Right Speech in the Pali Canon

There are some suttas in the Pali Canon which have useful things to say about right speech. Here’s an overall guiding principle:

“It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good will.” — Anguttara Nikaya 5.198

Here’s an except that helps us consider what is worth saying. It’s based on considering three things: is what you are going to say TRUE, is it BENEFICIAL, and is it WELCOME?

And then there’s the TIMING:

Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, and which is also unwelcome and disagreeable to others: such speech the Tathagata does not utter.

Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be true and correct but unbeneficial, and which is also unwelcome and disagreeable to others: such speech the Tathagata does not utter.

Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be true, correct and beneficial, but which is unwelcome and disagreeable to others: the Tathagata knows the time to use such speech.

Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, but which is welcome and agreeable to others: such speech the Tathagata does not utter.

Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be true and correct but unbeneficial, and which is welcome and agreeable to others: such speech the Tathagata does not utter.

Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be true, correct and beneficial, and which is welcome and agreeable to others: the Tathagata knows the time to use such speech.

Why is that? Because the Tathagata has compassion for sentient beings.” — Majjhima Nikaya 58

[With thanks to Claralynn Nunamaker]

Absolutely Everybody

Absolutely Everybody : Interbeing

Absolutely Everybody – Vanessa Amorosi
Everybody needs a little love and
Everybody needs somebody thinking of them
Everybody needs a little respect
And whatever it takes
I’m gonna get it

And absolutely everybody breathes
And everybody, everybody bleeds
We’re no different
We are all the same
Players in the game

Absolutely everybody
Everybody, everybody
Absolutely everybody
In the whole wide world

Everybody breathes
And everybody needs
Absolutely everybody

Destination Unknown : Renunciation, going forth, don’t know mind

Destination Unknown by Alex Gaudino
I left my job my boss my car and my home
I’m leaving for a destination I still don’t know

Follow me
And let’s go
To a place where we belong and leave our troubles at home
Come with me
We can go
To a paradise of love and joy — a destination unknown

When Love Takes Over : Love / Metta

When Love Takes Over by David Guetta Feat. Kelly Rowland
It’s complicated
It always is
That’s just the way it goes
Feels like I’ve waited so long for this
I wonder if it shows

Head under water
Now I can’t breathe
It never felt so good
‘Cause I can feel it coming over me
I wouldn’t stop it if I could

When love takes over, you know you can’t deny

Metta: Let your love flow

I don’t think that Buddhists need to leave all the happy clappy to the Christians. Enjoy!

There’s a reason for the sunshining sky
And there’s a reason why I’m feeling so high
Must be the season
When that love light shines all around us

So let that feeling grab you deep inside
And send you reeling, where your love can’t hide
And then go stealing
Through the moonlit nights with your lover

Just let your love flow like a mountain stream
And let your love grow with the smallest of dreams
And let your love show
And you’ll know what I mean, it’s the season

Let your love fly like a bird on a wing
And let your love bind you to all living things
And let your love shine
And you’ll know what I mean, that’s the reason

There’s a reason for the warm, sweet nights
And there’s a reason for the candle lights
Must be the season
When those love lights shine all around us

Retreat theme song – Me myself I

Me Myself I – Joan Armatrading
I sit here by myself
And you know I love it
You know I don’t want someone
To come pay a visit
I wanna be by myself
I came in this world alone
Me myself I

Don’t wanna be the bad guy
Don’t wanna make a soul cry
It’s not that I love my self
I just don’t want company
Just me myself I
Me myself and I
Just me myself I

Through meditation we get to know ourselves really well. What are our habitual thought and emotional patterns? What do our bodies feel and what is our experience of the world through our senses?

Retreats allow us to get down and dirty on all the experiences of “me myself I”.

Why would we want to do this? Because the more familiar we become with ourselves, the more we learn to not take ourselves so seriously. It so happens that this is very good for us and for everyone around us as well.

