steps in the Eightfold Path, have to do with what's called
Uprightness of Heart, how to live in an upright way, not crooked,
or bent, or wobbly, or something like that.
teaches and talks very often in his writings, in his speaking
with Carlos Casteneda, about choosing "a path with heart,"
-- about picking a way of practice and a way of life, and
that one question needs to be addressed: Is this a path with
heart? Is this one that I can follow and live according to,
and live in harmony with the deepest longings of my heart?
with heart, whatever we've chosen as our path, has a particular
foundation or support. Support for what? What do we really
want in our spiritual practice or in the path that we may
have chosen? What do you want, what do you want for the world
around you? Think about it. What do we want for the world
around us, and then what do we want for ourselves? Often the
answer is the same, a bit more peaceful, more loving, a little
wiser, or taking it all less seriously. I don't mean no anger
or no fear -- that gets a little too idealistic -- but perhaps
in our world and in ourselves, not to be so caught in it,
not to get caught into where it leads, as it does in the world,
to so much violence, sorrow and hatred.
have a sense of what you want, just a little bit, for the
world or for yourself? How do we get this? The foundation
or support for a path with heart, or a world with heart, rests
on the foundation of a basic harmony of our being. For if
your life is out of harmony, there won't be peace, or there
won't be compassion, or there won't be wisdom. What does it
mean, this basic harmony? Well, if it's missing, if it's not
there, it's difficult to see clearly and we suffer because
of the pain of our conflict with the natural laws around us.
the laws of every path with heart is the law of non-harming.
Harmony means an absence of excessive greed, hatred and delusion.
It's a very specific definition. Excessive greed, hatred and
delusion means so much greed, or so much hatred, or so much
ignorance, that we act through them in ways that harm other
beings or that harm ourselves. It's really the same, because
if you hurt someone or something, what happens? Generally,
you feel bad and you suffer. They feel bad. Often they get
you back later, or they say, "Your karma gets you back
in some fashion; it happens back to you." It's not that
this is sinful or bad or anything -- it's one of the principles
of how this game operates.
has a positive meaning as well. It means a nurturing of that
karma of joy, or serenity in truth, or integrity, so that
our speech and our actions -- our being in the world -- manifests
from the heart. It's called sila in Sanskrit, uprightness
a beautiful Jataka Tale about a beautiful and wonderful
young man in ancient times, who went to a far-off university
in India, away from his family, and he was telling his professor
why his family life had been so happy, and why his own life
had been so happy. The professor told him that his only child,
his son had died. The young boy said, "That doesn't happen
in our family, children don't die, people don't die young."
The professor was just aghast. "How could that be? It
happens all over to everyone." The boy said, "Well,
there's something special in our family, and for the last
many dozen generations that we've recorded, no one has died
young." So the professor became very intrigued, especially
since he was grieving over the loss of his own child, and
he took a pack, put on his traveling clothes, and left the
university to go back to the town where this boy lived, to
visit his parents, and discover why people in that family
did not die young.
a beautiful poem that comes from this particular Jataka
Tale. He went in to meet the father and he told the father,
"I've come with terrible news. Your boy who is in my
care at the university was struck by illness and has died."
The father laughed. Very unusual, amazing, how could this
be! And the professor said, "Why are you laughing?"
The father's eyes were really bright and he smiled and he
said, "Because the people in our family don't die young."
He said, "It must be some other boy. It can't be my son."
The professor took out some bones from this bag and said,
"See these, this is your son." They were really
some sheep bones that he brought along. The father laughed,
"Oh, they're sheep bones; they're not the bones of my
boy." He says, "How can you be so sure? How do you
know?" The man laughed a really heartful deep laugh,
very joyful. He said, "Because we've recorded generation
after generation in our family that children don't die young.
The professor said, "Why is this so?" Then the man
began his poem.
every morning when we rise,
we rise with care,
and we take time in the morning to contact each
person in the family and see that they are well,
and speak with them
And every day when we rise we look after the
animals that are part of our family and we see to it
that they are fed and cared for and that they're
not in distress.
