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StoBird
03-29-2021, 07:46 AM
I want to start a thread on honesty. In the Theravada tradition, the Buddha went so far as to imply that without a willingness to be honest, you might as well throw your Budddhist practice out of the window. That makes sense to me because without an orientation towards truth, it is impossible to truly live.

I love David Whyte’s take on honesty:


"Honesty is reached by the doorway of grief and loss. Where we cannot go in our mind, our memory, or our body is where we cannot be straight with another, our world, or our self. The fear of loss, in one form or another, is the motivator behind all conscious and unconscious dishonesties: all of us are born to be afraid of loss, in all its forms, all of us, at times, are haunted or overwhelmed even by the possibility of a disappearance, and all of us therefore, are but one short step away from dishonesty. Every human being dwells intimately close to a door of revelation they are afraid to pass through. Honesty lies in understanding our close and necessary relationship with not wanting to hear the truth.

The ability to speak the truth is as much the ability to describe what it is like to stand in trepidation at this door, as it is to actually go through it and become that beautifully honest spiritual warrior, equal to all circumstances, we want to become. Honesty is not the revealing of some foundational truth that gives us power over life or another or even the self, but a robust incarnation into the unknown unfolding vulnerability of existence, where we acknowledge how powerless we feel, how little we actually know, how afraid we are of not knowing and how astonished we are by the generous measure of loss that is conferred upon even the most average life.

Honesty is grounded in humility and indeed in humiliation, and in admitting exactly where we are powerless. Honesty is not found in revealing the truth, but in understanding how deeply afraid of it we are. To become honest is in effect to become fully and robustly incarnated into powerlessness. Honesty allows us to live with not knowing. We do not know the full story, we do not know where we are in the story; we do not know who ultimately, is at fault or who will carry the blame in the end. Honesty is not protection; honesty is not a weapon to keep loss and heartbreak at bay, honesty is the outer diagnostic of our ability to come to ground in reality, the hardest attainable ground of all, the place where we actually dwell, the living, breathing frontier where we are given no choice between gain or loss."- David Whyte

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-relating-existing/201411/honesty



What is your take on honesty? What is Dōgen and Soto Zen’s take on honesty?

Gassho,
Tom
sat/lah

JimInBC
03-29-2021, 02:28 PM
Interesting post! Thank you.


And what is right speech? Avoiding speech thatís false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical. This is called right speech. - AN 45:8
It's given as the first element of right speech in this description of the Noble 8-Fold Path.

It seems central not to lie to oneself in Shikantaza. We sit not looking to change anything. Lying seems an aspect of grasping for something different than what is. But not seeking to change anything, why would we lie?

I will be interested to hear if Soto Zen is more accepting of little white lies than Theravada. I gave myself a little leeway here when I practiced in a Theravada school. As a non-monastic householder, not making use of the occasional white lie just seemed an exercise in annoying family, friends, and co-workers to no gain for anyone.

Gassho, Jim
ST/LaH


Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk

Kokuu
03-29-2021, 04:12 PM
Hi Stobird

That is a very interesting quote and as poetic as you might expect from David Whyte. It seems to be pointing more towards honesty with ourselves and our relationship with how things are than what we might normally mean by the term so I have two reponses, both similar to Jim's.

From a speech point of view, our fourth Zen precept addresses honesty:

To seek as I can, in this body and life, to refrain from false and malicious speech

And, really, this should be expected of anyone following the path of Zen whether or not they take the precepts. To answer Jim's question, Mahayana Buddhism tends to follow the spirit of the precepts rather than take them as absolute and unbending rules so there definitely seems to be space for white lies in terms of keeping the peace in domestic life. This, for me, falls under the category of avoiding causing unnecessary suffering. However, it is always good to be aware of what we are doing and not letting it slide too easily.

Similarly to Jim, what resonates most with me from the quote is Shikantaza. Here we drop all pretence and just sit with what is, in naked honesty. It is on the cushion where we can sit with 'don't know mind' and rest in the experience without having to understand or analyse what is happening. This seems to me to be a place in which we live in full honesty with our self and the universe (not that the two are separate). For the time we are on the cushion, we let go our fantasies and dreams and just sit with reality as it appears with no intent to alter that in any way or pretend that things are different than they are.

