Ideals and Values/Truth & Honesty

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia


What are Truth and Honesty?

Truth means describing something exactly as we saw it, heard it or sensed it in some other way to others. Hindu scriptures say the following about truth:

Where there is truth, there is Dharma; where there is Dharma, there is light; and where there is light, there is happiness. Conversely, where there is falsehood, there is Adharma; where there is Adharma, there is darkness; and where there is darkness, there is sorrow.[1]

There are four austerities of speech. They are:[2]

  1. To keep quiet instead of speaking nonsense
  2. To speak the truth
  3. To speak endearing words
  4. To speak that which is in conformity with Dharma

Honest means behaving with others in a truthful and in a straightforward way, not manipulate others or play with their emotions and not cheat them in financial transactions. Truth and honesty are very basic human virtues and he who does not have them is not considered a good human being, not a good friend material or a good companion or spouse. No one trusts someone who does not speak the truth, as is illustrated in the fable of Aesop given below.

Story (Aesop's Fable): The Boy who Cried Wolf There was a shepherd boy who looked after his village sheep. He took them to the land on which grass grew, so that the sheep could eat. One day, as the sheep were eating grass, the boy felt bored. So he played a trick. He started yelling, "Wolf, wolf! A wolf has come from the forest and is killing the sheep." When the villagers heard him, they rushed with sticks and knives but found no wolf. The realized that the boy had lied.

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The shepherd boy did the same joke on some other days. Every time the villagers came, they saw that there was no wolf attacking the sheep. They were angry at the boy for wasting their time. After the boy did this trick a few times, the villagers stopped believing in him. One day, a wolf actually did come and started eating the sheep. Once again, the boy cried, "Wolf, wolf." But the villagers thought that he was lying. No one came to drive the wolf away. The wolf killed all the sheep! The story shows that no one believes a liar even if he speaks the truth.

Truth is the Strength of One's Character : Integrity

A person who is honest and speaks the truth even when there is a danger to his life, health, and wealth etc., is said to be one of a very strong character or in other words, he has moral integrity. In the Hindu tradition, we revere the life of King Harishchandra[3] because he was willing to forgo everything for the sake of truth and keeping his word. Another story is that of Satyakāma, who risked being refused admission to the elite school of Ṛṣi Gautama if he spoke the truth. And the third story is of a judge in the court of a Hindu King who chose poverty and oblivion over dishonesty and riches.

Story: Harishchandra, the Truthful King Several thousand years ago, the city of Ayodhya was ruled by King Harishchandra. He was a very good king who took great care of everyone in his kingdom. He was famous for being truthful and fair. He was married to Queen Chandramatī. Together, they had a son named Rohitāshva.[4] One day, Ṛṣi Vishvāmitra decided to test Harishchandra. By his powers of Yoga, Vishvamitra changed his form to become a wild pig. This pig played havoc in Ayodhya. Everyone was fed up of the pig. Harishchandra decided to get rid of the pig himself. He started chasing the pig out of the city and entered a jungle. As he was chasing the pig in the forest, Harishchandra lost his way. The pig disappeared.

In fact, the pig had changed itself into a Brāhmana. When the king saw the Brāhmana, he bowed out of respect. He did not recognize the fact that it was the Ṛṣi who had changed himself to a pig and then to a Brāhmana. The king asked the Brāhmana if he knew the way back to Ayodhya. The king promised to give any gift to the Brāhmana if he could help him reach his palace in Ayodhya. The Brāhmana agreed and asked the king to follow him, till they reached Ayodhya.

There, in Ayodhya, the Brāhmana reminded the king of his promise. He now changed himself to his true form of Vishvāmitra. Then he said, "I want you to gift your entire kingdom to me." The king was shocked, but he had to keep his promise. But the Brāhmana then put in one more condition, "What you gave to me was only because you had given me a promise. I am a very respected Ṛṣi. Therefore, I want you to give me some more donation too." Now, Harishchandra was in a fix. He had already given away everything to Vishvāmitra. So he requested, "Ṛṣi, please give me one month. I and my wife will arrange some money and give the gift to you after that time." Vishvāmitra agreed.

The king, his wife and their son now walked from Ayodhya to another city named Varanasi. Harishchandra tried to find work for many, many days. But no one offered him a job. One month was almost over and Harishchandra now really got worried. Chandramatī felt sad to see her husband so upset. So she said, "Why don't you sell me as a maid to someone else. With that money, you can give the donation to Vishvāmitra."