And every day when we begin our
conversations with people,
we take care with our words, and we speak
only that which is sweet, and that which is true,
and that which is helpful.
because of this, people in our family
do not die young.
And every day when we go to work,
in our fields, or in business, or in commerce, we
act in ways which are kind to the other people,
which are honest, and have integrity,
and because of this the people in our
family do not die young.
every day we look around
us in the community
and we see if there is someone or
some being in need,
and we give what we are able to
share and help them. Because of this,
for many generations
the people in our family do not die young.
on and on with this poem. And it's so sweet, it's like nectar
to listen to. It's nectar because it's true. It's not necessarily
speaking about chronological age and death, but again it's
talking about the heart and what it means for the heart to
be awakened or open and to live in that way. That's what it
means to be alive.
heart is closed it's like you've already died in some way.
When I listen to the story or read it, I just feel such delight
in thinking what power it has for us to begin to live our
life in a harmonious way. This is called sila.
two steps of the Eightfold Path are Right Understanding and
Right Attitude. Last week we talked about openness, of discovery,
of playing with our life rather than being in a rut, of being
willing to investigate and look at the laws of our life and
the world around us.
Sila on one side means restraint, non-harming. On the
other side, its positive dimension is loving, caring. My teacher
Achaan Chaa used to love to talk about sila. He would
just light up, and he would go on for hours, and he would
be so happy talking about a virtuous heart. We hear so little
about it in our culture, in our time, and yet it's so important.
It's the foundation of any path with heart. And it's beautiful.
It's like the heart gets cleansed by our true words, by our
virtuous action. It makes our life upright and strong.
Speech is the next step of the Eightfold Path and it's the
first of the three steps that speak to this uprightness of
heart or virtue, sila. Speech has enormous power.
a story of a Sufi master, a healer. He goes into this household
one day where there's a sick child, and there are people gathered
around. He goes over and he passes his hand over the child
and he says some sacred words, a kind of prayer, and he says,
"Now you will be healed." The parents are very grateful,
but a really disbelieving and somewhat aggressive man says,
"How can you heal a child just by saying some words,
all this healing and this spiritual junk"? The master
turns to him and looks him in the eye and says, "What
do you know of this? You are an absolute fool. You know nothing!"
He says this in front of all the other people. The guy becomes
enraged and he turns red and he is shaking with anger. And
the master says, "Wait a minute, sir. If a word of mine
has the power to make you turn red and shake with anger, why
should not a word also have the power to heal?"
a lot in our life. We talk so much to each other. Words have
tremendous power. They have the power to put us to sleep.
Do you know that one? "La, la, la, yes, yes, no, no,"
back and forth for hours. Or they have the power to wake us
up. Words of wisdom, words from the heart, words from the
eye of wisdom can make all kinds of things clear to us, can
help us to see, to let go, to discover, to awaken.
are two principles to Right Speech, to this foundation of
speech as the first aspect of uprightness of heart. The first
is that our words be true. Truth is so sweet. If you know
anyone who really speaks honestly and truthfully, admittedly
sometimes they're a pain in the ass, but mostly one's sense
of that person is a delight, that here's somebody I can go
and speak to or listen to and hear that which is true. It's
a story of Mullah Nasrudin, the old wise man and fool, this
kind of strange character. He puts up his booth. It's sort
of like Lucy in "Peanuts." It says, "Psychiatric
Assistance" or "Psychological Counseling -- two
questions," or something like that, only instead of five
cents it's five old dinars. It's really a lot of money. People
think, "Gosh, he must be very, very good to charge so
much money." So one person goes up to him, and takes
out five old dinars and puts it on the counter. He says to
Nasrudin, "Isn't that an awful lot to charge for just
two questions?" Nasrudin looks back and says, "Yes,
it is; and what's your second question?"
