Saturday, September 29, 2007

Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action

In the West we have a tradition of "free thought" and "free speech." We consider the belief that a man or a woman may think whatever they wish and say whatever they wish to be one of the highest virtues of the civilization we live in. And in many ways, it is true that this value of freedom in thought and word has made our civilization great. Because when you do not know the truth, freedom of thought and word is essential in the search for it.

When I posted yesterday and said that I needed to reconsider certain words and reconsider my ways of thinking, I know that it troubled some folks. BIV was afraid that when we disagree with something someone in a position of spiritual authority has said, that if we don't speak our mind it can be harmful to our souls. To a certain extent, I agree with this. There has to be a free forum for us to explore the truth. If we feel we recognize untruth, we should speak to that. This is a vital process we all need to be involved in.

But there is another approach to thought and speech, which is highly valued in the East. I found these words of the great Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, which captured so well a concern which has become increasingly important to me:

Right Thinking. When we produce a thought, we have to ensure that the thought is a good thought, a right thought, because if it is, it will bring us physical and mental health, and it will help the world to heal itself. Our practice is to try to live in such a way that every day we produce only good thoughts, thoughts in the direction of right thinking. We have to train ourselves to do that. A bad thought can destroy the physical and moral health of ourselves and of the world. So we have to be careful to produce only good thoughts....

Right Speech. First, we have to understand that thinking is action. When we say something, that speech will have an effect on our body, on our mind, and on the world. Good speech will give us joy and health — physical and moral health — and it will change the world in the direction of goodness. We should produce right speech, which inspires understanding, joy, hope, brotherhood, and sisterhood. Your speech is the seed, it is the cause. And what it produces in you and in the world is the karmaphala, the karma-fruit. Action as cause and action as fruit.

This is not fundamentally different from the teaching of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, who reminds us:

But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not. (Mosiah 4:30)

There is a time when right thought and right speech will mean speaking out against injustice, or speaking out in favor of love. We should always strive for these thoughts and words! But there will also be times when right thought and right speech means stilling oneself, holding back, listening. Ultimately, how do we know the difference? Through conscience, through the Light of Christ in us, rightly guided by the Spirit. If we don't follow this, as King Benjamin says, we will perish.


GeckoMan said...


This morning I've gone back to your previous emails and the blog comments at Northern Lights, and I just want to say I appreciate EVERYTHING you've said. All of it is important; certainly a brother in your position has difficult and complex realities to discus--not all of it can be without some pain and frustration. I hope there are concerned people in positions of authority within the church infrastructure that correctly interpret your message and humble position. I understand and accept your sincere apology, the terms of faith and promises of right speech you subscribe to, and I think you have been true to your words.

Your influence for good and deeper understanding extends to members of my own family, and I thank you for your voice.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Gecko. That means a lot to me.