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Harishchandra was very surprised to hear this. But he had no choice. This time, Vishvamitra took on another disguise and appeared in front of them. He offered to buy Chandramatī and Rohitāshva for some money. Harishchandra took all the money to Sage Vishvamitra's home and offered it as donation. But Vishvamitra was not happy, "What! This is so little. I need more. By the sunset today, you must get me some more money for donation." So, Harishchandra started looking for another job.

Luckily, the owner of a cremation ground[5] offered him the job of a doorkeeper. Harishchandra's duty was to collect money from the families who brought in the dead for cremation. Meanwhile, while Rohitāshva was playing on the banks of the Ganga river, a snake bit him and he died. Now Chandramatī almost became mad with grief. She begged her master to let her go so that she could at least take her dead son for a cremation. But the master, who was actually Vishvamitra in disguise, said, "I have already lost money because your son has died. I had paid money to get him, did I not? Now I want you to work during the day. In the night, you can carry your son's dead body and take him for cremation."

At night, Chandramatī carried her son's body to the cremation ground. Due to darkness and because she was so sad, her voice and appearance had changed. The doorkeeper, who was none other than her husband Harishchandra, did not recognize her. He demanded a fee for the ticket before she could enter the cremation ground. Chandramatī cried and said, "I do not have any money. The only thing I have is this Mangalasutra. Take it, and let me go in so that I can at least cremate my son." A mangalasutra is a necklace of black beads and gold that is worn by all married Hindu women. When Harishchandra saw the mangalasutra, he immediately realized that it was none other than his wife. And it was none other than their son who had died! Both of them wept a lot at their bad luck and at their condition.

But Harishchandra was so honest that he would not permit his own wife to cremate their own son till she paid the fee for entering the cremation ground. So the two made a deal, they said, "There is nothing more left in our life. Our only son has died. We have no money. And there is no way we can be happy. Let us cremate ourselves with our son's body." So Harishchandra set up a pile of woods. On it, he placed Rohitāshva's body. Then, he and his wife started to enter the fire. But as soon as they took a step towards the fire, a miracle happened. Rohita came back to life, the fire blew out. Devatās appeared in the sky and they saw Ṛṣi Vishvamitra standing right next to them. The Ṛṣi said, "Dear King Harishchandra, I was only testing your honesty. You had to suffer so much and yet, you tried everything you could have done to give me my donation. You have kept your word. You are a very great man. I have brought your son back to life." Then, Ṛṣi Vishvamitra returned the kingdom to Harishchandra.

Now the king and queen returned to their palace in Ayodhya, where they ruled with fairness for several years. And after their death, they were both taken to heaven, because they had been so truthful in their entire life. The story of King Harishchandra teaches us that once we give a promise, we should keep it. We may have to suffer a lot to keep our promise. But we should not break our word given to someone else.

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The story of King Harishchandra has been very famous in India. Mahatma Gandhi was inspired a lot by the honesty of this king. To honor him, the very first movie made in India in the year 1913 was "Raja Harishchandra". The movie was 40 minutes long. It was a black and white silent movie because in those days, we did not have the technology to record the voice of actors and play it along with the scenes in the movie! The film was made by Dada Saheb Phalke and was a super hit. Today, India makes the largest number of movies among all the countries of the world, but "Raja Harishchandra" was the very first Indian movie.

Trick Question: What was the language in which the movie "Rājā Harishchandra" was made?

Story: Satyakāma Jabāla, the truthful Student Once, a boy named Satyakāma Jabāla wanted to study a lot. He heard that Ṛṣi Hāridrumata Gautama was a very renowned scholar and that he was accepting new students. So he approached Gautama with a request to take him in as a student too. In those days, it was a custom for the teacher to ask about the family background of their students because the students had to live all the time with others in boarding schools. They would interact with each other throughout the day. A single student from a bad family could spoil the atmosphere of the boarding school. For this reason, famous teachers who ran the top-notch schools had to make sure that all of their students were from good families and had good values. Therefore, Gautama also asked Satyakāma, "What is your family background and who are your mother and father?"