First, that the words are true for Right Speech; and second,
that they're kind or helpful, because it's possible to say
what's true and not have it be helpful at all, what one might
call "brutal honesty". "I'll tell you just
what I think, whether it's helpful or not." The second
principle is that speech be helpful, not only that it be true,
but also that it speak in some way that's compassionate or
kind or useful to someone.
communication do in our world? It makes society. Our society
is built on communication. We're isolated individuals, in
some measure anyway, even if perhaps cosmically we're one,
but mostly we experience ourselves as separate. Our society,
our friendships, our love, the laws, the whole world around
us, is created by agreement through communication. It's very,
very powerful. And when it's truthful, or it's honest, or
its genuine, it builds trust, and it builds a society of harmony
with our friends, with our loved ones, with our family. When
its truthful, it opens a channel for our hearts to meet. When
it's not, there's no chance for the hearts to meet, or very,
very little. You probably know this in your relationships,
don't you, that if you have stored things that you haven't
communicated, stored resentments, what happens? Or if you
have things that you've said that really haven't been true,
that haven't come from your heart, that have been covered
over, or were manipulative, or made to sound one way when
they weren't -- what happens to that communion, that sharing,
the space of love? It gets weakened or it disappears, for
a little while anyway. It's not available to you. In many
ways, the love between people that we live with or spend a
lot of time with rides on the vehicle of our communication.
If the communication is clear, or open, or truthful, where
it's not held, where it's not stored, where there's forgiveness,
then there's a real sense or communion.
wrong speech -- or what's not considered Right Speech -- is
False Speech,or gossip. Most of you who have been to retreats
have heard Joseph Goldstein tell the story of when he vowed
not to gossip anymore for a period of time. He picked a month.
And for him he meant in this particular vow not to speak about
a person who wasn't there, even if it was a favorable thing,
just not to talk behind someone's back. He discovered this
amazing thing, that 90% of his speech was eliminated. We spend
so much time talking about third people, most of which is
not false speech, not gossiping, which is very helpful, not
back -- biting or undermining people, refraining from harsh
or abusive language -- these are the classical things, but
they really speak to speech as a vehicle for love, as a vehicle
for communion, as a vehicle for awakening. What Right Speech
does, it acts as a question: Can we start to become conscious
all of these hours where we talk on automatic pilot? Can we
make our speech become more useful to ourselves and to our
planet? To that question, I ask: What do you care about, what
do you want for the world and for yourself?
speak falsely, when we back -- bite, when we gossip, and all
those other kinds of things, what makes us do that? Have you
ever done that? Have you ever engaged in some kind of unskillful
speech? Alright, so you know that. Now, look for a second
-- for the process of awakening is in investigation. What
makes us do that? Entertainment, justification, self-importance,
anger, bonding. Yes, sometimes we do. We'll talk about somebody
else and put them down because it makes us a little closer
to this other person, or we do it for entertainment because
we're bored. And God spare us in this culture if we ever had
nothing to do and weren't entertained. It's horrible, you
know! You come into someone's house and if they can't be with
you, "Here, I'll turn on the TV. Would you like some
music? Here's something to eat. You can read." Anything
but just waiting and being bored. Terrifying thing!
are all these reasons that we do it. Let's start to study
it in our lives. Look at the moments. Don't judge it. We're
just looking at the principles of what makes happiness. Happiness
or harmony comes from understanding the principles of things.
So this week let's also study speech a little bit -- start
to look and see if you can find moments where you feel your
speech isn't so skillful. Just look at what's cooking inside
and what's going on when you do it.
like to change the name of Right Speech to "Speech from
the Heart." What keeps us from speaking the truth, and
with the value in what we know? What keeps us from speaking
from the heart all the time? What does it? The society does,
you know. I mean, it's not a very good example when you turn
on the TV and most of what's there is false, or politics.
It is l984 after all, double -- speak. That's one thing. We're
in the soup where nobody can speak straight, nobody tells
the truth. It's a very hard thing, advertising. It's not just
our society. Don't think it's just ours. Sure, in our society
we hide death and paint up the corpses and lock away old people
and mental patients so we don't have to look at them. We are
a society which really suppresses a lot. We just want to look
at young, attractive people. It's not quite the youth culture
it was since the baby boomers are getting a little older now.
