Is it ever O.K. to lie?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby santa100 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:42 pm

bodom wrote:
The Buddha made it clear that there is no flexibilty here. If one chooses to lie one must accept his kamma but the Buddha NEVER said that it was ok to lie or that there is flexibility.

Herein someone avoids false speech and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, not a deceiver of people. Being at a meeting, or amongst people, or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the king's court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: "I know nothing," and if he knows, he answers: "I know"; if he has seen nothing, he answers: "I have seen nothing," and if he has seen, he answers: "I have seen." Thus he never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of his own advantage, or for the sake of another person's advantage, or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever. - AN 10:176


If the text above be applied with 0% flexibility, then what a blessing it was for the Jewish people during the Nazis period for not having to hide in the basement of a German Buddhist family... :smile:
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby bodom » Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:50 pm

santa100 wrote:If the text above be applied with 0% flexibility, then what a blessing it was for the Jewish people during the Nazis period for not having to hide in the basement of a German Buddhist family... :smile:


Yes that is all well and good and if in the situation above I would do the same for the jewish family but the fact remains the same: the Buddha NEVER said it was ok to lie under any circumstances. One chooses ones actions and if they choose to lie they must accept there kamma. Unfortunately one cannot hide from kamma in a basement.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby cooran » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:13 pm

Hello all,

It may be worthwhile to read:
VOLITION (AN INTRODUCTION TO THE LAW OF KAMMA) by Silananda, Sayadaw U

Introduction
The Law of Kamma
What is Kamma?
Good and Bad Kamma
Understanding of The Law of Kamma
Classification of Kamma
Question and Answer

’Is everything due to kamma? In the Buddhist Dictionary Venerable Nyanatiloka writes: “Totally wrong is the belief that, according to Buddhism, everything is the result of previous action.” Any kammically wholesome or unwholesome volitional action is not the result of former action because it is the action itself; that is, volition is not influenced by the results of past kamma. There are several categories of cittas, of consciousness.’’
http://www.dhammaweb.net/htmlbook/page.php?page=5&id=2


With metta
Chris
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---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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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby bodom » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:26 pm

Thanks Chris.

And just to clarify the kamma in my previous post I am referring to is kamma vipaka or the fruition of kamma:

According to the seed that’s sown,
So is the fruit you reap therefrom,
Doer of good will gather good,
Doer of evil, evil reaps,
Down is the seed and thou shalt taste the fruit thereof.

—Saṃyutta Nikāya

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Ben » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:28 pm

bodom wrote:Unfortunately one cannot hide from kamma in a basement.

Indeed!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Heraclitus


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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Sherab » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:52 pm

PeDr0 wrote:I understand the Buddha said that under no circumstances was it ever skillful to tell a lie.
But what if the Gestapo come knocking on your door and you have a family of Jews living in your basement?

Here is how I see it:
If you decide to lie to save someone, the intention is good, but it is still a lie. Therefore, there is still karmic consequence from that particular lie.
If you decide not to lie in order to keep your observance of the precept pure, there is still the karmic consequence of letting someone die.
For me, the choice is obvious.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby santa100 » Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:02 am

bodom wrote:
Unfortunately one cannot hide from kamma in a basement.


Knowing this truth fully well, the compassionate being don't give up but still try their best for the sake of others..
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Lhamo » Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:03 am

If there's nothing in the Pali about it, then it must be a Mahayana thing. So, if the Nazis were after your Jewish friend, whom you'd hidden behind the wall in your home, and they came and asked you if you were harboring Jews, as a Buddhist, would you reply truthfully? I'm just trying to clarify the common understanding here. To tell you the truth, this is the first I've heard that the precepts were hard-and-fast rules.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby alan » Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:05 am

