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How far do you take the precept of not lying?...

minimayhen88minimayhen88 Veteran
edited May 2012 in Buddhism Basics
Do you simply avoid making deliberate false statements, such as saying you saw something, when in fact you didnt ......Or do you take it further, and avoid saying statements that may overlook the truth or avoid the truth (Omission) .... such as giving a flase impression .... or even concealing the truth? How strictly do you interpret / practice this key precept?

Kindly ^‿^

Comments

  • zenffzenff Veteran
    How strictly do you interpret / practice this key precept?
    Kindly ^‿^
    Very strictly: all kinds of deception are against the spirit of the first precept.
    Not so strictly: the idea is not hurting people. With that in mind we can sometimes tell a lie.
    (Like in telling a child how special and wonderful they are; when the truth is that those little monsters are all the same and they are really stupid when you think about it)
    Nirvana
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    In the parable of the burning house the father (as an image for the Buddha) tells a lie.
    http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/buddhism/parable_burning_house.html
    Nirvana
  • ethereaetherea Veteran
    I am strict about not lying - in fact it never enters my head to lie. I am guilty of skirting round the truth though in an effort not to offend. ;) e.g. friend/rel "does my bum look big in this?" me truthfully " yeah,the size of a small mountain!" I don't think so! I would be more likely to say "I prefer the *whatever* one therefore avoiding having to tell the awful truth or a white lie.

  • I found I just cannot lie when asked a direct question.
    If not,
    And my anwer could be painfull or create problemens...
    I half tell the truth, by leaving stuff out,
    I never make things up.
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    If somebody was hiding from a tormentor and I knew where they were, I would lie if asked directly. In any of these tricky times I go with the option of least intended harm.

    Can Nirvana be placed ahead of compassion?

    If so, Nirvana can wait.
  • I could lie in that case too.
    Pardon me for my generalisation.
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    The truth can be used as a weapon, as well as a lie can. The question isn't "Are lies always bad?" but "Why am I telling this lie?" Sometimes the "brutal truth" is just an excuse to be rude and take the moral high ground. "Well, I'm just telling you the truth."

    Compassion trumps precepts. A man who tells his wife, "Yes, that dress does make you look fat." and "Now that you asked, yes, I wish you'd shut up about your day so I can watch the game on television." is telling the truth. He's also being obnoxious on purpose and showing no regard for others.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    Aw, no worries. I just find it's easiest to find the answer when we take the question to the extreme.

  • same here :)
    often been labelled as extremely black/white thinker...
    In my humble opinion,
    After lot's of thinking, there are always just two options left:
    yes/no
    lying/telling truth
    acting/non acting
    etc.
  • Thank you sincerely for your opinions :-) May I ask, would avoiding telling the blunt truth, such as changing the subject or avoiding specific details, be considered a form of lying? In your opinions?
  • "Rahula, do you see the small amount of water in this pot?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Even so, little is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying."

    The Buddha then threw the water away and said: "Do you see this small amount of water that I have thrown away?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Even so, Rahula, thrown away is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying."

    The Buddha then turned the pot over and said: "Do you see this pot that has been turned over?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Even so, turned over is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying."

    The Buddha then turned the pot upright again and said: "Do you see this pot now empty and void?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Even so, Rahula, empty and void is the training of those who have no shame at intentional lying."

    The Buddha then impressed upon his son the importance of speaking the truth.

    "Rahula, for anyone who has no shame at intentional lying, there is no evil that that person cannot do. Therefore, you should train yourself like this: 'I will not tell a lie, not even in jest.'"

    Having explained what has to be done, the Buddha went on to explain to Rahula how it could be done.

    "What do you think about this, Rahula? What is the purpose of a mirror?"

    "The purpose of a mirror is to look at yourself."