We settle for what Time Magazine called, "active and
attractive." Before it was, "Young and glamorous,"
and now it's just "active and attractive."
have a mass of youth in our culture, so there are all these
things that we don't deal with. It's really the same in other
cultures. I remember dealing with some Chinese merchants in
Asia. Business is business, it has very little to do with
virtue, generally. I went in this store and this Chinese merchant
had these statues and I was interested in one. I said, "That's
a beautiful Cambodian statue." He said, "It's ancient,
fantastic, it's an antique." I said, "Are you sure?"
He said, "Oh, yes, yes; really, really old." He
told me the whole story, where he got it. I said, "How
much?" He said, "Oh, $8,500." Wow, really fantastic.
I looked at it, and I said, "I know this statue, this
was made over in Ban Cheng Dow. I know where they make them,
and it's a copy, and it's not an antique at all. It looks
like an antique. But they make it in that village, I know
that's so." And he looked at me and he said, "So
how much will you give me for it?" Not a moment's hesitation.
It was $20 instead of $8,500. It's not to put down Chinese
merchants particularly because we all have that in us in some
way. We all have that part.
it that keeps us from speaking the truth? The society that
hides things around us, the American or the Chinese society?
Why else don't we speak the truth? We won't be loved. Look
what happened to Jesus. You have to be real careful. That's
an extreme admittedly. We feel that. We're really afraid.
If we're not loved, then what will happen? Then we'll be pretty
much ostracized and abandoned. What happens when you're abandoned?
You die, you know. So we better be careful and say the right
don't we speak the truth? Fear of rocking the boat. Fear of
rocking the boat outwardly -- people will get upset, also
a fear of being exposed inwardly. If we really speak the truth
at times we'll show our own judgment and fear and violence,
and all those things in ourselves that we may not want to
let out so much. It would be wonderful to let them out with
a little less judgment, because the fact that we all hide
them and keep them in is what makes wars. We don't know how
to express ourselves, we don't know how to share, we don't
know how to see things and let them go and not be caught.
It gets bottled up in us individually and as a culture, and
then we go to war. War is the expression of the fact that
we don't know how to deal with the violence in ourselves.
So if we don't like nuclear war, it's tremendously compelling
and important to learn about the shadow, about the dark side
of ourselves, of our being.
is to do good,
it must be done in the minute particulars.
General good is the plea of the hypocrite,
the scoundrel and the flatterer.
want to do good, it has to be in our words to the people that
we live with, and the people that we meet on the street, and
the people that we interact with in the stores, and the people
that we work with. If you want to stop nuclear war, pay attention
to your speech, pay attention how and when your words are
connected to your heart and when your words aren't connected
to your heart, and what's going on when they're not. Without
judging it, just study it, begin to look at it. Look and see
what you haven't said. Stop for a second just now. Think about
your unfinished business, because life, as you know, goes
quickly and sometimes it ends quickly. Who haven't you said
something to that you really need to, words of the heart?
Just think about it for a minute. Think about it and see if
you can see what stops you from doing it. A lot of times what
stops us is we think we're immortal and that we'll get to
it; that we'll live forever.
problem with you, Carlos, is that you think you have time.
a path with heart is to begin to realize how precious time
is, and that we have very little.
turn it around and instead of asking why we're afraid to speak
-- we can study that in ourselves -- let's ask: What do we
value, again, going back to that question. Our life is short.
What do you really value? What do you want? Courage, freedom,
love, wholeness, integrity, happiness, pleasure; what is it
that you love, that you value?
was teaching about non-harming, non-harming of speech and
action, ahimsa, the avoidance of harm to any living
creature, in word or deed -- someone asked, "Well, couldn't
one kill a cobra to protect a child or oneself?" And
his reply was, "I could not kill a cobra without violating
two of my vows: fearlessness and non-harming. I would rather
try inwardly to calm the snake by vibrations of love. I could
not possibly lower my standards to suit my circumstances.
