Our mouths work a bit like water taps. They differ in only what comes out of them － words from the former and water from the latter. A mouth, therefore, can be called a “word tap”.
A water tap is usually turned off. We turn it on only when we need water and turn it off again right after use. We don’t just let water run for no reason, nor do we use more water than is necessary. We should manage our tongues in the same way as we control a tap. We should avoid engaging in endless chatter and use our words economically. If we could express ourselves in three sentences, we should not use thirty.
To save water, electricity, coal, gas, etc. is good for the environment. But the saving of superfluous words is far more beneficial. The overuse of natural resources or other energy such as petrol is not as wasteful as a talkative man’s verbal nonsense. Speaking less is definitely good for both our mental and physical health.
Once you are used to being quiet, you will find that over 90% of what you say is redundant. Most spoken words are just trivial and useless chatting. Often, they are impulsive and could cause turmoil because of their great power. As the saying goes: a piece of stone stirs up a thousand waves. We may even feel strange and agitated upon hearing the chattering of others. We would rather not hear it, and we think, “How nice it would be if we were all accustomed to the sound of silence!” Language, when misused, can impede rather than assist communication, resulting in trouble and alienation. This defeats the original purpose of language.
If water coming out of a tap is murky, polluted, worm-infested, stinky and poisonous enough to cause skin allergy, would people dare to drink it? On the contrary, if water from a tap is clean and clear, sweet to taste, soft and silky to touch, and even has medicinal benefits, people will be happy to use it.
These mouths of ours always utter idle and harmful talk: complaints, grumbles, cursing and bragging; speeches that are arrogant, pretentious or groveling; and words that slander, insult or are nonsensical. The mouth is like a filthy drain constantly discharging wastewater. What would become of our world if most people were unable to turn off their word taps, and just kept talking rubbish all day long? It would be a place engulfed by giant murky waves!
We should guard our “word taps” to make sure that they are tightly shut. We should speak little and only when necessary. More importantly, we should not say hurtful things. If we must speak, we should speak positively and in a loving and kind way. In fact, the finest words are the pure and wondrous Dharma teachings of the Buddha. When we spread such teachings, people will find us as refreshing as sweet spring waters.
— Master Jingzong
(English translation by Fozan, edited by Fojin)