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 Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jul 21, 2011 7:34 pm

There is no need to lie, but sometimes one must be economical with the truth. Focus on the positive, and overlook the negative to show people the way to heaven.

At once time, Venerable Sāriputta was walking for alms when Tambadāthika saw him. He had faith on seeing the elder and wished to offer alms. He gave the elder his own breakfast that he was about to start eating.

While the elder was teaching the Dhamma to him, Tambadāthika's mind was troubled by all of the evil deeds he had done as a robber and then public executioner. Seeing that he was unable to concentrate on his discourse, the elder asked him, "Did you want to kill all of those victims?" Tambadāthika replied that he felt he had no choice. By this skilful means, the elder eased Tambadāthika's conscience and made him think that he was not to blame for those actions. (Of course, he was still guilty of intentionally killing others, but the kamma is less if one does it under duress, fearing for the loss of one's own life).

Thereafter, Tambadāthika was able to concentrate, gained Anuloma ñāna, and dying shortly afterwards was reborn in the Tusita heaven.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby whynotme » Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:12 am

Dear bhikkhu Pesala,

Are you a monk? Greetings, sadhu, well said

@ everyone think lying could be acceptable:

I don't judge people by their actions, because that is not my job. But lying is not good, you should not imagine at situations that could lead to bad actions.

If you think you save others' lives by lying, and accept the bad kamma of that actions, well, I think the kamma of lying is not very bad, as in the patimokka the lying actions is not a big deal, except lying about noble things. But the thoughts that one accepts lying is clinging, that's all I want to say. Why do you need to cling to that thoughts?

If you think you could save others' lives in a hypothetical situation, then I have a situation for you:
A mass murderer is going to kill hundreds of victims by press a button of a bomb, there is a gun and you are the only one could stop him by killing him instantly by a shot, there is no other way to stop him, if he is wounded, he still could trigger the bomb. What is your choice? Remember that you could save hundreds lives, do you kill him? Or do you let hundreds people die?

Here is my choice: I don't kill him, but is there any hero here?

Welcome to life, here are politics, warfare, military actions, economical management, many situations that it would be very hard to not lying for the sake of some people, maybe including yourself. I think, for the sake of the others, are big and impressed words, but luckily the Buddha didn't do anything like that, for the sake of the others.

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

Postby alan » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:10 am

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

Postby santa100 » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:57 am

Whynotme wrote:
A mass murderer is going to kill hundreds of victims by press a button of a bomb, there is a gun and you are the only one could stop him by killing him instantly by a shot, there is no other way to stop him, if he is wounded, he still could trigger the bomb. What is your choice? Remember that you could save hundreds lives, do you kill him? Or do you let hundreds people die?


Need more info. for appropriate action: type of rifle (automatic, semi-automatic, with or without sniper optic scope?), number of rounds available, distance from the mass murderer (point blank, 100-200m, beyond 300m?). If your weapon is automatic, there're plenty of rounds, and distance within 200m, you can aim at the arm and spray it; if it's a sniper rifle, aim at the arm with the optic scope; no automatic weapon, only a few rounds, and within 100m? go for the lower belly, being hit in this area won't kill but cause enough pain to immobilize; beyond 300m? good luck, it's a hit or miss, aim for the trunk since it's a bigger target than the head. Bottom line, try your best to save as many lives as you can (including the mass murderer too, if possible)...
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Jason » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:26 pm

I have to agree with Richard Gombrich's opinion, who writes in What the Buddha Thought, "The Buddha does not often propound absolute moral values without reference to context — though Chapter 6 above deals with a major exception. Truth, for example, is a very important value; but in the standard dilemma whether a mother should tell the truth when her son is hiding from murderous enemy soldiers and they come and ask her where he is hiding, one cannot imagine the Buddha saying that she must tell the truth: he would say he is a vibhajja-vado [i.e., one who 'distinguishes the different implications of a question']" (pp. 170-71).
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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

Postby Mama » Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:26 pm

So do I tell my young children the truth about Father Christmas?
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Lhamo » Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:03 pm

Whynotme, why do I get the feeling this topic upsets you? No one is throwing caution (or precepts) to the wind, and saying we don't need to take the precepts seriously, or we can lie whenever we feel it convenient. The discussion is about the rare and extraordinary situations that may arise in life (or may not, for the fortunate) in which one may be faced with the difficult decision of either hewing to the precepts, or helping others. This is a worthwhile topic to discuss on a Buddhist forum, this is what forums like these are for. "What would we do IF..." some unthinkable predicament arose? And over the course of a lifetime, one or two may. If we discuss such difficult questions in advance among like-minded people, our "virtuous friends" of the sangha, we will be better prepared to face the unexpected and to take the right course.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Jason » Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:07 pm

Mama wrote:So do I tell my young children the truth about Father Christmas?


