Saturday, November 16, 2013

Watch Your Mouth

Day 14 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's inspiration comes from the Fourth Buddhist Precept from the Pali Canon, the first Buddhist scriptures (the Pali language is a variation of Sanskrit).

It is written as Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami, which translated means "I vow (or undertake) to refrain from incorrect speech."

We are to be "impeccable" with our speech, as don Miguel Ruiz instructs us in his best-selling book The Four Agreements.

In the Buddhist tradition, the Fourth Precept is described as refraining from four particular actions: (1) being untruthful, (2) exaggerating, (3) divisive speech, and (4) insulting language.

Incorrect speech is destructive.

While this precept is not a rule to which we must adhere like the Abrahamic/Mosaic ten commandments, it is a personal commitment we make to ourselves when we choose to follow a spiritual path. We find versions of this precept in many, if not all, wisdom traditions.

This precept tells us not to lie and not to say things that destroy relationships and friendships. Instead, we are to use "right speech," as Buddha calls it, speaking truthfully and honestly, and speaking words that promote goodwill, not harm.

Can we disagree or criticize? Sure, as long as our words are respectful of others' differing views or offer constructive criticism that will help another to improve.

In Buddhism, false speech is rooted in hate, greed, and ignorance, known as the Three Poisons. If your speech is to discredit or assassinate the character of someone you don't like, to get something that you want at the expense of others, or to lie about your status to win the adoration of others, then you are breaking this promise not only to yourself, but also to your Higher Self.

To practice "right speech," we are to be mindful of our speech at all times. We are to think about what we say before we say it. Is it going to help, edify, or exhort? Or is it going to harm, insult, or abuse?

We need to examine our own motivations for our speech. Is our speech stemming from the three poisons? Or is it coming from a place of love and compassion? What is your intent?

Note the word "refrain." The precept doesn't tell us we have to absolutely stop. We are human; we can't, but that is no excuse for not trying. The more mindful we are of our speech, the better we get at watching what comes out of our mouths.

When we vow to refrain from incorrect speech, we vow to cultivate wholesome, loving speech in order to bring joy and happiness to others. We vow to relieve others of their suffering. We vow to speak truthfully, using words that inspire others.

This precept is not a directive. It's not a commandment. But it is a spiritual practice that enables enlightenment. When we are mindful of our words, it helps us, our families, our relationships, and our community.



  1. It reminds me of that poem that I always remember...n try to live by.
    I love it.I've learned that its so true...that words do have actions..n the only way to change is to change my true...
    I read somewhere that when one makes up their mind to see others with a kind loving heart then what one has perceived has changed about that person...but if the other person doesn't want to change keep sending love to them....
    What a powerful statement...n sometimes hard because of the EGO...n I too get caught up with the much I keep my ego in check n send love.....the other party messes up n I just keep saying up...I was right bout I just give up...which I fall back into my old habits ....that is why I'm still on this journey ...n I'm realizing more lessons good or bad...I'm opening up my spiritual journey....n Im enjoying it...
    love n blessing my spiritual guide...

    1. I've seen this saying before. And it is valid. We are what we think, and we create our own experiences based on what we think.

      Dealing with ego can be a challenge for sure, but with awareness, we can take control of the ego and tame it so to speak so that it doesn't cause the messes it has in the past.

      Sending love and light to you...

  2. I agree that our words have power. Power to hurt and power to heal. Angry words spill from an angry heart. A loving person speaks gracious words of love, compassion and goodness. May our words build up, not tear down, bless rather than curse, encourage not discourage.
    Thank you Penny,
    Healthy Blessings,

    1. Beautifully stated, Gena. May we always strive to speak impeccably to others and to ourselves.


  3. I love the Buddha teachings. Often we don't realise the effect our words have on another, if we're not being mindful when we speak. It's not until we make a decision to be kinder and tell the truth we may realise how much we weren't doing it before. Exaggerating for comedic effect was something I was very fond of, and still catch myself doing it sometimes. I do still like to make light of things, because I'd rather laugh, but now I try and be more mindful in the way that I do that. I made a vow to myself to always tell the truth years ago now. It was a surprisingly long process for someone who thought she was already a truthful person! The first realisation was that I wasn't even telling myself the truth about me most of the time, so how could I speak it? It began a process that is still on-going; before I speak, I challenge myself 'is this true?' Do I really believe this to be true? Our words have a powerful effect, not just on others, but also in creating our own reality. They help form and shape it, giving our thoughts life. If we don't want to poison the well of our own life and others, then abiding by these principals will serve us well. Great post, packed full of information and teachings. Loved it!

    1. Hi Andrea!

      I think the questions that you ask yourself, "Is this true?" and "Do I really believe this to be true?" before speaking is very important. That awareness alone makes us stop and think before we say or do. And that's when compassion steps in. We realize that what we say can have a tremendous effect. It certainly takes inner discipline work.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I'm glad you found this full of info and teachings :-)