False speech vs slanderous speech

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Sumano
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False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby Sumano » Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:43 pm

There may be situations where you can't avoid either. Take, for example, the following situation which is based on a real one:

An English man who speaks only English, a Swedish Buddhist boy who speaks both English and Swedish, and two Swedish women who speak only Swedish and are valued employees of the Englishman, are travelling with a minibus through the countryside. During the journey, while the two women are talking to each other, one of them starts cussing, swearing and talking bad things about the Englishman in Swedish. When the group arrives in a village, the Englishman asks the boy: "What was that woman talking about?" And the boy says "She didn't say nice things, sir." And the man says: "I could feel that. Did she say bad things about me? What did she say exactly?".

Now, if the boy says "She said many bad things about you and even cussed you, sir. She said this and she said that..", then the boy would be engaging in slanderous speech. If the boy says "She didn't say anything bad about you, sir.", then the boy would be lying.

What should the boy say, and is it at all possible to avoid both wrongs in such a situation? Which is the lesser evil: lying or slander?
Last edited by Sumano on Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
I am on the path, however not yet advanced. Any opinions or insights I share are meant entirely for discussion purposes and in cases where people might find them beneficial in whatever way. Since I am not advanced on the Path, I cannot guarantee that what I say will always necessarily be 100% true or in line with the Dhamma. However, having had an extremely interesting life with a wide variety of different (many of them deep) experiences, I hope that anything I share will be of use, provide food for thought, and inspire interesting and beneficial discussions.

Mettā to all! :anjali:

santa100
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby santa100 » Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:10 pm

The boy could've prevented the awkward situation by intercepting the women right of the moment they started talking bad things about the Englishman. That way he prevented the women from commiting slandering kamma at first place. He could forewarn the women in Swedish something like "the Englishman might understand some Swedish words and he might ask me to translate what you two said later on. And you two probably know all along how much I hate lying"...something like that..

santa100
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby santa100 » Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:26 pm

..And in case it already happened, then out of compassion for the two women who might potentially face getting fired and thus creating potential misery for their two families, I'd take the lesser of the 2 devils by side-stepping the boss' question. Then later on, separately meet and firmly warn the 2 women with the same statement in the previous post and add something like: "don't blame me for not warning you ahead of time"..

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Cittasanto
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:48 pm

Hi Stefan
pisuṇāya vācāya paṭivirato hoti - Refraining from malicious speech isn't a precept, it is a kusaladhamma a skilful action, so Lying is the greater wrong. also the Buddha said that any wrong action is possible for one who intentionally lies!

The thing with this situation is that she is being very ungrateful, and engaging in Gossip and malicious speech herself, it could be seen as actions which bare immediate results i.e. the results are in this life if the Boy does tell the Englishman, and she was brass enough to do it infront of the man in a manner he could not fully understand, she essentially put a knife in her own back.

I work in a situation where I am the only one who doesn't speak the same language as those around me, and would walk out if I found out they were.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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acinteyyo
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:01 pm

The swedish boy doesn't need to tell the english man everything in detail. Sometimes it's skillful to just avoid conversation which no one benefits from...

best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:38 pm

Slanderous speech has the evil intention to divide friends. It is not slander to speak the truth without that intention. If the Swedish employee is abusing the boss with the intention to discredit him in the eyes of her colleague, that is slander. However, if asked about what was said, or even if not asked, if the intention is to maintain the harmony of the company then reporting the true facts is not slander.

It may be the case that the criticism of the boss is justified — he might reflect on that and improve his behaviour. Or, it might be partly true, but mostly a defect in the Swedish employee. The boss can then interview her and ask her about her grievances. Perhaps she took offence for something he said or did that was unskilful. Then the boss could improve the relationship, or give her a reprimand, or perhaps an ultimatum — shape up or ship out. It depends.

Intention is the crucial factor here. Be careful when criticising or speaking about the faults of others that you are being truthful and impartial. Even the Buddha criticised sometimes, blaming Makkhali Ghosala in the strongest terms.
“I know not of any other single person fraught with such loss to many folk, such discomfort, such sorrow to devas and men, as Makkhali, the infatuate (A.i.33).

What was his intention? Was it to divert alms from Makkhali to his own disciples? No. Of course not? It was to warn people of the grave danger posed by the views that Makkhali held.

