Are Vulgarities Okay?

Question: Buddhists shouldn’t use vulgar language as this leads to negative imprints on our mind? What can they lead to?

Answer: The very fact that they are vulgarities means that they are spoken out of hatred, with harshness from a mind not at peace. Harsh speech is against Right Speech in the Noble Eightfold Path and the Fourth Precept. This hatred harms oneself and others, even if just verbally and mentally. Harsh speech is a form of verbal violence. The karmic imprints might lead to being habitually harsh, leading to being disliked and shunned by others.

Question: What if vulgarities are added out of ‘habit’ to speech, with no intention of harming or offending others? Is that acceptable? (It is common to hear words like ‘f*ck’ in conversations nowadays.)

Answer: If usage of vulgarities are habitual, then all the more they should be reduced and stopped – because habits can go on from life to life. Spiritual cultivation is about the refinement and purification of body, speech and mind for greater expression of compassion and wisdom. Even if there are no ill intentions, some who overhear might misunderstand and take offence. Perhaps a simple way to look at this is to remember that since we cannot imagine a Buddha who habitually speaks vulgarities out of no ill intention, why should we imagine this habit can lead to Buddhahood, or even to ‘not hamper’ the path to Buddhahood?


  • This is an interesting topic to note, I have a classmate who says she’s a Buddhist but she’s too used to vulgar language, Similar to the second question above. But all this will be tough getting to her as I don’t think she has the mindfulness or the correct understanding of buddhism

  • How about sending this link to share with her for a start? (Or copy-paste the article to email her?) Amituofo


  • My students in their teens are full of vulgarities. As said above, it’s becoming so commonly used that they do not even realise some of the words are offensive. Many of them do not see a need to change as they are just being ‘open-minded’ and honest about their feeling. Religion means nothing to this group too; it will not matter if they attain Buddhahoood. What is your view on this?

    Thank you. 😀

  • Hmmm… maybe you can warn of the possibility of mouthing vulgarities so frequently and habitually that they might just slip out of their mouths unmindfully at the wrong time!

    Also, you might want to ask them about how they feel when they use vulgarities. Usually, it is a state of suffering, even if subtle – a feeling of rage or indignation. While the words we use can express our unhappiness, the words expressed can increase it too.

    E.g. Saying ‘f**k!’ in the moment aggravates the rage, because to say it ‘well’, it has to be done with more rage than that there is the first place. So, in this sense, it’s quite foolish to add fuel to the fire that burns oneself.

    Mindful dissolving of rage makes more sense. For the non-religious, the age-old method of walking away to take ten deep breaths while remembering on the (self-)damage of rage helps. As Venerable Cheng Yan put it, ‘To be angry is to let another’s mistake punish oneself.’

    :oo: no more


  • I do agree with this, cursing does stem from being unmindful and usually unhappy. It is also conditioning, a habit we just don’t think about. I think it can also be used to enhance the image we have of ourselves as being “cool” or “laid-back” enough to not care. So it really is all ego-based.

  • Cursing is unhappiness expressed instead of transformed, that makes the listener unhappy too. A lose-lose situation!



  • Hmm How about I cursed on a person that one other friend was complaining to me abt. This made my fren quite happy but I know in the Buddhism way, we shld not say bad things abt other people. Hmm :-S

  • Hmmm… to make a person happy by cursing another doesn’t seem skilful, as it is just as wrong to curse another as it is to rejoice in another being cursed. It’s better to analyse the situation rationally for solutions, instead of cursing emotionally. Cursing doesn’t really help better the situation too. It only lets off steam.


  • Purely linguistically speaking, a word is a word, without being judgmental. Its function is purely communication and simplistically speaking, as long as it word is suffice to transmit the message and the receiver gets it, then the word works.
    Having said that, it is the added value to the word that reveals our skillful means(or the lack of it)in our right speech effort.
    We can make a purely simple and innocent word, sounds vulgar, and vile. Our tone, pitch and volume plays a part in ‘packaging’ our message.
    Right speech entails more than using or not using vulgarities. It is the ills we speak of other people that make us unskillful in our speech.

  • Vulgarities is one of the ways to express strong emotions, such as rage. If it’s against Right Speech, then I suggest other ways of expression, such as punching a bag, or throwing a rock.
    Strong emotions, if suppressed regularly, can lead to physical and mental illnesses.

  • Buddhism does NOT advocate suppression or expression (be it private or open) of anger, but dissolving of anger with wisdom, by realising that anger is destructive, by realising that being angry is senseless, as it is to let others’ mistakes punish us without bettering the situation. Constant suppression followed by expression of anger can lead to illness too.

  • Anger is an innate emotional response when we are upset. It is something which I think is spontaneous and quite hard to uproot.
    Buddhism advocates the dissolving of anger by shifting our thinking perspectives. This may work but really takes alot of discipline and practice.
    Is this the best way to manage our anger? Are there alternatives?
    Psychologist actually promotes the expression of anger by being assertive. What do you think?

  • If anger innate, we would be angry all the time. With training in mindfulness, be it through understanding the mechanics of the mind, meditation or chanting, it can be subdued and eventually eradicated totally. The Buddha is the best example. Practice DOES make perfect. Here are some methods:


    Being assertive does not require anger. Look at people like Gandhi.

  • Psychology encourages anger to be express assertively. There are even books on anger management which claims that an adequate amount of anger is essential for a good sex drive! Is it true?

  • Psychology that recommends expression of anger is outdated and poor, because it does not look at the roots of anger and how to eradicate them once and for all.

    Here is the now popular way in western psychology, at looking at how to solve the anger problem. This book ‘Destructive Emotions’ is recommended: http://www.mindandlife.org/publications/destructive-emotions/

    It was written by Daniel Goleman, the leading Buddhist doctor who famously invented the phrase Emotional Intelligence. It is a record of discussions with the Dalai Lama.

  • There are arguments concerning the idea that anger is destructive, which some Psychologist said to be a form of irrational thought. They explained that anger can also be cleansing and helps emotions to be expressed honestly. What do you think?

  • If people take honest expression of destructive anger to be cleansing on a massive scale, what happens? Let’s see… WWI, WWII… The list goes on.

    Anger is not cleansing, it is cancerous. Hitler was honest with his hatred – in a twisted way, leading to massacre of millions of Jews… It took one super-angry mind to lead to so much destruction.

    War outside begins with anger inside, whose roots are not eradicated with the cultivation of compassion and wisdom.

  • It may be expression of love or anger/hate depending on context. Vulgarities used by some groups may be for habitual expression without real meaning, sort of having friendly connotation in their conversation etc. However, learned & cultured people should avoid from using it. There is no vulgarities recorded in the sutra.
    Buddhists ought to maintain normal, equality & harmony for any vulgarities used by others. This is a form of compassion and magnanimity inherently yours. Namo Amitabha

  • Sometimes certain vulgarities are welcome, for example in the area of humor. If I go to a comedy club for an evening of laughs, which helps me to “let go“, I don`t expect a brawl to break out in the audience. Insults which contain vulgarities are clearly intended to hurt, and is not right behavior. Telling someone their cologne smells like cat`s piss is actually doing them a favor, which is therefore, right behavior. I know Buddha would laugh.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!