A story from Prajna Lorin Piper:

“Years ago, I was in a month-long mindful living program, held at the Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, MA, and the Buddhist teacher, Joseph Goldstein came in to talk to our group.

Joseph is a really big deal to a lot of people and our group teacher had told us to save our  hard questions for him. Everyone in the group had tried to come up with something complex to inquire about, and we’d all failed. So instead we asked him what, in all his years of practice, stood out for him in the teachings, and he thought for a moment and said, ‘well, three things then.’

I’m a little annoyed with myself that I can’t remember what the first two were. I think they were the teachings on  non-self and on impermanence. But I remember very distinctly that he then paused and shared the third thing, which  was right, or mindful, speech.  He said  he had to include it because he’d seen over and over again how much suffering speech caused .

Later, in that session, a loud noise was heard overhead, and someone said, “it’s an airplane.” And it probably was. But Joseph said, quietly, questioningly, “well, we don’t really know that, do we?”  What had been an assumption had been stated as a fact.

Over the course of the month while I was at Barre, I had occasion to exchange a few words with Joseph, to observe him socially, and to see that he was taking a split second before answering people, even in casual conversation, that he was monitoring, very carefully, what was going to come out of his mouth. I remember being touched by how diligently he was practicing, and when I tell people about this, I always have to say that you might think this would make someone seem boring, or unnatural. But it didn’t. He was just practicing, very sincerely and humbly, training himself to consider his intention before speaking.

Om om om. May we all practice with sincerity and humility, out of love for all beings.”