What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
starter
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What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby starter » Tue May 24, 2011 12:12 am

Hello Teachers/Friends,

After reading AN 10.176, I've gotten an impression that the false speech which breaks the five precepts is consciously telling lies while being called as a formal witness, whereas the other unfactual speech ("He engages in idle chatter. He speaks out of season, speaks what isn't factual,...) is included in idle chatter -- although unwholesome but doesn't really break the precept.

It's interesting to note that in MN 58, the Buddha didn't really mention what should be done in the case of words that one knows to be unfactual, untrue, but beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others. I don't know if the Buddha actually forbid such untrue but beneficial speech in some other suttas or not. As I remember from reading some sutta stories, such speech seems to be OK if the purpose is to save some person(s).

Please correct me, with sutta(s) as proof, if I'm wrong.

Thanks and metta to all,

Starter

PS:

AN 10.176

Unskillful Verbal Action

"And how is one made impure in four ways by verbal action? There is the case where a certain person engages in false speech. When he has been called to a town meeting, a group meeting, a gathering of his relatives, his guild, or of the royalty [i.e., a royal court proceeding], if he is asked as a witness, 'Come & tell, good man, what you know': If he doesn't know, he says, 'I know.' If he does know, he says, 'I don't know.' If he hasn't seen, he says, 'I have seen.' If he has seen, he says, 'I haven't seen.' Thus he consciously tells lies for his own sake, for the sake of another, or for the sake of a certain reward. He engages in divisive speech. What he has heard here he tells there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he tells here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus breaking apart those who are united and stirring up strife between those who have broken apart, he loves factionalism, delights in factionalism, enjoys factionalism, speaks things that create factionalism. He engages in abusive speech. He speaks words that are harsh, cutting, bitter to others, abusive of others, provoking anger and destroying concentration. He engages in idle chatter. He speaks out of season, speaks what isn't factual, what isn't in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, & the Vinaya, words that are not worth treasuring. This is how one is made impure in four ways by verbal action.

MN 58:

[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."

rowyourboat
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Re: What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby rowyourboat » Tue May 24, 2011 1:01 pm

It would seems speaking the truth trumps speaking lies, even if it is unbeneficial.

What is beneficial trumps merely speaking the truth at any cost.

So in terms of importance truth>beneficial>endearing.

With metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby santa100 » Sat Jun 11, 2011 2:05 am

I'd add that try to use untrue statement but benefitting as a last resort, only when you know that the benefit will help the listener to eventually see the truth for themselves. Beside, there're many ways to temporarily side-step the truth without saying "untrue" statement. Example, during Nazi Germany period, a poor Jewish woman try to smuggle a few loaves of bread for her family. The Gestapos chased her down to a nearby train station where a German priest was standing there waiting for his train. The woman told the priest about her situation and the priest decided to help her by hiding the bread under his baggy pants. Then the Gestapos approached and searched the woman but found nothing. They notice a pretty sizable "bulge" under the priest's pants and asked: "What is it under your pants"? The priest said: "I got a god-given treasure which women would love to enjoy from time to time". Finding nothing, the Gestapoes left. The priest gave the loaves of bread to the Jewish woman so she could go home and feed her family. So, not sure if this was a true story, but you got the idea. The priest did not say the true true thing, but he did not say anything false either. Now, that is skillful. He is a true Dhamma practitioner!!

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Re: What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby BlackBird » Sat Jun 11, 2011 2:18 am

IMO Even a falsehood with the best of intentions still constitutes false speech. It's best to reaffirm the precepts daily because it's easy to speak falsehoods if you're running on autopilot. Even minor stuff, us humans have become adept at telling fibs.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 11, 2011 3:33 am

starter,
It is my view that .......in MN 58, the Buddha didn't really mention what should be done in the case of words that one knows to be unfactual, untrue, but beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others......because the Buddha teaches that unfactual and untrue speach is always unbeneficial so the example you have given was omitted because this category does not exist based on the Buddha's teachings...e.g. there is no speach that is unfactual, untrue, but beneficial.
chownah

rowyourboat
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Re: What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jun 11, 2011 4:11 am

Nice one, Chownah :thumbsup:

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Matheesha
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& Upekkha

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Re: What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby alan » Sat Jun 11, 2011 4:57 am


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cooran
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Re: What kind of false speech breaks the precepts?

Postby cooran » Sat Jun 11, 2011 6:07 am

Hello all,

I found this page to be extremely helpful:

RIGHT SPEECH FROM HIS OWN LIPS
http://www.suanmokkh.org/archive/rtspch1.htm

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---


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