Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Ervin » Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:41 am

I have read years ago a book called Being good, the book was writen by a Budhist monk Hsing Yun. Now in that book he was saying that you should always tell the truth no mater what.

I don't quite agree with him. What if you save lives by lying. What if the life you save is of a kid. Not that adults aren't worth just as much!

Yet at the same time lying is something I try not to do almost in every possible situation. Lying of omission is a common lie I think.

Thoughts

Thanks
Ervin
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:15 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Sönam » Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:16 pm

Lie does exist in regard of a truth. Truth is mostly relative, therefore lie is also mostly relative ... considering that, a truth or identicaly a lie, is depending on the objective, the vector, behind the assertion.

Sönam
By understanding everything you perceive from the perspective of the view, you are freed from the constraints of philosophical beliefs.
By understanding that any and all mental activity is meditation, you are freed from arbitrary divisions between formal sessions and postmeditation activity.
- Longchen Rabjam -
User avatar
Sönam
 
Posts: 1971
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:11 pm
Location: France

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Seishin » Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:36 pm

One doesn't need to lie to not tell the truth. ;)

Gassho.
User avatar
Seishin
Former staff member
 
Posts: 1408
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:53 am

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby maybay » Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:42 pm

Did Buddha Shakyamuni say to always speak the truth?
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
- Machig Labdron
User avatar
maybay
 
Posts: 329
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:12 pm

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby catmoon » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:22 pm

No. There were many occaisions on which Buddha did not speak the truth, but maintained silence. He even outlined the circumstances under which one should speak the truth, and they are surprisingly restrictive. First, it should be correct of course. But also it must be beneficial and spoken at the right time. So there are instances where something correct and beneficial should not be spoken, mainly I would suppose in those situations where the listener is upset and likely to reject the truth, or even form an aversion to it.

So Buddha is saying one should not just ponce about the place spraying truth everywhere without regard for the results.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
User avatar
catmoon
Former staff member
 
Posts: 3006
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: British Columbia

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Ervin » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:30 pm

Thanks Catmoon. But is it ok to tell a lie in some cases?

Thanks
Ervin
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:15 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:38 pm

Ervin wrote:I have read years ago a book called Being good, the book was writen by a Budhist monk Hsing Yun. Now in that book he was saying that you should always tell the truth no mater what.

I don't quite agree with him. What if you save lives by lying. What if the life you save is of a kid. Not that adults aren't worth just as much!

Yet at the same time lying is something I try not to do almost in every possible situation. Lying of omission is a common lie I think.


Texts like the Yogâcārabhūmi-śāstra discuss the issue of whether it is permissible to commit what would normally be a misdeed if it is to benefit others.

The most striking example of this would be out of compassion taking the life of an individual who was about to slay an arhat, thus sending themselves into the lowest realm of hell. The idea is that if you were ending their life entirely out of compassion and sparring them the immeasurable suffering of hell, and saving the life of an arhat in the process, then it would be a meritorious deed.

This kind of logic can be extended to lying as well. For example, if you intentionally misled some thugs who were intent on harming someone (like an arhat or bodhisattva) out of concern for both them and the victim, then the motivation would be pity and compassion, not desire to gain something. You would ensure the safety of the one they're pursuing as well as spare the thugs the nonvirtuous karma of harming them.

On the other hand, lying to someone about something you yourself should be ashamed of such as a past misdeed, is only going to make your situation worse. Falsity motivated by desire for gain, reputation, fame or wealth is a misdeed. Lying to save lives or save people from their own evils is not necessarily a misdeed.

However, the question we have to ask ourselves is do we know our minds well enough to make such judgements?

It isn't really a matter of black and white, but various shades of grey.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby plwk » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:42 pm

It may help if you could provide the exact passage quote for all to see what context or perspective the Master has said. Until then, here's some to ponder over...
http://www.vipassana.com/canon/anguttara/an4-183.php
Then Vassakara the brahmin, the minister to the king of Magadha, approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with Him.
After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat down to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One:
"I am of the view, of the opinion, that when anyone speaks of what he has seen, [saying,] 'Thus have I seen,' there is no fault in that.
When anyone speaks of what he has heard, [saying,] 'Thus have I heard,' there is no fault in that.
When anyone speaks of what he has sensed, [saying,] 'Thus have I sensed,' there is no fault in that.
When anyone speaks of what he has cognized, [saying,] 'Thus have I cognized,' there is no fault in that."

