Monday, February 06, 2006

Right Speech

The Buddha taught the principle of Right Speech, which he defined as "Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter."

We are taught to avoid any form of speech which is harmful to other sentient beings.

"One should speak only that word by which one would not torment oneself nor harm others. That word is indeed well spoken ... One should speak only pleasant words, words which are acceptable (to others). What one speaks without bringing evils to others is pleasant" (Thag XXI).

The cartoons published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ( were obviously viewed as offensive by millions of Muslims all over the world. The Jyllands-Posten cartoons were very likely an example of Wrong Speech.

However, does the publication/republication of these cartoons justify the violent response we have seen in recent days?

The Buddha would say no. We are taught to avoid actions that harm others. This is the principle of Right Action.

"And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity. This is called right action."

There are no words offensive enough to justify a violent response. The torching of the Danish embassy in Beirut is wrong, no matter how offensive the cartoons may have been. Mob violence is mob violence, and it is not justified regardless of the motive or trigger.

The responsibility for this violence lays at the feet of the protesters and their governments, not with Jyllands-Posten or the Danes. It is simply self-delusion for the governments of the Muslim world to weakly blame Jyllands-Posten or the government of Denmark for the riots, arsons and other forms of violence seen this week on the streets of the Muslim world.

In this world, we are all responsible for the words we speak and the things we do.

>< ><>< >< Namaste.

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