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The Fourth Precept (False Speech/Lying)

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  • The Fourth Precept (False Speech/Lying)

    I think this is another precept that has many levels to it. On the surface the gross lies can be avoid in many circumstances.

    However, there are many subtle issues around it, and I find it is a great training in mindfulness.

    I notice more and more, for example, how easy it is for me to slightly exaggerate, especially if I am telling a story - as an exaggeration can make a stronger effect. I am monitoring this and trying to avoid exaggerations at the moment. I find this is helping me to choose my words more carefully, which I think is a good thing.

    There is a saying in my profession (I give motivational speeches as part of my living), that "never let the truth get in the way of a good story"! So I am learning to swim against the stream whilst still telling really good stories.

    This is just one example for me where I am monitoring my ability to follow this precept. How is this precept for you? What are the situations that test you in saying things or doing things that may not be completely true, for instance?

    What tips do you have to help us all follow this precept? What works for you?

  • #2
    For me, the only problem I've really had is a tendency to make excuses for others by not truthfully representing the situation, by using "positive spin" (or "neutral spin" in the case of evil actions)

    For example, and what bought this to my intention. A friend got thrown out of a monastery I was staying in. Now in this case, it's easy to say something like "They left" or "They decided to leave" or something vague like that. But actually, they got thrown out. If asked, the correct thing to say is "He got thrown out".
    So now I always try to truthfully represent situations, or I don't say anything at all.


    • #3
      V. Well-spoken (Subhasita)
      1227. One should speak only that word by which one would not torment oneself nor harm others. That word is indeed well spoken.

      1228. One should speak only pleasant words, words which are acceptable (to others). What one speaks without bringing evils to others is pleasant.

      1229. Truth is indeed the undying word; this is an ancient verity. Upon truth, the good say, the goal and the teaching are founded.[19]

      1230. The sure word the Awakened One speaks for the attainment of nibbana, for making an end of suffering, is truly the best of words.


      • #4
        I find this precept extremely difficult to keep. For me, speaking is like opening a faucet. Once I do it it is very hard to control what it comes out (usually it is not bad things, because I try my best to be nice, friendly, less critical.. but it can be idle talking) . So the best way to keep the precept is to avoid opening the faucet. Or opening it just a little bit, so only few drops can come out. I also have a problem with speaking at the proper time, and generosity in giving advices even if not asked.
        So for me, the best way to keep this precept is to avoid talking as much as possible.


        • #5
          Hi Ciprian, It sounds like you are becoming more mindful which is wonderful, well done. I found that practising loving-kindness meditation (metta meditation) helped me with my speech because my speech is more likely to be kind when I do. I can physically feel myself change into extra warmth when speaking to people especially if they have been a specific focus of my loving kindness, mu speech becomes kinder and gentler. You might like to see if this helps too.

          Also I work with a personality model (MBTI) which may make some sense to you which says there is a type called the Extravert and they think out loud and thus may tend to say quite a lot. They may also speak first and think later, and thus risk "putting their foot in it". Another type is the Introvert and they tend to think things through on the inside and speak less or speak after reflecting. I imagine this precept is harder for Extraverts than Introverts. You may well be an E - so be kind to yourself in trying to monitor your speech. Hope this helps. Much metta Rachel.


          • #6
            Thank you for the advices Rachel. Now I am trying to put a greater emphasis on metta meditation then before. The result is that I am less critical, more tolerant, so the quality of my speech also improves. I might be an E type, but thank goodness, not the worse case...


            • #7
              Hmmm. This precept is a very tricky and indepth one. For example: I would say to my child... No we dont have any biscuits. Now I change it to: I dont want you to eat biscuits right now. Its the small things we say that make a difference. At the end of the day, there are a lot of decisions that we need to make with ourselves and I guess find a balance. Metta meditation is awesome! It helps in all area's of our life!


              • #8
                Yes I am with you on that Melissa, there are many layers to this precept and it is a wonderful training in mindfulness. The more mindful I become of my speech the more I find there is to monitor, so many small things to notice and be aware of, (so many layers to the onion). That's a great awareness and change you have made about the biscuits, I am going to check now to see if I do anything like that. I think sharing any examples like this is really useful.

                Ciprian and Melissa yes I think metta makes a big difference too. It has made a huge difference in my life, may it do so in yours as well.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Melissa Hayes View Post
                  For example: I would say to my child... No we dont have any biscuits.

                  Melissa: I catch myself doing this all the time. My child will ask for something and I will respond with “maybe for your birthday” when, in actuality, I have no intention of ever buying the thing that he is asking for. In trying to assuage his craving (and avoid an argument) this way I am really only delaying it and creating unrealistic expectations for the future. But when you tell a three-year-old the truth (i.e. “I am never going to buy that for you because it is expensive and you don’t need it”) you had better prepare for a prolonged round of negotiations. While I am getting better about lying to kids, I admit that Santa Clause is still causing me to break this precept.


                  • #10
                    Fiind keeping the 4th Precept help defines who/what should be part of your life.

                    Finding it easier and easier to practice the 4th Precept.
                    Many people these days don't seem to listen as much as they're hurrying to respond; it makes it easier to stick to your facts, pause in your dialog and become mindful of your wording, breathing, body sensations and tone (while listening of course )

                    This multi-tasking mentality has caused many to develop short attention spans; making it easier change the subject.

