I recently read an article in TrIcycle Magazine by Roshi Nancy Mujo Baker titled The Buddhist Guide to Gossip. Of course, it is about the precept that asks us to refrain from unwise speech. What struck me deeply in her writing was her reference to “Oneness or the One Body.” Following is an excerpt that resonated most with me in the article.
“As with all the precepts, we can take this one very literally: Never ever speak of the faults of another. Or, contextually: sometimes it’s appropriate to speak of the faults of others depending on the circumstances. Or, from the point of view of Oneness or the One Body, it becomes non-speaking of the faults of others. From this point of view, which isn’t really a point of view at all, the separation needed for such notions as “faults” or “speaking ill” or even “others” doesn’t exist. It is here, too, that the precepts are no longer guiding principles of behavior, but are manifested naturally as our very being. It’s interesting to look at a few different versions of this precept not so much to consider these different levels or dimensions but simply to bring out some of its various aspects in our ordinary lives. The Bodhidharma version, as translated by Aitken Roshi, is “Self nature is subtle and mysterious. In the realm of the flawless dharma, not expounding upon error is called the precept of not speaking of the faults of others.” The late John Daido Loori Roshi’s translation refers to this as “refraining from speaking of others’ errors and faults.” Zen Master Dogen’s version is “In the Buddhadharma there is one path, one dharma, one realization, one practice. Don’t commit fault finding. Don’t commit haphazard talk.” Elsewhere Dogen writes “Do not let them talk of others’ errors and faults.”
“Notice what we have here: Not finding fault, which suggests that we actually look for faults. Not speaking of the faults of others, which, as mentioned above, includes such forms of speaking as gossip, complaining, and passing on hearsay. Not letting others do it, which points to our willingness, even eagerness, to listen to such speaking. And not expounding upon those faults, which makes me think of the pleasure of shared “analysis” of the behavior of others: in other words, going on and on exercising our great “perceptiveness.”