I don't know why people pretend he's real in the first place. I'd much rather receive gifts from my friends and family than some imaginary man who forces an entire race of imaginary beings in some frozen tundra sweatshop to make the gifts he then gives and gets all the credit/cookies and milk for. Maybe some class-conscious kid should slip a copy of the Communist Manifesto in with their letter, because I bet Santa doesn't read them all himself. Elves of the world, unite!
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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

Postby Lhamo » Sat Jul 23, 2011 12:18 am

haha! That's a good laugh, Jason! How do we know Santa & helpers aren't Enlightened Beings working devotedly for others' happiness? Besides, Marx was all for working hard for a higher good. After visiting the utopian experiments in the US, he took the Shaker maxim, "Hands to work, hearts to God" and tweaked it to come out "Hands to work, hearts to the good of the working class" or "Hands to work, hearts to Lenin", was a later permutation. :lol: You're killing me! :rofl:
(Thanks, we needed some comic relief on this thread. )
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Jason » Sat Jul 23, 2011 12:59 am

Glad someone got a laugh out of it. :D
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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

Postby DarwidHalim » Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:59 am

PeDr0 wrote:I understand the Buddha said that under no circumstances was it ever skillful to tell a lie.


I think it is not a buddhist way. In buddhism, any actions, even killing, is free from good or bad.

The one that make it good or bad, is the motivation behind it. Not the action itself.

Suppose, you are a weak person. You meet 1 person running to you and hide in your bedroom. Suddenly 1 terrorist full of weapon who want to kill him came and ask you about this person. What do you want to do?

Tell him yes he is here and please don't kill that guy? This is an action without wisdom.

By telling lie with the motivation to save both of them, your action is wholesome.
By telling lie, you save the killer from his bad karma, as you know killing a person will give that person a very bad karma.
By telling lie, you also save that guy who hide in your bedroom.

Buddhism is not a teaching A is A, B is B. Nothing is absolute in buddhism. Every vows in buddhism has a reason behind. When we don't do like the vows, from outside it looks like we are breaking the action. But breaking the action doesn't mean you break the reason behind that vows.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Nori » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:21 am

There is a very specific teaching by the Buddha (cannot recall the sutta), which is that you shouldn't be attached too strong to rules and precepts. On many occasions, the Buddha suggested things for the order, only to change it later due to some specific reason. Not that not lying is a 'rule', or that there exist any - 'rules'. I think what is important is to understand the intention behind the recommendations he made (i.e. what is the reason for his recommendation, and how is it conducive to well being?).
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby Ben » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:34 am

I think this one might be of relevance:


"For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."


The person who lies,
who transgress in this one thing,
transcending concern for the world beyond:
there's no evil
he might not do.
— Iti 25
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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

Postby Ben » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:40 am

And another...

"And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong speech as wrong speech, and right speech as right speech. And what is wrong speech? Lying, divisive tale-bearing, abusive speech, & idle chatter. This is wrong speech...

"One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right speech."

— MN 117
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:43 pm

Ben wrote:I think this one might be of relevance:


"For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."


The person who lies,
who transgress in this one thing,
transcending concern for the world beyond:
there's no evil
he might not do.
— Iti 25


Thing is, though, while this passage warns of a hypothetical evil ("there is no evil he might not do"), in the Gestapo scenario one is committing, or at least abetting, a real and immanent evil by not concealing the family's presence. Since harm is being done in either case, it seems to me one must choose the option that does less harm -- in this case, hiding the family.

We do not know for sure what sort of unwholesomeness might arise from deceiving the Nazis, nor what vipaka would result, but we can be fairly certain about what will happen if the Gestapo find who they're looking for.

