Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Applying the Dharma to social justice issues – race, religion, sexuality and identity
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Buck McGeehy
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Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Buck McGeehy » Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:04 am

I have heard it explained from multiple teachers that Buddhist teachings on morality are not like the Ten Commandments, where breaking a precept is a "sin." When we undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech, it does not mean that we undertake to refrain from speaking out publicly to counter untruth or injustice. Particularly from an "engaged Buddhist" perspective, as appropriate here, Right Speech means speaking the truth. Doing so has its own karma/kamma, and not always beneficial. But remaining silent also has its karmic results.

[Problematic material removed - KOH]

My position is that speaking or not-speaking both have karmic effect, and sometimes remaining silent is itself an expression of complicity with very harmful speech. Now tell me all the reasons why this is not Dharma/Dhamma.

Speak Truth to Power.
Engaged Buddhism - A movement within Buddhism which puts emphasis on taking affirmative actions within one's community to address manifest human suffering such as poverty, hunger, environmental harm, and public health issues.

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Buck McGeehy
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Buck McGeehy » Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:41 pm

In case anybody cares to engage in this discussion, follow is further explanation of the basic Dhamma concepts:
Kamma. Kamma is volitional action. One’s speech and conduct are examples of one’s kamma. One experiences the fruit of one’s kamma. Nobody else experiences the fruits of one’s kamma except oneself.

Sanhkara. Sankhara is mental constructions/mental formations. Dependant upon ignorance, Sankhara arises. Worldly beings are bound up with the continual cycle of ignorance and resulting sankhara.
Nobody else is responsible for our personal mental constructions/mental formations. Nobody else controls our sankhara.
When we blame others for their reactions to our harsh, insensitive, unkind words, we commit error and miss an opportunity to practice Dhamma by recognizing the truth about that which has arisen. We are not responsible for the other’s sankhara. We are responsible for our kamma, and we experience the fruits of such kamma. Failure to recognize that one’s volitional actions in the form of insensitive speech can cause harm to others is a failure to understand Dhamma and basic reality.

Being mindful of this, Dhamma guides us toward an acknowledgement that our Kamma may be skillful or unskillful, and may lead to the affliction of others or not lead to the affliction of others. Dhamma teaches one to take personal responsibility for one’s volitional actions of speech, to reflect upon whether one’s actions have led to self affliction, affliction of others, or both, and if we recognize that our actions/speech have led to such affliction, then to endeavor to act more skillfully in the future. Dhamma does not teach that one should deny personal responsibility and blame others, and compound the affliction by engaging in further insensitive speech.
Please do not ask the source. It is not relevant.

http://brahmaviharas.net/loving-kindnes ... -practice/
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DNS
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by DNS » Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:48 pm

Buck McGeehy wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:04 am
My position is that speaking or not-speaking both have karmic effect, and sometimes remaining silent is itself an expression of complicity with very harmful speech. Now tell me all the reasons why this is not Dharma/Dhamma.
I mostly agree with this. If something bad is happening and you can help or provide input to help, then it is best to do so. We have had some interesting discussions about this over at DWT, for example one was if you see a person drowning and you do nothing to save them, does this incur negative karma? You'd be surprised how many feel that it is okay to be passive and do nothing in such a situation. It seems Theravadins tend to support passivity more than Mahayanists; perhaps due to the bodhisattva ideal? But I have also seen some Mahayanists too, say for example that engaged buddhism is unnecessary and/or inappropriate and focusing on your own path is more important.

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Buck McGeehy
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Buck McGeehy » Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:59 pm

DNS wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:48 pm
... engaged buddhism is unnecessary and/or inappropriate and focusing on your own path is more important.
Thanks for the helpful comment. I find the "passive" approach to be problematic on so many fronts. First, it seems to be used as an excuse to justify bullying behavior, e.g., "never mind what I said, be a good Buddhist and focus on your own reaction." Second, it seems to be a vehicle to blame the victim for their reaction. Third, it ignores the higher teaching and truth regarding not-self. Fourth, it is opposed to the concept of metta and other brahma viharas.

