OpenType Kerning in FontCreator 11.5

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OpenType Kerning

Older versions of FontCreator and older applications only support a kern table. However, modern fonts and modern applications use the more powerful OpenType GPOS (Glyph Positioning) kerning feature. Recent versions of FontCreator will allow you to export fonts with this legacy kern table to support older applications.

Adding an OpenType Kerning Feature

Open the OpenType Designer (Ctrl+F8). If a font has no OpenType features yet, or if you clear the existing features, the dialogue will look like this: No scripts, no features, and no lookups.

If you click on the Code Editor… button, you will be presented with this dialogue asking if you wish to add some common OpenType features to your font. Click on OK to accept the suggestion.

FontCreator will now search your font to see what glyphs it contains and add some common OpenType features with suitable lookup tables for your font.

Close the dialogue to see the folder tree listing the Features and Lookups added to the Default language.

Adding the Feature and Lookup Table

With the Default language selected, click the Big + button at the top left to add a new OpenType feature to your font.

The Kerning feature will be selected already, so just click on Finish to add it.

The kerning feature now needs a lookup table so select the kerning feature and click on the Big + button again to add a lookup table. The Pair Adjustment table will be selected already, so just click on Finish to add it.

You now have an empty Kerning feature and lookup, so you need to add some adjustment pairs to the table. Click on the Apply button at bottom right to save your changes. Repeat this regularly as you add more kerning pairs to the lookup table.

Adding Adjustment Pairs

Modern fonts may have thousands of adjustment pairs. The Professional Edition of FontCreator can automate this process with the Autokern feature. The Home Edition can greatly speed up the process by importing scripts exported from other fonts. To add adjustment pairs, click on the Big + button below the list of subtables.

This will open the New Pair Adjustment dialogue.

FontCreator supports the kerning of pairs of Glyphs, e.g. AY or pairs of kerning classes. A kerning class like @A_Caps will include A, À, Á, Â, Ã, Ä, Å, Ā, etc., while the @Y_Caps kerning class might contain Y, Ý, Ŷ, Ÿ, Ỳ, and Ỹ. Kerning classes can contain many more glyphs, but just with these few, one kerning pair of @A_Caps with @Y_Caps will generate 48 (8×6) kerning pairs. This is many times more efficient than adding individual pairs of glyphs, but for now we will skip that, and just add a few pairs for AY, AW, AV, and AT for illustration purposes.

In the New Adjustment Pair dialogue, illustrated above, select Glyphs for the type for both the first and second glyph of the pair. Type a capital A in the filter on the left, and a capital Y in the filter on the right to quickly find the A and Y glyphs. Select A and Y, and click on OK.

Click the Big + again (or use the shortcut key Insert) to add another pair, and clear the Y from the filter for the second glyph. Now you see why I started at the end of the alphabet: W will be visible in the list. Select that and click OK to add the AW pair. Repeat until done.

Adjusting the Kerning Pairs

After adding the pairs, all of the values will be zero, which is useless, so we need to adjust them using the Cursor keys on the keyboard, or by dragging the first glyph to adjust its XAdvance, or by typing in a specific value for the XAdvance. I find that using the cursor keys is the quickest method. Select the pair in the column on the left: use Shift+Left/Right cursor to adjust the spacing by 100 funits; use Left/Right cursor on its own to adjust by 10 funits, and Ctrl+Left/Right cursor to adjust the XAdvance by 1 funit.

When done, click on OK to exit the OpenType Designer and save your changes, and save your project file too with Ctrl+S.

Kerning Classes

As noted above, it is much more efficient to use class-based kerning instead of kerning individual glyph pairs. At the top of the OpenType Designer dialogue, click on the icon to Open the Class Manager. My Verajja font already includes a lot of kerning classes for Capitals, Lowercase, Small Capitals, Petite Capitals, etc.

The @Z_Caps class contains eight Z glyphs. I deleted the Z acute, then clicked on the + sign to add it back again. After typing Z in the filter, the Select Class Members dialogue shows all glyphs with z in the name, except for those that have already been added to the class. I can quickly see that Z acute is now missing, and select it for adding back.

