This is a follow-up to my posts on street begging of April 2 and 3). Basic to Buddhist practice is the intention of Right Speech. Not right-ness in the grammatical or legal sense, but about avoiding gossip both negative and positive, not talking about people behind their backs, but speaking directly to each other, and from the heart. Conscious or kind speech are good descriptors as well.
After I wrote about my annoyance with people begging on street corners, I read the responses from blog readers and talked with my monastic teacher on this — and resolved to experiment with kind speech the next time I’d meet someone asking for money.
On a corner near my house a man regularly hits on cars as they stop at the light; he knocks on windows, holds out his bare hands, and then just stands there, staring. I’ve often found him bothersome but this time I stopped near the curb, lowered the window, and said, “hello, how’s it going?” His cupped hands extended towards my face he looked at me for a moment, then said “Okay … what r’you doing?” I explained that I was coming from volunteering at the hospital and he asked “on what floor?” Just then the light turned and we parted.
A couple of days later, this time on foot, I said “hello” and we shook hands. “How’s business,” I asked. “Can you give me five bucks for lunch?” he replied. Keeping eye contact, I said “No, I can’t … glad to see you.” To which he replied “Yeah, you too” and turned to the next car waiting for the light to change.
In Moon in a dewdrop, Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) writes:
‘Kind speech’ means that when you see sentient beings you arouse the mind of compassion and offer words of loving care. It is contrary to cruel or violent speech. … You should be willing to practice it for this entire present life; do not give up, world after world, life after life.