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Different conditions of lying

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  • Different conditions of lying

    Hello Bhante,

    I would like to ask this question as an addition to the "Five Precepts" thread I created.

    There are two different versions of what is considered lying.
    The first one:

    On Pg. 245

    ...states that a violation of this rule requires two factors:
    1) Intention: the aim to misrepresent the truth; and

    2) Effort: the effort to make another individual know whatever one wants to communicate based on that aim.

    On Pg. 246, paragraph 3:

    Result is not a factor under this rule. Thus whether anyone understands the lie or is deceived by it is irrelevant to the offense.


    On the contrary, the second version is:

    The fourth precept has four factors:

    1. a falsehood
    2. the intention to speak a falsehood
    3. the effort is made
    4. others understand what was said


    The first version doesn't require result whether anyone understand what was said or not but the second version does. According to the former one, mere attempt is considered a breach of musavada. This means when one, for example, say something false to a pet who doesn't understand what was said is considered lying. But that is not a breach according to the latter one.

    Is telling a funny fiction story whose character is implicitly understood by audience is lying or not?
    We meet many people in society, there are strangers, friends, colleagues, employer, etc., is hiding our feeling considered lying or not? For example, hide our gloomy feeling, feel aversion toward one colleague but hide it, etc.
    Pretend to have confidence when one is attending job interview, is this lying or not?

    Since there are different versions, how do we know whether we are lying/deceptive or not?
    Do you think it's impossible to not break the fourth precept?

    Thanks Bhante.

  • #2
    Hi Steve,

    Don't treat the precepts like a lawyer. With that I mean, don't try to find the line between what falls into the precept and what falls outside of it. If you look at it that way, it gets very technical and it will not be natural to follow them. Instead of finding the exact YES/NO division, follow the precepts more like a skilled artists. A good artist just knows when to strike what note or what color to use. They don't have to consult a manual first!

    If you look carefully inside yourself, you'll find it's very clear when you are lying and when you are not. You don't have to look at whether the other person understands it or not, or what exactly the effort was, and all that. Just look at your own mind. When you lie, it will leave a nasty imprint. It will take some mindfulness, though, to do this perfectly. This way you can know when you are lying or deceiving.

    The first link you gave is about the monastic discipline (the Vinaya). In the Vinaya it is important to know what ''technically'' constitutes lying and what doesn't, because there can be severe consequences for monks-if they lie about attainments for example. Therefore, it's good to have as little gray area in there as possible. However, it doesn't apply to you; the Vinaya is for monks and nuns. However, these are still only like the 'law' of the monastics. They are just surface aspects, they are not the deeper underlying idea, the idea of being a good monk/nun, inspiring and living the ordained life in the right way.

    It is very much possible to live without breaking the fourth precept. It may take some practice, and the environment you place yourself in has an impact as well, but in the end it is possible. Lying comes from the mind and the mind is able to be trained and guarded.

    With kindness,




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