I Vow Not To Talk About The Faults Of Others.

2188 words - 9 pages

"I vow not to talk about the faults of others." In the Zen tradition, this is one of the bodhisattva vows. For fully ordained monastics the same principle is expressed in the payattika vow to abandon slander. It is also contained in the Buddha's recommendation to all of us to avoid the ten destructive actions, the fifth of which is using our speech to create disharmony.The MotivationWhat an undertaking! I can't speak for you, the reader, but I find this very difficult. I have an old habit of talking about the faults of others. In fact, it's so habitual that sometimes I don't realize I've done it until afterwards.What lies behind this tendency to put others down? One of my teachers, Geshe Ngawang Dhargye, used to say, "You get together with a friend and talk about the faults of this person and the misdeeds of that one. Then you go on to discuss others' mistakes and negative qualities. In the end, the two of you feel good because you've agreed you're the two best people in the world."When I look inside, I have to acknowledge he's right. Fueled by insecurity, I mistakenly think that if others are wrong, bad, or fault-ridden, then in comparison I must be right, good, and capable. Does the strategy of putting others down to build up my own self-esteem work? Hardly.Another situation in which we speak about others' faults is when we're angry with them. Here we may talk about their faults for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's to win other people over to our side. "If I tell these other people about the argument Bob and I had and convince them that he is wrong and I'm right before Bob can tell them about the argument, then they'll side with me." Underlying that is the thought, "If others think I'm right, then I must be." It's a weak attempt to convince ourselves we're okay when we haven't spent the time honestly evaluating our own motivations and actions.At other times, we may talk about others' faults because we're jealous of them. We want to be respected and appreciated as much as they are. In the back of our minds, there's the thought, "If others see the bad qualities of the people I think are better than me, then instead of honoring and helping them, they'll praise and assist me." Or we think, "If the boss thinks that person is unqualified, she'll promote me instead." Does this strategy win others' respect and appreciation? Hardly.Some people "psychoanalyze" others, using their half-baked knowledge of pop-psychology to put someone down. Comments such as "he's borderline" or "she's paranoid" make it sound as if we have authoritative insight into someone's internal workings, when in reality we disdain their faults because our ego was affronted. Casually psychoanalyzing others can be especially harmful, for it may unfairly cause a third party to be biased or suspicious.The ResultsWhat are the results of speaking of others' faults? First, we become known as a busybody. Others won't want to confide in us because they're afraid we'll tell others, adding...

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