[The Blessed One responded:]
"I do not say, brahmin, that everything that has been seen should be spoken about.
Nor do I say that everything that has been seen should not be spoken about.
I do not say that everything that has been heard...everything that has been sensed...everything that has been cognized should be spoken about.
Nor do I say that everything that has been cognized should not be spoken about.

"When, for one who speaks of what has been seen, unskillful mental qualities increase and skillful mental qualities decrease, then that sort of thing should not be spoken about.
But when, for one who speaks of what has been seen, unskillful mental qualities decrease and skillful mental qualities increase, then that sort of thing should be spoken about.

"When, for one who speaks of what has been heard...what has been sensed...what has been cognized, unskillful mental qualities increase and skillful mental qualities decrease, then that sort of thing should not be spoken about.
But when, for one who speaks of what has been cognized, unskillful mental qualities decrease and skillful mental qualities increase, then that sort of thing should be spoken about."
http://www.vipassana.com/canon/majjhima/mn58.php
[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.
[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."
plwk
 
Posts: 2659
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby catmoon » Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:05 pm

Ervin wrote:Thanks Catmoon. But is it ok to tell a lie in some cases?

Thanks



I don't have sutras to refer to on this, but I've heard a lot and can present some food for thought. These are pretty common ideas plucked from a number of discussions and talks.

In the rules for monks, breaking a vow is not only allowable, but required in some circumstances. Basically, you are not allowed to hold your vows above the practice of bodhicitta.

So if a fellow runs past you, followed an minute later by three guys with guns, and they ask you which way he went, you are not just permitted to lie, it's a moral obligation. True, there is a karmic consequence to the lie, but your intention in lying, and genuine regret at having to do so will minimize it.

It's a dangerous practice. It erodes the habit of honesty and it may require some effort to regain the habit.

The rules on right speech should not be regarded as inviolable paragons of perfection. They are good rules, almost always applicable, but not rigid.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
User avatar
catmoon
Former staff member
 
Posts: 3006
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: British Columbia

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Nemo » Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:13 pm

From a magical perspective telling lies will destroy the efficacy of your mantra practice.

"I If you tell the truth people will hate you."
User avatar
Nemo
 
Posts: 632
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 3:23 am
Location: Canada

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:17 am

Nemo wrote:From a magical perspective telling lies will destroy the efficacy of your mantra practice.

"If you tell the truth people will hate you."
Which raises the question: is it better to tell the truth and have people hate you or tell lies and have people love you?

But really, it is never so black and white.

In the movie Milarepa there is a scene where Milarepa is on the run from the relatives of the people he killed. Milrepa happens across a monastary and enters to rest. The old monk lets and gives him something to drink. In no time there is a knock on the door (Milarepa is clearly upset by the event but says nothing) and the monk goes to answer the door.

The guy at the door asks the monk: "Did a young man come past the monastary?"
The monk answers: "People seldom come past this isolated monastary."

The guy at the door takes this to mean that Milarepa did not come past the monastary and leaves thus Milrepas life is saved.

Did the monk lie? No, he skillfully told the truth.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9514
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Ervin » Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:59 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Nemo wrote:From a magical perspective telling lies will destroy the efficacy of your mantra practice.

"If you tell the truth people will hate you."
Which raises the question: is it better to tell the truth and have people hate you or tell lies and have people love you?

But really, it is never so black and white.

In the movie Milarepa there is a scene where Milarepa is on the run from the relatives of the people he killed. Milrepa happens across a monastary and enters to rest. The old monk lets and gives him something to drink. In no time there is a knock on the door (Milarepa is clearly upset by the event but says nothing) and the monk goes to answer the door.

The guy at the door asks the monk: "Did a young man come past the monastary?"
The monk answers: "People seldom come past this isolated monastary."

The guy at the door takes this to mean that Milarepa did not come past the monastary and leaves thus Milrepas life is saved.

Did the monk lie? No, he skillfully told the truth.

:namaste:


But if your intention is to intentionally mislead then isn't that lying, don't forget about lying of omission.

Thanks
Ervin
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:15 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby LastLegend » Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:55 am

There is a reason why we should not lie because in general the purpose of lying has to do with doing something negative such as hurting others or to benefit oneself. If lie to save lives, then is this really a lie?
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
User avatar
LastLegend
 
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:31 am

Ervin wrote:But if your intention is to intentionally mislead then isn't that lying, don't forget about lying of omission.
I think you will find that the statement was not misleading (and was 100% true) and that the intention was to save the life of a sentient being (who later became one Tibets greatest Siddha and most beloved Buddhist figures).

