(A nother possible pitfall for defilement. Take care that they do not rebell and cick you instead of them into it.)

Supposed someone asks you something. Given that you have the feeling to know for sure, you answer.

The one asked receives it with joy, keeps it, carries it and might share it further.

Later you find out that you have been wrong. What now? What's the impact on yours? What should you do now? What are the consequences of the previous deed and eventuall consequences of your current deeds, now when you found out? What to do to rest possible most at ease and secure, at the time of answer and at times things might be grow different, more clear?

Not to speak of what to do in cases when answered without being really sure or a bad mind state (with greed, aversion or not-knowing connected).

Supportive case samples:

Just to give a possible graspable case. One is asking you a secure way through the dangerous forest. You tell him what you think. Later you find out that this way leads through minefields.

Maybe apply-able by replacing "intent to kill" with intent that one takes on ones understanding? (Thinking: "Who ever might come accross my answer, way he fall to that."):

from BMC-Pārājika

The penalty, if an animal dies as a result, is a pācittiya; if a human being, a pārājika. In this case, the intention/perception of killing a living being is broad enough to include a human being, and so fulfills the relevant factors here.

In discussing this last case, the Commentary notes that if one digs the pitfall but then renounces one's intention to cause death, one has to completely fill in the pitfall in such a way that it cannot cause injury — even to the extent of causing someone to stumble — if one wants to avoid the penalty coming from any injury the pitfall might cause. If the pitfall is only partially filled in and a person stumbles into it and later dies from his injuries, the bhikkhu incurs the full offense under this rule. The same judgment applies to any other attempt to kill not aimed at a particular victim. For instance, if a bhikkhu harboring this sort of general intention builds a trap but then changes his mind, he has to destroy the trap so thoroughly that it cannot be reassembled. Similarly, when a bhikkhu writes a passage describing the advantages of dying (see below) with the thought that anyone who reads it might decide to commit suicide, if he then changes his mind he has to destroy the writing so thoroughly that it cannot be pieced together. If, instead of writing the passage himself, he simply picks up a pre-existing written passage of this sort and then — with a similar intention — puts it in a place where it might be easily seen, he can avoid any penalty simply by returning the passage to the place where he found it.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]

2 Answers 2


Some of the thoughts that came to mind when you asked this question include:

  • Be careful when you speak -- don't represent uncertainty as certainty.

    If someone tells you, "there is the secure way through the dangerous forest", and then someone else asks you, "what is the way?", avoid telling them more than you know: for example instead of saying, "that way is secure" (which you don't know), you could say, "someone told me that way is secure, but I am not sure of that, I haven't tried it myself"; or "someone told me last week it was secure, but I don't know about this week."

    A perhaps-exaggerated example of how careful you could be is: if you see a white house, and someone asks, "what colour is the house?", don't say "it's white" -- say, "it looks white, from this side" (because it might be a different colour on another side).

  • Be careful who you listen to and who you trust.

    If someone tells you, "there is the secure way through the dangerous forest", then it matters whether you believe them. Are they deliberately lying, or telling the truth? Do they exaggerate their knowledge, deceiving themselves, or do they speak carefully? Are they knowledgeable (and reliable) about some topics, but not others?

    Having a (good) idea about that topic will help you to avoid (accepting and) passing on false information from unreliable witnesses.

  • Can you correct the mistake?

    If a wrong deed (e.g. wrong speech) should be confessed then, at least from a mundane perspective, confessing the mistake to the person whom you misinformed might be appropriate: "sorry, do you remember I told you about a safe path? I might have misinformed you about that, I just heard from someone else that it's dangerous".

  • The world is complicated.

    Is there really nothing you can do to correct the mistake? Try not to make the same mistake again, but perhaps you need to forgive yourself, detach from your involvement in that past event, and regain some equanimity. After all it's not your fault (not your intention) that someone planted a minefield there, and that someone else misinformed you about it, and that a third person put too much trust into the information you relayed to them. If your intent was to be helpful, and you were skillful in what you did, then why not "rest most at ease and secure"?

    People act a part within an imperfect (e.g. ignorant) system. You can (maybe should) try to improve that system and your role within it...

    I suppose this is a kind of problem that a medical doctor must face for their whole working life: in spite of the good they do and try to do, their patients still get sick, and die sooner or later. A doctor is supposed to be careful when they help so that that (death) is not the doctor's fault, but there's some limit to what they can do.

  • First advices seems to be good. Thought on: "If your intent was to be helpful, and you were skillful in what you did, then why not "rest most at ease and secure"?" Sure? Is Chris at easy with the whole of his answer? Does in answer the question and correct? No need to argue, just written thoughts. Nov 8, 2017 at 13:35
  • I hope much of the answer is correct, sensible advice, which could be supported by quoting from the suttas. The phrase "rest most at ease and secure" was taken from your question and, no, I'm not sure that my answer did answer your question (I'm not sure what your circumstances are, and motives, which prompted your question), therefore I used that phrase in a rhetorical question ("then why not ... ?") to invite you to judge whether you find the answer useful. I'm not very at easy with it, no, but I don't think I can improve it at the moment, given the (imperfect or limited) information I have.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 8, 2017 at 14:20
  • I think the example you added ("if one digs the pitfall") was an example of digging a pitfall with the intention of trapping or killing someone. In that case then you should also destroy the dangerous pitfall which you intentionally created, if or when you renounce the intention of killing. I would have guessed that an example of "knowing it's wrong" when you dig the pitfall; but your original question said, "later you find out that you have been wrong", so originally I thought the question was about what happens when a well-intentioned answer (not a malevolent answer) results in harm.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 8, 2017 at 14:25
  • And no I'm not at ease with "the whole of the answer" -- perhaps I can only review its pieces.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 8, 2017 at 14:39
  • Just a question, pretty dangerous to interpretate something into ones intent and get unskillful. Others intent, others vipaka. Good summary at the and of that line. It's good to be at ease. How? Nov 8, 2017 at 15:00

The doctrine of kamma-vipaka is for puthujjana (ordinary people). Refer to MN 117.

Enlightened mind knows honest mistake is caused by ignorance rather than by a 'self' (SN 12.17).

What to do to rest possible most at ease and secure is trust in anatta (not-self) & SN 12.17.

Buddhism is a path of liberation & love (AN 3.99) rather than a method of bondage & guilt.


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