Now at that time, Nigrodha was sitting together with a large assembly of wanderers making an uproar, a dreadful racket. They engaged in all kinds of unworthy talk, such as talk about kings, bandits, and ministers; talk about armies, threats, and wars; talk about food, drink, clothes, and beds; talk about garlands and fragrances; talk about family, vehicles, villages, towns, cities, and countries; talk about women and heroes; street talk and well talk; talk about the departed; motley talk; tales of land and sea; and talk about being reborn in this or that state of existence.
DN 25 (Sujato)
As stated in MN26 Pāsarāsisutta:
Good, mendicants! It’s appropriate for gentlemen like you, who have gone forth in faith from the lay life to homelessness, to sit together and talk about the teaching. When you’re sitting together you should do one of two things: discuss the teachings or keep noble silence.
Small talk appears to be fine too. Many suttas start after pleasantries are finished with.
When the dhamma eye is opened, everything is seen in that perspective. Whatever one chooses to talk about, the subject is held in that:
“What is it that this Eye of Dhamma sees? This Eye sees that whatever is born has ageing and death as a natural result. ‘Whatever is born’ means everything! Whether material or immaterial, it all comes under this ‘whatever is born’. It refers to all of nature. Like this body for instance - it’s born and then proceeds to extinction. When it’s small it ‘dies’ from smallness to youth. After a while it ‘dies’ from youth and becomes middle-aged. Then it goes on to ‘die’ from middle-age and reach old-age, finally reaching the end. Trees, mountains and vines all have this characteristic.”—Ajahn Chah
An interesting question. I just listened to a dharma talk on association and information abundance. Emphasizing quality over quantity. I find many of the discourses to reflect on guidance and recommendations more relevant to the monastic life than the householder. The lifestyle influencing what is relevant and what is not. Binary views of how to practice are appropriate if everyone, their needs, and their journey’s were the same. That said, it is clear talk can be frivolous if not unwholesome.
In my practice, I try to explore why a subject is intermingled with discussion of the dharma. Why that may be relevant. A sticking point. And consider why others in the sangha, including myself, may be more interested in pushing that object out of the field of discussion. Aversion can be subtle. Practice in a vacuum is at risk of merely delaying suffering.
How do you deal with frivolous talk at work and home. As a householder myself I’ve had issues in the past. A lot easier to avoid chit chat at work, but it took me a long time to gain proper decrement in dealing with family.
Redirect. Structure. Reframe. Paraphrase. Focus on optimism. Don’t engage negativity, etc. Just a few ideas. Practice compassion, but without reinforcing dysfunctional thinking/interactions.
Discussing the dhamma or keeping the noble silence.
And I think here are limited and mindful talks, in situations like doing duties and jobs, receiving guests …etc. accordingly.
There is much that can be discussed through the perspective of the Dhamma. For me, this opens things up quite a bit.
However from a worldly perspective, it depends a bit on the company that you keep (or find yourself in), and so there are times when I simply rest in noble silence, compassionately listening, silently offering mettā, and skilfully abiding in the Dhamma internally.
A useful perspective
Probably Work, like in the Sigalovada sutta DN 31
For a lay person there’s only 3 suitable topics I can think of: dhamma, life, and work, and work related things like economy, buying and trading, school, etc…
Basically either your energy is focused on survival or liberation
Right speech can help us pay attention to context rather than content. This allows for a less dogmatic view of what is appropriate to talk about.
"Monks, a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people. Which five?
“It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.”
As someone on the spectrum I often have had to analyze why people behave the way they do and “Small talk” is one of those things I have been and continue to remain… awkward in. I feel more combfortable around coarse talk or deep talk than keeping track of social norm violations that may occur in polite bourgeoise society . One thing that I realized once is that small talk is in fact profound… like the weather …“nice day isn’t it” “yeah I heard it will rain on the weekend” translates to me as “hey we are here and together surrounded in this natural environment and its effects and changes govern our emotional state and mood”
Also the suttas always inquiring into anothers well being. “Are you well?” Is such a beautiful statement of space allowing another persons well being to be articulated and comprehended by another.
Its just such a shame mara has gotten too involved in our small talk.
Is home gardening appropriate to talk about at the right time, according to EBTs?
I garden so that I can understand suttas like this:
SN22.54:1.2: “Mendicants, there are five kinds of plants propagated from seeds.
And in that time of gardening, I’ve found that the insects and birds have returned to our yard. With gardening, we become grateful for the smallest things done for us.
SN20.12:1.6: ‘We will be grateful and thankful.
SN20.12:1.7: We won’t forget even a small thing done for us.’
A seed is such a small thing done for us.
I find remembering and act out of what right speech is, covers this issue in most cases.
10 topics suitable for conversation, AN10.69. Bhante Sujato trans.
There are, mendicants, these ten topics of discussion. What ten? Talk about fewness of wishes, contentment, seclusion, aloofness, arousing energy, ethics, immersion, wisdom, freedom, and the knowledge and vision of freedom. These are the ten topics of discussion.
Mendicants, if you bring up these topics of conversation again and again then your glory could surpass even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful, let alone the wanderers who follow other paths.”