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Thread: Kind speech and the written word

  1. #1
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Kind speech and the written word

    Tone in writing is a delicate matter. It is so easy to come across as arrogant, combative and undermining. I’ve found this out for myself on this forum. Sarcasm and irony are particularly dangerous, as no typeface conveys their intonation and colour. And to publish while angry is too often a mistake.

    It is always a good idea (note to self) to imagine how your written words might be received once read; to take a break from writing when particularly exercised or angry; to remember that to post here is to publish ... it is a public utterance, with all that that means.

    We need to be prepared to stand over our words, to take full responsibility for them as representations of our thinking. The practice of right speech, and ‘kind speech’, as Dogen termed it, also extends to the written word ... and to this forum.

    We are Zen practitioners. But we speak and we write. So let us speak and write as followers of the way ... or else remain silent.
    Gassho

  2. #2
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    _/_

    Jen

  3. #3

    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Are you talking to me !?!

  4. #4

    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    thank you for such skillful writing. I soo struggle with words.

  5. #5

    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    I would say that one should never publish when angry, nor arrogant. Generally, one should be soft spoken.

    On the other hand, there are times to be combative, satirical and ironic, to let out a bit of fire and strong words when speaking out about a a wrong, a falsehood or an injustice. It depends on the context, and fire must be handled with care.

    In my view, anger is best avoided in all cases. It is TNT and matches. It is more likely to end up as a fight in a bar, a broken relationship or starting a war than it is to do any positive good. As well, there are other emotions and perspectives which can accomplish the positive goods more effectively.

    So, for example, calm reflection, looking for a constructive solution and keeping one's head as much as possible while taking effective action is an approach more likely to solve a problem in this world or in one's life than tossing more fuel on the fires of hate. I would say that anger is rarely, if ever, an appropriate response.

    On the other hand, perhaps "righteous indignation" or "tough love" (if a parent ... even the Zen Master's "30 blows" are more of this kind) or "a firm hand with a calm mind" may be justified by a situation.

    To give an example from another thread ...

    For instance, if someone were to comment that an obese person is expressing gluttony by overeating it is not new information

    There is a time to meet a morbidly obese/alcoholic person with gentle words, understanding and positive encouragement. There is a time to use a firmer voice, speak of the damage they are doing to themself and others, and press a "weight watchers" or "AA" pamphlet in their hand. And there may be a time to call them a "mountain of fat" or "a drunk", show them a picture of their liver, show them the destruction they are doing to their family, toss their clothes out the window and lock them out of the house until they do something about it. It all depends on the situation. A tough intervention is sometimes done with love and caring ... not anger.

    I happened to stumble upon something I didn't know about the traditional depictions of Kannon, Bodhisattva of Compassion, as I was doing some reading for a recent talk. So often depicted as gentleness, but not always. In the traditional depictions of the "9 or 11-headed Kannon" ...



    ... "The faces of the various Bodhisattva usually include ... three angry faces (shinnumen ē??ę?'鯢) ..." Why? Taigen Dan Leighton, in his wonderful book Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and their Modern Expression, explains:

    [While the] three faces in front are usually smiling kindly, the three to the figures left ... are wrathful and scowling, directed to those beings who require stern guidance to awaken ...

    [Another form of Kannon known as] Horse-Headed Avalokiteshvara ... appears as a fierce, wrathful figure ... [who] expresses compassion with an angry, terrifying visage for whoever needs such incitement to awaken or be helped.




    Well, I suppose that TNT and matches can be useful too ... to blast open tunnels and move great obstructions! However, certainly, only when used with the greatest care, respect for its power, and by an expert's hands. I think Kannon sometimes looks angry ... but isn't at heart.

    Gassho, J

    PS - There may be times to get on a soapbox and make an impassioned speech with a bull horn (and a time to Occupy Wall Street!). Howver, about the only 'rule' on this Forum (besides "Just Sitting" Zazen each day) is to be kind to each other and mutually maintain ā??gentle speechā?¯ in all communication, even when voices disagree on hot issues. Perhaps more than anything, this allows a warm, welcoming atmosphere for new and old, where people can open up without fear.

  6. #6

    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Quote Originally Posted by praxis
    That would be a fine avatar for you, and I would appreciate if you would post one.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Soendoshin wrote:
    We need to be prepared to stand over our words, to take full responsibility for them as representations of our thinking. The practice of right speech, and ‘kind speech’, as Dogen termed it, also extends to the written word ... and to this forum.
    Thank you Soendoshin. There is a beautiful truth in these words.

    Also, deep gassho to Jundo Sensei _/_ for reminding us that words, like medicine, can be used in different dosages. Gentle words can act as band aids(trademark) while the harshness of tough love or criticism(all when done without anger) can be seen as a sort of chemo therapy. Potent? Yes(!), but also may be necessary at times.

    Gassho,
    John

  8. #8
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    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Jundo,
    I agree that there are times to shout. I also think these times are rarer than most people think. Used sparingly, a shout has all the more force.

    Gassho, with thanks for your teachings.

    Soen

    PS: I think, by the way, you show great restraint and are very judicious in your use of the shout.

  9. #9

    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Soen, thank you for this reminder,
    much appreciated
    _()_
    Peter

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    I used to think it was smart to be able to point out faults or criticize. In fact, many facets of our education system encourage such behaviour; I recall being singled out as being pig-headed in a physics lab session many years ago. For instance, the use of the kyosaku or shout in the zendo can be mistaken as unskillful. Publishing a cryptic image to delineate a thought/concept can be very skillful means at times but, oh, how many lives or beings have been harmed by such insular references.

    All harmful acts, words and thoughts, ever committed by me since of old,

    On account of beginningless greed, anger and ignorance,

    Born of my body, mouth and mind,

    Now I atone for them all
    This week's PPE should serve to help us recall the various sources of our own three poisons

    Thank you Soen for this thread.

    _/_

  11. #11

    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Thank you Soen,

    I'm a "little" sarcastic in my speech and remarks (and text too)
    so I try to read over typed text or before i speak,
    not easy but i'll try to do so, ops:
    most of the time i have to conclude that it's better not to speak

    a point I have to learn and pay big attention too,
    to speak properly (R: kindly) and letting go of this useless sarcasm.

    thank you

  12. #12

    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Quote Originally Posted by soendoshin
    Tone in writing is a delicate matter. It is so easy to come across as arrogant, combative and undermining. I’ve found this out for myself on this forum. Sarcasm and irony are particularly dangerous, as no typeface conveys their intonation and colour. And to publish while angry is too often a mistake.

    It is always a good idea (note to self) to imagine how your written words might be received once read; to take a break from writing when particularly exercised or angry; to remember that to post here is to publish ... it is a public utterance, with all that that means.

    We need to be prepared to stand over our words, to take full responsibility for them as representations of our thinking. The practice of right speech, and ‘kind speech’, as Dogen termed it, also extends to the written word ... and to this forum.

    We are Zen practitioners. But we speak and we write. So let us speak and write as followers of the way ... or else remain silent.
    Gassho
    Soendoshin
    Your words deserve to be placed in the vault and treated like the treasure they are. Deep appreciation Gassho Shogen

  13. #13
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    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    Thanks Shogen. Glad my ramblings meant something to you. That's kind of you.
    Gassho

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Kind speech and the written word

    I felt the same way when I first read it and i thank Zak for saying it clearer than I could.

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