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Now, Satyakāma had never seen his father. So he went to his mother to ask. When he put the question to her, she trembled with fear, but told him truthfully, "When I was young, I knew a lot of men. Therefore, I do not know who your father was. My name is Jabāla. Therefore you are Satyakāma Jabāla." Now Satyakāma felt ashamed of what he heard. He thought that if he were to tell the truth to his teacher, he would be refused admission outright. But he decided to speak the truth.

When he approached the teacher, he found all other students in the classroom studying. The teacher asked him, "Did you find out about your family details?" Satyakāma Jabāla said, "Guruji, my mother Jabāla does not know who my father was. Therefore, she said that I am Satyakama Jabāla." When the students heard this, there was a hushed silence, because they were all aghast. They were sure that Gautama would immediately turn him out of the school.

But Gautama said, "This child did not hesitate to speak the truth. And truth alone is the true mark of belonging to good family. And therefore, I have no hesitation to say that Satyakāma's parents are both very noble because he did not hesitate to speak the truth to me. I will surely accept him as my student." And so, Satyakāma became a student of Gautama. In fact, in the course of time, he became a great Rishi himself and compiled several Vedic and other Hindu scriptures. The Jabāla Upaniṣad, a sacred scripture of the Hindus named after him still exists and is highly respected to this day.

Judge Rām Śāstri prefers poverty and oblivion over riches earned through dishonesty Rām Śāstri was the chief judge at the royal court of the Peshwa,[6] who ruled a large empire in India. He lived a very simple and frugal life, following the Hindu scriptural teachings that Brāhmanas must not live lavishly. One day, his wife visited the Queen in her palace. Seeing her soiled clothes, the Queen gifted her with expensive clothing and jewelry. When Rām Śāstri saw his wife return home wearing her gifts in a palanquin, he immediately shut the door on her, saying, "It looks like a Queen has accidentally come to a poor Brāhmana's home." The wife understood her husband's intent. She returned to the palace and changed back into her old clothes.

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This time, when she walked to her home, she found that Rām Śāstri had already kept the door opened for her to enter. When she arrived, he said to her, "A Brāhmana's wife must also live very simply, otherwise we will lose our real treasure, which is humility." Sometime later, the Peshwa died and his son, a child, was murdered by his Uncle Raghoba. Rām Śāstri was asked to adjudicate in the case and be the judge in the trial of Raghoba.

Raghoba and his wife were a very powerful couple in the Maratha Empire. They offered riches to Rām Śāstri if he delivered a verdict declaring them innocent. When Ram Śāstri did not agree, they threatened to have him murdered. But he still did not budge and finally pronounced Raghoba guilty of murder of his nephew. Due to political complications, Raghoba was spared the sentence and was asked to be the next King. Rām Śāstri retired to his native village. He preferred to live the rest of his life in isolation and poverty than give up his principles of truth, honesty and simple living. A more contemporary example is given below where a businessman actually speaks the truth out of honesty to lose money.

Story: Business Owner returns extra Money back to his Insurance Company Once, Gitā Press, a publisher of Hindu scriptures in N India, set up a stall for sale of its books during the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Unfortunately, a fire broke out in the area and the stall of the Gitā Press also suffered a lot of damage. The shop caretaker filed a claim for Rs 14,000 which was the total insured amount of the books with the insurance company and got a check for this amount soon from them.

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A few days later, the owner of Gitā Press Jaydayal Goenka asked the shop care-taker, "Did we sell any books before the fire broke out?" The shopkeeper confirmed that half the books worth Rs 7000 had been sold and the money collected had been safely deposited before the remaining books got destroyed. Goenka was furious when he heard this and reprimanded his employee, "If you had already sold books worth Rs 7000, then how dare you filed a claim for Rs 14,000? I want you to return the excess Rs 7000 to the insurance company and ask them for forgiveness for this lapse."

Speaking a Lie by not speaking the Truth

Another type of lie is when we deliberately keep quiet when we should have spoken a truth. We kept quiet because we were scared or because we think that we will lose a lot of money or friends by speaking the truth. In several lawsuits involving crimes like murder and robbery, the courts request witnesses to come forward to either give evidence against or in favor of the accused. Suppose you come to know that a man accused of murder was not the actual culprit because you were present at the scene of the crime and had seen the murderer actually, then it is your duty to step forward and give your witness statement. But if you are scared that by getting the accused released and by revealing the name of the true murderer your own life will get endangered because the true murderer will get his henchman to kill you if he finds out that you are going to reveal his name to others, then you will not go to the court to give your testimony. As a result of your silence, the falsely accused person might get convicted and get hanged, although you saved your own life.