Hi bodom,
Remember the Buddha was speaking to monks. These sort of hypothetical questions would never have come up and therefore would not have been recorded in the suttas. I'll stand by my position--if your intentions are good, you should rest happily knowing you've made the right decision to deflect, avoid, or ignore answering the question directly, if it saves lives. If forced? Lie. What is a lie to those who would kill?
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Ben » Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:24 am

Hi Alan

I think the vast majority of us are faced with complex ethical dilemmas from time to time. And while I have a deep and abiding interest in ethics and how people integrate the Dhamma, and Dhamma-informed ethics in daily life, I have to be honest and tell you that I'm totally disinterested in hypothetical situations. Life is far more complex and nuanced than the mono-dimensionality and unreality of hypothetical situations.
What Bodom was communicating was a statement of fact. The Buddha never said that it was ok to lie. What the Buddha did do, time and again, was to enumerate the ethical import of all of our actions (of body, speech and mind) and that we were heirs to our kamma. That is, regardless of what our actions are and what our intentions are, we need to take responsibility for them.
Sometimes we act in ways that are counter to the precepts and sometimes we break the precepts knowing that it is the least unethical, evil, unwholesome (or insert descriptor of your choice) that we have at the time. If anyone has had to put a beloved pet to sleep or assent to a loved one being taken off life support or having had to destroy a poisonous insect or snake to save another, will know what I am talking about.
Having an acute understanding of the kammic implication of our actions and the foundational value of sila, we navigate the ethical minefield of life the best we can.
kind regards

Ben
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- Heraclitus


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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Lhamo » Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:49 am

Thanks for your reply, Ben. I would put it this way: the Dhamma is to be taken as a whole: compassion, intent, the precepts, are all interdependent. If compassion moves us to euthanize a severely ailing pet near the end of its years, or rescue girls who were trafficked to a brothel (taking what wasn't given us), our pure intent is the key. I think this is what people mean when they say the precepts are a guide, not commandments. They are one guide among many: compassion, right view, intent, etc. being others. All these guiding principles need to be weighed when we are met with challenging situations.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Lhamo » Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:09 am

santa100 wrote:
bodom wrote:
Unfortunately one cannot hide from kamma in a basement.


Knowing this truth fully well, the compassionate being don't give up but still try their best for the sake of others..
Yes, good point, santa. This reminds me: the Bodhisattva vows (oops--Mahayana) addresses this scenario precisely. One vows to do whatever is necessary to reduce or eliminate others' suffering, and if that means breaking a vow, then one accepts the karmic consequences on behalf of others. As others here have pointed out, the karmic consequences of letting someone die would be much greater than those for breaking a vow. But I don't think one needs a vow or other form of guideline to help one make the best choice. Staying focussed on compassion and right intent, and on the best interests of those in need of help, are effective guides.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby alan » Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:24 am

Love your passion, Ben!
But if you look at the beginning of this discussion the question was about a hypothetical situation. I was responding to that, and other questions and ideas that arose in this thread.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Ben » Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:27 am

alan wrote:Love your passion, Ben!
But if you look at the beginning of this discussion the question was about a hypothetical situation.

Ohh dear! Sorry about that!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby whynotme » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:19 am

This hypothetical dilemmas is bad in general. They sometimes are unrealistic. I remember dilemmas like if you see two people drawing, and only could save one, which one you choose?

The Buddha said what leads to bad actions should be considered bad. Then this hypothetical situation leads you to accept lying, then it is a bad imagination, don't think about it, it is just an illusion. That is the teaching, keep thinking about situation lead to good things.

While the Buddha taught about wisdom in real life, people like tricks for the mind. The simplified situations sometimes bring hate, emotion, fear, acceptance.. many bad things to the mind.

If you have a hard situation, why don't you evade it from the beginning? If you think you could lie to Nazi, why don't you find other safer place for them from the beginning? Then people will answer can't find other place. No, real life is not that simple, there are always solutions. If you limit your mind to theoretical situations, it will stops your creativity, stop your ability to resolve real problems.

