A WEEK OF VESAK THINKING
Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari
A Thought for the Day 5
By the benevolence of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, may all beings be well and happy. Honesty in speech, people generally say, is the most difficult to maintain. Yes. Let us concede that it may appear to be so. Musàvàdà or lying is dangerously slippery and evasive and takes much less time to execute than any other physical crime like killing or theft.
The danger of proneness to it is highlighted in Buddhism, stating that he who resorts to lying with ease is capable of committing any crime. No crime is too difficult for him. natthi pàpam akàriyaü. Verse no. 176 of the Dhammapada would constantly remind you of this.
Ekaü dhammam atãtassa musàvàdissa jantuno
Vitiõõaparalokassa natthi pàpam akàriyaü.
Dishonesty in speech leads to a total breakdown of all social contracts. Human society has to go on a basis of trust and understanding. Promises have to be kept. Wheels of society move on this basis. We are wheels within wheels. If one fails, the entire set up can come to a grinding halt.
Let us take a few statements from the dhamma and examine them ourselves. He who abstains from lying speaks only what is true. He is sacca-vàdã. In what he says there is factual consistency. Therefore he is bhåta-vàdi. He does not gamble between what is and what is not. Thereby he does not cheat or deceive another, by presenting a picture which really exists not. This is a virtue that is insisted on in the Metta Sutta too. This is what is meant by the statement na paro paraü nikubbetha. An honest man has also to keep to his promises : sacca-sandho. He is also reliable : theto paccayiko.
Talking of the need to lie or be dishonest, it is summed up as 1. for one's benefit, 2. for the benefit of another or 3. for the sake of some gain, material or otherwise. When we are driven to situations like these, why do we not stop for a moment and become aware of the fact that in society we live in the midst of numerous reciprocal relationships, to persons as well as to institutions ? We cannot afford to act hastily and rudely as we choose. We would then be knocking many people on many sides. We violently disrupt social order. Harmony and goodwill depend on this. We know this quite often. But we are unmindful of the consequences. Or in the rude and clumsy anti-social way, we are used to thinking, and saying We could not care less.
At verbal level or in being dishonest in what we say, the absence of immediate recording of what is said, enables the miscreant to change his position with another statement, contradicting the former. This leads to constructive malicious lying. Checking for the truth in this case becomes difficult and disentanglement still more difficult. Defrauding in action is the compliment to this. Deliberate falsification includes both negation of the real and the factual as well as the elimination of one thing and the substitution of yet another for it. Even collective tampering with medical reports, for the sake of personal gain, is not unheard of in Sri Lanka these ddays.
Dishonesty leading from lying to factual distortion, or vice versa, is viewed in legal contexts as serious criminal offences. We know of ministers of state in other countries, now serving three or four years in prison, being convicted of falsifying personal financial statements which in some way are connected with the state. The state today needs to take a more serious view of honesty. Whether they be wild allegations leading to character assasination of men and women, in high or low positions, or rich or poor, whether it be swindling of state funds, in big or small amounts, the state as well as the public must learn to view them with far greater seriousness and to bring to book the miscreants for due punishments.
Our request to our Sri Lankans, quite apart from their religious and ethnic differences, is to hold fast with national dignity to their inborn respect for honesty in word and deed and strive for the uplift of the society in which we live here. Inspite of a temporary gloss of success it can provide for the time being, it invariably nurtutres an inner cancer which would finally be calamitous. Each one of us in this country, must invoke our Dharma or God above, to enable us to be honest to ourselves and to practice honesty with all around us, so that we may salvage the country and its people from slipping into the bottomless abyss towards which it appears to be heading disastrously everyday.
To thine own self be true, O man. You know very the well truth from falsehood. Attà te purisa jànàti saccaü và yadi và musà.
May all beings be well and happy. May there be peace on earth and goodwill among men.