In such situations, it requires real courage and intelligence to act correctly. You could request for police protection in return for your eye-witness account or request anonymity in return for providing the evidence the court needs. But if you just stay scared and do not try anything at all, an innocent person will lose his life. This is an example of silence that is equivalent to speaking a big lie.

Half Truths

Sometimes, we speak a half truth and a half lie. In the Mahābhārata, we come across an incident where a person who always spoke the truth had to speak a lie for the sake of Dharma. In the great war between the righteous Pāndavas and the evil Kauravas, the Pāndavas were having a tough time defeating Droṇa, who was fighting on behalf of the Kauravas. They knew that Droṇa really loved Ashvatthāmā, his only son. So Kṛṣṇa asked Bhima to kill the elephant Ashvatthāmā.

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Then, he asked Yudhishthira to say the sentence, "Ashvatthāma, the elephant, is dead." and told him that the words "the elephant," will be drowned out by a loud sound. So when Yudhishthira was speaking this sentence, Kṛṣṇa blew his conch shell exactly at the time of the words "the elephant." All that Droṇa heard was, "Ashvatthāmā is dead." He was shocked to learn that his son was dead. As he heard it from Yudhishthira, he had no reason to disbelief it. He lost all will to fight and another warrior Dhrishtadyumna came up from behind and beheaded Droṇa.

Prior to this incident, Yudhishthira's chariot wheels always levitated a little above the ground. But after he had spoken his first lie of his life, the wheels came down to the ground with a thud. When he died, he had to visit hell for a short time, to pay for this lie that he had spoken. However, the punishment that he received for being a part of a lie that caused Droṇa's death was very mild. The reason was that Yudhishthira was on the side of Dharma and he had spoken the lie so that Dharma would win.

Instances where we should speak a Lie

However, there are instances where speaking a lie is not considered a bad thing or where speaking a truth is bad whereas speaking a lie is good. Sage Nārada said, "Speaking the truth is a good thing, but even better is speaking that which promotes the welfare of others. In fact, I am of the firm opinion that those words alone are truth which promote the welfare of other living beings."[7]

Sharmishtha says to King Yayati, "Words said in joke do not cause harm even if they are lies. If one says a lie to his wife, during marriage, to save one's life or to prevent the loss of all possessions, then these five lies are not considered as evil/sin.[8]
Sharmishtha says to Yayati, "If some bears false witness to save another man's life, then calling that witness a liar would be incorrect. But where the witness utters a lie to save only his life and not that of another person whose life also depends on his deposition, then the lying witness will get destroyed by his falsehood.[9]
Bheeshma said, "If lying under oath fees you from captivity by evil captors, then speak that lie. As much as possible, do not let wealth pass into the hands of evil people because wealth gifted to them will recoil and cause harm to the giver himself.[10]

Story: Sage Kaushika Goes to Hell for Speaking the Truth In the Mahābhārata, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna a story illustrating how speaking a harsh truth that causes harm to others is sinful. Lord Krishna describes a Brahmana named Kaushika who took a vow of speaking truth at all the times. He constructs a hut on the banks of Ganga and spends all his time praying and practicing meditation. He never speaks a single lie and becomes famous as a saint who always speaks the truth.

One day, a band of bandits came to his home, chasing a group of innocent people who were trying to escape bandits and had passed by Kaushika's home. The bandits say to Kaushika, "You never speak a lie. Therefore tell us in which direction have the people we are chasing gone?" Kaushika knew that if he spoke the truth, the bandits will find the innocent fleeing people and they will rob and kill them. But he thought that he must speak truthfully because he had taken a vow to speak the truth always. Therefore, upon being asked as to whereabouts of these innocent people fleeing the bandits, Kaushika tells the bandits which direction the people went. As a result the bandits captured the innocent victims and killed them. Lord Krishna calls this "truthful" Kaushika as a fool, as one ignorant of Dharma who misused his vow of speaking truth always to cause harm to innocent people; and as a result of speaking this "truth", Kaushika went to Hell. Krishna then summarizes his teaching to Arjuna in the following verses:

