Communicating with Truthfulness


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funkyr21's picture

Bishop Blomfield,
I've been practicng Buddhist meditaion and readngs for more than a year, i haven't approched a Sangha yet. I have keep the practice a secret, except to family and a few friends, and to them i don't preach or share my buddhist feelings. i know i'am on the right path, feeling better about myself and the beings of this world, but i don't think many people i know would understand, it's very Christan out there. i don't want to create wrong perceptions.
i was taken back when you said you were a Brit, living in Wales, becasue my Mom was born in Swansea, and came to America as a GI bride at the end of WW2, so that make me half Welsh. I wonder how many buddhist are in Wales?
Anyway, thank you for your talks on correct speech, i think, like you that speech can be daggers or do great good.

indigomoonbc's picture

Thank you so much for this retreat. I am so grateful for practical everyday life advice as this. I had to laugh when you mentioned that some may have wanted to hear about enlightenment.....this is the "stuff" I need to hear use every moment of every day ....thank you so much. And some times I have a hard time understanding the speakers due to strong accents and such....listening to you was very easy...though the information was not easy to hear. Thank you.

tina_mccoy's picture

Thank You for this retreat. I'm very happy to have encountered this teaching, and I look forward to learn more about how to practice Right Speech. Palms together, Namaste.

massrunner's picture

Thank you for this wonderful retreat and the subject matter. I had to laugh when the speaker said - you probably hoped for something deeper that right communication. This is day to day, practical instruction on living the precepts and the Path.
What are we hoping for liberation from, if not our own delusions and unskillful practices? Thank you!

I have the privilege of working in a moderately quiet office setting. Still, I am always surprised by the amount of unskillful communication that takes place. I have studied the precepts and the Path for years and am also amazed at how much further I need to be in my own practice. I am truly grateful that I can bring everything to the Path and know that it will be a source of learning and practice.

I am looking forward to the rest of the retreat. Thanks again!

barbicue's picture

Wonderful, clear, and very useful. Thank you so much.I am a psychoterapist and I work a lot with my patients around the consequences of wrong speech, so to speak, how we saw the seeds of our own life through our words and its effects.

bmw's picture

Very well spoken and thought provoking...... I look forward to further reflection and immediate attempts at application! Many thanks and look forward to the next session.

mcani's picture

I was also wondering about one thing.
Is the concept of "assertiveness" applicable here?

Any thoughts on this are very interesting.
Much metta

Vishvapani Blomfield's picture

Yes, I think assertiveness is connected to the topic of truthful speech, but the Buddha never used the term and I think his approach is a bit different. When we feel the need to be more assertive, we often feel that a other person has the power and we have become passive. The Buddha is really saying that the way to become active rather than passive is to connect with what we believe to be true and important, and hold to that.
When people are just learning to assert themselves the results can be a bit blunt and even aggressive. In time I think we need to go beyond that - and that's where the advice on practising kindly, helpful and harmonious speech comes in.


tinalear's picture

I have often thought that if I practice truly Right Speech, my whole personality will be gone and no one will recognize me. But then I remembered baby steps. I could, for instance, just for today, focus on just not telling ANY lies at all. Right away I was faced with the challenge as I was texting someone apologies for being late. I was late because I just managed my time very poorly and I didn't leave enough time to arrive punctually. What I was texting was that the traffic was horrendous. It was actually true. But it wasn't the reason for my lateness. Very subtle stuff going on here. I wouldn't characterize myself as a liar, but having made the commitment, I actually realized the near misstep. I probably do this kind of thing all day long with my speech. I would never have noticed had it not been for my commitment. Rich territory. May my whole personality eventually disappear (it's not really there anyway). It will take time. But I will get there, one little, wholly true truth at a time.

mcani's picture

I am very happy to get this opportunity to focus on right communication.
That precise question, how do you communicate kindly and truthfully when someone asks "how do I look in this dress?" Is something I tend to contemplate once n a while. So far I don't know how much my skills have improved though :)
Thank you for this opportunity to think about it in this forum and bringing your knowledge!

Daisymom's picture

Chester: I have the same issue as you. Coming from a family of "exaggerators" for whatever reason, and being a bit theatrical, speech can easily spin into a story, and truthfulness out the window. Being aware is a good thing though, isnt it? I try also,and have fallen many times in the realm of gossip. Not putting this on being a woman, but hey, its probably been used more with women not having any power, but their putting another down. I'm getting sensitive to that and how and when I feel the urge to "comment" and what those comments are. Its so endemic in society to gossip, to put down others to feel better, that reality shows are rife with this. In trying to swim against the stream of society and also our "shempas", its a worthy path but its also damn hard at times. Thanks for all of this, I'd rather be walking this path than any other....'s picture

sorry - there was an error encountered while loading this video
i use foxfire - any ideas on how to get this to work properly?
thanks in advance and always
john h

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi John,

 I'm sorry to hear you're having trouble. This same problem happens to me every once in awhile as well. Sometimes all it takes is patience—closing down your browser, waiting a few minutes, and trying again. (Or simply refreshing and trying again.) If this doesn't work, I would suggest switching your browser. And if that doesn't work, please contact our support services at or 1-800-873-9871, who will be able to help you.

Please let us know if/when you get the retreat working properly!