    "Even so, Rahula, one should act with body, speech or mind only after first looking at oneself. Before acting with body, speech or mind, one should think: 'What I am about to do, will it harm me or others?' If you can answer: 'Yes, it will,' then you should not act. But if you can answer: 'No, it will not,' then you should act. You should reflect in the same way while acting and after having acted. Therefore, Rahula, you should train yourself thinking: 'We will act only after repeatedly looking at ourselves, only after reflecting on ourselves.'"
    Nirvana
  • driedleafdriedleaf Veteran
    edited May 2012
    I believe it is not difficult to uphold this precept. The key is to live simply. There will never be anyone pressuring you to lie, and there will never be a situation where you will need to make a tough choice. Those made up scenarios where a person goes through a hard time deciding whether or not to tell the truth are one in a million. If we lived simply how often would we need to lie? Rarely.
  • ZendoLord84ZendoLord84 Veteran
    edited May 2012
    @driedleaf
    Now that's wisdom.
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    image

    You stand at a fork in the road. Next to each of the two forks, there stands a guard. You know the following things: 1. One path leads to Paradise, the other to Death. From where you stand, you cannot distinguish between the two paths. Worse, once you start down a path, you cannot turn back. 2. One of the two guards always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to distinguish between the two guards.
    You have permission to ask one guard one question to ascertain which path leads to Paradise. Remember that you do not know which guard you're asking -- the truth-teller or the liar -- and that this single question determines whether you live or die. The question is: What one question asked of one guard guarantees that you are led onto the path to Paradise, regardless of which guard you happen to ask?

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    I believe it is not difficult to uphold this precept. The key is to live simply. There will never be anyone pressuring you to lie, and there will never be a situation where you will need to make a tough choice. Those made up scenarios where a person goes through a hard time deciding whether or not to tell the truth are one in a million. If we lived simply how often would we need to lie? Rarely.
    Ah, but there have been these instances and those who break the precept out of compassion are no worse for wear in my opinion.

    A rarity is not an impossibilIty but I agree. It is rarely necessary to lie. Even lying to spare feelings can be misguided in that it is assumed the person cannot handle the truth.
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    image
    Boolean logic. Love it!
  • image

    You stand at a fork in the road. Next to each of the two forks, there stands a guard. You know the following things: 1. One path leads to Paradise, the other to Death. From where you stand, you cannot distinguish between the two paths. Worse, once you start down a path, you cannot turn back. 2. One of the two guards always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to distinguish between the two guards.
    You have permission to ask one guard one question to ascertain which path leads to Paradise. Remember that you do not know which guard you're asking -- the truth-teller or the liar -- and that this single question determines whether you live or die. The question is: What one question asked of one guard guarantees that you are led onto the path to Paradise, regardless of which guard you happen to ask?

    pffff....
    what a difficult unneccesary question..

    we all die.
    countless times.
    I would turn back and do something fun.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    image

    You stand at a fork in the road. Next to each of the two forks, there stands a guard. You know the following things: 1. One path leads to Paradise, the other to Death. From where you stand, you cannot distinguish between the two paths. Worse, once you start down a path, you cannot turn back. 2. One of the two guards always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to distinguish between the two guards.
    You have permission to ask one guard one question to ascertain which path leads to Paradise. Remember that you do not know which guard you're asking -- the truth-teller or the liar -- and that this single question determines whether you live or die. The question is: What one question asked of one guard guarantees that you are led onto the path to Paradise, regardless of which guard you happen to ask?

    Are you a guard?

    Man, I just noticed my last post is only half there... scam.
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    Are you a guard?
    To me that sounds like a question that would work. Its actually different than the 'correct' answer though.

    "If I asked the _other_ guard, which door would he indicate
    leads to Paradise?" Take the door _opposite_ to what's indicated!
    Regardless of whom you ask, they'll point to the wrong door.
  • DaltheJigsawDaltheJigsaw Mountain View Veteran
    What do you think of this little example: "An example of how the precepts are guidelines is this, say you live in Nazi-Germany during the period of WWII. You open the door to face the Gestapo asking for Anne Frank. She is currently hidden in your home. Do you uphold the precept of "not lying" as a steadfast rule or a guideline?
    But to circle back to the original topic, mind altering substances are indeed, frowned upon." DrJWilson
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    What do you think of this little example:

    "An example of how the precepts are guidelines is this, say you live in Nazi-Germany during the period of WWII. You open the door to face the Gestapo asking for Anne Frank. She is currently hidden in your home. Do you uphold the precept of "not lying" as a steadfast rule or a guideline?
    But to circle back to the original topic, mind altering substances are indeed, frowned upon." DrJWilson
    I think this little example is both tedious and irrelevant.

    Threads like these - about lying - always, but always - virtually without exception - always end up with the "Nazis at the door looking for Jews" question.
    This is known as "Godwin's Law". Or our very own little 'Buddhists Lying' version of it....

