Random Thoughts on Lying and False Speech

In Buddhism, there is the precept not only against lying but against false speech as well – because there is a difference.

Lying

Lying is when you intentionally tell an untruth.

False Speech

False Speech on the other hand is saying something that is untrue – but you may not necessarily know that it’s not true. I mean, if you really didn’t know then you can’t be blamed for it because you sincerely thought that what you said was true.

But if in the face of the evidence, people still insist of adhering to falsehoods – now that is unbecoming of a Buddhist – it’s not right.

Why do people lie?

Usually so that they can:

  • Gain some short term advantage OR
  • Not put themselves in a bad light or at a disadvantage if they had to tell the truth.

As a Buddhist, it behooves you to find out the truth of matter of thingsBEFORE you spread it around. Because:

  • Buddhism is about the Truth and about Truthfulness.
  • Not about falseness, lies and deceit.

Not about counterfeit truth – but REAL truth!

You don’t have to be pedantic about verifying absolutely everything for yourself – because that would waste too much time – and you’d be reinventing the wheel. So you still need to use your own wisdom and judgment. You need to develop some skill in:

  • WHEN you need to verify
  • WHEN you can accept something as the truth without need for further verification

And you might not be right all the time. You will make mistakes. But the thing is – when you do catch yourself having made a mistake – then you be humble enough to admit it AND THEN change your views from what is false to what is true.

So you’ve got to ask yourself – what’s the evidence from primary sources?! [Not necessarily evidence from secondary sources – which are just opinions from writers, authors, journalists]

What’s a primary source?

  • Video or audio of someone saying or doing something – especially
  • Video of the event
  • Raw data – with zero added opinion
  • A sworn affidavit under penalty of perjury

I liken this to a doctor examining a scan of a patient – maybe an X-ray or an MRI or a CT Scan. How they SHOULD approach it is by looking at the RAW scan WITHOUT any preconceived biases of any disease. In other words, approach the diagnosis with an empty mind – free your mind of any preconceived diagnoses.

Why?

If they approach it with a preconceived disease in mind – their mind will be:

  • Biased towards that disease, picking up the tiniest bit of evidence towards that disease and
  • Dismissing/discounting any and all evidence that says – no, it’s not that disease.

What is a secondary source?

This is usually an opinion by some writer or author or journalist. It may or may not be right. You’ve got to double check the sources they are using to verify – oh no, this source has this flaw, that source has that flaw.

The mainstream media these days is FULL of lies – pretty much 24/7!

As Denzel Washington once remarked:

  • If you don’t read the news, you’re UNinformed
  • If you do read the news, you’re MISinformed

Most western media news outlets these days are just propaganda pieces masquerading as news.

How can you tell? If it’s:

  • An opinion piece – the writer or journalist is just spouting opinion and platitudes or statements – without being able to back them up with any solid evidence. The key is there’s little to no primary evidence – it’s just all the author’s opinion!
  • Anonymous sources – now they’re not going to explicitly anounce that they used “Anonymous sources” – they’re just going to say, “Sources said” – and then that’s when you’ve got to perk up and ask – what sources?! Says who?! If you don’t give the name, then it’s an anonymous source – and so a firm conclusion can’t be drawn and the matter needs to be set aside or deemed as false.

I’m not joking when I say these days that most things I read on the news won’t even pass a high school essay grading. Why? For the simple fact that they don’t reference! They don’t cite from legitimate primary sources.

Malicious lies can divide people against each other

That’s what I’m seeing today. And these malicious lies don’t even stand up to scrutiny! So I’m actually surprised by how many people just readily accept what is spoonfed to them on the news – the news is often just spoonfeeding you what THEY want you to believe.

The evil in malicious lies is that it sets people against each other – pitting friends against friends, and family members against family members. Young, impressionable people are especially at risk. As well as older people and even, believe it or not – highly intelligent people.

How easy is it to brainwash a whole group of people?

Very easy.

All you need is:

  1. Build someone up to be an expert (whether or not they are an expert is a different story – but they need to be PERCEIVED as an expert)
  2. Get that expert to say whatever you want

Watch the audience just lap it all up unquestioningly and blindly. So 1 false statement by a PERCEIVED expert – can brainwash the ENTIRE audience to believe in a wrong view! That’s how easy it is to brainwash the masses. Why? Because the masses just blindly believe – it’s a form of dogma.

What’s another easy way to brainwash people?

Repeat the same lie over and over and over again – even if it’s false. You see this happen all the time in the media. And many people just accept it without even questioning it.

So how does a Buddhist protect themselves from being brainwashed?

  1. Ask – is this true? Or is it false?

Simple question but almost no one does this. It comes from the Abhaya Sutta. Whatever comes up – ask yourself is this true? Or is it false?