I think that doing this can take bravery and often humans do not what to see things just as they are, without the gloss of inner storytelling and post-hoc justifications to cushion our notions of self against actual reality.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

StoBird
03-29-2021, 08:01 PM
Thank you Kokuu and Jim!

Despite what you think of the guy or any of his other works, Sam Harris wrote a fascinating little book (more of a pamphlet really) called ‘Lying’ wherein he argues convincingly that ALL lies are unnecessary unless given an extreme situation. And Simon Blackburn wrote a very accessible book called ‘On Truth’ about the philosophical underpinnings of truth and truth is important in an increasingly postmodern, relativistic, “post-truth” world, both have had a large impact on me. Having said that, I tend to think we should both not put up with lying (especially if the consequences are great, as in high office) but also be very forgiving towards lying, especially since we know it’s oftentimes rooted in fear or cognitive distortions of reality (as in Brian Williams’s case) and oftentimes mental illness.

Gassho,
Tom,
Sat/Lah

StoBird
03-29-2021, 10:47 PM
And of course in Shikantaza we go beyond lying and not lying, honesty and not honesty, true and false, beyond like the “dragon in her watery lair” and “a tiger reposing on her mountain” are beyond conceptions.

Gassho,
Tom
Sat/Lah

Kevin M
03-30-2021, 01:22 AM
Having had no background in Zen prior to 2018 I was surprised at its strong moral dimension. Somehow I assumed it would be all about mental focus. But while it is highly moral, I don't find it to be moralistic. Buddhist ethics seems founded on a deep understanding of and compassion for human drives and frailties (hatred, greed, ignorance). The quote above seems to say that dishonesty is rooted in insecurity and fear, and that is certainly true for me. But I don't think dishonesty immediately disqualifies one from being a Buddhist, since IMO Buddhism works on exactly these poisons to develop through practice greater insight and security and hence honesty. That said, if one doesn't have an honest intent in practicing (say you approach it with ulterior motives, perhaps hidden even to yourself), then the practice has its work cut out for it!

PS BTW I love David Whyte. He reads his own books and I have a couple of collections on Audible that I like to put on and chill to.

Gassho,
Kevin
Sat Today

Jundo
03-30-2021, 02:20 AM
Hi Guys,

To tell the truth :), this topic comes up each year as part of our annual Jukai preparations, as we focus on the Precepts (as we phrase it here), "To seek as you can, in this body and life, to refrain from false and malicious speech."

https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?18303-PRECEPTS-VI-To-Refrain-from-Untruth

There is perhaps a difference between telling a knowing "untruth" and softening a message, or remaining silent, for beneficial reasons. Japanese Buddhist priests often cannot be totally frank and direct, for Japanese culture has the concepts of "Tatemae" (surface expressions) and "Hone" (real feelings), i.e., the former being the way one says certain things to "soften" the blow and maintain group harmony.

https://japanintercultural.com/free-resources/articles/honne-and-tatemae/

For example, someone in Japan has more of a tendency to say "Let me see" or "It's difficult, but I wonder" or "I think it won't be possible, but I'll try" when asked for a favor (such as being invited someplace) that is actually a rather clear "No". On the other hand, that is really not a "lie" because, well, almost anything is possible. If it is truly impossible, they would make it clear, e.g., "Sorry, but I cannot."

However, really, the concept is hardly unique to Japanese culture, and I have not met anyone who was totally blunt and direct about their real feelings in any culture. It can be a kind of violence, e.g., if I tell someone whose father just died that I don't think he was a nice man and I personally never liked him. (I would hold my tongue, or say something nebulous such as "he was a unique fellow, and many will surely miss him.")

In my case, if my wife has an ugly dress and asks me how it looks ... the answer is obvious for "group harmony" in our house. :) I do not term this a lie, but rather, I am bending my opinion and subjective feeling to possibly see my wife's point of view.

