The Fourth Precept

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

The Fourth Precept

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:04 am

I have a question regarding the fourth precept, specifically white lies. Are white lies viewed as breaking the fourth precept? For instance, hypothetically say my friend writes a song he's very proud of, and he plays it for me and asks me what I think. Say this song is (in my opinion) truly horrendous. Would it be better to tell him that I enjoyed it, so as to not cause him sadness, or should I tell him that I really hated it, risking hurting his feelings.
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Re: The Fourth Precept

Postby dagon » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:33 am

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:I have a question regarding the fourth precept, specifically white lies. Are white lies viewed as breaking the fourth precept? For instance, hypothetically say my friend writes a song he's very proud of, and he plays it for me and asks me what I think. Say this song is (in my opinion) truly horrendous. Would it be better to tell him that I enjoyed it, so as to not cause him sadness, or should I tell him that I really hated it, risking hurting his feelings.


I won’t answer your question but I will ask you some questions instead
• Is there an alternative course of action?
• If you do tell that lie what might the future consequences be?
• Is truth something that you value in friendship?
• Would you prefer that others are honest with you?
Metta
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Re: The Fourth Precept

Postby seeker242 » Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:18 am

[The Buddha speaks to his son, Rahula:] "Whenever you want to perform a verbal act, you should reflect on it: 'This verbal act I want to perform — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful verbal act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful verbal act with painful consequences, painful results, then any verbal act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful verbal action with happy consequences, happy results, then any verbal act of that sort is fit for you to do.

"While you are performing a verbal act, you should reflect on it: 'This verbal act I am doing — is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful verbal act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both... you should give it up. But if on reflection you know that it is not... you may continue with it.


Would saying you like it "lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both?" Would saying you hate it "lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both?"

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Re: The Fourth Precept

Postby mirco » Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:14 pm

Hey PSS,
PsychedelicSunSet wrote:I have a question regarding the fourth precept, specifically white lies. Are white lies viewed as breaking the fourth precept? For instance, hypothetically say my friend writes a song he's very proud of, and he plays it for me and asks me what I think. Say this song is (in my opinion) truly horrendous. Would it be better to tell him that I enjoyed it, so as to not cause him sadness, or should I tell him that I really hated it, risking hurting his feelings.

my brainstormin on this:

- This question regularly comes up and the usual answers are: Yes, whitelies are lies. Ask any Buddhist teacher, they all tell the same.
- A lie does not become the truth because someones feeling are supposed to be "protected". It stays a lie.
- Fully thought through, no one has any benefit of not telling the truth.

- Best and most helpful friends to me are those telling the truth. To grow spiritually, I need their honesty.

- I myself am responsible for how I do react to my feelings. If someone tells me an inconvenient truth - hey, it's up to me how to react to that. I may be a bit disappointed (because things ain't the way I want them to be), but, like all feelings, that's temporarily only. Next to that, how could I learn how unpleasant feelings work (and thus overcome them), if they wouldn't be there.


Sending Mettā,
Mirco
I get what I give
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Re: The Fourth Precept

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:06 pm

Good question.

I've seen too many situations where people would have been hurt, badly, lost jobs and other things if a white lie had not been told. I didn't see harm coming from the white lies either.

White lies are why I try to keep as many precepts as I can, but don't consider myself as having committed to them. I couldn't make that commitment with full honesty.

Same with idle chatter, is social glue. There are going to be times where I am going to talk when it isn't a practical necessity.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: The Fourth Precept

Postby dagon » Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:36 pm

hi all

Here is the problem – the precept tells you not to lie – it is a training precept to develop your moral/ethical side. As you tell lies the next lie becomes easier and you development becomes harder. Lies lead to more lies on that issue, then you have to tell even more to protect yourself – then you get caught out and anger results with more unskillful speech resulting. Once you start to make excuses to lie you will find it convenient to make excuses to lie when it suits you. Extracting you self is a lot harder than not tell lies in the first place.

To look at the example given what are the possible outcomes – you have been asked as a caring friend. If you say that you like it the writer will perform the song to other who may be more honest – either to their face or maybe behind their back. When the song writer hears this they will be angry both with the person making the comments and probably with you for not being honest – not being a true friend. Will this help you development?

You can be honest without saying it is #$%^ , you can say that somehow it does not appeal to you. You also have the alternative of finding some words or content that has the potential to be developed and identify those for your friend.
You do have the option of saying that as you are my friend I expect that you would always tell me the truth; and as your friend I have to be honest and say that I don’t think that song is very good.

At work I often get asked difficult questions that I could answer with “white lies”. The temptation is high when you are asked “will I ever walk again”, “am I dying”' “is my mother dying” ……. The imitate reward is that you get out of a difficult situation, the longer term costs can be as high as others not preparing themselves for death.

The strategy that I try and use is to get other to realise the truth for themselves. An example I could easily give is that I look after an old lady that had dementia (along with many other conditions). She is in her late eighties and is always asking to go home to see her mother. I tell her how old I am and say that my mother died of old age. She then normally thinks and will say that she is older than me ‘so I suppose that my mother is also dead”. Because she has sensed this with her mind rather than through hearing she is more accepting of the situation. I normally answer that same question 10 to 20 times a night.

Other carers will tell her that she will see her mother later. Later she knows something is wrong but not know what it is – she then gets upset, confused and angry.

Often what you face is not making the best decision – it is making the least worst decision after reflecting appropriately on the situation.

Metta
paul
Last edited by dagon on Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:32 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Fourth Precept

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:24 pm

Dagon,


Thank you very much for that answer. It gave me much to think about.



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