Speaking the truth always is indeed a great virtue. Indeed, nothing no virtue is perhaps superior to speaking the truth. But the practical aspects of speaking truth are very difficult to understand.[11]
Sometimes truth is protected by speaking the truth, sometimes by not speaking it at all or sometimes even by speaking a lie. If a person is losing everything, then it is better to speak a lie if that lie will save that person from utter ruin.[12]
If speaking a truth will cause someone?s death or break someone?s marriage, then it is better to say a lie. In such situations, speaking the truth is equivalent to a lie, and speaking a lie is equivalent to speaking the truth.[13]
Only a fool thinks that speaking a formal truth alone is Dharma at all times. Instead, he alone is a knower of Dharma who speaks the truth only after considering the situation (as stated in the above verses).[14]
If a false promise can get you freedom from kidnappers, then better say a lie. It would be a greater evil to promise a ransom to kidnappers and then pay the amount to them after freedom because wealth given to evil men begets misery for the speaker of the truth himself. One must not therefore hesitate to speak a lie if it promotes Dharma.[15]

Story: Double-Crossing Brothers Save the Dharma of Hindus Another example where it was OK to be dishonest and speak a lie is from Indian history in the life of brothers Harihara and Bukka:

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In the 14th cent. CE, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the Muslim Sultan of Delhi, invaded south India, he smashed several temples replacing them with mosques, massacred Hindus and did several other atrocities against Hindus. In one of these campaigns, he captured the fort of Kumata, the chief Ramanatha died in the battle and all the ladies committed Jauhar[16] and all the residents of the fort, including Harihara and Bukka were captured, taken to Delhi and converted to Islam.

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The Hindus remaining in that region soon rose in rebellion. This adverse turn of events in that area forced Tughlaq to depend on the two converted brothers, who had belonged the erstwhile nobility of that region. He made them administer oaths of loyalty and sent them South to curb the revolts and rule the region under his name. However, when the brothers reached their native region, an influential Hindu monk Swami Vidyāraṇya inspired them to return to their ancestral faith. Further, there was an uprising of Hindus in the region and Harihara and Bukka attained the role of leaders of Hindus and established Hindu rule there, guided by the Swami and his scholarly brothers Sayana and Mayana.

The two brothers established the glorious Hindu Vijayanagara Empire in the region that lasted for over two centuries. This period led to a revival of Hindu Dharma in South India and prevented it from getting destroyed. While the empire lasted, dozens of Hindu scholars and saints arose in the region and they wrote thousands of explanations on Hindu scriptures, devotional hymns to Hindu Devatas and several temples were constructed across the region. These contributions of the Hindu Empire continue to influence Hindus to the present day. In short, this act of "double-crossing" of the fanatical Sultan by the two brothers who were converted to Islam by force, saved our Dharma in South India.

Difference between a Bitter Truth and an Evil-Intentioned Truth

A bitter truth is one which hurts the listener but has been said for his benefit. E.g., during a parent-teacher meeting or conference, the teacher has to tell the truth about your bad grades to your parents. Although this news causes them pain, they need to know it so that they can work with you at home to work harder on your studies. The teacher's intention in giving the bad news to your parents is good, because she wants you to study better and improve your grades.

On the contrary, an evil-intentioned truth involves speaking the truth with the intent of hurting the listener. Such people are described very aptly in this Sanskrit proverb:

"A wicked man feels elated when he has hurts others with his unkind words. On the contrary, a good man repents immediately even if he makes an unkind remark out of carelessness."[17]

It is very common to find people who will flatter us with lies, caring only that they stay in our good books all the time. These selfish people fear that speaking the bitter truth that annoys us initially will invite our anger and displeasure towards them. They do not care that speaking the bitter truth will benefit us in the long run. A well-wisher and a genuine friend on the other hand will always speak that bitter truth to us because he wants our welfare and is not too worried about how we will react his words spoken to us.

Likewise, as a listener, it is also our duty to hear the bitter truth and react to it in a positive way by learning from it and improving ourself instead of getting angry at the speaker. Sant Kabir has said very eloquently, "Keep your critic close to you in a home in your own courtyard. The critic purifies and cleans our character without using any soap or water."