Our job as Buddhists is to extricate the facts as facts and the fiction as fiction with whatever is presented in front of us.

2. Beware of the 3 poisons influence on your mind – greed, hatred, delusion

These 3 things cloud your mind and color your mind such that your mind will be so clouded and so taken up by the colors that it WILL be prejudiced!

One of the things that I read years ago that the Buddha taught is this:

  • If you hate a person – no matter what they say or do – even if they do something that is genuinely good. You will still think that they are doing the good with an ulterior motive – you will still think that they are not genuinely good. And it will be hard (more so for some than others) – to extricate your own mind of your hatred for them.
  • If you really like someone – really infatuated with them – you will think that whatever they do is the bees knees! You will think that they are some angel cometh onto earth! And even when they do do something horrible or evil that harms others – you will make up excuses for them!

I see this stuff all the time in my friends – even devout Buddhists! It’s sad to see but they don’t realize that the hatred has taken over their minds and they have become deranged. And no amount of real word evidence can convince them otherwise.

Why?

Because it’s an emotional thing for them – the emotion has taken over their minds such that reason can no longer get there. You can’t reason with an emotional person.

3. Stabilize your mind with Shamatha

Shamatha is stabilizing meditation – where you focus your mind just on 1 thing for it to do – like focusing on a mantra that you’re saying. This locks your attention on to that 1 thing – preventing your mind from running around this way and tha way. Like tying a monkey to a pole – the monkey wants to jump here and there. But it can’t get far when it’s tied to a pole.

Similarly, when your monkey mind is anchored down with shamatha – it wants to run around every which way, scattered. But with shamatha – it can’t – focusing on the mantra brings the monkey mind back to the object of focus again and again and again. Shamatha puts restraints on how far and how extensively the mind can jump out and wander about.

After a while of practicing shamatha – your mind naturally calms down and won’t be as easily taken in by strong emotions. THEN you can look at the evidence of things with more equanimity – with more even-mindedness without being prejudiced or biased towards any outcome.

The Buddha taught about the Difficulty of having a lot of worldly knowledge

Worldly knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean correct knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily mean true knowledge or right views. It could be wrong views based on partial and incomplete knowledge.

Edward De Bono – an expert on thinking – teaches about The Intelligence Trap.

What this means is that the more intelligent someone is – the better they are at debating and arguing their case.

So if you get an extremely intelligent person – they’ll be able to argue and debate their wrong view with an amazing amount of skill and confidence. But it’s still the wrong view! It’s still false!

Whereas, if you have a dull person – someone who is not so intelligent – even if they hold the right view – it’s hard for them to be able to back it up or explain it to others – so they’ll keep losing debates even though they have the right view.

So it’s all backwards!

There’s a saying in Camdrige University:

The eminence of a scientist can be measured by how long he can delay the acceptance of a perfectly valid theory.

In other words, the more famous the scientist is – if there’s a new theory coming out that’s true – this famous scientist can delay public and scientific acceptance of that theory for years – just because he/she doesn’t believe in it. And the more famous they are – the longer they’ll be able to delay it. Why? Because people just blindly accept the words of experts without necessarily questioning their invalid assumptions, reasonings and conclusions.

So science is like a religion these days and can be a source of dogma too. How so? Because people just blindly believe scientists. Oh, “Science says” and “Scientists say this…” Uhm – which scientists? And what’s their evidence? Ok, you think this scientist is an expert – but this other expert says otherwise. So not all experts are the same and could have diametrically opposed views.

Summary

  • The precept against false speech is not just don’t lie – it also means you’ve got to be careful with what you say to make sure you’re passing on the truth – and sometimes, you’ve got to first do your homework to investigate the truth and facts of the matter from the false – before you can give comment.
  • You find out the truth by investigating primary sources – anything as close to the original event or original data before opinions get added on to it – eyewitnesses testimonies under oath, raw unadulterated data. Instead of using secondary sources, anonymous and opinion pieces.
  • Be careful of how much you hate or love a person and the influence this has on your mind. Don’t make excuses for the horrible things that someone you like/love, has done. And don’t be hating on someone you really hate with a vengeance – even though they are doing a perfectly wholesome and good thing.
  • Stabilize your mind by reciting mantras often – this stabilizes your emotions
  • Be mindful of the intelligence trap – the smarter someone is – the more skilful they can be at arguing for what is false
  • Be mindful of how the words of experts are not necessarily true, right or the correct conclusions – because these other experts over there may say the opposite. Now you’ve got to compare what what all the different experts say – obviously weighing the primary evidence that each of those experts they are citing and bringing to the table – to help you decide!