In Buddhism the aim is to reduce suffering. If the pursuing party caught Milarepa they would surely have killed him and thus it would have been a source of negative karma for them. If Milarepa, at this stage of his development, was on the Bodhisattva path then the karmic outcome for the killers would ave been immeasurably worse.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9514
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Clarence » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:20 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Ervin wrote:But if your intention is to intentionally mislead then isn't that lying, don't forget about lying of omission.
I think you will find that the statement was not misleading (and was 100% true) and that the intention was to save the life of a sentient being (who later became one Tibets greatest Siddha and most beloved Buddhist figures).

I wonder if you would think the same thing if Milarepa had gone on to become the greatest serial killer of TIbet? Would that change the situation? The monk didn't know at the time. Would you save Dahmer or Kim-Jong-Il or Mao or would you let the police in?
Clarence
 
Posts: 584
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:36 pm

Clarence wrote:I wonder if you would think the same thing if Milarepa had gone on to become the greatest serial killer of TIbet? Would that change the situation? The monk didn't know at the time. Would you save Dahmer or Kim-Jong-Il or Mao or would you let the police in?
1. How do you know what the monk knew or not? 2. Even if the monk did not know, saving a life and stopping the pursuers from accumulating the karma vipakka of murder is still wholesome action (even killing a murderous tyrrant is still taking the life of a sentient being, no matter how you look at it, killing a killer makes you a killer and means you will reap the outcomes of the action in one form or another). 3. I have lived and grown up only in countries that DO NOT have the death penalty, where murder is a rare phenomenon (mainly due to logical gun and weapon laws) and where the punishment for murder is not murder. This means that I do not consider killing somebody the SOLE means of dealing with their murderous behaviour. It means that I have learnt to emphasise saving lives, not taking lives.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9514
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Clarence » Sun Jan 08, 2012 2:17 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Clarence wrote:I wonder if you would think the same thing if Milarepa had gone on to become the greatest serial killer of TIbet? Would that change the situation? The monk didn't know at the time. Would you save Dahmer or Kim-Jong-Il or Mao or would you let the police in?
1. How do you know what the monk knew or not? 2. Even if the monk did not know, saving a life and stopping the pursuers from accumulating the karma vipakka of murder is still wholesome action (even killing a murderous tyrrant is still taking the life of a sentient being, no matter how you look at it, killing a killer makes you a killer and means you will reap the outcomes of the action in one form or another). 3. I have lived and grown up only in countries that DO NOT have the death penalty, where murder is a rare phenomenon (mainly due to logical gun and weapon laws) and where the punishment for murder is not murder. This means that I do not consider killing somebody the SOLE means of dealing with their murderous behaviour. It means that I have learnt to emphasise saving lives, not taking lives.
:namaste:


Yeah, well, I grew up in a much more socially progressive country than you. :tongue: And I am still there. I also do not think the death penalty is acceptable. That is beside the point really. The point is that you do not consider it fibbing as Milarepa went on to become the greatest saint of Tibet. My question is what if he became the greatest serial killer of Tibet? And, what if Thessaloniki or Vakrinos or Daglis came to your door with the police chasing them, would you still answer the same way?
That's all. No need to try to assert moral superiority because I am not sure I agree with you.
Clarence
 
Posts: 584
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jan 08, 2012 2:55 pm

Clarence wrote:The point is that you do not consider it fibbing as Milarepa went on to become the greatest saint of Tibet. My question is what if he became the greatest serial killer of Tibet?
No, it seems that you are intentionally misinterpreting what I am saying. I just gave the specific example since it was a clear example of how one can tell the truth without it being "radical".

Quite simply: I don't consider the monks statement a lie because it was not a lie, not because he made the statement to save a specific potential Siddha (ie Milarepa). That said, all beings are, after all, potential Siddhas and Buddhas (and potential mass murderers and everything in between) anyway. That is the reason one should save them.

Now Ervin said something about "lying by omission" and "intentionally misleading". What was intentionally misleading about the monks statement? The statement did not mean that Milarepa did not pass by the monastery, it was interpreted by the pursuers to mean this. Nor did the statement omit the fact that Milarepa had passed through the monastery. The monk is not responsible for the pursuers misinterpretation of his statement.

