Sunday Sermon

I have a confession to make... I enjoy gossip. Getting the scoop on who did what to whom is one of my favorite social activities. I try to not pass it along but I do love to hear it, and I am not alone.

Why do we love it so? Perhaps it is because talking about the shortcomings and misfortunes of others allows us to forget our own. We can say, "I may be a mess, but look at this loser!" In essence it is a coping mechanism, but at what price do we purchase this temporary reprieve from our own pains?

Right Speech is one of the tenets of the Buddha's Eightfold Path. It refers to refraining from falsehood, slander, idle chat, and plagiarism. In Mahayana Buddhism, the path is broken down further, and speech is addressed more specifically. At least four of that sect's Ten Grave Precepts touch on gossip directly, and several others speak to it obliquely.

We are reminded that speech is an action, and thus engenders Karma. When we indulge in gossip, we strike at our own capacity for compassion. It hardens our hearts, and inures us to the suffering of others. We withdraw from others, and step ever more firmly into the illusion of the separate self. We say, "He is really screwed up," and whisper to ourselves, "and I am not him."

If one of us suffers, we all suffer. We are inseparably interconnected, and to deny that is, at best, short-sighted. You, I, and the lampost are one, and when we disparage another, we disparage ourself.

Try just one day of observing the 6th precept - no speaking of the faults of others - and comment on your results. You will be amazed how difficult it is, and how much difference it makes in your daily conversations.

Go in peace.


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