    We always have threads discussing when Lying would be appropriate, and somebody always ends up using the "Nazis at the door" analogy as a reasonable occasion in which to lie.

    This analogy comes up time and time again.
    You'd think by now we would have learned from it...

    The analogy is absolutely, utterly completely and entirely superfluous, pointless and irrelevant.

    Because the odds of it actually happening to us, and our being able to put it to the test, are probably so low they'd be incalculable.

    so it's not a logical premise from which to operate, because it's extreme, unlikely and, as global issues stand at the moment, unless we actually live in the middle of a war-zone, so far removed as to be imaginary and total hypothesis.
    and an hypothesis is not something that we can base our reality upon.

    so please disregard the analogy, and keep it in 'real-time'.
    And keeping it in real time is about NOT lying because the Buddha quite clearly stated that lying in any situation, whatever the circumstances - is not acceptable, or skilful.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    ^^ Except that relatively similar things happen throughout the world all the time -- mostly in Africa at this particular junction in time. A little different now in that it often involves the widespread rape of women as punishments in local civil wars. But the principle is no different.
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    Yes, but my point is, that the majority will never be subject to such circumstances, so pondering an hypothesis, when our own personal reality is already a challenge - it seems - is utterly unproductive.
  • ZendoLord84ZendoLord84 Veteran
    edited May 2012
    better it is to play videogames, meditate, be kind and let life just...

    glide by

    :)
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    better it is to play videogames, meditate, be kind and let life just...

    glide by

    :)
    No. That, many would say, is akin to avoidance.

    So actually, be absolutely immersed in life.

    "In it, but not of it".


  • why 'force' myself in it without forcing myself in it..when i'm content when i'm not in it. while still in it...?

    cause I got a job and such...paying dues and bills and helping people, at least try were I can...

    so...
  • ok gotta work on the speech thing to make myself more clearer...
    or not speak at all..

    :)

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    :D
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    We can argue all day about the relevance of the "nazis at the door" scenario but it doesn't take away that it is indeed an example of when lying would be the ethical choice.

    Just as using violence to stop an attacker is sometimes the way of least harm.

    Yes, it's an extreme example but it is an example non the less.

    There is a reason it comes up in these threads, lol.
  • DaltheJigsawDaltheJigsaw Mountain View Veteran
    We can argue all day about the relevance of the "nazis at the door" scenario but it doesn't take away that it is indeed an example of when lying would be the ethical choice.

    Just as using violence to stop an attacker is sometimes the way of least harm.

    Yes, it's an extreme example but it is an example non the less.

    There is a reason it comes up in these threads, lol.
    Exactly!
    But I see Federica point of view as well. Great thread, nonetheless.
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    We can argue all day about the relevance of the "nazis at the door" scenario but it doesn't take away that it is indeed an example of when lying would be the ethical choice.
    there are no ethics in lying, and the Buddha never gave a choice, so why modify things to suit ourselves?
    It's a no-no, if you read the teachings and follow them.
    Just as using violence to stop an attacker is sometimes the way of least harm.
    violent self-defence should be a last resort.
    If people aree volent towards you, and you need to defend yourself, you should still aim to do as little harm as possible.
    But lying is different. in physical self-defence, it's a blow-for-blow.
    Lying to someone for most reasons we can reasonably say we will experience (as opposed to far-fetched and unlikely ones) is not generally an equally necessary retort.
    Yes, it's an extreme example but it is an example non the less.
    No denial there.
    I'm just saying it's completely pointless.
    There is a reason it comes up in these threads, lol.
    ... which doesn't make it any less pointless..... ;)

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    If one of the guards was deceptive he would tell the truth to confuse you.

    :D

    Welcome to samsara. j/k
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited May 2012
    I disagree that the Nazi example is an extreme one INSOFAR as in reality, reality is full of shades of grey.

    What would you say to the cancer sufferer if s/he asks if everything will be OK?
    What would you say to the dying mother who asks if her children will be fine?
    What would you say to your wife/husband if s/he asks if they look ugly today?

    The reality is that Buddhism cultivates the quality of the heart and this is what the WHOLE of the 84,000 + scriptures and teachings are all for.

    Cultivation and freedom of the genuine heart.

    And that is why when people demand to know what is it with the precepts, they are clear guides -- and very good ones. But as some buddy used to say alot, keep the precepts until the precepts keep themselves.

