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The Buddha’s secrets to masterful communication

Of pivotal importance to Buddhism is dialogue. From its beginnings, Shakyamuni Buddha, the original Buddha, used dialogue to transmit his teachings of attaining enlightenment. The wisdom behind his mastery as a communicator may be diluted in into 3 simple principles that are as relevant today as they were 2,500 years ago.

In a chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha explains “… if there are good men and good women who, after the Thus Come One’ has entered extinction, wish to expound this Lotus Sutra for the four kinds of believers’, how should they expound it? These good men and good women should enter the Thus Come One’s room, put on the Thus Come One’s robe, sit in the Thus Come One’s seat, and then for the sake of the four kinds of believers broadly expound this sutra.”

In Shakyamuni’s statement, the room, robe, and seat are metaphors for the components of conducting successful dialogue.

The reference to the room represents compassion, the hallmark of Buddhism. It was Shakyamuni’s ability to reach the hearts of others that led them to take faith in his teachings. In contemporary terms, holding respect for others, and believing in a common humanity, is what the Buddha referred to as compassion.

The robe symbolizes gentleness and tolerance. When communicating with another, the other person may respond back in a critical or judgmental way. From a Buddhist perspective, the inner life of an individual is reflected externally by the quality of the individual’s actions. Buddhist practice leads to the development of an unshakable life that brings a sense of calm, and the gentleness to embrace the fear of others. This response is a sincere response, rather than denial, or an attempt to hold back anger and hurt. From this state of life, clarity of mind leads to understanding.

The seat is a metaphor for the Buddhist concept of the emptiness or non-substantiality. Briefly stated, this concept describes the fact everything exist because of something else, and that everything changes in relation to its environment. In a practical sense, this means that the person who initiated conversation does not become attached to the ego, pride, or hurt, along with the understanding that the dynamics that led to other person’s unfriendly response is not fixed; he or she maybe more receptive under different circumstances.

The Buddha’s keys to successful dialogue is compassion, avoiding judgment with a sincere attempt to understand others, and the knowledge that everything changes, that someone who seems unapproachable today may be receptive tomorrow.


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