Good morning everyone! This is today’s Dharma Espresso, 9/12/2017.
According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, when we are in the beginning stage of the Second Dwelling, it is important to keep our heart and mind gentle. Anyone who reads the Avatamsaka Sutra knows that the foundation to go further and deeper in future cultivation is based upon:
“Know when is the right time to speak.
Speak kind and blissful words.”
(Knowing when the time is right to speak leads to speaking kind and blissful words)
Knowing when to speak is very important. Very often, we do not speak at the right time, the right moment, or pick the right topics. Sometimes we tell bad jokes and no one laughs. Telling funny stories when people are suffering is untimely. Shocking people with terribly sad stories when they are happy is also bad timing. Good timing is when we know what the circumstances are, what the listener needs to hear, and at what stage the story has developed.
For example, when I give a dharma lecture, I find it funny when I have progressed to stage 4 and someone asks me a question about stage 1. That is the wrong place to ask, but of course, I am happy to answer.
As you see, knowing the right time is critical. In English, it is called “timing”. Sometimes, it is not timing. ”Speaking at the right time” is following the momentum of the speech, understanding the context, and going with the flow. You may also notice that there are people who often talk others out of doing something instead of encouraging them to do it. That is also bad timing. Sitting together, instead of talking about positive things, they keep telling negative stories and arouse the curiosity of their listeners who then would like to hear more juicy gossip. In such a context, what can we
do, spread gossip, trash talk or badmouth others?
The second line, “Speak kind and blissful words” tells us how to show our true way and manner when speaking. We should speak in such a way that our listeners can feel harmonious and joyful. That joy does not come from seeing others’ mistakes, but from feeling their good mood and good character manifesting.
Therefore, “harmonious” and “ joyful” are two important words in our life. Sometimes, we cause discord or distrust in other people when we speak. Sometimes, we do not speak at the right time or with the right consciousness, making our friends, parents, teacher, or children lose their trust.
At times, you don’t want to be close to certain people because the way they talk is not harmonious. After listening to their stories, we don’t want to be near them anymore. There are words that create disharmony, and listening to bad words creates darkness in our heart and mind. What we have discussed leads to another important thing. Among the five main organs - heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys - which one does speech connect to?
It turns out that speech connects to the tongue. Words, i.e. speech are produced by the vocal cords, but the tongue makes the sounds and the melody. Without the tongue, we cannot speak. We can only utter incoherent sounds. Therefore, the tongue is very important.
According to the Chinese system of the five organs, the tongue connects to the heart. The ears connect to the kidneys. The eyes connect to the liver. The nose connects to the lungs, and the mouth connects to the spleen.
Since the tongue connects to the heart, it speaks what our heart wants to say. Hence, speaking harmonious and blissful words means our heart wants harmony and joy. The tongue is very important. Many times in our life, we get angry, and so our tongue slips out that anger. That is the way our heart looks at an event.
Sometimes, we do not know how to use our tongue and have prejudice against it. “The tongue has no bones, and it can twist its way”, which implies the tongue that speaks ill of others. But we should know that it can be used to speak good things that bring harmony and joy to listeners.
In short, we need to use the tongue to bring harmony and joy. Those are two important things. Hence, we need to know how to use our tongue with our words. Why do people say that we have to curl up our tongue seven times before we speak? That is a big focus on the tongue.
In meditation, it’s most important for us to practice relaxing our tongue, which leads to an important school in meditation. One meditation school teaches that the tongue has to curl up, touching the roof of the mouth, connecting the conception and the governing vessels. The energy flows this way. This is the school where they use the tongue in such a way to make connectivity. The second school teaches how to relax the tongue, lowering it down so that it is not moving. Thus, the tongue plays such an important role. One school is to create connection. The other is to attain relaxation, and therefore, create a new harmony. Both are right. We just need to know when to use the right method.
Therefore, we don’t just use the tongue to talk, we also need to know how to use it and use it skillfully when cultivating. Many times, we forget that life is very diverse. If we want a versatile and harmonious life, we need to use our tongue and our words very skillfully. A multi-faceted and multi-colored life needs to bring joy not only to ourselves, but also to others with skillful use of the tongue and words.
I hope that today, every time you speak, you remember to keep in mind the two words “harmony and joy” so that when you speak out, your words will bring benefits and joy to life.
Thank you for listening.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)