Watch what you say
What a strange expression! You can’t literally see the words come out of your mouth (unless you’re a cartoon character and have a little speech bubble hovering over your head).
But this is just one example of the phrases or expressions we commonly use or hear. Generally, we don’t take them literally but understand the intention behind them. Unless of course it’s not your default language. Then it can really be confusing!
A few more that come to mind:
‘when the sun moves around the house’
it’s actually Earth that’s turning, not the sun moving
all A are B
it’s unlikely that everyone/everything is the same
I am so angry that X country is bombing Y:
it’s not all the citizens of X country that are behind the bombing, it’s the leadership
‘talk the hind leg off a donkey’
I’ll let you explain that one!
And while intention is so central, so important in Buddhism, it also should be matched with awareness – here, of what we say or write. It’s not surprising that truthful speech is one of core ethical guidelines in Buddhism. And for those who are ordained or practise in certain traditions, communication actually has four guidelines (truthful, kind, helpful and harmonious). From some other traditions, there is the notion of speech having to pass through four gates before it is expressed: truthful, helpful, appropriate and kind.
You get the idea. So paying attention to what we say can take on a whole new dimension of intention, kindness and accessibility. But please, in our attempt to communicate more skilfully, don’t leave the donkeys out of it.
With a bow Maitripushpa
11 Jan 2024 WLBC Newsletter