When the Truth is Not Enough

Truth used skilfully is a cure.
Truth used unskilfully is a poison.

— Stonepeace

There is a quiz game show on TV, that is seemingly the most difficult to play, because almost anything can be asked ‘randomly’. This popular game is ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’, which tests general knowledge. Now, some of the ‘remainder’ unasked questions are used in another game, that is seemingly much easier to play, yet paradoxically more difficult for most. This game is ‘The Moment of Truth’, which asks personal questions instead, in a somewhat ‘Truth or Dare’ way. Because all you are expected to answer is ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to questions whose answers you definitely know, it’s called ‘the simplest game on Earth’. With truthfulness determined by a lie-detector, gutsy honesty is all you need to win.

This seems like a game that tests one’s integrity in observation of the Fourth Precept, which guards against lying — though aspects of Right Speech include speaking in a timely manner too, while some contestants’ relations get hurt live by ‘brutal’ honesty. The moment of truth should also be a moment of compassion and wisdom! If not, it’s simply a wrong moment for truth. In this sense, there are many wrong moments in the game, despite mostly ‘right’ answers – because the answering of many questions is motivated by greed to win big money. Another problem is that many issues in question warrant elaborations beyond black or white yes or no answers, without which there is bound to be misunderstanding from miscommunication. How then, should questions be tackled?

As the Buddha taught in the Pañha Sutta (paraphrased): There are four ways of answering questions. [1] Some should be answered categorically [straightforwardly with a yes or no, this or that…] [2] Some should be answered with an analytical (qualified) answer [(re)defining the terms as needed.] [3] Some should be ‘answered’ with counter-questions. [4] Some should be put aside. One who knows which question is which, and how to answer in line with the Dharma would be skilful in handling any difficult or profound query. This is because he is prudent and proficient in knowing what is worthwhile and what is not, able to reject the worthless while accepting the worthy.

Questioning the questionable leads to ‘truer truth’.

— Stonepeace

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