A reason for lying

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Sam Vara
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A reason for lying

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:13 am

"Maverick Philosopher" Bill Vallicella has strong commitment to truth-telling, but here he comes up with an interesting pressure to lie:
My barber once asked me if I had done any travelling since last I saw him. I lied and said that I hadn't, when in fact I had been to Geneva, Switzerland. If I had told the truth, then that truth would have led to another and yet another. "And what did you do in Geneva?" "I was invited to a conference on Bradley's Regress." And thus would I have had to blow my cover as regular guy among regular guys in that quintessential enclave of the regular guy, the old-time barber shop. I might have come across as self-important or as a braggart. I might have come across as I come across to some on this weblog.

Lies often lead to more lies, but truth-telling can get you in deep too. Life in this world of surfaces and seemings often goes down easier with a dollop of mendacity. In a world phenomenal and phony a certain amount of phoniness is forgivable.

But how much?
His problem here seems to be his attachment to being a "regular guy" and possibly a desire to avoid difficult entanglements. It might be that one committed to truth cannot interact with others without having the reputation of being set apart and somewhat aloof, even as a lay Buddhist intent on keeping precepts.

An interesting point about the difference between outright lying and phoniness, anyway. Phoniness often involves subtleties like general demeanour, which does not in itself involve the breach of a precept.

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: A reason for lying

Post by JamesTheGiant » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:21 am

His whole relationship with the barber is based on deception, on pretending to be someone he is not. Insanity.
It might be that one committed to truth cannot interact with others without having the reputation of being set apart and somewhat aloof, even as a lay Buddhist intent on keeping precepts.
Yes I think that's right. Honesty and good sila is so rare, it immediately marks a person out as odd or abberant.

Society today is so twisted, or maybe it always was.
There's a meme going around about the new Joker movie. The text reads something like: "In 1989 the Joker was created by exposing him to toxic waste. In 2019 the Joker was created by exposing him to normal society.
creating-the-joker-1989-throw-him-into-chemical-waste-creating-48358439.png

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Sam Vara
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Re: A reason for lying

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:41 am

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:21 am
His whole relationship with the barber is based on deception, on pretending to be someone he is not. Insanity.
I think there's some truth in that, but it's a bit harsh. Much of the relationship is probably open and truthful and therefore unproblematic: "You cut my hair, and I give you some money". The interesting bit is the fact that the barber brings implicit assumptions to the relationship, which then gives Bill the choice of either dishonesty, or the social difficulties attendant upon denying the assumption.

That's the case in all such relationships, of course, but is does remind me why I like the barber in our village. He's foreign and speaks very little English, and so having my hair cut doesn't involve me carefully plotting my way around blokey chat about cars, sex, drinking, and house prices!

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Volo
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Re: A reason for lying

Post by Volo » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:59 am

But what if somebody would tell the barber that the guy did some traveling? Wouldn't he be embarrassed and ashamed? On the other hand, he overestimates the importance of how others would think about him, imo. Most people are so much occupied with the thoughts about themselves that they have only very little time to think about the others. At the beginning they might think of him as an unusual guy, but very soon he would be again a regular guy with unusual job.

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by binocular » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:50 am

Volo wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:59 am
But what if somebody would tell the barber that the guy did some traveling? Wouldn't he be embarrassed and ashamed?
Yes, lies tend to be discovered, sooner or later. Discovering that one was lied to can have worse consequences than telling the truth.
On the other hand, he overestimates the importance of how others would think about him, imo. Most people are so much occupied with the thoughts about themselves that they have only very little time to think about the others. At the beginning they might think of him as an unusual guy, but very soon he would be again a regular guy with unusual job.
A philosopher, and a religious one, at that, with concerns suitable for teenage girls ...
:alien:
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: A reason for lying

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:07 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:50 am
A philosopher, and a religious one, at that, with concerns suitable for teenage girls ...
:alien:
I think a concern to fit in, to be agreeable and avoid needless trouble with others, is suitable for lots of people, teenage girls and Catholic philosophers included. Most people have a healthy amount of it, and BV raising the fact that it potentially clashes with truthfulness as a near-universal human dilemma. I don't think the value of agreeableness is here in doubt; rather the extent to which it is taken.

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by binocular » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:16 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:50 am
A philosopher, and a religious one, at that, with concerns suitable for teenage girls ...
I would have thought that a man of his age and religious affiliation would have figured out such things long ago. Unless he is feigning the whole barber scenario for didactic purposes or some such.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: A reason for lying

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:28 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:16 pm
binocular wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:50 am
A philosopher, and a religious one, at that, with concerns suitable for teenage girls ...
I would have thought that a man of his age and religious affiliation would have figured out such things long ago. Unless he is feigning the whole barber scenario for didactic purposes or some such.
I think he was raising it as an interesting illustration of a perennial problem, rather than trying to "figure it out". An understanding of what the Buddha says tends to nudge us in the direction of truthfulness, of course.

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by dharmacorps » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:51 pm

His reasons for lying are still to protect his ego and image, though. A lot of these things are on us to handle skillfully. You don't have to share 100 percent truth all the time with everybody any time, discernment is the major factor here. The idea is that the substance of what you say is true.

