I don’t understand what that expression means. Never have.
It goes without saying that we should speak no evil. The Buddhist concept of right speech says so. But the notion of willingly not seeing or hearing evil, of turning away from evil and pretending it is not there? Unacceptable. I hope that’s not what the expression means.
It may not fall to each of us to be the person to redress a particular wrong in the world, but I believe each of us should do our part to be witness to wrongs and to the need for them to be dealt with. Self-imposed blindness and deafness are forms of complicity. We may not be called to fight wrongs and make them right, but we shouldn’t aid and abet them, either.
“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act upon them?” ~ Buddha
This saying of the Buddha is quite stark, black and white, and therefore perhaps a bit extreme. Certainly, good words—read and spoken—have a positive impact on us, and thereby on the rest of creation, to which we are connected. But words fall short of their potential if they are not a prelude to action. After all, “Actions speak louder than words,” right?
The Buddha himself was no “do as I say, not as I do” leader. He definitely had a lot to say to his followers. I believe, however, that what truly inspired his followers then—and continues to inspire us today—is that the Buddha’s words were a reflection of his actions. His teaching was believable because he was already living it.
Maybe another way to approach these words is to say, “Just act rightly and don’t worry about the words.” Your actions tell the real story anyway, no matter what you say. Think of what we could accomplish if all of the time and energy currently devoted to talking were giving over instead to doing. We would certainly benefit from the additional actions, as well as from far less talk that accomplishes little, if anything, on its own.
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