One could also add DZ, but one has to consider what would be the effect if DZ was the second glyph in a kerning pair. For lowercase a, I have created two classes, @a_lc where the accent will not class with preceding glyphs: a, ą, æ, etc., and @a_lc_top where the accent will class with the preceding glyphs: á, à, ä, â, etc.

A pair like Ta can be kerned more tightly than a pair like Tä, so I have two separate classes.

FastStone Capture

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Printscreen on Steroids

I capture screen shots dozens of time a day to illustrate replies to support questions on forums. I frequently want to annotate the screen shot to point to particular parts of the User Interface, or highlight a problem area.

FastStone Capture 9.0 is Shareware, but it is only $19.95 for a lifetime license, so there is no good reason not to register it. If you just want to try before you buy, try the old Freeware version 5.3, which has fewer features, but most of what you need on a daily basis.

It can be set to launch on starting Windows (strongly recommended). It only takes  0.2 Mbytes when not in use, and consumes no CPU cycles. When you need it, press the PrintScreen key or any of many assignable shortcuts of PrintScreen with a modifier key, e.g. Ctrl+Printscreen to capture an area. The captured are opens in the program window, from where you can save it directly, or crop or annotate it first, then save it.

The latest registered version capture video too. I use this for creating video tutorials for other software like MainType.

Detailed ReviewDownload PageFreeware Version 5.3

MainType Font Manager

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Software / Typography

Keeping Your Fonts Organised

If you publish anything, whether in print media, as PDF files, or as HTML web pages, you need to use different fonts. Most users have hundreds or thousands installed with their software that they seldom, if ever use. Windows also comes with a lot of default fonts. If you take a little time to organise your fonts, and uninstall unused fonts, the process of selecting fonts in applications will become much quicker and easier.

Choosing the Right Font

While Times New Roman may be fine for printed publications, there are many better alternatives. For web pages, it is a poor choice. Web fonts do not have to be Sans Serif, but if you want to use a Seriffed font on the web at least choose one designed for web use, like Georgia. It is much easier to read on a computer monitor than Times New Roman.

When choosing a body text font for a book, first consider if it suits the task:

  • Does it include Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic typestyles?
  • Does it support any special characters and symbols for your subject?
  • What is the age group that your book is aimed at?
  • What are the licensing restrictions?

If you leap straight in and start writing without making these decisions first, you may be making a lot of unnecessary work if you need to change the font later. Decide on the right font by the end of page 1, and stick with it. When selecting fonts for heading, notes, or pull quotes, ask yourself if they look good together.

Customisable Layouts are available in the free version. 

Customise MainType Layouts

MainType Layouts

MainType is Freeware

Since there is a freeware version of MainType available there is no good reason not to try it out for as long as you wish before deciding if you need it. The license is for Non-commercial use, so if you publish anything for sale you will need a paid-for version. The limit of 2,500 fonts is also soon reached, especially by the home user who creates greeting cards, etc., as a hobby.

Also, if you wish to produce Font Catalogues you will need a paid-for version.


Detailed ReviewComparison of Versions

Arranged and Forced Marriages

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Buddhism / Current Affairs

Arranged Marriages

It is part of the Buddhist tradition for parents to find a suitable wife for their sons. This is given as one of the duties of Parents to their sons in the Siṅgāla Sutta.

“In five ways, householder’s son, the parents ministered to as the east by a son show him compassion. They restrain him from evil, they exhort him to do good, they train him to acquire skills, they seek a suitable wife for him, they give him his inheritance when the time comes. In these five ways, householder’s son, the parents ministered to as the east by a son show him compassion. Thus the eastern direction is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

It does not mention daughters, perhaps because the discourse was given by the Buddha to a young man, but the tradition seems to be just as much that parents seek a suitable husband for their daughters. As long as the parents’ role is only advisory, and not imposed on the children, all is well. It may be a much less hazardous method than dating apps, and meeting potential mates in bars and clubs, or on holidays for young people.

