Are white lies acceptable?

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

Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:20 pm

the Buddha taught us to do what is skillful and not what is unskillful. if one uses skillful speech one never has to lie.

Q. does my butt look fat in these?
A. you know, i like the black dress better, really turns me on

or whatever

you never really have to lie if you can use a little mindfulness and know who you're talking to

resorting to lying (in these types of situations), even white lies is a sign of a lack of skill more than it is a moral dilemma.

the Nazi thing may be a bit different but i'm sure there is a skillful way out of this situation as well, fortunately for me I've never had to be in such a situation so i am not well equipped to give advice about hiding Jews from Nazis.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby SDC » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:50 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:you never really have to lie if you can use a little mindfulness and know who you're talking to

resorting to lying (in these types of situations), even white lies is a sign of a lack of skill more than it is a moral dilemma.


Well said, jc.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Wind » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:24 am

For the Jews and Nazi case: If they come knocking at my door, and ask me if I am hiding any Jews. My reply would be "You may search if you want. But be careful not to wake the dog, he might bite"

This way i am being honest and the reverse psychology might be more effective, plus the idea of getting biting by my dog will make him think twice of coming in. If you lie about it and they detect a sense of nervousness, they will come in regardless of what you say. So the best thing is not to raise suspicion.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby JeffR » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:33 am

If you lie about it and they detect a sense of nervousness, they will come in regardless of what you say.

I believe this is exactly how the Frank family was discovered by the Nazi's.

To answer the original OP question: No.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:07 am

Stefan wrote:
Peter wrote:
Stefan wrote:Are white lies acceptable?
Are you meaning to ask a dhamma question? If so, do you mean "Are white lies ever wholesome? Or is any kind of lie unwholesome?"
Exactly.

I have never read any scripture in which the Buddha calls lying wholesome; it is only ever called unwholesome. I have never read of a case where the Buddha says "in this case lying is good".

Keep in mind that the hypothetical actions in this thread are really multiple actions bundled together. So there is the intention to protect someone from harm or the intention to protect someone's feelings - these are wholesome and will therefore produce good fruits. Then there is also the intention to deceive - this is unwholesome and will therefore produce bad fruits.

This is likely what the scriptures refer to as mixed kamma.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Stephen K » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:11 am

Thank you Peter.

But is it possible to avoid the unwholesome completely in these situations?
With metta,
Upāsaka Sumana
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby PeterB » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:38 am

The centipede was happy quite
until a toad in fun said
"pray which leg goes after which ?
Which worked his mind to such a pitch
he lay distracted in a ditch, considering how to run .

I think we can overthink things Stefan. We should not act thoughtlessly.
But neither should we attempt to have a strategy for all of life's possibilities.
The guidelines that Anna quoted "The Five Keys To Right Speech" will serve us for most situations.
Its a matter of reflecting on them and seeing how they best apply to any given situation.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Zom » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:21 pm

Telling truth is the option -)
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:58 pm

Stefan wrote:But is it possible to avoid the unwholesome completely in these situations?

I already answered this to the best of my ability.

I have never read any scripture in which the Buddha calls lying wholesome; it is only ever called unwholesome. I have never read of a case where the Buddha says "in this case lying is good".
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Goedert » Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:43 am

No. Silence is acceptable.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Annapurna » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:47 am

Stefan wrote:Thank you Peter.

But is it possible to avoid the unwholesome completely in these situations?


Hi, Stefan,

I would say so, if one is very skillful, and I think that comes with practice.

Just think about the 5 factors, and then carefully weigh your words, as PeterB said. You don't need to rush them.
"It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."


Many truths, blurted out without reflection are not beneficial or spoken at the right time.

As Goedert days, you don't have an obligation to reply.

In tips for skillful conversation the Buddha explains:

"Monks, it's through his way of participating in a discussion that a person can be known as fit to talk with or unfit to talk with. If a person, when asked a question, puts down [the questioner], crushes him, ridicules him, grasps at his little mistakes, then — that being the case — he is a person unfit to talk with. But if a person, when asked a question, doesn't put down [the questioner], doesn't crush him, doesn't ridicule him, doesn't grasp at his little mistakes, then — that being the case — he is a person fit to talk with.


So, if a wife asks, before a party, if her butt isn't a bit too pompous in that white dress, ....telling her: "Yes", will crush her, will be grasping at a 'little mistake'.

If however the wise husband says:

"Hey, I think the black dress is flattering your curves a lot more than this one"

then he has

spoken at the right time (when she asks for reassurance)
in truth,
beneficially, (because she will look better + go to the party in good spirits)
affectionately, (knowing his compliment will help her overcome her insecurity)
and with good will (he doesn't want to burden her with her own inadequacies before a party, but also wants to help her find something more flattering)

This is just an example, of course, and others may be more difficult to answer, like trying to avert misfortune from someone.

In the case of a Nazi officer, asking if you are hiding a Jewish person, this could apply:
"Monks, it's through his way of participating in a discussion that a person can be known as fit to talk with or unfit to talk with. If a person, when asked a question, doesn't give a categorical answer to a question deserving a categorical answer, doesn't give an analytical (qualified) answer to a question deserving an analytical answer, doesn't give a counter-question to a question deserving a counter-question, doesn't put aside a question deserving to be put aside, then — that being the case — he is a person unfit to talk with.


Hope my reply was useful....

Anna :anjali:
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Goedert » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:51 pm

Maybe it a misunderstanding.

The last reply mean, that in a case that you have to tell a lie to protect something, or enever the case that truth is not plesant, the silence is acceptable, silence say many things.

Did not want to produce wrog speech. Maybe it was toopor, not typing in the keyboard the whole statement.
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Annapurna » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:56 pm

I understood you and I agree with you, Goedert, silence is acceptable. :smile:
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/
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