                    The Egoistic personality will usually only ask you a question just so they can tell you what you think; making it easier for them ask a question with a question.

                    I find it easy to respond with "I don't know how to really answer..or explain "X" and end the sentence silently in your thoughts "without lying to you". or just say "I don't know" rather than lie or pretend I'm knowledgeable about a particular subject.

                    I no longer have a livelihood that encourages you to lie so thats a help also. There's no need to remember what exactly I said to anyone, because the answers should always be the same.

                    I think we ramble or lie to make ourselves or others feel better and think its okay but it keeps us on paths and in relationships that are not authentic; therefore causing suffering in our lives.

                    Caveat: I will ramble with the those that are ill, small children and the elderly, but out of compassion.


                    • #11
                      I think we may also lie when we are afraid of punishment and having to own up to something.


                      • #12
                        The fourth precept, I find, is one of the hardest to keep. Frequently I fail with this precept. For example: being given a tour of someone's brand new house, it was everything I do not admire and would not contemplate living in, but no matter how I tried to word it, there was no way round not sounding enthusiastic and full of admiration. This can be said of anything one is asked with regard to new dress, trousers, shirt, furniture, whatever. Hard to answer honestly. I wish someone could give me some ideas.

                        As far as children are concerned, well we do go along with Father Christmas and the tooth fairy, which after all is harmless, don't we? Is this breaking the fourth precept. I guess it is, but is this a bad thing?


                        • #13
                          I find that keeping this precept on the gross level quite easy. It's the subtle lies in joking, etc. that get me. Sometimes my girlfriend will as "do you still love me?" and I reply "No" usually with a big grin on my face. Or exaggeration for the sake of making a joke. It's obvious to anyone, if they've heard Ajahn Brahm's recent joke about the two carrots, that he does not reasonably think that anyone would believe two carrots were ever walking down a road. So like with the other precepts, namely killing, Blake mentioned the intent behind the trespass. Does one intend to lie for one's own gain or that of a loved one? So does this stop at jokes? One does stand a chance to become endeared to others for having a "good sense of humor". I mention this because I was always the 'joke guy' amongst my friends and classmates. I've also found it a bit easy with practice to be able to tell the truth in such a way as is usually satisfying to the questioner but not entirely offering all of the information so as to be crystal clear. I thought this was the ticket to not having to lie about anything ever as it gets easier all the time. But in the end I try and trust gut instinct. To be philosophical: If the true nature of being is buddha nature, then one only need rely on the instinctual first response so as to be truthful. Lying isn't instinctual. It is learned behavior and requires a choice or some thought, whether measured in nano-seconds or carefully calculated over time. Instinctual behavior from the essential buddha-nature is always there and ready to go without thought or calculation. If one has to think much then, the process of contemplating between lying or not and beginnings of the formulation of a lie have been initiated.

                          Try this little experiment. Think up a hyptothetical situation involving being questioned. Think of the truthful answer. Then re-imagine the scenario in giving a false answer. Keep it short, yet some elaboration of explanation can be helpful. Be mindful of where your eyes tend to look with each answer. it can even just be a faint feeling of looking up or down and to the left with a false answer, and up or down and to the right with a truthful answer. Far more often than not this is a good indicator of truthfulness. With falsehoods, the imagination is used primarily and heavily. with truthful speech, there is the mental "looking up" of facts regarding the answer. Each function resides in a different hemisphere of the brain (normally). WARNING: Don't get into the habit of interrogating people using this method. It's very hard to trust people when you know how to spot a liar, sometimes even though they may be truthful.

                          Jerrod : )


                          • #14
                            As for Santa Clause,

                            I like to tell the story of one man so generous as to do such a thing. I also tell the kids that Saint Nick died centuries ago, yet the tradition lives on because it feels so good to give. A good lesson in dana, yes? I have never seen a need to lie to children about this. In making Santa so special it may seem to a child that this is something he/she could never do, judging themselves against the saintly generosity of Santa. There are a lot of great lessons to be learned. The Santa Clause we are so used to nowadays with the white beard and suit are the product of an advertising campaign in the early 20th century for, I believe, Coca Cola. Santa was a great man, but why not teach the truth about him and promote generosity and selfless giving all year 'round?

                            I had noticed too very many similarities between stories of saint Nick and the "Happy Monk" whom is so often confused with being the Lord Buddha. The Happy Monk wandered from village to village with a large sack full of toys and gifts for the children over his shoulder. Always smiling and laughing. The stories I've read says he was indeed an enlightened monk and delighted in making gifts of toys to all the children. Maybe he did the same for adults? I'm not sure.

                            I often wonder too why it seems so many people are shy about giving credit to the Christmas holiday to the birth of Jesus. Not to mention the co-incidence of the original pagan holiday of Yule happening at the same time. Jesus was one heck of a guy by all accounts and probably a mis-quoted arahant (by my studies anyway). It's kind of like giving credit for Bodhi Day away to Santa.

                            Last edited by Jerrod Lopes; 19th-January-2011, 06:38 AM. Reason: Want to add contemplation about Jesus


                            • #15
                              I will only lie if it is out of compassion for the person involved and it will lead to peace.My major problem is avoiding putting in my 2 cents worth when the office gossip starts.I find its best only to say good things and to put positive spins on things.However some times its a challenge,when like Jerrod I like to make jokes.



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