Forced Marriages

Definitely, young people should not be forced into marriage against their will, and parents should support their children if they choose their own marriage partner, or choose not to get married. Forcing someone into marriage is condoning rape, and rightly illegal in the UK. Nevertheless, it is difficult for young Asian people to reject the advice of their parents due to valid cultural reasons of respect for elders, gratitude, and loyalty to one’s parents.

Ancient Brahmin Practices

It seems clear that arranged marriages were the norm in the time of the Buddha. His chief female disciple, Visākhā, had an arranged marriage with the son of Migāra, who was a supporter of the naked ascetics. However, since she was a Stream-winner, and very strong-minded, she was able to convert her father-in-law and her husband to become followers of the Buddha, so all turn out for the good.

In the Soṇa Sutta, the Buddha taught the monks about the ancient Brahmin practices, wherein men and women only married by mutual affection. No deals were made to arrange marriages without consent of the young couple.

  1. “Monks, these five ancient Brahmin practices are now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins. What five?
    “Formerly, monks, Brahmins only coupled with Brahmin women, not with non-Brahmin women. Now, monks, Brahmins couple with Brahmin women and also with non-Brahmin women. Now, monks, dogs couple only with female dogs, not with other animals. This, monks is the first ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  2. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins only coupled with Brahmin women when they were in season, not when they were not in season. Now, monks, Brahmins couple with Brahmin women when they are in season, and also when they are not in season. Now, monks, dogs only couple with female dogs when they are in season, not when they are not in season. This, monks, is the second ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  3. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins neither bought nor sold Brahmin women, they lived together and bonded to continue the family line only through mutual affection. Now, monks, Brahmins also buy and sell Brahmin women, they do not live together and bond to continue the family line only through mutual affection. Now, monks, dogs neither buy nor sell female dogs, they live together and bond to continue the family line only through mutual affection. This, monks, is the third Brahmin practice that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  4. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins did not store up wealth, grain, silver, and gold. Now, monks, Brahmins store up wealth, grain, silver, and gold. Now, monks, dogs do not store up wealth, grain, silver, or gold. This, monks, is the fourth ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  5. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins sought food for their morning meal in the morning and for their evening meal in the evening. Now, monks, Brahmins having eaten as much as their bellies will hold, leave taking away the left-overs. Now, monks, dogs seek food for their morning meal in the morning and for their evening meal in the evening. This, monks, is the fifth ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.

Reference: Soṇa Sutta, A.ii.221, Book of Fives

What Are OpenType Features?

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Not Just Small Capitals

penType fonts can include Decorative Capitals, which may be implemented as Stylistic Alternates, or Contextual Alternates. In my fonts, the coloured capitals are implemented as Stylistic Alternates. This Test Page shows them in use on a web page. Note that you can select the coloured glyphs in the heading. They are text, not graphics. Although browsers support OpenType Stylistic Alternates, WebPlus X8 does not, so on my test page they are inserted as Unicode characters.

Some fonts, like Palatino Linotype, which was distributed with Windows XP, have Small Capitals, but not everyone knows about them, or knows how to use them. The use of OpenType features in modern fonts is now common, and many more software applications support them — even freeware like LibreOffice.

The Serif applications, PagePlus and DrawPlus, have supported a large number of, though not all, features for many years. However, WebPlus X8 does not support them, so special characters need to be inserted from the Insert Symbol dialogue to make use of them. (See below for a test web page).

For a full list of registered features, see the Microsoft OpenType Tag Registry.

For Web Pages Too

Browsers like Firefox have supported OpenType features for years, and now most modern browsers support them. If you visit this High-Logic Test Page and enable/disable the checkboxes for OpenType features on the right, you can see the effect on the sample text.

Professional Typography

High quality fonts include glyphs designed for specific tasks. For example, although most software applications can generate superscripts from regular digits, these auto-generated glyphs may be too light in comparison to the body text. Serif PagePlus gets around this by adding a bold attribute to the small superscript digits. Thus they are about 70% of the size of regular digits, raised up, and bold. This works better in some fonts than in others.