It is also questionable whether the lie in this case can be termed "deliberate", since it is occurring under duress. Volition is compromised when someone is pointing a gun to your head.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby BuddhaKurt » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:57 pm

Some lies are for the benefit and welfare of others, which would make it okay. sometimes lies are told by accident. If your intentions are pure, and you are an honest person, your mind will not be tied down to remembering lies. Liars, cheaters, gossipers and secret keepers are tied to a world of suffering. When a person has nothing to hide, is open and honest, the mind is free and a free mind will open (enlightenment.)
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Sep 20, 2011 12:16 am

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

Indeed!


Sometimes you have to hide under the bed.

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

Postby whynotme » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:49 pm

santa100 wrote:
Whynotme wrote:
A mass murderer is going to kill hundreds of victims by press a button of a bomb, there is a gun and you are the only one could stop him by killing him instantly by a shot, there is no other way to stop him, if he is wounded, he still could trigger the bomb. What is your choice? Remember that you could save hundreds lives, do you kill him? Or do you let hundreds people die?


Need more info. for appropriate action: type of rifle (automatic, semi-automatic, with or without sniper optic scope?), number of rounds available, distance from the mass murderer (point blank, 100-200m, beyond 300m?). If your weapon is automatic, there're plenty of rounds, and distance within 200m, you can aim at the arm and spray it; if it's a sniper rifle, aim at the arm with the optic scope; no automatic weapon, only a few rounds, and within 100m? go for the lower belly, being hit in this area won't kill but cause enough pain to immobilize; beyond 300m? good luck, it's a hit or miss, aim for the trunk since it's a bigger target than the head. Bottom line, try your best to save as many lives as you can (including the mass murderer too, if possible)...


Here is the info:
The murderer has very thick body armor covering all of his body, or he is standing after a wall, the only possible target is the head. Hey, assume you have a sniper rifle and the ability to use it, and the only way is aiming for the head and killing him instantly. Time is counting in seconds, you don't have time to change position to choose other part of body of him because he is going to press the button of the bomb. What will you do, kill him or not?
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby whynotme » Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:03 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Ben wrote:I think this one might be of relevance:


"For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."


The person who lies,
who transgress in this one thing,
transcending concern for the world beyond:
there's no evil
he might not do.
— Iti 25


Thing is, though, while this passage warns of a hypothetical evil ("there is no evil he might not do"), in the Gestapo scenario one is committing, or at least abetting, a real and immanent evil by not concealing the family's presence. Since harm is being done in either case, it seems to me one must choose the option that does less harm -- in this case, hiding the family.

We do not know for sure what sort of unwholesomeness might arise from deceiving the Nazis, nor what vipaka would result, but we can be fairly certain about what will happen if the Gestapo find who they're looking for.

It is also questionable whether the lie in this case can be termed "deliberate", since it is occurring under duress. Volition is compromised when someone is pointing a gun to your head.

You forgot one thing, Buddhism is about free from relation, you want to save other lives, it is a good intention but be careful of its relation.

It seems people don't believe in the Teacher, they only believe in their own eyes.

In the suttas, a king said the most loved thing to one is oneself, so your life or other lives, which one do you choose? And in another sutta, Sukkha the king of Devas thought that, even costing his life, he won't lie. Hope that helps.
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Re: Is it ever O.K. to lie?

Postby santa100 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:10 pm

Whynotme wrote:
Here is the info:
The murderer has very thick body armor covering all of his body, or he is standing after a wall, the only possible target is the head. Hey, assume you have a sniper rifle and the ability to use it, and the only way is aiming for the head and killing him instantly. Time is counting in seconds, you don't have time to change position to choose other part of body of him because he is going to press the button of the bomb. What will you do, kill him or not?


Well, the key stragetic goal would still be the same: to save many lives including the mass murderer "If Possible". Depends on the situation, we can come up with creative and flexible ways to achieve this goal. Obviously, there'll be a situation where one's really left with no other choice but to squeeze the trigger. By the way, just to spice things up a little bit, given all the premises that you already given, adding that many of your relatives and loved ones (grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, spouse, kids, etc...) are among the hostages. What will YOU do?
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