The Buddha About Reproaching Others, Praise & Dispraise and Assigning Blame

REPROVING OTHERS

Venerable Sāriputta addressed the monks thus: “Friends, a monk who wishes to reprove another should first establish five things in himself. What five? (1) He should consider: ‘I will speak at a proper time, not at an improper time; (2) I will speak truthfully, not falsely; (3) I will speak gently, not harshly; (4) I will speak in a beneficial way, not in a harmful way; (5) I will speak with a mind of loving-kindness, not while harboring hatred.’ A monk who wishes to reprove another should first establish these five things in himself…

“Friends, a person who is reproved should be established in two things: in truth and non-anger. He should reflect: ‘If others should reprove me whether at a proper time or at an improper time; whether about what is true or about what is false; whether gently or harshly; whether in a beneficial way or in a harmful way; whether with a mind of loving-kindness or while harboring hatred I should still be established in two things: in truth and non-anger. If I know: “There is such a quality in me,” I tell him: “It exists. This quality is found in me.” If I know: “There is no such quality in me,” I tell him: “It doesn’t exist. This quality isn’t found in me.”’” – AN 5:167, NDB 780–82

ASSIGNING PRAISE AND BLAME

“Monks, possessing five qualities, a resident monk is deposited in hell as if brought there. What five? (1) Without investigating and scrutinizing, he speaks praise of one who deserves dispraise. (2) Without investigating and scrutinizing, he speaks dispraise of one who deserves praise. (3) Without investigating and scrutinizing, he believes a matter that merits suspicion. (4) Without investigating and scrutinizing, he is suspicious about a matter that merits belief. (5) He squanders what has been given out of faith. Possessing these five qualities, a resident monk is deposited in hell as if brought there.

“Monks, possessing five qualities, a resident monk is deposited in heaven as if brought there. What five? (1) Having investigated and scrutinized, he speaks dispraise of one who deserves dispraise. (2) Having investigated and scrutinized, he speaks praise of one who deserves praise. (3) Having investigated and scrutinized, he is suspicious about a matter that merits suspicion. (4) Having investigated and scrutinized, he believes a matter that merits belief. (5) He does not squander what has been given out of faith. Possessing these five qualities, a resident monk is deposited in heaven as if brought there.” – AN 5:236, NDB 832–33

PRAISE WHEN PRAISE IS DUE

Then the wanderer Potaliya approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. The Blessed One said to him: “Potaliya, there are these four kinds of persons found existing in the world. What four? (1) Here, some person speaks dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, and the dispraise is accurate, truthful, and timely; but he does not speak praise of someone who deserves praise, though the praise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. (2) Some other person speaks praise of someone who deserves praise, and the praise is accurate, truthful, and timely; but he does not speak dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, though the dispraise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. (3) Still another person does not speak dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, though the dispraise would be accurate, truthful, and timely; and he does not speak praise of someone who deserves praise, though the praise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. (4) And still another person speaks dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, and the dispraise is accurate, truthful, and timely; and he also speaks praise of someone who deserves praise, and the praise is accurate, truthful, and timely. These are the four kinds of persons found existing in the world. Now, Potaliya, which among these four kinds of persons seems to you the most excellent and sublime?”

“Of those four, Master Gotama, the one that seems to me the most excellent and sublime is the one who does not speak dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, though the dispraise would be accurate, truthful, and timely; and who does not speak praise of someone who deserves praise, though the praise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. For what reason? Because what excels, Master Gotama, is equanimity.”

“Of those four, Potaliya, the one that I consider the most excellent and sublime is the one who speaks dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, and the dispraise is accurate, truthful, and timely; and who also speaks praise of someone who deserves praise, and the praise is accurate, truthful, and timely. For what reason? Because what excels, Potaliya, is knowledge of the proper time to speak in any particular case.” – AN 4:100, NDB 480–82

KNOWING WHAT TO SAY AND HOW TO SAY IT

[The Buddha is speaking to the monks:] “It was said: ‘One should not utter covert speech, and one should not utter overt sharp speech.’ And with reference to what was this said?

“Here, monks, when one knows covert speech to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, one should not utter it. When one knows covert speech to be true, correct, and unbeneficial, one should try not to utter it. But when one knows covert speech to be true, correct, and beneficial, one may utter it, knowing the time to do so.

“Here, monks, when one knows overt sharp speech to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, one should not utter it. When one knows overt sharp speech to be true, correct, and unbeneficial, one should try not to utter it. But when one knows overt sharp speech to be true, correct, and beneficial, one may utter it, knowing the time to do so.

“So it was with reference to this that it was said: ‘One should not utter covert speech, and one should not utter overt sharp speech.’” – MN 139, MLDB 1083–84


Quotes from The Buddha’s Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Bodhi (The Teachings of the Buddha) (English Edition), pp 80-82.