This page, Lay Buddhist Vows, says,

  1. Do not distort fact

    This one is usually translated as: don't lie. Again: it wider than that. Sometimes the use of words can make something seem acceptable, when it could also have been said very differently and be totally unacceptable. This would not be a lie, but it would be a distortion of fact.

As per above phrase about 3rd precept of Pancha Sila, as a Buddhist if we tell lies it's definitely a sin. But in this modern world sometimes we have to lie: we will lie to our wife, we will lie in the working place, we will lie to our mother father; in this world you cannot find a person who has not lied.

So my question is, if tell so many lies to save lives, will it be a sin?

  • What "facts" are there within the Buddha's Teaching? You can't turn what is subjective into an objective fact just because you want to. TRY FAITH it must be balanced with INTELLECT.
    – Lowbrow
    Jun 10, 2018 at 22:07
  • There is no sin. Even Jesus tells us this. If in some situation lying is the compassionate strategy and best avoids doing harm then it my be the right thing to do. After all, there is a sense sense in which the Buddha's 'First Turning of the Wheel' is deliberately economical with the truth, for the sake of being helpful. .
    – user14119
    May 12, 2020 at 11:45
  • Wrong causes bad, for what ever reason, for whom ever done: MN 97: Dhanañjani Sutta — To Dhanañjani.
    – user11235
    May 12, 2020 at 12:14

7 Answers 7


I think this question is a duplicate of:

"Duplicate" means that the answers to those questions should answer your question.

You wrote,

we have to lie, we will lie to wife, we will lie in the working place, we will lie to our mother father

... but I'm not sure that's true. If you read the definitions of Right Speech on Access to Insight, it includes,

He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal ...

If you feel the need to lie about something (e.g. your behaviour) then perhaps you should change your behaviour instead of lying about it. Therefore "not lying" becomes a "training rule".

The subject is difficult to talk about, though, because you didn't describe examples of the various lies, which you say we have to lie about to almost everyone.

Lastly, about the phrase you quoted.

The first bit of it, i.e...

don't lie

... is presumably clear enough.

So if you have a question about the quoted phrase, then maybe the question is about the next bit:

  1. Sometimes the use of words can make something seem acceptable, when it could also have been said very differently and be totally unacceptable.
  2. This would not be a lie, but it would be a distortion of fact.

The second sentence isn't clear to me: it seems to me that a "distortion of fact" maybe is a lie by definition. See also e.g. Sankha's answer here for a more precise Theravada definition of lying.

Because I clearly don't understand the second sentence, I also don't understand the first:

  • The first might be talking about telling the truth in an acceptable way, e.g. about whether the truth is spoken gently and at the right time (which is acceptable) or harshly and at the wrong time (which is less easily accepted)
  • But it might also be talking about the opposite situations, "sugar-coating" a lie to make it seem acceptable, e.g. "I'll just tell my boss this little white lie: everyone else lies like this and I have to lie too."
  • Chris..i'm not Educated that much to understand your answer..by the way it's a good answer..
    – RANSARA009
    Jul 28, 2016 at 12:20
  • @RANSARA009 Sorry my answer isn't clear. Do you have any questions to ask about it, specific things you don't understand? And I didn't completely understand your question: how is telling lies to people "saving lives"? The phrase "saving a life" means "preventing someone from being killed, delaying death", what kind of lies do we have to tell to save lives? Anyway I think the best part of my answer, which I hope you understand, is the reference to this page which describes "Right speech" by quoting translations of suttas.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 28, 2016 at 12:31

There are no sins in Buddhism, only skillful and unskillful behaviors. You have to ask yourself whether the behavior causes suffering. If it causes suffering you shouldn't do it. Not because it is a sin, but because it causes suffering.

  • Sins aren't unskillfull behavior? Your just arguing semantics. I don't see what furthur argument you could have. People in this forum are too smart to be wise.
    – Lowbrow
    Jul 3, 2018 at 15:52
  • You are correct — I am arguing semantics. The word sin is not the correct word. Jul 4, 2018 at 5:06
  • "Suffering" isn't necessarily the right translation either though, is it (see "dukkha"). I found this answer remarkable, where the venerable said that (in that hypothetical and most extraordinary circumstance, an "extreme case") he would lie AND "make amends" afterward for breaking the precept (I guess that lying might a fault requiring confession, or something like that, according to the Vinaya).
    – ChrisW
    Jul 4, 2018 at 9:26

What matters is whether the lie teller has sinful intentions or not when telling the lie. The precepts where never meant to be mechanically followed because we read it in the Vinaya. The precepts are guidelines, not commandments.

  • And who judges what is sinful? The idea of sin is conceptual and subjective. Neither represents truth. Jun 10, 2018 at 5:44
  • The point is we don't want to suffer and when we do things to cause suffering...for others or ourselves consciously or subconsciously then that is what is meant by sinful or unwholesome. The Buddha only said this action you make will lead you to your suffering and that will lead to others suffering. He just said what he experienced directly without the delusional effect of concepts. He wasn't judging but just seeing what is. Here we rely on the Buddha's teaching to help us discern what is. When your hand is in front of your face how do you judge it's there? What do you think?
    – Lowbrow
    Jun 10, 2018 at 21:53
  • And did Buddha call it “sin?” Jun 11, 2018 at 13:21
  • Seriously? Your clinging to your views on Christianity , I bet. It's just a word that means doing wrong, bad karma, unwholesome The Buddha never said many English words.
    – Lowbrow
    Jul 3, 2018 at 15:45
  • Yes, seriously. A sin by definition is a violation or transgression against some divine law, not just bad karma or unwholesome. Right and wrong is a subjective judgment. Buddha, as far as I an aware, did not pass judgment on what is right or what is wrong — only whether something causes suffering. Is something sinful because it causes suffering? No, it simply causes suffering so it should be avoided. Not because it’s wrong but because it causes suffering. I don’t think the Buddha accepted notions of divine law. Jul 4, 2018 at 5:01

Silence is not a lie. Honesty is spoken. If your believe in sin you do not understand self.


An Arahant is said to never deliberately tell a lie. That draws the line and it gives a categorical answer to your question.

A lie is always best not told.


Honored Buddhaparisada, Good householder, interested,

Telling what isn't true, to lie, means taking away what is true, stealing, harming. Having harmed, what one gives, one receives.

But be clear that abstaining from "taking away, destroying, lie, does not require to give something. Simply not taking is enough. Understand the way out of doing simply wrong anyway?

(Note that this isnt given for trade, exchande, stacks or what ever binds one here, but to escape from this wheel, release!)


JK_431_HARITA-JATAKA Which precept is the most important? How to avoid Sexual Misconduct?


"...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. ..."

[If you find out one small / white lie in Buddha teaching, then all Buddha teachings are worthless... become entertainment..... even a small lie to save million lives.... Buddha talked, spoken from what he saw and know .. not from brainstorm thinking, logic for argument like mind driven people such as socialists, globalists, communists, idealist, philosopher, dogmatic professors …. which look like very reasonable (because of words / senses limitation by the speaker & listeners) but may not true .....They said what they guess not what they see .... they said by mind driven for the "End justify the mean"...]

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