Right speech (sammà vàcà) is the third step on the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Speech is the ability to form and utter words, an ability unique to human beings. Because of its power to do good but also harm, the Buddha laid great stress on Right Speech.
He defined Right Speech as speaking words that are truthful, useful, spoken at the right time and motivated by kindness and compassion (M.I,395). On another occasion he added to this list the quality of gentleness (M.I,126). In one of his most detailed description of the skilful use of verbal communication the Buddha said, ‘Refraining from lying he becomes a speaker of the truth, one whose word can be taken, trustworthy, dependable, he does not deceive the world. Refraining from malicious speech he does not repeat here what he has heard there to the detriment of others. He is a reconciler of those at variance and an encourager of those already united, rejoicing in peace, loving peace, delighting in peace, he speaks up in favour of peace. Refraining from harsh speech he speaks words that are blameless, pleasing, easy on the ear, agreeable, going to the heart, urbane, pleasing and liked by everybody. Refraining from useless chatter he speaks at the appropriate time, correctly, to the point, about Dhamma and discipline, words worthy of being treasured, seasonable, reasonable, articulate and connected to the goal’ (D.I,4).
- Buddhism A to Z. Ven. Dhammika, 2007.