Author Topic: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?  (Read 9818 times)

Losang_Tenpa

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Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« on: December 01, 2011, 02:11:04 PM »
Here is a question that has been on my mind:

When, if ever, can lying and misrepresenting the truth be considered 'skillful means'?

I know of the story about the burning house, but what about other examples?

WoselTenzin

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2011, 05:09:08 PM »
If ever lying or misrepresenting the truth can be considered "skilful means", it all depends on the motivation behind it.  If the motivation to lie or misrepresent the truth is to protect someone from harm or to prevent misunderstanding and disharmony, then it can be considered skilful means. 

"Skilful" in the sense that the action is guided by wisdom that result in having the effect of benefiting of others.

pgdharma

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2011, 02:43:32 PM »
If ever lying or misrepresenting the truth can be considered "skilful means", it all depends on the motivation behind it.  If the motivation to lie or misrepresent the truth is to protect someone from harm or to prevent misunderstanding and disharmony, then it can be considered skilful means. 

"Skilful" in the sense that the action is guided by wisdom that result in having the effect of benefiting of others.
Totally agreed. It all depends on the motivation behind it. So sometimes white lies are alright if it is meant to protect some one's feelings.

Klein

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2011, 10:00:50 AM »
I think lying can be considered "skillful means". However, people can take advantage of this. So how do we know whether it's truly skillful or not?

hope rainbow

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2011, 01:40:15 PM »
I think lying can be considered "skillful means". However, people can take advantage of this. So how do we know whether it's truly skillful or not?

Here are my 2 cents worth:

1. what is the motivation?
2. what is the aim?
3. what is the result?
4. what skills do I rely on to make it "skillful"?

is
1. = bodhicitta (great compassion)
       as opposed to any of the 8 worldly concerns
2. = benefit others -short, medium and long term (equivalent to Lamrim's 3 scopes)
       as opposed to hurting others or also be of neutral effect
3. = it works
       as opposed to no positive result
4. = wisdom and everything below
       as opposed to NO wisdom or whatever below

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2011, 02:33:46 PM »
Thank you, Hope Rainbow.  What a specific and skillful way of explaining whether lying is skillful or not. With that explanation there can be no doubts on our intention of lying.

kurava

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2011, 12:40:09 PM »
In one of Tenzin Palmo's books, she recalled an incidence that her mother looked hurt after being told truthfully that she did not look at all good in a new dress.

Years later, after Tenzin Palmo became a nun ,she thought she should have had told her mom otherwise because this white lie would had make her mother very happy and it wouldn't had caused any harm to anybody.

If white lies would make someone very happy without causing any harm whatsoever to anyone I would not hesitate to do so. As we do not know how to use skillful means, the above will be the safest guideline for us to consider to lie or not to .

Losang_Tenpa

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2011, 04:31:29 PM »
The problem is trust....when I see 'white lies' being used as skillful means it makes it hard for me to know when the person is really telling the truth. Do you remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? If someone consistantly uses the 'white lie' approach, I would have to assume that just about anything they say could also be a lie.....very disturbing for building a trusting relationship.

I prefer the traditional appraoch. My Lama here is not the type who would lie as skillful means...that is good enough for me. :)

WoselTenzin

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2011, 05:09:24 PM »
The problem is trust....when I see 'white lies' being used as skillful means it makes it hard for me to know when the person is really telling the truth. Do you remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? If someone consistantly uses the 'white lie' approach, I would have to assume that just about anything they say could also be a lie.....very disturbing for building a trusting relationship.

I prefer the traditional appraoch. My Lama here is not the type who would lie as skillful means...that is good enough for me. :)

Where skillful means is concerned, there is no hard and fast rule.  There are situations where total honesty can be disastrous while a "white lie" approach would have been more skilful.  It really depends on the situation and that's where the application of wisdom comes in.  The gauge of skillfulness would be whether an action would protect others from harm.

Skillfulness and wisdom cannot be restricted by any approach, traditional or otherwise.  Where a "white lie" is used as skilful means by one with good motivation guided by wisdom to protect another being, the least of his concern would be whether others think he is completely truthful. Action can only be gauge as skilful or wise only if it is beneficial to others.

For eg, if a violent wife beater husband asks you where his wife is and you know but you tell a white lie that you don't in order to protect the woman, why would it be important if a third party wonders whether you are telling the truth? From the side of a third party, there are many other ways to judge people other than just what they say. 


vajrastorm

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2011, 05:14:59 AM »
I guess, for some, a lie is a still a lie be it a white lie or otherwise. I think, Pabongka Rinpoche, in 'Liberation in the Palm of You Hand' ( the Lamrim), gave a skillful way of avoiding lying, even if lying,by saying that the victim had gone another way, was valid as a means to save a life. He says that if a would-be murderer were chasing his victim and asked one where he had gone, one could avoid lying by saying something irrelevant to the question asked by the murderer -to-be, like 'Oh dear! I've forgotten to buy some butter on the way home'. It's a fact and, at the same time, it'll put the murderer-to-be off the scent of the victim. 

