An older rendition of this training reads:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
Loving speech is also skillful speech and is related to skillful means.
Allan Lokos, an Interfaith minister, meditation teacher, and author, teaches:
Skillful speech begins by refraining from lying, slander, profanity, and harsh language. We should avoid language that is rude, abusive, disagreeable, or malicious, and we should abstain from talk that is foolish, idle, babble, or gossip. What remains are words that are truthful, kind, gentle, useful, and meaningful. Our speech will comfort, uplift, and inspire, and we will be a joy to those around us.
The pillar of skillful speech is to speak honestly, which means that we should even avoid telling little white lies. We need to be aware of dishonesty in the forms of exaggerating, minimizing, and self-aggrandizing. These forms of unskillful speech often arise from a fear that what we are is not good enough––and that is never true. Honesty begins at home, so the practice of skillful speech begins with being honest with ourselves.
He goes on to tell a rather fascinating story about a Hasidic rabbi:
There is an old Hasidic tale of a villager who was feeling remorse for the harm his gossip had caused his neighbor. He went to his rabbi to seek advice. The rabbi suggested that he go to town and buy a chicken and bring it back to him, and that on the way back he pluck it completely. When the man returned with the featherless chicken, the rabbi told him to retrace his steps and gather every one of the scattered feathers. The man replied that it would be impossible; by now the feathers were probably blown throughout the neighboring villages. The rabbi nodded in agreement, and the man understood: we can never really take back our words.
This is reminiscent of the Buddha’s parable of the mustard seed.
In this parable, a woman comes to the Buddha with her dead child in her arms and asks the Buddha to restore the child to life. He tells the woman to go back to the village and bring him a mustard seed from a household that has never seen death. When she fails to find one, she returns to the Buddha and realizes that her child cannot be saved. Ultimately, she becomes a nun.
Mindfulness in Healing
Loving speech is one of the meditation practices we teach at our Mindfulness in Healing group at the Pine Street Clinic in San Anselmo, California.
Together with deep listening, guided meditations, and overall support, our group has been in practice for more than three years.
If you know anyone who would benefit from loving speech, please share this with them.
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True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart is the newer of the two books by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh that contain his teachings on love. I have not personally read this book. It is bound to be excellent.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed reading Teachings on Love. In it you will learn that true love requires understanding at a deep level. Loving speech and deep listening help us to understand our loved ones.