Words of the Buddha regarding Right Speech

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Ethical communication is clearly of paramount importance in establishing good relations between followers of different religions. Buddhism has a rich tradition of ethics where guidance on verbal communication figures prominently in the scriptures. An important part of the Buddhist Path referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path (ariyo aṭṭhangiko maggo) is Right Speech (sammā vācā) which is explained in this passage from the Aṅguttaranikāya of the Pāli canon:

From Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta :


“And how is one made pure in four ways by verbal action?

There is the case where a certain person, abandoning false speech, abstains from false speech. When he has been called to a town meeting, a group meeting, a gathering of his relatives, his guild, or of the royalty, if he is asked as a witness, ‘Come and tell, good man, what you know’: If he doesn’t know, he says, ‘I don’t know.’ If he does know, he says, ‘I know.’ If he hasn’t seen, he says, ‘I haven’t seen.’ If he has seen, he says, ‘I have seen.’ Thus he doesn’t consciously tell a lie for his own sake, for the sake of another, or for the sake of any reward. Abandoning false speech, he abstains from false speech. He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world.

Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord.

Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large.

Abandoning idle chatter, he abstains from idle chatter. He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, and the Vinaya. He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, connected with the goal. This is how one is made pure in four ways by verbal action.

Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta,  AN 10.176 PTS: A v 263


Text in Pāli language:

‘‘Kathañca, cunda, catubbidhaṃ vācāya soceyyaṃ hoti?

Idha, cunda, ekacco musāvādaṃ pahāya musāvādā paṭivirato hoti. Sabhaggato vā parisaggato vā ñātimajjhagato vā pūgamajjhagato vā rājakulamajjhagato vā abhinīto sakkhipuṭṭho – ‘ehambho purisa, yaṃ jānāsi taṃ vadehī’ti, so ajānaṃ vā āha ‘na jānāmī’ti, jānaṃ vā āha ‘jānāmī’ti, apassaṃ vā āha ‘na passāmī’ti, passaṃ vā āha ‘passāmī’ti. Iti attahetu vā parahetu vā āmisakiñcikkhahetu vā na sampajānamusā bhāsitā hoti.

‘‘Pisuṇaṃ vācaṃ pahāya, pisuṇāya vācāya paṭivirato hoti – na ito sutvā amutra akkhātā imesaṃ bhedāya, na amutra vā sutvā imesaṃ akkhātā amūsaṃ bhedāya. Iti bhinnānaṃ vā sandhātā sahitānaṃ vā anuppadātā samaggārāmo samaggarato samagganandī samaggakaraṇiṃ vācaṃ bhāsitā hoti.

‘‘Pharusaṃ vācaṃ pahāya, pharusāya vācāya paṭivirato hoti. Yā sā vācā nelā kaṇṇasukhā pemanīyā hadayaṅgamā porī bahujanakantā bahujanamanāpā, tathārūpiṃ vācaṃ bhāsitā hoti.

‘‘Samphappalāpaṃ pahāya, samphappalāpā paṭivirato hoti kālavādī bhūtavādī atthavādī dhammavādī vinayavādī; nidhānavatiṃ vācaṃ bhāsitā hoti kālena sāpadesaṃ pariyantavatiṃ atthasaṃhitaṃ. Evaṃ kho, cunda , catubbidhaṃ vācāya soceyyaṃ hoti.

Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta, AN 10.176 PTS: A v 263