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To lie is to misalign others from the truth.
To lie is also to misalign oneself from the truth
that there will be karmic repercussions for doing so.

Stonepeace

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)

This statement of the Buddha discloses both the negative and the positive sides to the precept. The negative side is abstaining from lying, the positive side speaking the truth. The determinative factor behind the transgression is the intention to deceive. If one speaks something false believing it to be true, there is no breach of the precept as the intention to deceive is absent. Though the deceptive intention is common to all cases of false speech, lies can appear in different guises depending on the motivating root, whether greed, hatred, or delusion. Greed as the chief motive results in the lie aimed at gaining some personal advantage for oneself or for those close to oneself — material wealth, position, respect, or admiration. With hatred as the motive, false speech takes the form of the malicious lie, the lie intended to hurt and damage others. When delusion is the principal motive, the result is a less pernicious type of falsehood: the irrational lie, the compulsive lie, the interesting exaggeration, lying for the sake of a joke.

The Buddha’s stricture against lying rests upon several reasons. For one thing, lying is disruptive to social cohesion. People can live together in society only in an atmosphere of mutual trust, where they have reason to believe that others will speak the truth; by destroying the grounds for trust and inducing mass suspicion, widespread lying becomes the harbinger signaling the fall from social solidarity to chaos. But lying has other consequences of a deeply personal nature at least equally disastrous. By their very nature lies tend to proliferate. Lying once and finding our word suspect, we feel compelled to lie again to defend our credibility, to paint a consistent picture of events. So the process repeats itself: the lies stretch, multiply, and connect until they lock us into a cage of falsehoods from which it is difficult to escape. The lie is thus a miniature paradigm for the whole process of subjective illusion. In each case the self-assured creator, sucked in by his own deceptions, eventually winds up their victim.

The Noble Eightfold Path
Bhikkhu Bodhi

Related Course:
The Path Of Paths: Walking The Noble Eightfold Path
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2012/01/course-the-path-of-paths-walking-the-noble-eightfold-path

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3 Responses to “Importance of Truthfulness As Right Speech”

  1. :tongue: 身口意必要一致。Behaviour speech & thought must be in phase too.

  2. Derringer February 15, 2012

    Honesty is a virtue, but sometimes it can be a curse. Insensitive people or those in a drunken stupor often speak words of brutal honesty which upset and hurt the feelings of people close to them, creating alot of illwill and enemity.

  3. Speakwell February 15, 2012

    The Buddha doesn’t advocate brutal honesty, but skilful honesty, such that even difficult truths are addressed, in a palatable and not unappealing way. He led this by example, as we see how he communicated in thoussands of dialogues in the scriptures, even with those angry at him out of deluded reasons.

    A related article:
    https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2009/07/how-the-buddha-chooses-what-to-say

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