Since lying is not really directed at a person, can it still be harmful? I have had multiple jobs before when the companies I worked for had no issues lying to me(on a organizational level)

I can see how lying(when done successfully) can make myself believe I am something I am not and hence inflate my ego but what if this is not the case and the lying is only done with a sense of wanting to get a position and work hard and achieve something?

6 Answers 6


Causes of False Speech

The root causes of false speech are greed, hatred and delusion.

  1. Greed is the root cause when false speech is used to obtain material gain or status for oneself or someone dear to oneself.
  2. Hatred is the root cause when false speech is used to cause loss and bring harm and suffering to others.
  3. Delusion is the root cause when it is used neither for one's gain nor to cause loss and harm to others, but for the sake of enjoyment such as lying for the sake of a joke, exaggeration to spice up a story, or flattery to please others, etc.

Lying to get a job falls under the 1st category. So yes, it does break the fourth precept.

  • Is greed or should greed always be viewed as negative (unwholesome), or can there be a positive for greed?
    – user476
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 12:28
  • 3
    No! Greed is always unwholesome by definition. Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 13:47
  • Does false speech for delusion break the said precept? For example, you decide to lie to your parents by not disclosing some bad stuff happened to your friend because you don't want your parents to get too worried about you. Commented May 1, 2020 at 15:08
  • @ΕГИІИО Not telling something is not the same as lying and it never breaks the precept Commented May 2, 2020 at 8:07
  • 1
    Again, non-disclosure has nothing to do with the precept. So, instead of saying "he is doing fine", think of something positive to say about him that is actually true or just avoid the topic altogether. Commented May 2, 2020 at 13:46

If you have intention to deceive, you know what you are going to say is false and then say it then it is lying.

In a job interview you might be asked questions you are not very sure about. Making an intelligent guess in those instances in fine. Not attempting may look negative or as a lack of confidence. Also interviewer will not expect you to know everything but an attempt will be appreciated. Much like in an exam.

Lying about your experience may not be fine. Also spin doctering / white lies with a intention to deceive is not fine. Otherwise putting a positive spin is fine. Facing an interview is an art in itself which you can master without breaking your ethics and morality.

  • Are there any links or books you can guide me to? Please that would help. I am pretty certain I am lying with an intention to deceive and just breaking the precept in itself is making me miserable. Can we chat? Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 3:28
  • Not right now but send me your email address. Will touch base when I have time. Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 3:31
  • Well said Suminda. Intention is really the key-word here. I think its the same case like with the blind monk Chakkupala that stepped on some insects and accidently killing them while doing walking meditation. He didnt knew it and the Buddha said that he didnt do anything wrong because he didnt had the intention to kill those beings.
    – user2424
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 18:23
  • Good that some of my answers are useful to you. BTW, would like to know you really are if you don't mind. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 20:33

In addition to the excellent answers already given, it's important to also keep in mind the effect of one's actions on oneself. So even if the lie you told had no ill effect on the interviewer or company for which you were applying for a job; (say for example, they didn't hire you anyway), you still know you stated something untrue and that stays with you. We work to keep our sila good (by following the 5 precepts) because of the good it does for our own minds.

  • Thank you for this important answer about the effect having to targets.
    – user2424
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 18:30

Lying occurs when four elements are present.

a.  The speaker must not be mistaken about what he or she wants to say.
b.  The speaker must have the intention to deceive.
c.  The lie must be consciously pronounced.
d.  The hearer must be deceived.

Associated with lying are all attempts to twist the truth by deceptive means and the concealment of the facts in order to cheat people.

source: Treasury of Precious Qualities, commentary by Kangyur Rinpoche

  • Traditions/rules may differ on the last point: e.g. I think that according to the Theravada monastic rules, for example, although killing doesn't occur unless someone dies, it's not necessary for anyone to have been deceived for a lie to have occurred (or been attempted).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 4:35

I listened to a talk by Ajahn Punnadhammo some days ago.

In here he talks about why the Buddha had put a great emphasiz on right speech.

Ajahn Punnadhammo says that by using the speech faculty we can directly input dhammas into other beings mind-stream.

So by misusing the speech faculty (by lying for example) we can directly input delusion into other beings mind-stream. That is a heavy kammic thing to do since delusion is what binds us in Samsara.

When he said that i really understood the depth of the 4th precept.


is there ever a time to not look and think carefully about an actual situation?

suppose one were the sole provider for a large family and lost their job. one looks and looks and finally an opportunity arises. and the person can actually do the job. and do it well.


a degree is mandatory. the person lacks that. what to do? see if they can be hired by demonstrating ability might be on choice.

if jobs are.scarce and the family has begun to starve tho? me, I would accept that some negative karma would be incurred. I would accept some delay on reaching enlightenment. I would lie.

if hired, I would get the degree quietly, over time.

there is no absolute thing to do. it depends on the situation.

to save the lives of others, especially others who are children or otherwise dependant on you, I don't see how I could make any choice that ignored that (but again, a situation could arise in which I acted differently).

to me it seems the essence of Buddhism is awareness. generalizing or adhering to preconcieved ideas of what to do and not do seems a bit robotic and not a way to further the habit of actually percieving. it also gives no room to listen to ones inner voice, intuition or whatever you want to call it, which I've always understood to be also perception just not always at the level.of conscious intent.

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