Story: King Bhoja requests his fearless critic to become his teacher This story is taken from the source: Bhojaprabandha. Rājā Bhoja, who ruled central India in the 11th cent. CE was renowned for his generosity and patronage to scholars and poets. But in his initial years, he was a miserly King. One morning, he was touring his capital. A Brahmana crossed his way and then suddenly turned his face away.

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Rājā Bhoja was perplexed, because the Brahmana had insulted him by not greeting his own King. He asked the Brahmana as to why he had the look of disgust when he saw his King. The Brahmana replied, "Your majesty, wealth and joys of this world are all temporary and they do not last forever. It is only our good acts of Dharma that accompany us when we die. Giving charity brings glory to Kings that last beyond their lives. Unfortunately, you are a miser and it is bad luck to see the face of a miser in the morning. That the reason why I had turned my face away from you."

The King was impressed with the Brahmana's response. He thought, "It is not difficult for a King to be surrounded by flatterers. But this Brahmana is brave and truthful." He asked the Brahmana to come to the court every day to give a sermon. From that day onwards, Rājā Bhoja became a great patron of scholars and poets.

Truth and Responsibility

Truth is defined as speech that is free from hurt and falsehood and which is also consistent with the facts. But, it is not sufficient that our intentions are good when we speak the truth. In addition to good intention, we should also make sure that we ascertain our facts. For example, a traveler who is lost asks us for directions to reach his friend's home. We give him the directions believing them to be correct, even though they are not. As a result, the traveler gets lost. Although our intentions were good and we thought that we gave the correct directions, we did not make sure that we really knew the correct path. Because of our carelessness, the traveler got lost. This example shows that we have a responsibility to make sure that our facts are also correct.

Truth and Sensitivity: Joke with Care

Sometimes it is not our intention to hurt the other person. But we say something that is true and hurts the listener, even though we had not wanted to hurt him. Therefore, we should be sensitive to how the other person will react to our statements.

Sometimes, we say innocent lies to others to joke and have a little fun. E.g., saying to a friend, "Look, there is an ugly sticker pasted on your backside", when there is none, it is an innocent lie that startles your friend and allows everyone to have some fun. There is nothing wrong in doing so, especially if we joke with our friends. However, when we are joking, we should be sensitive of how others feel. If we keep joking with the same person all the time, it becomes teasing, harassment and bullying.

Also, some people might be very sensitive about certain things and we should not joke to them about that because they might take things seriously. E.g., joking to elderly parents by saying, "You don't expect me to take care of your medical bills, do you?" is a poor joke even if you intend to pay their bills because your parents can take it to their heart that they are dependent on you for help in paying their bills.

Types of Truth and their Acceptability

From the above discussion, it is clear that speaking the truth is not as straightforward as it appears to be. Sometimes, we have to speak a lie, sometimes we should just keep quiet, sometimes we must speak a bitter truth and so on. The table below gives the summary of guidelines that we should follow to decide whether we should speak the truth or not in a given situation:


Type of Truth Example Acceptability
Factually correct and meant to cause happiness "Bhagavān is our Creator, Provider and he wants us to speak the truth." Acceptable
Factually a lie, but intended to cause happiness A physician does not want to tell his patient that he has a dreadful cancer because telling the truth to the patient will cause him a lot of pain and reduce the chances of his recovery. Therefore, the physician tells the patient that his cancer is very mild and will go away with simple treatment. Acceptable. In colloquial English, this lie is called a "white lie".
Factually correct but meant to cause pain and sorrow My cousin invites me to see her new house. When I come to see the house, I tell her that I don't like it and that it wasn't worth the amount that she paid for it. Or telling on your sibling with the devious intention of getting him or her scolded by your parents. Unacceptable
Factually incorrect and meant to cause pain and sorrow Ram knew that Sohan was blind. When Sohan tripped and fell, Ram pretended that he did not know of Sohan's blindness and shouted, "You idiot, can't you see with your two eyes?" Unacceptable

Some practical expressions of being truthful and honest

In our day to day life, here are some of the qualities we can show to demonstrate that we are truthful and honest:

  1. Reliability: A reliable person is consistently trustworthy, truthful and helpful. He can be depended upon for help and assistance at any time. A dishonest / non-truthful person can never be reliable. A reliable friend, for example, will always step forward to help out his friend in need.
  2. Sincerity: Sincerity means being truthful in mind, word and deed and not make statements in which one does not believe in. For example, a person who is sincere about honesty will not praise bribery in front of corrupt people just to please them and make friends with them.
  3. Consistency: This means that we practice good behavior day after day and not erratically. A consistent student is truthful to his duty of studying diligently and maintains good grades throughout his academic year.
  4. Integrity: Integrity means sticking to one's moral and spiritual values even if there is pressure to deviate from them and compromise with them. For example, an honest person with integrity or sense of character will not pocket a wallet found on the street even if it has a million dollars in it.

