  5. What was wrong about the conduct of the boy sent to watch for the wolf?
  6. Can a few words of wrong speech cause much damage?
  7. If a person lies, gossips and speaks only in a foolish way, can we believe this person has good character?
  8. Are habits easy to form? Is it easy to get into bad habits with our speech?
  9. If we hurt someone by thoughtless speech, what ought we to do?
  10. Should we begin to use Right Speech early in life or when we are old?
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