Most fonts will have true superscripts for ¹²³, which are the correct weight and position, but only some have ⁴⁵⁶⁷⁸⁹⁰ too, and fewer still have superscript glyphs for a-z, which can be used for dates: 1st 2nd 3rd, 11th 12th 13th etc. The image below compares true superscripts for ordinals (left), with those auto-generated by PagePlus (right). Those on the right are too big, too bold, and too low.

Some OpenType features are language dependent. On the High-Logic Test Page, you can change the language code from EN (English) to NL (Netherlands) to change the fi ligature to fi.

Read More about OpenType Features

The Blessings Business

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How Do Monks Bestow Blessings?

I am currently editing the Bodhirājakumāra Sutta, a discourse by the Buddha to Prince Bodhi when the Blessed One was dwelling at Suṃsumāragiri in the Bhagga country. Prince Bodhi had just had a new palace constructed and invited the Buddha for a meal to bless the new dwelling. Since he wished to have children, he spread the floor with white cloths, believing that if holy monks stepped on them, that he would be blessed with children. When the Buddha arrived at the palace — The Red Lotus Palace — he stood still, refusing to tread on the cloths to enter the building. The Venerable Ānanda instructed the prince to have the cloths removed, and the Buddha then entered the palace, ate the meal, and discoursed to Prince Bodhi after the meal about the way to happiness.

The Commentary to the discourse explains that the Buddha — knowing through his powers of mind-reading the reason for Prince Bodhi spreading the white cloths — used his psychic powers to look into the past lives of Prince Bodhi and his wife, and foresaw that due to their past kamma, they were destined to remain childless, so he refused to step on the cloths, thinking of the benefit of future generations. In a previous life, they had been shipwrecked together on an island of birds. They survived by eating the fledgling birds. As a result of that kamma, they were destined to remain childless as husband and wife when reborn in the time of Gotama Buddha.

Superstitious Beliefs

Prince Bodhi’s belief was groundless. Having children does not depend on monks stepping on white cloths, or any other kind of blessing allegedly bestowed by monks. It depends on medical factors, and on past kamma. If the past negative kamma is strong, no amount of medical treatment can overcome its effects.

When devout Buddhists are going for a driving test, a job interview, or an examination, they typically approach the monks, and ask them to recite protection discourses like the Maṅgala Sutta, to obtain blessings. In the Sri Lankan tradition the monks usually tie a Holy Thread (pirit nul), around the wrists of the devotees. I have never come across any evidence for this tradition in the Buddhist texts — it is perhaps a custom assimilated from Hinduism. Whatever, whether the monks tie a holy thread or not, blessings do not depend on that. It is a very lucrative custom if each devotee offers just £5, so it has survived for centuries and thrives in most Buddhist temples, but it is a superstitious belief. Please read the linked exposition of the Maṅgala Sutta, where the Buddha explains to a deity about thirty-eight types of wholesome kamma that give blessings and future happiness. Not to associate with fools, but to associate with the wise … opportune discussion of the Dhamma, and so forth.

Devotees may make the wholesome kamma of reverence while listening to the recitation, even if they do not know the meaning, or know it but do not reflect on it well during the recitation, but if they think that blessings will come merely by reciting sacred verses without putting them into practice, that is superstition, or clinging to rites and rituals.

Another example from the Vinaya texts. It was customary for monks of other sects to bless people with the words: “May you live long.” Some monks were scrupulous, thinking: “Long life does not depend on such blessings; long life depends on an individual’s own kamma,” so they did not bless the devotees offering food or paying respect. Some people complained about the monks remaining silent, and the Buddha allowed them to speak what was just a conventional farewell.

In the UK, we often say Goodbye. The meaning is, “May God be with you.” People just say it without thinking about the meaning at all. Many may not even know the real meaning. Even Buddhists say it, though they do not believe in God. We should say, instead, “Farewell,” or something similar. Even if we say, “See you,” we do not know if we will see the person again, but there’s no harm in such social niceties.