Losang_Tenpa

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2011, 04:47:52 PM »
I think there is a distiction between 'white lies' and lies concerning someone who may be harmed if we were to tell the truth.
I would have no problem telling a would-be-murderer a lie, but I am not sure it is skillful to use white lies when trying to bring others to the Dharma. If they were to find out about the 'white lies' they may be turned away from the Dharma and never give it a chance. I actually know a person who was attracted to the Gelug tradition but was turned off by some relatively minor desceptions he perceived and now he no longer has an interest in the Dharma. Very sad. I beleive we have to be very careful when using the blanket 'skillful means' justification for misleading people in the effort to bring others to the Dharma.

hope rainbow

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2011, 09:35:51 AM »
I think there is a distiction between 'white lies' and lies concerning someone who may be harmed if we were to tell the truth.
I would have no problem telling a would-be-murderer a lie, but I am not sure it is skillful to use white lies when trying to bring others to the Dharma. If they were to find out about the 'white lies' they may be turned away from the Dharma and never give it a chance. I actually know a person who was attracted to the Gelug tradition but was turned off by some relatively minor desceptions he perceived and now he no longer has an interest in the Dharma. Very sad. I beleive we have to be very careful when using the blanket 'skillful means' justification for misleading people in the effort to bring others to the Dharma.

I would like to agree with Losang Tenpa and also with Vajra Storm.
Situations are tests to our skillful ways. And we would win on all grounds if we can resolve situations without lying, not that it is always possible, but if it is, it is MUCH better.
Why? Because if we resolve a situation with a lie, even with a white lie, there is a danger of habituating our mind to this wrong view: that lying resolves problems.
And with such a habituation in force, we make it easier and easier for us to lie until it becomes "validated" and spontaneous... Brrrr...

I think it is the Polish that have that saying: "the one who steals an egg, steals a beef"
And indeed, the habituation of stealing works the same way, we may think that the egg is irrelevant, nobody will notice it, and probably nobody notices it but we have engaged in building up an habituation that likely leads us to "steal a beef".

Let's take the example of THE UGLY DRESS:

My friend shows me proudly the dress she just bought and I find it ugly, and she asks me if I like it.
If I say that I find it ugly, she might be hurt.
And I don't want to lie neither.
So what do I do? I look for something in the dress that I like, there must be something that I can compliment  about it, maybe the colour, maybe the shape of the buttons, maybe the quality of the sewing, whatever and I reply from there.

Oh... I love the colour!
Oh... Aren't these buttons just so adorable!
Wow... look at the quality of the stitching!

If reaaaaaaally, there is nothing at all I can possibly like about the dress, I create an incident that will shift the conversation onto something else.
I could get up to have a closer look, bang on the corner of the table and hurt my foot with much complaint, I could suddenly feel an urge to telephone a family member...

If we can't practice skillful means with these situations, what would we do when we face much more complex and serious situations requiring us to act...

Now, if my lie is inevitable and saves someone's life, probably I'd lie.
But I would try to make up for it and contemplate in this incident deeply.

These are my thoughts...

Losang Tenpa, Vajta Storm, did you like my post?  ::)

Losang_Tenpa

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2011, 05:16:02 PM »
I LOVE your post. Thanks for your thoughts H.R.  :)

Losang_Tenpa

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2012, 04:02:29 PM »
The problem as I see it is that the 'little lies' done to bring people closer to the Dharma add up.....the smoke and mirrors, the pretending, etc.....leads me to question everything the sourse has to say...if the little lies can be justified as 'skillful means'....then the bid lies can too I suppose...and truthfully, I don't want to create the karma of doubting everything the sourse says...
I am sure they have there reasons, but it seems that it creates a dangerous precedent as well.

One of my Teachers says to put my trust only in people who are 100% honest....otherwise once one lie is uncovered, it makes the whole story a house of cards..

Maybe this is too simplistic....but this is honestly how I feel.

Sarva Magalam

 

negra orquida

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Re: Can lying ever be considered 'skillful means'?
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2012, 04:51:48 PM »
I can't put my head around "using lying as skilful means".. it seems like a misnomer... Because the purpose of lying is to cover up for something at someone else's expense / personal benefit.  By nature lying is deceitful.  So if the result of "lying" is to benefit someone out of pure motivation... how is it called lying?

White lies are white lies.. they're white cos the intention is pure..  :P and i think there's always an element of truth in white lies (e.g. telling the hunter I don't know where the rabbit went... well I really don't know exactly  where it was / is now) Or telling the beautiful truth in place of the ugly truth (using the example of hope rainbow's friend's ugly dress).

But until we are highly attained... better to stick to holding our vow of not lying, I reckon!