As I discuss in the Precepts thread, in the Mahayana traditions, even the Buddha might be said to be an advocate of "white lies" (called "Upaya, Expedient Means") for a good purpose such as to convey a Buddhist message to someone who "can't handle the truth." This is found, not only in the Mahayana Sutras (such as the Lotus Sutra, and its famous story of the father who tries to entice children out of a burning house), but in even the South Asian tradition there are examples, e.g., he softened or changed his messaging depending on his listener.

The Abhaya Sutra lists what a buddha does not say:


[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata 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 Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata 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 Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata 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 Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."

What is missing from the list is that which is "known to be untrue, yet which is beneficial," such as telling a suicidal man that there is a box of gold waiting for him if he comes down from a ledge. Note that the Buddha is NOT quoted as saying that "untrue but beneficial" is prohibited, i.e., he himself stayed silent on that category. I would say that, in such case, the Precept on preserving life overrides this precept, and I would tell the lie and be willing to take any Karmic weight upon myself for having done so in such a case.

Sorry to run long ... honestly. [monk]

Gassho, J

STLah

StoBird
03-30-2021, 05:59 AM
Hi Guys,

To tell the truth :), this topic comes up each year as part of our annual Jukai preparations, as we focus on the Precepts (as we phrase it here), "To seek as you can, in this body and life, to refrain from false and malicious speech."

https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?18303-PRECEPTS-VI-To-Refrain-from-Untruth

There is perhaps a difference between telling a knowing "untruth" and softening a message, or remaining silent, for beneficial reasons. Japanese Buddhist priests cannot almost be totally frank and direct, for Japanese culture has the concepts of "Tatemae" (surface expressions) and "Hone" (real feelings), i.e., the former being the way one says certain things to "soften" the blow and maintain group harmony.

https://japanintercultural.com/free-resources/articles/honne-and-tatemae/

For example, someone in Japan has more of a tendency to say "Let me see" or "It's difficult, but I wonder" or "I think it won't be possible, but I'll try" when asked for a favor (such as being invited someplace) that is actually a rather clear "No". On the other hand, that is really not a "lie" because, well, almost anything is possible. If it is truly impossible, they would make it clear, e.g., "Sorry, but I cannot."

However, really, the concept is hardly unique to Japanese culture, and I have not met anyone who was totally blunt and direct about their real feelings in any culture. It can be a kind of violence, e.g., if I tell someone whose father just died that I don't think he was a nice man and I personally never liked him. (I would hold my tongue, or say something nebulous such as "he was a unique fellow, and many will surely miss him.")

In my case, if my wife has an ugly dress and asks me how it looks ... the answer is obvious for "group harmony" in our house. :) I do not term this a lie, but rather, I am bending my opinion and subjective feeling to possibly see my wife's point of view.

As I discuss in the Precepts thread, in the Mahayana traditions, even the Buddha might be said to be an advocate of "white lies" (called "Upaya, Expedient Means") for a good purpose such as to convey a Buddhist message to someone who "can't handle the truth." This is found, not only in the Mahayana Sutras (such as the Lotus Sutra, and its famous story of the father who tries to entice children out of a burning house), but in even the South Asian tradition there are examples, e.g., he softened or changed his messaging depending on his listener.

The Abhaya Sutra lists what a buddha does not say:



What is missing from the list is that which is "known to be untrue, yet which is beneficial," such as telling a suicidal man that there is a box of gold waiting for him if he comes down from a ledge. Note that the Buddha is NOT quoted as saying that "untrue but beneficial" is prohibited, i.e., he himself stayed silent on that category. I would say that, in such case, the Precept on preserving life overrides this precepts, and I would tell the lie and be willing to take any Karmic weight upon myself for having done so in such a case.

Sorry to run long ... honestly. [monk]

Gassho, J

STLah

[duh]gassho1 I will look for threads on topics already started in the future!:)

Gassho,
Tom
Sat/Honestly to lend a hand a little later

Kevin M
03-30-2021, 01:49 PM
To tell the truth :), this topic comes up each year as part of our annual Jukai preparations

OMG I've pre-failed Jukai lol

My favorite scene in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables is the one where Sister Simplice, who was renowned for never uttering a lie, unhesitatingly lies to Javert to keep Jean Valjean from being taking into custody. Gets me every time.

Gassho,
Kevin
Sat Today