That why at some levels, I don't like theoretical situations, they are basically all illusions.

If you don't want to lie, then you must invest enough effort to solve the problem before it happens. You must find a safer place, you could arrest the Gestapo, etc..
Did you ever try your best to find a safer place to hide them? You can't answer this question until you meet the real situations, so every answer is just talk only, it is far from reality.

Why live in a fantasy world, find solution for fantasy problems why you have real problems in your life? Why use your imagination to bring bad things to your mind, is this the teaching of the Buddha?

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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Lhamo » Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:58 pm

bodom wrote:The Buddha made it clear that there is no flexibilty here. If one chooses to lie one must accept his kamma but the Buddha NEVER said that it was ok to lie or that there is flexibility.

Herein someone avoids false speech and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, not a deceiver of people. Being at a meeting, or amongst people, or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the king's court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: "I know nothing," and if he knows, he answers: "I know"; if he has seen nothing, he answers: "I have seen nothing," and if he has seen, he answers: "I have seen." Thus he never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of his own advantage, or for the sake of another person's advantage, or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever. - AN 10:176


When a disciple told the Buddha he had freed a pig from a trap, thereby technically committing theft, the Buddha responded that there would be no negative consequences karmically, because his actions had been guided by compassion. (Karunnena, Vin.III, 62) The key is our intent if we break a precept. Surely the Buddha wouldn't want us to send people to their death, or prolong a sentient being's suffering just to refrain from breaking a vow.

This illustrates why it's so important to take the teachings as a whole, rather than focussing on individual passages. A fragmented approach can skew our perception of the Buddha's intent.

I think the precepts are just one of many principles present to guide us in our actions. We have compassion, right view, right intent,the best interests of others, and so forth. All of these are interdependent, more or less equal parts of a whole. All are to be weighed together when making a difficult decision. The Middle Way in deciding a course of action, I think, is to balance the potential rigidity of the precepts with the kind heart of compassion. Where the logical mind might cling to a clear-cut rule, the compassionate heart would help us discern the best course.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby whynotme » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:08 am

Lhamo wrote:When a disciple told the Buddha he had freed a pig from a trap, thereby technically committing theft, the Buddha responded that there would be no negative consequences karmically, because his actions had been guided by compassion. (Karunnena, Vin.III, 62) The key is our intent if we break a precept. Surely the Buddha wouldn't want us to send people to their death, or prolong a sentient being's suffering just to refrain from breaking a vow.

This illustrates why it's so important to take the teachings as a whole, rather than focussing on individual passages. A fragmented approach can skew our perception of the Buddha's intent.

I think the precepts are just one of many principles present to guide us in our actions. We have compassion, right view, right intent,the best interests of others, and so forth. All of these are interdependent, more or less equal parts of a whole. All are to be weighed together when making a difficult decision. The Middle Way in deciding a course of action, I think, is to balance the potential rigidity of the precepts with the kind heart of compassion. Where the logical mind might cling to a clear-cut rule, the compassionate heart would help us discern the best course.
You should research patimokha,

You can release a pig without theft intention, but how could you say untrue things without lying intention?

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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby alan » Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:41 am

whynotme,
Do you even know the meaning of hypothetical?
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby whynotme » Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:14 am

Yes, I know what it means. What do you want to say?

Regards.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Lhamo » Thu Jul 21, 2011 6:03 pm

whynotme wrote:You should research patimokha,
You can release a pig without theft intention, but how could you say untrue things without lying intention?
Regards.

Thank you for the suggestion, I'll do that research. But to answer your question, I'd say that one would willingly accept the minor karmic consequences for intentionally lying for the sake of saving lives, or whatever the extenuating circumstances may be. And the karmic burden surely would be light, because one was motivated by compassion, and (if following the example given in the OP) saved several lives. The thing is, the karmic consequences of not lying, and by one's holding to the precept, causing great suffering to others, or death, would be far greater. So, take your pick.
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