But I must confess, I could not carry on this conversation
so serenely were I faced with a cobra in this room."
reminded, most of us value integrity. It really lights up
the heart to think about living in a way that comes from inside,
where our actions, our words, and our inner being are connected.
It's very precious. In the Buddhist tradition they're given
as training precepts, training precepts which we practice.
It's not some God -- given law that we must follow, but precepts
which we begin to practice -- to begin to learn to live our
life from our hearts, to live our life, as I said, with an
uprightness of heart.
when the inner dialogue stops can the hidden parts of ourselves
be seen and revealed.
this endless speech going on inside, as well. We'll get to
the internal dialogue in another few nights. Really, it's
the external dialogue. We go "la, la, la" and someone
else goes "la, la, la" and we're on automatic, and
we're making friends or passing the time, or whatever, and
not waking up enough -- not so much to others but to ourselves.
Why do we do that? Why do we talk so much? When the inner
and the outer dialogue is going on, it hides our loneliness,
it keeps us from being bored, doesn't it? It keeps us from
feeling afraid. It fills up all that space that's empty, that's
scary. It also blocks our heart from opening in some way and
from the width of growing. We grow when things get quieter
and we can look.
about it for a second. When we meet someone, they say all
the things that are happening to them, and we say all the
things that are happening to us. You know, mostly what's going
on, we're just saying, "Hi, I'm here! Are you in there?"
That's about all, it's just making a little contact. We have
all this elaborate ritual to do it. Or maybe if we're a little
quieter we might be saying, "I love you," but that's
a pretty scary thing to say, so we say a little here, and
she says a little there, or whatever, and it keeps us amused,
its true, but it's a safe way of touching another person.
So I just
suggest to you that we can learn in our practice to let our
words come a little more directly from our heart. It's a wonderful
thing to learn and it takes some practice.
exercise for this week has two parts. One is to look to see
if there are occasional moments of unskillful speech, and
just see what's cooking in there, what's going on that motivates
it. See if you understand it, without trying to change it.
Just look! Are you trying to make friends, or are lonely or
angry, or whatever it is, or you don't want to rock the boat
Look and see if you'd be afraid of what would happen if you
opposite side; see if you can pay attention when you speak
the rest of the time, the best you're able, and listen to
your heart. See if you can begin practicing letting your words
come from your heart. A good clue for this is if you're in
a conversation that lasts more than five minutes, so you've
been talking for awhile, pause, or wake up for a second in
the middle of it, and ask inside, "Now, what does my
heart really want to say?" You're having this conversation.
"What's in there that really wants to be said? Maybe
I won't see this person ever again. What do I really want
to say?" That can begin to empower your speech, to transform
it from automatic pilot to the place where you start to wake
up. It's fantastic. It's really wonderful to work with.
to close by reading part of the "Four Quartets"
by T.S. Eliot, this wonderful, wonderful poet. In this section,
at the end he's talking about speech and about his life as
we call the beginning is often the end,
and to make an end is a beginning,
To make a beginning.
the end is where we start from
and every phrase and sentence that is right,
where every word is at home,
taking its place to support the others,
the word neither dissident nor ostentatious.
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
the common word exact with vulgarity,
the formal word precise but not pedantic,
the complete consort dancing together.
every phrase and every sentence
is an end and a beginning,
every poem an epitaph,
and any action is a step to the block,
to the fire, down the sea's throat,
or to an illegible stone,
that's where we start.
We die with the dying.
See them depart and we go with them,
and we are born with the dead.
See, they're returned and bring us with them.
phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning, every
poem an epitaph. Any action, a step to the block, to the fire,
down the sea's throat.
could do just Right Speech we would change our lives, we would
change the world, and we would become enlightened. Just in
that. "Enlighten" means awaken to what we do and
what's true, because to speak truly means that one has to
touch one's heart, one has to listen to it, one has to be
there. Then all the rest of what one calls The Path with Heart
follows from that.