The Blessings of the Dhamma

Future benefits derive from present wholesome kamma; present benefits derive from past wholesome kamma. It is only natural that if you do good things you will get good results. The results of good kamma may not come at once, but when they do, the results will inevitably be blessings and beneficial. The blessings of the teachings of the Buddha come only to those who practise it; they do not come to those who do not practise good deeds.

When people pay homage to monks, or offer them almsfood, we may recite a short verse from the Dhammapada:

Abhivādanasīlissa, niccaṃ vuḍḍhāpacāyino.
Cattāro dhammā vaḍḍhanti, āyu vaṇṇo sukhaṃ balaṃ. (Dhp v 109)

The meaning is:

“For one who constantly honours and respects the elders,
four blessings increase — long-life, beauty, bliss, and strength.”

These blessings derive from humility, reverence, and loving-kindness. They are natural results of wholesome kamma. Whether the monk recites the verse or not, the blessings will follow from the intention behind the deeds, which is wholesome kamma. If one pays respect to elders out of fear or superstition, the results will be different. The respect should be genuine.

An Exposition of the Maṅgala Sutta • The Buddha’s Discourse on Blessings

FontCreator — A Highly Logical Choice

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FontCreator 4.0

I first started editing fonts in the late 1980’s using CorelDraw 4.0, which had an export filter for TrueType fonts. This was back in the days of Windows 3.1 and ANSI character sets. Standard fonts did not include the characters with diacritics (accents) that I needed, so I had to edit my own fonts. It was a slow process, because the export filter crashed very often.

In 2002 I got a copy of FontCreator 4.0 and the task became a lot easier. Later, I got involved with coding the data used by FontCreator for positioning diacritics in composite glyphs (like ā, é, ì, õ, ü), which are needed frequently for non-English languages, especially Pali and Vietnamese.

FontCreator 11.5

The software has come a very long way in the 16 years since I started using it. Now we can create colour fonts, add and edit OpenType features with a graphical editor, import vector outlines from Adobe Illustrator or SVG images from Inkscape, as well as PDF files. It is a powerful program, with a long learning curve, but I have created many tutorials that you can read or watch.

FontCreator 12

FontCreator 12.0 is a major upgrade with powerful new features, and improvements to existing features.

An anchored-based method for creating composites improves the positioning of diacritics, especially for italic typefaces. User-friendly glyph name generation and editing is more powerful. Inserting glyphs anywhere in the font, adding code-points based on glyph names, and glyph sorting are invaluable for large fonts.

CompositeData.xml has been extensively revised, using glyph names instead of glyph mappings to remove dependence on the Private Use Area. Glyphs for OpenType features such as Small Capitals, Alternative Fractions, or Stylistic Alternates are no longer mapped. Transform scripts also use these glyph names.

Many new definitions have been added to aid in the design of Mathematical Operators, and a few in other character sets. Definitions for diacritical marks have also been enhanced.

Font Editing is Harder than One might Think

Those who are new to editing fonts soon discover that there is a lot to learn. It is not just about designing glyphs with appealing shapes, the letter spacing, line spacing, and mapping of glyphs to code-points has to be done right too. There are many built-in tools to automate the process, especially in the Professional Edition, but new users will need to read the help file and ask questions on the support forum.

My Free OpenType FontsA Review of FontCreator

Serif PagePlus X9 — Publishing on a Budget

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A Legacy Product

The last version of Serif’s flagship product for Desktop Publishing (DTP) can still currently be bought for £20 or about $25 US. If you go to Serif’s website, they will be keen to tell you about their new Affinity Products. Scroll down to purchase the Serif Legacy Products like PagePlus X9. The replacement for PagePlus, Affinity Publisher, may eventually be a better choice, but currently it lacks many of the features found in PagePlus X9. Only you can decide if the trade off is worthwhile. Files created in PagePlus cannot be imported into Affinity Publisher, so if you upgrade later, you will still need to keep PagePlus to open your previous work.