Should One Criticise Shameless and Immoral Monks?
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perkele
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby perkele » Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:10 pm

I think the Sappurisa Sutta provides good guidance related to such matters: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Sappurisa Sutta: A Person of Integrity wrote:"Monks, a person endowed with these four qualities can be known as 'a person of no integrity.' Which four?

"There is the case where a person of no integrity, when unasked, reveals another person's bad points, to say nothing of when asked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of another person's bad points in full & in detail, without omission, without holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of no integrity.'

"Then again, a person of no integrity, when asked, does not reveal another person's good points, to say nothing of when unasked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of another person's good points not in full, not in detail, with omissions, holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of no integrity.'

"Then again, a person of no integrity, when asked, does not reveal his own bad points, to say nothing of when unasked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of his own bad points not in full, not in detail, with omissions, holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of no integrity.'

"Then again, a person of no integrity, when unasked, reveals his own good points, to say nothing of when asked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of his own good points in full & in detail, without omissions, without holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of no integrity.'

"Monks, a person endowed with these four qualities can be known as 'a person of no integrity.'

"Now, a person endowed with these four qualities can be known as 'a person of integrity.' Which four?

"There is the case where a person of integrity, when asked, does not reveal another person's bad points, to say nothing of when unasked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of another person's bad points not in full, not in detail, with omissions, holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of integrity.'

"Then again, a person of integrity, when unasked, reveals another person's good points, to say nothing of when asked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of another person's good points in full & in detail, without omissions, without holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of integrity.'

"Then again, a person of integrity, when unasked, reveals his own bad points, to say nothing of when asked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of his own bad points in full & in detail, without omissions, without holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of integrity.'

"Then again, a person of integrity, when asked, does not reveal his own good points, to say nothing of when unasked. Furthermore, when asked, when pressed with questions, he is one who speaks of his own good points not in full, not in detail, with omissions, holding back. Of this person you may know, 'This venerable one is a person of integrity.'

"Monks, a person endowed with these four qualities can be known as 'a person of integrity.'"

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Cittasanto
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:03 pm

One thing that just occurred to me is that the young man is potentially making it possible for any issues there are that the Englishman is unaware of to be addressed and possibly uniting those who are divided.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

perkele
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby perkele » Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:30 pm

Cittasanto wrote:One thing that just occurred to me is that the young man is potentially making it possible for any issues there are that the Englishman is unaware of to be addressed and possibly uniting those who are divided.

Good idea. Difficult thing sometimes. Opportunity might be there or not. But one should always look for it with care and patience.

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retrofuturist
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:14 pm

Greetings,

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Intention is the crucial factor here.

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

danieLion
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby danieLion » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:10 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Intention is the crucial factor here.

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)

Is it? Intention in and of itself does not guide conduct. Doesn't it have to be seen in terms of harm and benefit to qualify as crucial?
Goodwill
Daniel

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retrofuturist
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:04 am

Greetings Daniel,

danieLion wrote:Is it? Intention in and of itself does not guide conduct.

Sure, why not? Cetana (volition) is kamma... and the Buddha explains a lot about kamma in the suttas.

danieLion wrote:Doesn't it have to be seen in terms of harm and benefit to qualify as crucial?

It depends what you mean by this. If you're talking about some sort of elaborate general ledger of forecasted harms and benefits associated with action, then no, that is not crucial.

If you're talking about the sort of reflection that the Buddha taught Rahula in...

MN 61: Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

... then that is, because that's the kind of reflection that leads to the realisation of kamma and its consequences.

MN 61 wrote:"Thus, Rahula, you should train yourself: 'I will purify my bodily actions through repeated reflection. I will purify my verbal actions through repeated reflection. I will purify my mental actions through repeated reflection.' That's how you should train yourself."

According to the Commentaries, abhivinaya is the task of allaying the corruptions, kilesavpasamakarana. (Source: http://buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebsut064.htm). It is the internal discipline, of which the Vinaya Pitaka and suttas addressing morality, right speech etc. are rule-based manifestations. As DarwidHalim said in your recent topic, "Sila is the guide that bring us beyond the sila." The guidelines themselves are not ends in and of themselves. They are tools to guide us toward correct action.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

danieLion
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Re: False speech vs slanderous speech

Postby danieLion » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:11 am

Thanks, Retro. Quite helpful. I really like your new signature, too.
Goodwill.
Daniel


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