Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa


Introduction to 3.4.3
Vācāsuttaṃ
What are the Characteristics of Blameless Speech


Determination to maintain sammāvācā requires not only avoidance of unwholesomeness by leaving aside micchāvācā, but further inherently demands the performance of wholesomeness. The Buddha expressed the need to perfect both aspects of his teaching as ‘cārittaṃ vārittaṃ sikkhāpada1 - ‘the training not only to avoid what should not be done but also intentional performance of what should be done’.

The demands of day to day life confront with delicate situations where one has to take care to remain on the base of truth and neither to offend someone nor to fall in the trap of exaggeration or of playing things down. In the wider sense also the multiple influences of today’s life with all the multifarious stimuli through modern media tend to lead astray to delusion, mental passivity and ignorance – their avoidance will be beneficial for spiritual growth.

Remembering these five wholesome tools of noble and untarnished speech depicted in this sutta may come handy in various situations of daily life. Aṅga lit.: is a limb, for example used in: bojjhaṅga — the limbs of enlightenment, commonly translated as the factors of enlightenment. In order to express the meaning for the correct quality of speaking, the translation: `characteristics of speech` is used here for the five aṅgehi samannāgatā of kālena, saccā, saṇhā, atthasaṃhitā and mettacittena:

‘It should be spoken at the proper time’ - that is someone who speaks timely: - Kālena vadatīti kālavādī vattabbayuttakālaṃ2 sallakkhetvā3 vadatīti attho.– Speaking connected with and having considered the proper time is the meaning of speaking at the proper time.

‘It should be spoken truthfully’ - that is someone who speaks the truth: - Saccaṃ vadatīti saccavādī. Saccena saccaṃ sandahati ghaṭetīti saccasandho. Na antarantarā musā vadatīti attho.– Through accuracy truth is connected and joined with truthfulness. Speaking connected with and having considered the proper time is the meaning of speaking at the proper time. The meaning is that he does not speak any falsehood even from time to time. - Yo hi puriso kadāci4musā vadati, kadāci saccaṃ, tassa musāvādena antaritattā5 saccaṃ saccena na ghaṭīyati; tasmā so na saccasandho. Ayaṃ pana na tādiso, jīvitahetupi musā avatvā saccena saccaṃ sandahati yevāti saccasandho.6 -Because if such a man speaks some false and some truthful words with false speech concealed, then it is not connected nor joined with truthfulness. If that was not the fact, and for the sake of his life he has not uttered falsehood then indeed it is connected and joined with truthfulness only.

[1] See lesson 3.6.12

[2] vattabbayuttakālaṃ: vattabba + yutta + kālaṃ: should be spoken + connected + time

[3] sallakkhetvā (ger.): having conceived, perceived, observed

[4] kadāci: any kind of

[5] antaritattā: hidden, concealed

[6] explanations can be found in for example Sīlakkhandhavaggaṭṭhakathā, Mūlapaṇṇāsa-aṭṭhakathā
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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.4.3

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Last modified: Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 7:22 PM