    I would say to the cancer sufferer everything will be OK.
    I would say to the dying mother that her children would be fine, they will learn and do just fine.
    I would say to my wife/husband that today s/he looks absolutely beautiful.

    Deceit is important to stamp out -- and foremost the deceit of greed, hatred, and delusion in ignorance -- but the openness, clarity and compassion of the heart, should never EVER die.

    FWIW.

    Abu
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    I disagree that the Nazi example is an extreme one INSOFAR as in reality, reality is full of shades of grey.
    There is no grey are here....
    This question is about as black and white as you could ever get.
    do you tell them the truth, or do you lie?
    When the Nazis come knocking at your door, and ask you whether you're hiding Jews, let me know what you tell them. ;)
    What would you say to the cancer sufferer if s/he asks if everything will be OK?
    "I don't know how to answer that.. tell you what you mean by ok...?"
    What would you say to the dying mother who asks if her children will be fine?
    It depends what relation this mother is to me, doesn't it?
    What would you say to your wife/husband if s/he asks if they look ugly today?
    "That's a dumb question! I married you because I loved you for every reason under the sun. Why, do you think I'm ugly?"
    The reality is that Buddhism cultivates the quality of the heart and this is what the WHOLE of the 84,000 + scriptures and teachings are all for. Cultivation and freedom of the genuine heart.
    And that should never be absent when we make that earnest decision to not lie.... Buddhism cultivates the quality of the Mind, not the heart. That is whence wisdom comes, and in every form is it cultivated.
    for all the scriptures you cite, show m,e one where the buddha states that his teachings may be compromised....
    And that is why when people demand to know what is it with the precepts, they are clear guides -- and very good ones. But as some buddy used to say alot, keep the precepts until the precepts keep themselves.
    Really?
    And what did he mean by this?
    I would say to the cancer sufferer everything will be OK.
    I would say to the dying mother that her children would be fine, they will learn and do just fine.
    I would say to my wife/husband that today s/he looks absolutely beautiful.
    And if you know this to be the truth, and you are glad to be telling the truth, then that's fine. :)
    Deceit is important to stamp out -- and foremost the deceit of greed, hatred, and delusion in ignorance -- but the openness, clarity and compassion of the heart, should never EVER die.
    ....So by their very virtue, they are a shining example of blessed honesty and truth.
    They cannot be anything else.

    This is how it is with me:

    Truth is a steadfast quality in more than one religion, and is considered sacrosanct.
    As Catholicism is one with which I am most familiar, I will merely take examples from christianity....

    Not bearing false witness is in the 10 commandments.
    Jesus Christ referred to himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
    He tells those listening to his sermon on the mount, "Let your yes be yes, and your no, be no."
    so he makes truth a big thing.
    As did the Buddha.

    Following the Buddha's path is not easy.
    It's a challenge, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
    It's one of the most difficult things I've personally ever undertaken, and every day I fail miserably.
    But failure doesn't mean I can compromise on where I fail.
    Failure just means I need to try harder next time.
    but I stick with the programme.
    And it's a really good programme, nothing wrong with it.
    The factor with things 'wrong with it' - is me.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    Thank you sincerely for your opinions :-) May I ask, would avoiding telling the blunt truth, such as changing the subject or avoiding specific details, be considered a form of lying? In your opinions?
    Not necessarily. :)
    "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them."



  • Hi Fede,

    Your position is understood.

    Well wishes,
    Abu
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them."
    Good quote. It confirms that the precepts have a broader dimension of non-harm, and are not just personal training principles. So on occcasion not saying things is valid.
  • I always liked the quote from William Blake
    A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent
    .

    Been thinking about this a lot. My step-sister once told me she was partial to liars because they want to improve their, or someone else's, life, and they believe lying will help achieve this. No bad thing. But it can be justified in too many situations. For one to truly claim their lie will be beneficial they would need to have superb clarity for what will happen in the future. I certainly don't have that kind of clarity for the situations I face. Plus i can't lie to save my life.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    ^^ Very interesting post Bob!
  • GuiGui Veteran
    edited May 2012
    Regarding the question with the fork in the road; I wonder if after going to paradise or death you would even know then what choice you had made. It seems to me the question of paradise or death would be what you decide to label your destination.
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    For me the precept goes out the window when my wife asks: Do these pants make my butt look big? ;)
This discussion has been closed.