As for trying to assert moral superiority my response was on the basis of this statement of yours:
Would you save Dahmer or Kim-Jong-Il or Mao or would you let the police in?
Where I live, letting the police in does not lead to the death of the guilty party since there is no death sentence. Anyway, in Milarepas case he was being pursued by a lynch mob of angry relatives, not by a squad of police officers with an arrest warrant.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9514
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Clarence » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:01 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:No, it seems that you are intentionally misinterpreting what I am saying.

You seem to think a lot of people intentionally misunderstand you. I am not intentionally misunderstanding you.
I just happen to not completely agree with you.

I just gave the specific example since it was a clear example of how one can tell the truth without it being "radical".

It isn't yet clear that it was the truth. Lying by omission is still lying. At least, that is what some people say. Would be the same if you asked your wife if she had sex with someone else while on holidays. "oh, it has been a long time since I had sex" seems not enough as a completely honest answer (for the sake of the argument, we assume of course that she had been with someone else).

Quite simply: I don't consider the monks statement a lie because it was not a lie, not because he made the statement to save a specific potential Siddha (ie Milarepa). That said, all beings are, after all, potential Siddhas and Buddhas (and potential mass murderers and everything in between) anyway. That is the reason one should save them.

So Buddha was wrong when he killed the fisherman or ferryman?

letting the police in does not lead to the death of the guilty party since there is no death sentence. Anyway, in Milarepas case he was being pursued by a lynch mob of angry relatives, not by a squad of police officers with an arrest warrant.
:namaste:

So, you would let them in then? Where do you draw the line? A child abuser won't get the death penalty but in America he will be branded online for the rest of his life. So, a child molester comes to you in your house in Greece, do you not tell the police? Or is a child molester worse than a serial killer? I am not being facetious here, I am just trying to find out where you put the line and based on what. For the record, I also wouldn't let an angry lynchmob get to someone. On the other hand, one could say it is Karma and it saves future victims. I guess I just don't see it as clear-cut as you do.

Best, C
Clarence
 
Posts: 584
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: Should you be always radical in telling the truth?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:52 pm

Clarence wrote:You seem to think a lot of people intentionally misunderstand you. I am not intentionally misunderstanding you. I just happen to not completely agree with you.
I did not say misunderstand, I said misinterpret. Your apparent lack of agreement is based on your misinterpretation ie you are arguing with yourself. Lot's of people do misunderstand and misinterpret me (and lots of other people) and I constantly misunderstand and misinterpret people. This is no surprise whatsoever on a medium of communication like the internet. Now my relations with other people though, are neither of concern to you, nor of relevance to this thread, so try to keep on topic please.

It isn't yet clear that it was the truth. Lying by omission is still lying. At least, that is what some people say. Would be the same if you asked your wife if she had sex with someone else while on holidays. "oh, it has been a long time since I had sex" seems not enough as a completely honest answer (for the sake of the argument, we assume of course that she had been with someone else).
You do realise that intention plays a huge role in karmic outcome, right?

So Buddha was wrong when he killed the fisherman or ferryman?
It was neither a fisherman nor a ferryman it was a "pirate" bandit. Anyway who said anything about right and wrong? I spoke about karma vipakka. Karma has nothing to do with right and wrong. Karma vipakka is the outcome (vipakka) of one's actions (karma). Only a Buddha does not generate outcome AND only a Buddha can see the exact consequences of an action. So... what does that mean for us schmucks? Using our limited wisdom we decide on our course of action and deal with it's outcomes. That's it.

So, you would let them in then? Where do you draw the line? A child abuser won't get the death penalty but in America he will be branded online for the rest of his life. So, a child molester comes to you in your house in Greece, do you not tell the police? Or is a child molester worse than a serial killer? I am not being facetious here, I am just trying to find out where you put the line and based on what. For the record, I also wouldn't let an angry lynchmob get to someone. On the other hand, one could say it is Karma and it saves future victims. I guess I just don't see it as clear-cut as you do.
I don't think I said that anything is clear cut, I believe I said that I would put preserving (all) life over taking life. If Angulimala was killed then would he have had the chance to become an Arhat in one lifetime? I also did not say anywhere that I would not call the police to deal with a mass-murdering-child-molesting-gang-raping-drug-snorting-dog-kicking lunatic. Would I save them from a blood thirsty lynch mob? I dunno, I certainly hope so. If I didn't that would deprive them of the capacity to feel remorse and do something to offset the consequences of their actions (all these are hard to do when dangling at the end of a rope off a tree). I would hope that I would.

So as you can see, we are not disagreeing at any fundamental level, are we?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9514
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Next

Return to Exploring Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: maitreya31, theanarchist and 14 guests

>