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"For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."

Also

The person who lies, who transgress in this one thing, transcending concern for the world beyond: there's no evil he might not do. — Iti 25

So I'm mainly concerned with the part that says "there is no evil deed that is not to be done". I kind of agree with this, however, the people to which I've shared this, think it's somewhat exaggerated.

Is it exaggerated?

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Reading the earlier ones there in Itivuttaka: The Group of Ones, you can see things like,

Abandon one quality, monks, and I guarantee you non-return. Which one quality? Abandon greed as the one quality, and I guarantee you non-return.

Next it says,

Abandon one quality, monks, and I guarantee you non-return. Which one quality? Abandon aversion as the one quality, and I guarantee you non-return.

And,

Abandon one quality, monks, and I guarantee you non-return. Which one quality? Abandon delusion as the one quality, and I guarantee you non-return

This is referring to the three poisons which are shown as being at the centre of the 'wheel of life'. My understanding, from the way they're represented/illustrated, is that they cause or feed each other.

Wikipedia claims that ignorance is the root cause:

Of these three, ignorance is the root poison. From ignorance, attachment and aversion arise.

Whether or not it is the "root" cause, the implication of the suttas above is that if/when you can eradicate any one of them then you can break the chain or cycle.

The corollary though, IMO, is that if a person indulges in or abides in any one, then they cause them all.

The second noble truth explicitly warns against greed, but the 'three poisons' also warn against anger and ignorance.

And it seems to me that lying is (except in vanishingly rare circumstances) intended to promote ignorance. A person who thinks they can lie successfully might think that they can 'get away with murder'.

You ask, "Is it exaggerated?" IMO 'not lying' is also connected with Right Speech, with being able to share (true) Dharma, with not causing schism in the Sangha.

  • 1
    I'm interested in what "aversion" means in these cases. I've seen the word used a lot in the literature (I'm no expert, I just started reading about Buddhism). Where could I check out what "aversion" means here? – DLV Oct 5 '14 at 3:29
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    @David Wikipedia seems helpful with explaining/translating terms. E.g. for "aversion" it gives some alternate English translations as anger, aggression, hatred; thence see also Dvesha for more details and further references; and knowing the Pali term you can enter 'dosa' (and/or 'aversion') into the 'Search' box at accesstoinsight.org -- or e.g. search for "aversion" on accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html to find 'dosa' – ChrisW Oct 5 '14 at 9:29
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According to my current teacher, good character is an important prerequisite for Enlightenment. Key qualities of good character are:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility

Responsibility depends on Integrity. Integrity depends on Honesty. If there is no Honesty, there is no Integrity. The person without Integrity can do anything if it is in their interest, they can't be trusted.

A person who tells lies deliberately has a corrupted value system. If they went as far as to warp reality to cover up their fault or to advance their case, there is no guarantee whatsoever as to what they may do under pressure. Hence "there is no evil deed that is not to be done".

  • It strikes me that if I can't be trusted not to lie to others, how can I trust that I have not lied to myself? – Dan Bryant Oct 10 '14 at 18:07
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For most of human history your word truely was your bond.. It was everything, and to lie was to put the reputation of your house, your family, and yourself in danger to the point where you became an outcast or worse.

These days things are different in many ways, our words are not necessarily connected to our social and physical survival, but they are still important. When trust is lost it is not so easily gained back.

So do i believe anyone who lies will also kill people and do horrible things? Most likely not, but deliberate lieing is a dangerous thing that is unskillful and not beneficial to yourself or others. It puts us back along the path and is to be avoided at all costs.

  • Most likely that person will not kill but they have the desire to defend their ego and that is what it takes to be motivated to kill. – user70 Jun 29 '14 at 3:32
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A lie is directly supporting ignorance. And an ignorance is directly supporting all defilements (it's present in all of them), which directly supporting all type of evil deeds.

It's usual that weight of deeds is greatly misperceived by common people in compare to Buddha. Mental deeds are most important in consequences. And deliberate lie, probably, does most damage to a mind.

It's said that Bodhisatta in previous lives could do all evil, except lie.

In certain cases a Bodhisatta may destroy life, take what is not given him, commit adultery, drink strong drink, but he may not tell a lie, attended by deception that violates the reality of things. (Harita-jataka, JA 431).

  • Wow, I guess i'll never be a Bodhisatta then. :( – DLV Jun 28 '14 at 20:52
  • @David You can't know the future too. – catpnosis Jun 28 '14 at 21:01
  • But knowing that I have already lied in this life and that a Bodhisatta can't lie in past lives, then I wont ever be a Bodhisatta. Haha. – DLV Jun 28 '14 at 21:08
  • @David That's not problem, because you can always take percept to not lie anymore. – catpnosis Jun 28 '14 at 21:12
  • @David Btw, it's not all infinite lives as a being are meant, but only lives since Bodhisatta acquired that title (given by other buddha). – catpnosis Jun 29 '14 at 4:58

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