The Way is beyond language, for in it there is
no yesterday,
no tomorrow,
no today.

Verses on the Faith Mind

Now that we are talking more together as a Sangha with our online Zoom sessions, I’m struck by how the discussions on Dharma topics are unfailingly insightful, full of community wisdom, often humorous, and always generous. What a contrast to what passes as political discourse these days, full of malice and accusation! And how valuable to realising our interbeing is the awareness of speech.

The fourth truth of the Buddha dharma is the path that leads us to wake up from delusion. There are eight aspects to this path, all working together, just like the spokes of a wheel. In regard to speech, the first three closely influence each other: right view, right intention and right speech. Of course, “right” doesn’t mean right as against wrong, but means appropriate and in accord with the Tao. The buddha view is one of attention and openness, ready to be a partner in the dance of what is happening now. Right intention means the right motivation, and a resolve to follow the Buddha way. The Classical Buddhist qualities of right speech are that it is factual, helpful, kind, pleasant and timely, all qualities to reflect on in regard to our daily conversations.

With the right view and right intention, we speak from our hearts, and we listen from our hearts too, the listening being as important as the speaking. Listening deeply is often the medicine that helps another to act for change in their own life. The speaker perhaps isn’t looking for your solutions; they want your compassionate hearing so they can solve their problem for themselves.

Fortunately, Zen practice also has a healthy dose of skilful means to counter the possibility that we could get caught up in all this “rightness”, or that it’s a list of attributes we can tick off as we progress towards “making it.” A monk asked Yunmen: ‘What are the words that transcend the Buddha and Patriarchs?’ Yunmen replied: ‘Kobyo.’ (‘Rice cake!’)

We used to exchange comments and dharma stories only on Precepts or Dharma café evenings but now, at our regular meditation gatherings, we are establishing a new tradition of encouraging each other, and sharing our experiences as dharma gates for each other. And in our care for our world’s ecology, for refugees and the homeless, we keep up the tradition of our founding teacher Robert Aitken in speaking up for all beings who can’t always speak up for themselves.

It speaks in silence,
in speech you hear its silence.
The great way has opened and there are no obstacles.