Telling Lies? Yes, Papa!


Blog Post 26: Telling Lies? Yes, Papa!



"One of the Five Precepts in Buddhism is that we not speak false words; we don't tell lies. How can we keep this precept and overcome situations when it comes to telling white lies?"


Singha Rinpoche tells about his days as a child following his Guru in the Theravada tradition. He learned and practiced Theravada Buddhism from his Guru until he passed away. During this time, the Guru had predicted that he would not continue to follow this manner of practice and that his future Gurus would be monks wearing red skirts.

In Theravada Buddhism, observing the precepts is to collect merit for the benefit of oneself. When we take this or any other precept, it is obvious. It is a foundational principle. So when it comes to telling a lie, a lie is a lie. There is no black lie or white lie. When things are either black or white, some people like it that way because it makes many things more straightforward. There is a line here, and we don't cross that line. But is life itself that simple?

If we are at the level of practicing as "me, myself and I," then we are best suited to practice Theravada Buddhism because everything is still about "I." Some of us consider ourselves to be Mahayana practitioners, yet we are still focusing only upon the "I." 

Mahayana practice goes beyond "I" because it considers all beings. The whole idea behind keeping the Five Precepts in Mahayana Buddhism is for us to accumulate merit quickly and to cultivate an immense mind with loving-kindness for all beings.

Everything boils down to what is coming from the heart and the mind. We practice opening up and offering our hearts to the Gurus and the Buddhas, but we must also acquire knowledge through study, and not become blind followers.

Therefore, the crux is about having small breakthroughs in our understanding of things and being willing to evolve and move forward with this better understanding, knowing that things beyond our control can and will happen. 

When we lie, we are cheating ourselves. In Mahayana practice, with all things being equal, we are also cheating all sentient beings. Lying is the intent to make others believe us when we are speaking something false. But when we tell white lies, we must employ skillfulness.

Our motivation and intention are important, but things may not always go so smoothly for us, even with the best of intentions and motivations. Sometimes there are matters where we don't have the merit or the karma. That is why the accumulation of merit is essential.

So, is this world so black and white? We can see that there are daytime and nighttime, but there are also dusk and dawn. In every moment, everything is continuously changing and evolving, so there is no true reality. There is only a perceived reality, and this perceived reality is always conditional. And this is what makes the true nature of all phenomena that of emptiness.


Dharma Teaching by Singha Rinpoche and edited by Sandeep Nath
7 Mar 2021