Right Speech & Donald Trump

POSTCARD#318: Bangkok: Trump making mileage (one way or another) from outrageous actions that take place every few days. Maybe we need to take 5 minutes to look at Right Speech and Buddhist ethics. Trump becomes transparent then, because we are not held by his harmful performance . It is obvious, everything is intended to induce dismay, after that it’s like the weasel and the rabbit; hypnotic, chaotic speech, a wild stab in the dark, perplexing and puzzling manoeuvring of events.

As a rule, Right Speech is not something politicians are good at, but Trump pushes it to the extreme; wrong speech, the intention is to create disorder and our reality becomes an an illusion. Showmanship… probably not very different from how things were 2600 years ago when the Buddha encountered leaders like Trump. There have always been politicians manipulating the truth for all the usual reasons.

And that’s why we have the Teaching on Right Speech. It’s called ‘right’ speech because language doesn’t stretch far enough to accurately express all the subtleties of how people normally communicate. The important thing is to get it right and Trump is an example of someone getting it wrong, deliberately.

‘The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. The Buddha explained right speech as follows:

  1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully,
  2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others,
  3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and
  4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth.’

‘Abandoning divisive speech… What he has heard here he does not tell there, to break those people apart from these people here…Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord…

Abandoning abusive speech… He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large…

Abandoning idle chatter… He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, and the Vinaya. He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, connected with the goal… [The Samaññaphala Sutta, Kevatta Sutta and Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta]

‘In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing and agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings.’ [Abhaya Sutta]

image: Yak, dynamic presence of a strange being at the entrance to the Golden temple in Bangkok. note, an older post refreshed

18 thoughts on “Right Speech & Donald Trump

  1. thank you for this much needed and inspiring reminder. one was in a rather deep part of the slough of despond about…er…that Individual for a few moments…..

  2. So apt. An incisive look at a ‘leader’ who generates dismay – as a strategy. What complex times we live in, or, when looked at with calmness, perhaps not. Thank you, Tiramit.

  3. Trumps speech is the “right speech” for his base…. getting rid of Trump won’t solve the problem. Pence is ready to pounce into office and he would be terrifyingly effectual. The real problem is Trumps base. Trump and his Reublicans are playing to it. So his fascist, racist base is running the country!! I would we had a Buddhist country with right speech. But to say the truth we are lucky we still have the right to speech!!

    • You’re right, I’m thinking my post was too short post and a bit too simplified. I’m from UK and making assumptions that in the US you are lucky you still have the Right to speech, never mind Right Speech as it is indicated in the Buddha’s perception. Thanks Ellen

  4. Our country, President Trump’s country, my country,was founded in the pursuit of Liberty.
    One such Liberty guaranteed under The Constitution is Free Speech.
    The Constitution does not insist on Right Speech.

    Seek peace,


    • Thanks Paz, you’re opening a new direction for me. “Guaranteed free speech, but no insistence on Right Speech. Politicians get people to believe in Right Speech but it’s wrong speech, dependent on the political source.

  5. I had missed this, T, so as I was cleaning up my emails I found it. Thank you for sharing this succinct explanation of Right Speech. I am working on this more intensely right now, after finding myself becoming provoked by unfair criticisms and lies from several sources. I have to “breathe, pray and step away” so as not to respond angrily with defensive, harsh and potentially hurtful words. It is truly one day at a time!

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