He speaks the truth, is devoted to the truth, reliable, worthy of confidence . . . . He never knowingly speaks a lie, neither for the sake of his own advantage, nor for the sake of another person’s advantage, nor for the sake of any advantage whatsoever. What he has heard here, he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there. . . . Thus he unites those who are divided, and those who are united he encourages. Concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord; and it is concord that he spreads by his words. He avoids harsh language and speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, going to the heart, courteous, dear, and agreeable to many. He avoids vain talk and speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks about the dharma and the discipline; his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by arguments, moderate, and full of sense. This is called right speech.
—Anguttara Nikaya 10.176, trans. Nyanatiloka Mahathera
As much as I bristle, I also get excited when called for jury duty. There is something about it that reminds me of meditation: a legitimate and sanctified interruption in my usual routine, a forced interlude requiring me to put everything and everyone on hold. I have only been chosen for a jury once, to serve as an alternate in a case of a piece of a building falling on a pedestrian that was settled before the case came to completion. Jury duty, for me, has mostly meant sitting idly for a couple of days. Given this mind-set, I was cautiously optimistic when told to report for my most recent service. I cancelled two days of patients and prepared for a kind of mini-retreat in the heart of the city.
The courts are a few blocks from where I live, and since I did not have to be there until nine in the morning, my first day of jury duty felt luxurious. Even the wait to get through security did not bother me. In previous times I merely had to sit in a large airy room with hundreds of other citizens for a couple of days while a small fraction of those present were pulled aside to be questioned as potential jurors. The hours had passed quickly, I had taken myself out for several lunches, and the entire experience was restful and benign. I downloaded a book and several TV shows and brought the newspaper along, ready to settle in for the duration.
I was only half listening as the woman running the whole process explained how cardboard cards with our names on them were placed in a metal barrel and spun to randomize them.
This article is available to subscribers only. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus video teachings, films, e-books, and more.Subscribe Now
Already a subscriber? Log in.