Professional Features

In spite of its very low price (PagePlus was never more than £100), it is a mature programme with most of the features found in professional publishing programs like InDesign, Quark, or PageMaker.

  1. High quality PDF output
  2. Optical Justification, a.k.a. Optical Margin Alignment
  3. Fine adjustment of tracking and kerning with GPOS Kerning support
  4. Powerful OpenType Feature Support
  5. Baseline Grid Alignment
  6. Index and Table of Contents generation with hyperlinks
  7. Footnotes, Endnotes, and Cross-references
  8. Multi-lingual spell-check with Hunspell dictionary support
  9. Import documents from Word or LibreOffice complete with footnotes and tables
  10. Tables, Calendars, and Charts

Features for Amateurs

From the beginning, PagePlus was designed to appeal to home users who want scanning, drawing, photo-editing, filter effects, text on a curve, logos, and other graphics tools built-in, without the need to own and learn multiple programs. The built-in Image Cut-out Studio and PhotoLab may be no substitute for PhotoShop, but they have adequate power for the home publisher or small charity. Ticket printing, greeting cards, menus, DVD covers, calendars, banners, and posters can all be created with ease.

Decorative graphic borders have been available since early versions, but recent versions offer an even higher degree and ease of customisation. These are great for posters and certificates.

Customisable Interface

Regular users will find the high degree of customisation that PagePlus allows extremely helpful to enhance productivity. Customised work spaces designed for specific project types, or to suit different sized monitors, can be saved and reloaded at any time. Shortcuts can be assigned to the most frequently used commands, and the defaults can be changed. Even the icons on the toolbars can be edited and imported. Key features that enhance productivity:

  1. Restore Last Session to load all publications that you were last working on, zoomed to the page that you were last editing, to  resume wherever you left off.
  2. Tile publications for easy drag and drop between them
  3. Save assets for reuse in other publications
  4. Import documents from Word or LibreOffice complete with footnotes and tables
  5. Export any design as a graphic in any common format

Read my Full Review on, for more details of the available features, and PDF tutorials to get new users started with the more complex features.

Vivaldi Browser

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A Great Tool for Research

I spend most of the day online, and I use Vivaldi all day even when I am working on my books or website in Serif PagePlus or WebPlus. I use it constantly to look up words, and have the entire Buddhist Canon on my local drive in HTML format for reference to the texts, and a Pali English dictionary that I use to help with translation. By tiling as a grid, I can refer to the Pali text, its Commentary, a translation, and the Pali English Dictionary in one Tab Stack. By saving the tiled tab stack as a session, I can reload it later, or modify it and save the new session for working on a different translation project.

Pali Text, Commentary, Dictionary, and Translation

Custom Search Engines

Besides the usual search engines for DuckDuckGo, Google, and Wikipedia, I have added custom search engines for Acronymns, the Oxford Dictionary, the Pali Text Society Dictionary, and YouTube. (Yes, even on YouTube one can find some useful resources for Buddhist studies). The advantage of a search engine for the PTS Dictionary is that I can search English words to find a similar term in Pali.

Notes Panel

Vivaldi Notes can be used simply for boiler-plate text that one uses frequently. These can be inserted with access key shortcuts alone after doing Shift F10, I, followed by the first letter of a folder, then the first letter of a note. For example, Shift+F10, I, V, S will insert my system specs.

Specs: AMD A10-6800K, 8 Gb on Win 10 64-bit 1809 build 17763.253 • Snapshot 2.3.1420.4 (64-bit)

Bing Translation Panel

Occasionally, I need to translate some text from or to another language. This can be done easily in a Web Panel, where I keep the Bing Translator.

Parfois, j’ai besoin de traduire un texte de ou vers une autre langue. Cela peut être fait facilement dans un panneau Web, où je garde le traducteur Bing. 

A Full Review of Vivaldi on, my website for reviews of my favourite software. Here, I keep track of changes with each new Snapshot, and illustrate some of the most useful features and settings.

