Ven. Thubten Chodron (outdoor)
Unskillful Speech : Idle Chatter

On September 12, 2020, after meditation we learned more about Right Speech (Samma vaca), one of the elements of the Buddha’s Eightfold Noble Path, through a closer examination of one particular form of unskillful speech — Idle Chatter.

At Teachers’ Corner last Saturday, we listened to a teaching from the Venerable Thubten Chodron on idle chatter, something which she said was often the main hindrance for practitioners. The teacher gave a long list of topics which could potentially be “idle chatter”, but emphasized the importance of intention. Why are you talking about these things? Is it part of holding on to your attachments? Is it just wasting time? Or are you speaking mindfully with a positive purpose?

The discussion afterwards highlighted some of this subtlety. We all talk about some of the topics which the teacher warned could constitute idle chatter, but is it always bad? We gave some personal examples of idle chatter, including pointing out how we can even engage in idle chatter inside our own heads.

The video we shared during our session is posted below: “The Gomchen Lamrim: Harsh Speech and Idle Talk”. The section on idle talk begins at 28:00 in the recording. Also posted are a few suggested questions for discussion on the topic. Happy learning!


From the Teachers Unskillful Speech : Idle Chatter

Dharma Video:

During our session we watched the following video from 0:28:00 to the end.

The Gomchen Lamrim: Harsh Speech and Idle Talk” by Ven. Thubten Chodron**

** Venerable Thubten Chodron (德林 — De Lin) was born in Chicago in 1950. In 1977, she received sramanerika (novice) ordination from Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Nepal, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Ven. Chodron is the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey, the only Tibetan Buddhist training monastery for Western nuns and monks in the United States. She is a central figure in the reinstatement of the Bhikshuni (tib. Gelongma) ordination of women. She is a student of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, Lama Thubten Yeshe, Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, and other Tibetan masters. She has published many books on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, and is currently co-authoring with His Holiness the Dalai Lama a multi-volume series of teachings on the Buddhist path, The Library of Wisdom and Compassion.


Suggested Questions for Discussion:

  1. Think back on the last week. Which topics that the teacher listed as potential idle chatter have you talked about? Do you remember why you were doing it?
  2. How do you think that talk with no useful purpose could hinder your spiritual development?
  3. The teacher stated that saying prayers or chants without paying attention to the meaning constitutes idle chatter. Can you think of other things you could say which might turn into idle chatter if you don’t pay attention to them?



  1. For the next week, try to be mindful of the things you talk about. Why are you saying that? What purpose does it serve?