To study the way is to study the self
To study the self is to forget the self
To forget the self is to be actualised in myriad things…
– Eihei Dogen (13th Century Zen Master)

The four noble truths in four pop songs

If the Buddha were to express the 4NT in pop songs which would he choose?
If the Buddha were to express the 4NT in pop songs which would he choose?
1. The truth of dukkha** : Suffering by Jay-Jay Johanson
Autumn is here inside my heart
When there’s springtime in the air
Loneliness is tearing me apart
Being lost makes me scared…
Nobody suffers like I do…

2. The cause: Constant craving by k.d. lang.

And constant craving has always been…
Maybe a great magnet pulls
All souls towards truth
Or maybe it is life itself
Feeds wisdom
To its youth

3. Release from craving: No more I love you’s by Annie Lennox.

I used to have demons in my room at night – desire, despair, desire – so many monsters
Oh, but now…
No more I love you’s, the language is leaving me
No more I love you’s, the language is leaving me in silence

4. The path to freedom: The Ark by Gerry Rafferty.

See the dark night has come down on us
The world is livin’ in its dream
But now we know that we can wake up from this sleep
And set out on the journey
Find a ship to take us on the way.

If you travel blindly, if you fall
The truth is there to set you free
And when your heart can see just one thing in this life
We’ll set out on the journey
Find a ship to take us on the way.

**dukkha is a word in the ancient Pali language. It conveys the sense of discomfort, dis-ease, lack of wholeness, sense of being not enough as we are, and therefor needing to reach for things and people outside of ourselves. It is the craving for things we think we need to ease our sense of inadequacy and make us feel whole that sustains the experience of dukkha.

My Dog Got The Tao

Our dog was forever barking. We’d tried everything, but to no avail.

One day he heard the words of the Buddha —

“Life is suffering.”

He thought to himself, Oh, that must be why I’m forever barking — I’m suffering! 

The humans in his life would often say to him “who’s a clever boy?”  He had no idea and wondered why they were asking. But seeing himself acquire this understanding of Buddhism, he thought to himself, I must be the clever boy! I must be a real thinker.

So, when he heard the famous words of Descartes, the Cogito,

“I think therefore I am,”

he saw that this must mean “I am.”

This really blew his socks off.  It led to his discovery of the work of Indian guru Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, and his book, I am that. He wasn’t sure exactly what ‘that’ was, but didn’t let it bother him.

He appeared to be a genuine seeker making real progress on the spiritual path. So a spiritual teacher offered to give him shaktipat, the direct transmission of divine energy leading to spiritual enlightenment.

The teacher called him over, “come here boy,” and touched our dog’s third eye. He wagged his tail, barked happily, and trotted off. 

The teacher commented,

“There’s not much going on in there, is there.”

“Probably not,” we replied.

Undeterred, our dog continued his study of Nisargadatta. He particularly liked the quote, though he hadn’t a clue what it meant —

“Love says: ‘I am everything’. 

Wisdom says: ‘I am nothing’. 

Between the two my life flows.”

Finally, our dog discovered the Tao Te Ching. He found he couldn’t put it down. He carried it everywhere between his teeth. 

One day, he read —

“He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.”

I don’t know if he got enlightened but he never barked again after that.


The bubbles in soft drink

they come from nowhere

rise to the surface

and pop.

They wet your nose,

and tickle it. 

Then they join all the other air. 

They travel in groups, 

while on their journey 

through your drink. 

They need each other – 

being a bubble is a team sport.

They rise together

and take turns popping. 

Then they join 

all the bubbles

that ever popped 

since the beginning of time.

selective mutism

i wanted to write myself a note to say that my fountain pen was running out, but couldn’t because my fountain pen was running out

i wanted to find my glasses, but couldn’t because i couldn’t find my glasses

when i was broken i wanted to talk, i wanted to tell you about it, but the words refused to come out of hiding

thus and ever it was that the most important stories are bashful by nature and prefer the shadows

for stories require ink of pen, spectacles of eyes, and words able to leave the safety of the mouth cave. 

Iffy and Spiffy

She loved her kids

She really did

She tried to not be an iffy parent

But who was she kidding

She could kid no one!

Even the kids themselves

Would say “are you kidding me mum?”

Cos they’d been Schooled

At Posh School

One of the Fancy Shmancy private ones

The ones that require lots of funds

Which isn’t fun

So they knew mum was iffy

But since they thought her spiffy

They thought —

If she’s iffy then as long as she’s also spiffy

Then it’s all taffy, which means toffee.

