Drowning in today’s raucous stream of words, how do we find a way to speak that is courteous yet truthful? In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha addresses this issue: “And what, bhikkus, is right speech? Abstinence from false speech, abstinence from divisive speech, abstinence from harsh speech, abstinence from idle chatter: this is called right speech.” But how do we do this? What are the numerous pitfalls we face as we struggle to say the right thing? We will examine how we can utilize these various facets to communicate with compassion, yet also forcefully and truthfully.
Retired after twelve years as resident priest of the Milwaukee Zen Center and seventeen years of providing Buddhist programs within the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Tonen continues to be active with the Milwaukee chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Committee for Interfaith Understanding. She trained in several Japanese monasteries, served as President of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, is certified within the Japanese system and currently serves on the Advisory Board of Tenpyozan, a traditional Japanese monastic complex being built in northern California. Her published works include a translation of Kodo Sawaki’s Commentary on the Song of Awakening, a response in The Hidden Lamp, numerous essays in 30 Years of Reflections and a section on Right Speech in a book soon to be published. Prior to her commitment to Zen Buddhism, Tonen O’Connor had a forty-year career in the American professional theater. She served as Managing Director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1974-1995. Tonen has two sons, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.