Right Speech

Ajaan Fuang Jotiko

Right Speech

Normally, Ajaan Fuang was a man of few words who spoke in response to circumstances: If the circumstances warranted it, he could give long, detailed explanations. If not, he’d say only a word or two—or sometimes nothing at all. He held by Ajaan Lee’s dictum: “If you’re going to teach the Dhamma to people, but they’re not intent on listening, or not ready for what you have to say, then no matter how fantastic the Dhamma you’re trying to teach, it still counts as idle chatter, because it doesn’t serve any purpose.”

“Before you say anything, ask yourself whether it’s necessary or not. If it’s not, don’t say it. This is the first step in training the mind—for if you can’t have any control over your mouth, how can you expect to have any control over your mind?”

“Litter” is Thai slang for idle chatter, and once Ajaan Fuang used the term to dramatic effect.

It happened one evening when he was teaching in Bangkok. Three young women who were long-time friends happened to show up together at the building where he was teaching, but instead of joining the group that was already meditating, they found themselves an out-of-the-way corner to catch up on the latest gossip. As they were busy talking, they didn’t notice that Ajaan Fuang had gotten up to stretch his legs and was walking right past them, with an unlit cigarette in his mouth and a box of matches in his hand. He stopped for a second, lit a match, and instead of lighting his cigarette, tossed the lit match into the middle of their group. Immediately they jumped up, and one of them said, “Than Phaw! Why did you do that? You just barely missed me!”

“I saw a pile of litter there,” he answered, “and felt I should set fire to it.”

One day Ajaan Fuang overheard two students talking, one of them asking a question and the other starting his answer with, “Well, it seems to me…” Immediately Ajaan Fuang cut him off: “If you don’t really know, say you don’t know, and leave it at that. Why go spreading your ignorance around?”

“We each have two ears and one mouth—which shows that we should give more time to listening, and less to speaking.”

These reflections by Ajaan Fuang Jotiko are from the book, Awareness Itself, pp. 7, 8.