Six Kinds of Speech Used by the Buddha

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Prince Abhaya was a disciple of the Naked Ascetics (Nigaṇṭhā), who were vehement opponents of the Buddha. The Abhayarājakumāra Sutta relates how their leader sent Prince Abhaya to the Buddha with a formulated question to ask him, that he hoped would confound him. Prince Abhaya invited the Buddha with three other monks to his house for alms

Prince Abhaya, served and satisfied the Blessed One with superior hard and soft foods by his own hands. Then, when the Blessed One had eaten and had removed his hand from his bowl, Prince Abhaya took a lower seat and sat down at one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, “Venerable sir, would the Tathāgata say words that are harsh and displeasing to others?”

“Prince, there is no one-sided answer to that.”

“Then right here, venerable sir, the Naked Ascetics are defeated.”

“But prince, why do you say, ‘Then right here, venerable sir, the Naked Ascetics are defeated’?”

Then Prince Abhaya repeated the entire conversation he had had the day before with Nigaṇṭhā Nāṭaputta.

Now at that time a baby boy was lying face-up on the princes lap. So the Blessed One said to the prince, “What do you think, prince: If this young boy, through your own negligence or that of the nurse, were to take a stick or a piece of gravel into its mouth, what would you do?”

“I would take it out, Venerable sir. If I couldn’t get it out right away, then holding its head in my left hand and crooking a finger of my right, I would take it out, even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have compassion for the young boy.”

Six Kinds of Speech

  1. Speech that the Tathāgata¹ knows is untrue, incorrect, unbeneficial, harsh² and displeasing to others, he does not utter.
  2. Speech that the Tathāgata knows to be true, correct, unbeneficial, harsh and displeasing to others, he does not utter.
  3. Speech that the Tathāgata knows to be true, correct, beneficial,³ but harsh and displeasing to others, he knows the right time to say it.
  4. Speech that the Tathāgata knows to be untrue, incorrect, unbeneficial, but affectionate and pleasing to others, he does not say it.
  5. Speech that the Tathāgata knows to be true, correct, unbeneficial, but affectionate and pleasing to others, he does not utter.
  6. Speech that the Tathāgata knows to be true, correct, beneficial, and affectionate and pleasing to others, he knows the right time for saying it. Why is that? Because the Tathāgata has compassion for living beings.”


1. Tathāgata is a term that the Buddha used when referring to himself. 

2. Harsh (appiyā), not affectionate.

3. Beneficial (atthasaṃhitaṃ). The Buddha gave advice on attaining worldly benefits such as wealth, health, and long-life; as well as advice on attaining spiritual benefits.

 Prior to the occasion that is the basis of the dilemma in this discourse, Devadatta went to the Buddha and suggested that the leadership of the Order should be handed over to him in view of the Buddha’s approaching old age. The Buddha scorned the suggestion, saying, “Not even to Sāriputta or Mahā-Moggallāna would I hand over the Order, how would I then to you, vile one, to be expectorated like spittle?” Devadatta showed great resentment and vowed vengeance. These were very harsh words indeed, after which Devadatta conspired to try to kill the Buddha and urged Ajātasattu to kill his own father, King Bimbisāra.

When Devadatta tried to kill the Buddha himself by throwing a boulder down from Vulture’s Peak, which splintered, drawing blood from the Blessed One’s foot, this was the first heinous crime that condemned Devadatta to hell. Later, he caused a schism in the Saṅgha, which is another heinous crime. Killing one’s own mother, one’s own father, an Arahant, spilling the blood of a Tathāgata, and causing a schism in the Saṅgha are all weighty volitional actions (garu kamma), with a definite and irreversible result of rebirth in hell.

It is hard to see how these harsh words were beneficial to Devadatta as they did not deter him from further evil acts, and may have been what spurred him to take such drastic actions. However, they were beneficial to many others. After this refusal to hand over the leadership of the Saṅgha to Devadatta, the Buddha had a public declaration made that any actions done by Devadatta thereafter were his own only, and not those of the community.

My conclusion: True speech that is harsh, displeasing, and unbeneficial to some, but of benefit to others, is right-speech if spoken without malice.