The Dharma In A Few Words
A reflection on practice by Annie Nugent
We might think that the Dharma is only to be found in long hours of sitting on our meditation cushion…but not so. It incorporates all areas of our lives if we are prepared to look at life with eyes of wisdom – and what better place to begin than with our speech?
The Buddha spoke about the importance of speaking wisely. It is one of the steps of the 8 fold path and an immediately rich area of practice for us in the busy, interactive world we live in. Each time we open our mouth to speak we have the opportunity to cultivate either wholesome or unwholesome qualities: we can perpetuate the habitual responses borne out of delusion that we have blindly acted out for many lifetimes or we can learn to pause momentarily before we speak, take note of what is happening in the mind – and then speak from a place of growing awareness of what our motivation is in our choice of words, because motivation or attitude of mind, is the key to wholesome speech. Are our words motivated by kindness or anger, greed or generosity?
For example, take the simple sentence: “Hello, how are you today?” What is our motivation in saying these words that are used so often in our daily lives? We might say them to our neighbors, the check-out clerk at the supermarket, our friends, our children, partners and people in the street. But are we aware of all of the qualities that might be present within the heart/mind as we are speaking them?
In just these few words we can find the Dharma: when the heart is open and connected to the other person – we can touch our common bond, our humanity. We are not threatening the other person or wanting anything from them, rather we are giving in a very simple, aware way. We are letting go of thoughts about ourselves and what we want, and including someone else into our world with kind awareness, transforming what might have been a mere formality, a polite, empty sentence if said without awareness, into a small gesture of kindness and inclusion borne out of awareness. In these moments we are also not trying to make any special feeling arise, instead, through being genuinely open and truly present, we can feel a quiet connectedness come to life within the heart, free of expectation of any particular result.
It takes so little of our time, yet has far reaching consequences in terms of our practice because each drop of wholesome motivation in our speech, coming from a place of generosity and kindness of heart, rather than from a place of grasping or unkindness is a step in the direction of letting go of our deeply ingrained habitual tendency of unawareness in the world.
If we are sincerely interested in developing in our practice, then we can resolve to pay attention when we speak. As we begin to include speech into our practice we will notice how difficult it is because our habits run so deep. Don’t let this dishearten you…and watch the judging mind…. we are all working towards purifying our unskillful habits….and of course, it is going to take time. The important thing to remember is to be patient with ourselves and never to give up… each moment we are willing to make the effort towards strengthening awareness in our speech brings wholesome results….a drop at a time.
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