Volume 4  No 1

The Dharma in Blossom

Speech Karma
By Venerable Shen-Kai

THE MOUTH is the human organ for food and speech. It is therefore an important organ. If it is also eloquent, the words that flow out of it are worthy of respect. The gravity of one simple word can make or mar a nation. Words that impart encouragement and advice are gratefully referred to as ‘golden words’! Utterances that are crude and unpleasant to the ear are generally detested. They are thus known as foul language from a vicious mouth.

Vicious utterances take the following forms:-

* Swearing with inauspicious words;

* Cursing others and calling upon the evil cause harm on them;

* Insulting others and embarrassing them with verbal abuses;

* Arguing with others and resulting quarrels;

* Quarrelling leading to fighting;

* Venting anger cursing and swearing aloud in public.

While the posture of the body when abusing others can hardly be commended, the language used can be so obnoxious that it is unacceptable to anyone. Even a three-year-old finds it difficult to accept scolding and will cry in objection. When cursing or swearing becomes a habit, it is not easy to correct that habit.

Offensive words are grounds for litigation and one can be sentenced to jail or fines on charges of open insult, slander or defamation. The offender is liable to fall into the three evil realms of ‘hell, ghosts and animals’ upon death. When he lands in hell, his tongue will be severed and he has to swallow it. He will have to face constant assault.

Thus Buddhism implores humanity to abstain strictly from vicious utterances. There are eight benefits that can be derived from a complete abstinence from oral viciousness throughout one’s life.

  1. Aptness in speech - An appropriate tone and the right degree of proximity is achieved in      conversations with others, be them members of the family, spouses relatives, friends, teachers, fellow students, superiors, subordinates, old, young, man or woman.

  2. Constructive in speech - Being able to speak the right things at the right time, you will benefit others as well as yourself in whatever you say.

  3. Logical in speech - As your speech can benefit others, whatever you say will tally with truth and admired by others.

  4. Fluency in speech - Being compatible with the truth, whatever said will be fluent and sweet to the listener’s ears.

  5. Acceptance of speech - With words like music, your speech is willingly accepted by others.

  6. Trust of speech - As your speech is easily accepted by others, what you say invokes trust.

  7. No derision at speech - As your speech is trustworthy, no one will scoff at it.

  8. Love and happiness in speech - Those who abstain from vicious utterances speak with love and altruism. Their moral behaviour not only leads others to happiness, but also gives rise to joy and satisfaction in themselves. This in itself is beyond words.
If this proper use of speech can be extended from one person to the family, society, and nation and eventually to the entire humanity, the world will be a more pleasant, peaceful and happy place to live in.

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Copyright 2001. Jen Chen Buddhism Centre