She said unto them,

Go Forth and Be Iffy and Spiffy Too, My Child.

And they did unto as Mother,

Or as they like to call her Smother,

Had instructed. Or ordered.

Lest she smother them 

Whilst they slumber in their beds at night.

Thus did the world’s supply of toffee multiply

Which they had with their morning coffee,

Because you should always have toffee

With your coffee

To give the spiffiness a kickstart

Each and every day,

Before making your way, in The World.

Helpful IKEA Instructions

Here’s all your bits, for some furniture you’ll love to bits

There’s quite a few pieces, we hope you don’t go to pieces

You came into the store and we didn’t let you leave,

we trust you did not take leave of your senses

We, the whole team, hope that the missing screw,

did not screw with your mind. 

And you enjoyed the Swedish Meatballs.

I haven’t thought of a title yet

I was writing a poem

but then i stopped, 

realising i was the poem.

I pointed to my toes,

each one of them,

and my shins,

and kept going up.

and then I saw your toes, spread out, splayed a little, from the weight of you

and realised you were the poem, too.

The Kids’ Favourite Recipe

Take some vegetables, doesn’t matter exactly, maybe Florets of Cauliflower; Some Carrots; Potatoes; Whole Onions. 


About a kilo of dead animal it doesn’t matter which kind


Something else.

Then, pop it in the oven and put the oven on 180°

Now, go and relax! Might I suggest —

  • vagueing out
  • beat-boxing
  • sleeping
  • daydreaming
  • talking to yourself
  • wandering around the house naked

Then, when you hear the oven buzzer go off after 45 mins, think to yourself, oh, i wonder what that is, or, oh i wonder what the neighbours buzzer is going off for. 

Return to whatever you were doing.

Then, when you smell something burning, quickly leap up and say a swear word — <insert swear word of choice here>!

Plate up and use lettuce leaves to hide burnt bits. You might need to cover the whole plate. It’s alright, it adds greenery. Very Healthy! 

Send a text or shout  DINNER’S READY KIDS!

“oh mum srsly you burnt dinner again” 

“mmm charcoal, our favourite”

And marvel at the fact that hungry teenagers will eat anything. 

The Getting of Wisdom

It’s a well-known fact that you get smarter just by hanging out in libraries

I wondered how that could be

So I hung out in libraries until I became smart enough to solve the mystery

And it became apparent that imbibing the contents of books is just a matter of being in the same room as them.

Wheels Keep Turning

Someone told me once to ‘get on my bike.’ That’s when it occurred to me that I didn’t own one. So I went and bought one—no wait, actually two—bikes. A pretty blue mountain bike and a helpfully self-propelling one with a motor, a motorbike.

The three of us fell deeply in love.

The motorbike had the soul of a dirt bike, having been one in a previous lifetime. So it was attracted to dirt and gravel roads, and to mud. That was after a lifetime spent as a pink tricycle, with streamers hanging from the handlebars and ridden by a little girl in a pink dress with determined eyes, who would turn out to be me. 

The mountain bike was afraid of mountains, and heights in general, and preferred city streets. This was after meeting its end in its previous lifetime as a cigarette butt, flicked, spinning end-over-end, from a mountain-top sight-seeing lookout. Thus the dying of the light and the extinguishment of that particular lifetime. And of course its strong preference for the big smoke merely an inveterate habit of the many short lifetimes it had spent as a cigarette. 

Both bikes had done stints in previous lives as ten-speed racing bikes; as car wheels; and as various kinds of tyres. The motorbike was once a ferris wheel; the mountain bike a monocycle, and before that, a monocle. They both served me in a previous life-time, forming the pair in a set of regular spectacles. 

Going back a way, all three of us had once worked together on a steam train: I was the driver and those two worked side-by-side as wheels. And going back before the time of people and before memory itself, the three of us were nearby pebbles, beautifully smooth and rounded, in a stream, sometimes rolling together in the current. Then I decided to reincarnate as an eel-like creature in the late Cambrian period, whilst they remained in orbiculate occupations.

Together again now, our wheels once again turn together.