Sunday, February 22, 2009

Right Speech

In the Shobogenzo Sanjūshichihon Bodai Bumpō (On the Thirty-Seven Methods of Training for Realizing Enlightenment), Zen Master Dogen said, “Right speech is our Mute Self not being a mute. Those who are mutes among humans have never been able to express the truth. Those in the realm of the Mute are not mutes. They do not admire themselves as saints, nor do they pile something spiritual upon themselves. Right speech is mastery of the state in which the mouth is hung up on the wall. It is mastery of the state in which all mouths are hung on all walls. It is all the mouths being hung up on all the walls.”

In the Ippyakuhachi-Homyomon (108 Gates of Dharma-Illumination), Dogen further noted, "Right speech is a gate of Dharma-illumination, for with it we recognize that all names, voices, and words are simply like vibrations."

Our Mute Self is our Buddha nature, our true self that underlies all of the words and language that settle like dust upon us. But if we dwell in a state beyond words, we could never express the truth to others, we would never be able to fulfill our Bodhisattva vow to free all sentient beings. So those who have experienced the state beyond words nevertheless use words to try and at least point at the truth (since the truth itself cannot be described with words). But the words and labels don't stick to them, and they don't identify themselves by the words they use to point at the truth. They know that words are just sounds, mere vibrations in a column of air. To master the state of being beyond words is to be able to still use words, but not be limited by them. To be in the state beyond words is to directly realize an affinity with all sentient beings. When that affinity is realized, there is nothing left to realize it, there is just all sentient beings.


renbyo said...

Thanks Shokai, for sharing Dogen Zenji's words with us.

I've often thought that the intention of communication is nearly as important as the method, or even the message itself. Why I am saying what I say, as I communicate from true self, makes communication a relationship, not just empty words. When I flow with that, actively listening and speaking from the heart, these are true dharma words, living truth that is our lives in that exact moment.

Be well and sit strongly,


tai said...

Typo in the headline?! I guess "Right Spech" is supposed to be "Right Speech" ...

Shokai said...

Renbyo - Good thoughts, thanks for sharing.

Tai - Corrected. Thanks for pointing out the typo.