Best wishes,


kcwd50's picture

I am really glad we are having this retreat about right speech/communication, especially at this time (election season)--thank you, Tricycle, and thank you to our teacher--I find your approach gentle and very helpful. Yes, it is difficult to tell the truth/whole truth/nothing but the truth. I have a tendency to exaggerate, which is sometimes in the service of trying to avoid looking bad, but also an integral part of storytelling in a comedic way, which is something I really enjoy doing and a part of my "persona" to my family & friends. I don't relish the thought of having to give that up! I guess, if you communicate as truthfully as you can when you're being "serious" (which is probably most of the time), and you and your "audience" know when your exaggeration is for narrative/comedic effect (!), then it's OK--? (Another aspect of comedic storytelling is kind speech, which I know we'll get to later--a whole other kettle of fish.)
BTW, I really appreciate the insight into speech v. communication--the use of the term "right communication" is spot on.

Tharpa Pema's picture

I empathize with your conflict regarding humor. Much of my own sense of humor involves irony, which could be analyzed as a form of untruthful speech.

For example: I was dining with 4 friends yesterday who all know I am Buddhist and an advocate of nonviolent resolution of conflict wherever possible. One of my friends asked me if I do any martial arts. I said no, balled up my fists, and said "I do finger sandwiches."

I meant knuckle sandwiches, of course, which made it even funnier. Also, I am a small woman and my questioner was a large man, another source of irony.

What's untrue? That I would claim to fight with my fists or anything else, that I would challenge a large man to a fist fight, and even that I used the word "finger" instead of "knuckle sandwich." My blatant untruthfulness was what was funny!

I don't see an irresolvable conflict here, but I do see a need to be ever cautious that my irony does not lead myself or others to false, harsh, or slanderous interpretations. Also, Is the joy of laughing with friends idle?

massrunner's picture

Intention, intention, intention. Do we intend to deceive or mislead? Obviously, not in your case of humour. And while we don't often picture the Buddha as laughing, there are times we do. How sad life would be without the gifts of laughter and humor!

Vishvapani Blomfield's picture

I think massrunner is 'spot on', as we Brits say. Humour can be a celebration or a way of attacking others: you can't make rules for these things, so it all comes back to our motivation and intention. Actually, I'll be discussing this in the third week, when we come to 'meaningful speech', and even suggesting that there are examples in the Buddhist scriptures of the Buddha's sense of humour.
One thought, though. It can be interesting to explore what lies behind our humour: even gentle humour can be a way of allaying anxiety and getting people to like me!

tricyclebob's picture

FYI: Video doesn't work in the Opera browser.

Rubens Turkienicz's picture

(in case your msg was intended as a reply to my request...) Am using Mozilla Firefox and all videos run smoothly in it - including the ones from the latest retreat, which I watched without any problems (and without cute expressions on the screen...). Thanks, anyway, Rubens

appleknocker56's picture

i also use foxfire and don't have any trouble with my videos from tricycle or anywhere else. i was on internet explorer and just had awful audio experiences. try firefox if you are having trouble with videos. peace

Rubens Turkienicz's picture

Please check your server's stream video configuration? I just downloaded anew and duly installed the Adobe Flash Player... and still cannot watch this video... BTW: I am located in Brazil. Thanks for fixing it! Rubens

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi Rubens,

Everything seems fine on our end—are you still having trouble watching the retreat? What exactly happens when you try to watch?

Best wishes,
Emma Varvaloucas

Rubens Turkienicz's picture

Thanks for caring, Emma. I just uploaded Adobe Flash 11 for Firefox (had an older version) and it runs just fine with all other websites besides Tricycle... What I get now is a black screen with words like "Caramba..." etc. Am really intent on following this retreat, though. Any new suggestions? Best, Rubens

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hmm...sometimes on my browser (I also use Firefox) I need to shut down the page and try again a few times before the video works. You should also try using a different browser, like Chrome or Safari. If none of these suggestions work, please let me know. I'm wondering whether it has something to do with you being in Brazil. Have you successfully watched videos on Tricycle before?

chestergillmore's picture

I tend to struggle with right speech a lot in my life. I found the contemplation at the end of this session very helpful. What came to mind is that I am often untruthful when I am in self centered fear and trying to earn others approvals. Sometimes it is an exaggeration of a story to make my point stronger or to make me come off and be perceived of in a certain way. Other times it is trying to say things that I "think" others want to hear.
Often times I am most truthful when I experience the pain of wrong speech. Suffering is a tremendous motivator.
I have grown a tremendous amount over the last 6 years, since I found the Buddhas teachings and have tried to apply spiritual principles to my life, but when I reflect honestly, It is clear that I have a lot of work ahead of me.
Thank you once more for this offering.

indigomoonbc's picture

You hit the nail on the proverbial head for me....ouch.
Thanks so much for your comment.

susankahn's picture

I had a hard time heairng this talk. I used headphones and had the volume on my computer turned up as high as it will go. Is there any way at Tricycle you can turn up your volume? I have a heairng disability and I would like to be able to hear these talks. Most of the time I have been able to. I cannot read his lips because the timing is off between his speaking and his lips moving. Thanks

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi Susan,
I wish it were as simple as turning up the volume on our end! Here are a couple of suggestions: try watching the retreat with external speakers attached to your computer, if you have them. That way you should be able to turn up the volume much higher than you are able to using the computer's speakers or headphones. I'm not sure why the timing would be off between his speaking and his lips moving; how is your Internet connection? It might help this issue if you can connect to your Internet using a hard-wire Ethernet connection and not Wi-Fi. If none of this works, please send an email to and we can look into getting the retreat transcribed for you.
Best wishes,

edinkirk's picture

I too am having trouble hearing the talks but, not all of them, which makes me wonder if the sound person recording the retreats could regulate the volume?

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi Edin, That's precisely what we are working on!
Best wishes,