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Sam Vara
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Re: A reason for lying

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:18 pm

dharmacorps wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:51 pm
His reasons for lying are still to protect his ego and image, though. A lot of these things are on us to handle skillfully. You don't have to share 100 percent truth all the time with everybody any time, discernment is the major factor here. The idea is that the substance of what you say is true.
Yes, I agree. With a bit of thought, BV could have had his cake and eaten it. Saying that he worked in education and had to go to a conference, and then maybe changing direction and talking about the flight, would have satisfied all conditions. It's tough to think quickly, though! I think the key might be in learning to be at ease with how others might see you.

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by sentinel » Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:12 am

Is it a compulsory for a buddhist to reveal everything to others truthfully therefore synonymous to non lying ?
Or not lying does not necessitate to tell the truth ?
:buddha1:

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by santa100 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:56 pm

Actually saying the truth at the wrong time and space will cause more harm than help. That's why the Buddha not only emphasized truthfulness of speech, but also its appropriateness in time and space. See MN 58 for more info..

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by DNS » Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:58 pm

Abhayarājakumāra Sutta (MN 58) wrote: [1] In the case of words that the Tathāgata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial [or: not connected with the goal], unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
[2] In the case of words that the Tathāgata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
[3] In the case of words that the Tathāgata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.
[4] In the case of words that the Tathāgata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
[5] In the case of words that the Tathāgata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
[6] In the case of words that the Tathāgata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathāgata has sympathy for living beings.
Notably absent in the passage above are the words: unfactual, untrue, BUT beneficial, endearing & agreeable to others. The Buddha does NOT say this is bad and not to be said, it is simply not addressed in this passage. The Dhamma is complete; good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end. Why is that absent? Perhaps we are to use our best judgment from the Great Standards and what is best for us and others, for what is beneficial, even if it means using a little skillful means.

The Buddha used skillful means with Nanda (I know some believe it was not skillful means) and with Kisa Gotami.

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by zerotime » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:32 pm

DNS wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:58 pm

Notably absent in the passage above are the words: unfactual, untrue, BUT beneficial, endearing & agreeable to others. The Buddha does NOT say this is bad and not to be said, it is simply not addressed in this passage. The Dhamma is complete; good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end. Why is that absent? Perhaps we are to use our best judgment from the Great Standards and what is best for us and others, for what is beneficial, even if it means using a little skillful means.

The Buddha used skillful means with Nanda (I know some believe it was not skillful means) and with Kisa Gotami.
in that Sutta the Tathagata is the maker of those actions. And by its own nature, the Thatagata cannot say unfactual or untrue things because the Tathagata is the same Truth. At the end what is not truth become antithetic with what is good. When we say a lie, a kamma of ignorance is established, and it should be repaired in some future. The Tathagata is the nature opposite to that. I understand this is the reason because there is no the case of the Thatagata saying unfactual, untrue things even benefical.

Although I think the same on what you explain, about using our best judgment and skillfuil means.

When we say something "unfactual, untrue, BUT beneficial, endearing & agreeable to others", this is what we do in example with the children, to protect them in front dangerous things or impossible to understand for them. This is a mixed kamma. When the children grows they will start to ask and then we will explain to them. And it will be solved. On the contrary, that past good intention could become a damage for them. (This is also interesting for our present world of lies, long time under similar reasonings, when now quite people start to ask).

First sense to avoid lying is to avoid the intention to deceive others for the own selfish benefit. When an evil intention is not present, the lie will inhabit a gray zone for the own discernment. It will depend of situations. The resultant kamma will be mixed because a lie existed anyway.

Real problem is accepting our situation. In the lay life we are very exposed. We are forced to generate a lot of kamma, a good part is mixed and also bad. It is not possible to change that. Solitude or the monastic life are the only suitable options to change that. There is not need to invent a new puritanism for the lay life because it is useless trying to ignore what the worldly life implies.

Nevertheless, nibbana is not a reward because sila. Nibbana is not further while the Path is kept, even with killing and lies. Suttas shows that (with Angulimala and others). It is the kamma to burn and the future dukkha what makes the difference. Evil actions means future obstacles in mind and life to be disentangled, more effort and more dhukkha.

Lay life means we should use soft lies and skilful means, even if we don't like it. :console:

sentinel wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:12 am
Is it a compulsory for a buddhist to reveal everything to others truthfully therefore synonymous to non lying ?
Or not lying does not necessitate to tell the truth ?

keeping silence is not lying. Silence is the best option for some complicated situations. Although many times this is very difficult or impossible in the lay life. One should deal with the generation of that kamma, these situations are unavoidable

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Re: A reason for lying

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:30 pm

DNS wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:58 pm
Notably absent in the passage above are the words: unfactual, untrue, BUT beneficial, endearing & agreeable to others.
I think that's because unfactual and untrue are ruled out in so many other places, such as:
Then the Buddha, leaving a little water in the pot, addressed Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see this little bit of water left in the pot?”
“Yes, sir.”
“That’s how little of the ascetic’s nature is left in those who are not ashamed to tell a deliberate lie.”
...
https://suttacentral.net/mn61
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