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In DN 27, the Buddha said that the Brahmins make bad karma for speaking falsely.

“Actually, Vāseṭṭha, the brahmins are forgetting their tradition when they say this to you. For brahmin women are seen menstruating, being pregnant, giving birth, and breast-feeding. Yet even though they’re born from a brahmin womb they say: Only brahmins are the first caste; other castes are inferior. Only brahmins are the light caste; other castes are dark. Only brahmins are purified, not others. Only brahmins are Brahmā’s rightful sons, born of his mouth, born of Brahmā, created by Brahmā, heirs of Brahmā.’ They misrepresent the brahmins, speak falsely, and make much bad karma.

So my question is do you get bad karma if you say something you thought was true but turned out to be false?

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No. When it comes to lying, bad karma is not related to the actual truthfulness of what was said.

Rather, it comes from intention. Speaking the untruth intentionally is bad karma and a violation of one of the five precepts. Please see this answer for more details.

From Nibbedhika Sutta:

Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

From Iti 25:

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "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."

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  • I still don't know the answer. The last sentence does say, literally, "false" (not "divisive") speech -- i.e. "musā ca bhāsanti". So the logical implication seems to be, either that Brahmins speak falsehood "intentionally", or that bad karma is made even without that intention?
    – ChrisW
    Mar 28 at 19:12
  • @ChrisW It appears that the Pali term used here is indeed about lying although it's not clear to me from the context of the brahmins' statement on how it's about lying.
    – ruben2020
    Mar 28 at 20:09
  • @rht You could ask the question directly on Buddhism SE. It's a good question.
    – ruben2020
    Mar 30 at 14:19
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You should not say things which will turn out to be false or is false intentionally. However if you have said something which turned out to be false unintentionally then it is alright. Honesty and integrity are the hallmarks of the followers of Buddha.
Sometimes a person is a pathological liar... he doesn’t know that he is lying... he believes that whatever he is saying is true. In such cases it is necessary to reprimand him so that he doesn’t get into or put others into big danger...you can call lying intentionally as bad karma ...

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Kamma forms when (1) there is intention, intention of ill will, intention of causing others to quarrel (2) you do it, you really speak in such (3) the result, the speak causing quarrel as it intended to be.

ALL above 3 need to happen to form a bad kamma.
Thus, say something you thought was true (with no bad intention) but turned out to be false due to everything are conditionally arises/ceases, is not a bad kamma, and you do not break the precept.

However, a note here - are you sure "your thought were true", were your intention sincere? were your intention compassionate? were your intention good for you and others (both)?

Referring to Dhammapada 1st verse : Mind is the chief forerunner of all evil states. Experiences are led by and produced chiefly by the mind. If one speaks or acts with a corrupted impure mind, Suffering will follows just like the wheel of an ox-cart when the ox pulls.

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