My view is that focusing on my own path by its nature means focusing on how to engage in a responsible way with the people around me. Even a monk living as a hermit in the forest comes upon creatures with whom there is interaction. This is where the self/other puzzle comes to the fore. As we treat self, we treat others. As we treat others, we treat self.
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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sat Mar 23, 2019 10:27 pm

Buck McGeehy wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:59 pm
DNS wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:48 pm
... engaged buddhism is unnecessary and/or inappropriate and focusing on your own path is more important.
Thanks for the helpful comment. I find the "passive" approach to be problematic on so many fronts. First, it seems to be used as an excuse to justify bullying behavior, e.g., "never mind what I said, be a good Buddhist and focus on your own reaction." Second, it seems to be a vehicle to blame the victim for their reaction. Third, it ignores the higher teaching and truth regarding not-self. Fourth, it is opposed to the concept of metta and other brahma viharas.

My view is that focusing on my own path by its nature means focusing on how to engage in a responsible way with the people around me. Even a monk living as a hermit in the forest comes upon creatures with whom there is interaction. This is where the self/other puzzle comes to the fore. As we treat self, we treat others. As we treat others, we treat self.
:goodpost:
- although I have never seen the passive approach "used as an excuse to justify bullying behavior."

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Pseudobabble » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:04 am

Have you heard of Moral Panics?

Human society is (among other things) a feedback mechanism for behaviour, wherein people respond not only to their physical environment, but also their social one, meaning the ideas, speech patterns, memes, etc which exist in the social sphere - so if one was to go around ferociously speaking out about a perceived problem everywhere and all the time, one might create a real problem, by engendering hostility and division, perhaps to a higher degree than was present in the original perceived problem.

If you want to see a rather amusing example, look at the Wiki page on D&D controversies - all of that nonsense, lawsuits, people having a terrible time, based on misunderstandings about the significance of a role-playing game, and certain loud people, who could not understand that there was nothing to worry about. Ludicrous.

This is not to say there is never a basis for speaking out - one only has to look around at the world to see plenty of injustice, which ought to be corrected. But it is very tempting to see oneself in the role of valiant saviour, the one who speaks truth to power, David against the Goliath of entrenched prejudice, etc, etc. Righteousness can lead to a very dark place.

This is one reason why, if one is going to speak out about a perceived problem, it is worth doing within the guidelines of Right Speech, so as to avoid causing any further trouble. As you mention kamma and the effects thereof, it is also worth remembering the following from the Acintita Sutta:
Acintita Sutta wrote: "There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas[1] is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...[2]

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

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Buck McGeehy
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Buck McGeehy » Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:44 am

Pseudobabble wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:04 am
This is one reason why, if one is going to speak out about a perceived problem, it is worth doing within the guidelines of Right Speech, so as to avoid causing any further trouble.
I agree. As stated, speaking out has its karmic consequences. Remaining silent does, as well. It is a balancing act. Most people react extremely poorly to even the mildest suggestion of possible criticism.
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Dorje Shedrub
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:05 am

Buck McGeehy wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:04 am
Particularly from an "engaged Buddhist" perspective, as appropriate here, Right Speech means speaking the truth. Doing so has its own karma/kamma, and not always beneficial. But remaining silent also has its karmic results.
There is much more to right speech than not lying, according to Buddha Gautama's teaching on the topic.

DS
"As far as social economic theory is concerned, I am Marxist. " ~ HHDL

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Buck McGeehy
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Buck McGeehy » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:23 pm

Dorje Shedrub wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:05 am
Buck McGeehy wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:04 am
Particularly from an "engaged Buddhist" perspective, as appropriate here, Right Speech means speaking the truth. Doing so has its own karma/kamma, and not always beneficial. But remaining silent also has its karmic results.
There is much more to right speech than not lying, according to Buddha Gautama's teaching on the topic.

DS
Yes, of course. There are entire discourses on Right Speech. I believe we are all well aware of them.

There is also much more to Right Speech than remaining silent in the face of pernicious lies and injurious comments. As I stated (which you did not quote), it is a balancing act. By way of illustrative hypothetical, if your brother yells "fire" as a prank in a crowded theater while you are sitting next to him, does Right Speech mean that you meekly walk out of the building, you make no effort to correct the situation, you say nothing to your brother afterward, and you refuse to support other theater-goers who make complaints?
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Dorje Shedrub
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Re: Speaking Out - Engaged Speech

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:35 pm

An involved discussion of right-speech from a Buddhist perspective necessitates discussion of doctrine and scriptures, which is more appropriate at DWT or DWM. Theravada and Mahayana views probably differ as to whether or not remaining silent consists of wrong-speech and whether in-action can bear karma.

DS
"As far as social economic theory is concerned, I am Marxist. " ~ HHDL

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