Adyashanti: In a world where speaking ill of others is a sort of accepted sport, we can fail to see the great cost of this violation

In a world where speaking ill of others is a sort of accepted sport, we can fail to see the great cost of this violation.

– Adyashanti, Fierce Love self-guided course

There is a lot to explore here.

Speaking ill of others harms our relationship with them, even if we do it behind their back and even if they are not people we interact with directly.

Speaking ill of others harms society. It harms our connections and the possibility of collectively finding good solutions.

Other people mirror sides of myself, so when I speak ill of others it reflects how I relate to these sides of myself. It makes it more difficult for me to befriend and get to know these sides of myself and have a more healthy relationship with them.

Also, in my first-person experience, the world happens within and as this consciousness and what I am. Speaking ill of others fuels the game of separation, and makes it more difficult for me to notice that the world – and anyone and everyone – happens within and as what I more fundamentally am.

––– DRAFT ––– 

Why has it become an accepted sport in our culture? And perhaps most clearly, among the western countries, in the US?

What’s the social and human cost of accepting it and joining in with it?

Why does Adya say it’s a violation?

How does this play itself out in my life? What role do I take? What does it do to others? To our society? To myself?



We can speak of the challenges of others with kindness, respect, and knowing we have the same in ourselves.

To speak ill comes from an attitude of disrespect and making them less. It comes from wanting to put others down, often in order to elevate ourself on some imagined scale.


Why does Adya call it a violation?

I can find a few ways it can be seen as a violation.

There are some basic guidelines for logical reasoning so we can arrive at useful conclusions. And there are some basic guidelines for public discourse so it can be productive.

Speaking ill of others often goes against several of these.

A guideline for both is to stay on topic. Attacking the person (ad hominem) is a distraction from the topic and makes for an unproductive discourse. It sets a bad example and can create a toxic culture. It’s a violation of basic rules for logic and discourse.

This relates to having respect for others, including those we disagree with. This is another prerequisite for productive discourse. We want to be respected, so respect others. In a sense, attacking others is a violation of their right to be respected.

Speaking ill of others comes from our own reactivity, it comes from being caught up in something unresolved in ourselves. When we act on this reactivity and speak ill of others, we – in a sense – violate ourselves. Instead of turning towards our wound and finding healing for it, we act on and reinforce it.

How we relate to others mirrors how we relate to parts of ourselves. When we speak ill of others, we train ourselves in treating parts of ourselves in the same way. We violate ourselves.

To us, the world happens within and as our sense fields. It happens within and as what we are. When we speak ill of others, we speak ill of what we are. We violate what we are.


I am posting this knowing I fail here repeatedly. Especially – and as a sign of our times – when it comes to the hot topics of vaccination, pandemic precautions, and so on.

I too sometimes get caught up in reactivity – when I see people peddling misinformation about the vaccine and the pandemic, and also on sustainability-related topics. When something is triggered in me, I can write or speak with snark, disdain, and even misrepresent the views of others.

I notice a (universally human) tendency in me to mirror others. If the other person approaches something in a balanced and receptive way, I tend to do the same. And if they come at it from reactivity, it tends to trigger reactivity in me.

Fortunately, when I notice this comes up in me, I am often able to step back and a more sane part of me helps me wait until the inner storm has passed. And then I can choose if I want to engage or not, and do so from a more balanced place.

And I am exploring these contractions in me.

None of us are “perfect” according to some imagined ideal. We are all flawed and messy human beings.

We are perfectly imperfect.

If we take it that way, our messiness is food for compassion, understanding, connection, and being more real with ourselves and others. It can help us find more clarity, and to mature as a human being in the world.


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