Truth, Profit and Divine Protection

Several people believe that being truthful and honest is foolish because a person practicing these virtues always comes to ruin. But Hindu Dharma and all other religions teach that Bhagavān Himself takes care of individuals who are truthful, honest and are devoted to Him. The following story of a saint illustrates this principle.

Story: How Bhagavān protected Sant Wadhuram from being cheated Sant Wadhuram[18] was a humble grocer in the town of Bhiria in the Nawabshah district of Sindh. He had sacks of grains and other eatables in his shop and a wooden measuring bowl to weigh out exact quantities of the foodstuff for his customers. He collected all the money received in a clay pot kept next to him. His business strategy was very clear and open. He told the customers, "I will sell 16 measures of the bowl for Re. one and add one anna as profit. You can measure the sixteen measures yourself and place one Rupee and one anna in my clay pot." Sometimes, the customers would ask, "What if we cheat you and measure 17 or 18 wooden bowls but put only one Rupee in the pot?" Wadhuram would smile and say, "My Thakur[19] is sitting next to me and He will take care of it."

One day, a dishonest customer paid Rs. 2 plus the anna for profit to Wadhuram but took 36 measures of grain while Wadhuram was looking away. But as soon as that customer reached home, he had a severe attack of colic which no medicine was able to cure. The customer felt very guilty and returned to the shop to confess his guilt and seek forgiveness. Wadhuram forgave him and asked him to be honest in the future. The news of this incident spread like wild-fire and the town folk started addressing Wadhuram as Bhagat[20] Wadhuram.

At another time, a customer came to buy patāshas and paid with two silver rupee coins. When he reached home, he discovered that the coins had accidentally fallen into the packet of the patāshas or in other words, he had not paid Wadhuram anything for the patāshas. In those days, Rs. 2 was a large sum of money. The customer gloated to his wife how he got the patāshas for free. She asked him to be honest and return to Wadhuram's shop to pay the amount, but he would not listen. Soon thereafter, his eyesight began to fail. The customer took this as a punishment for cheating a saintly shopkeeper. He went to Wadhuram, confessed and apologized and paid the amount owed.

Wadhuram asked him to practice honesty and truth in the future but said, "Since the two coins fell into your bag of patāshas, they added to their weight. Therefore, you got less patāshas than you should have. Let me weigh out some more patāshas equal in weight to the two silver Rupee coins so that I can give you what I owe to you now." Then, Wadhuram weight the patāshas and gave them to the customer, who was astonished at the Bhagat's honesty and humility.

Sources

  1. Swami Akhandanand Saraswati (1970), p. 74
  2. Butani. D H. 1986. The Incredible Bhagat Wadhuram, Saint of Sind. Promilla & Co. Publishers (New Delhi), pp, 27, 29, 37
  3. In those days, Re. 1 had 16 annas and each anna had 64 paise. So a Rupee had 64 paise. The 16 annas represented the 16 Kalas (aspects) of Bhagawan, and 64 paise stood for the 64 kal?s or secular arts and skills cultivated by the traditional Hindu society.
  4. Patāshas is a sweet made white rice fluor mixed with sugar, cut in the form of circular discs.

Notes & References

  1. Mahābhārata 12.190.5
  2. Mahābhārata 12.299.38
  3. He was an ancestor of Bhagavān Rāma
  4. Rohita is the short-form of this name.
  5. It is a place where dead bodies are burned.
  6. It is the title of the King of the Maratha Hindu Empire.
  7. Mahābhārata 12.329.13
  8. Mahābhārata 1.82.16
  9. Mahābhārata 1.82.17
  10. Mahābhārata 12.109.16-17
  11. Mahābhārata 8.49.27
  12. Mahābhārata 8.49.28
  13. Mahābhārata 8.49.29
  14. Mahābhārata 8.49.30
  15. Mahābhārata 8.49.54-55
  16. Jauhar is an act of suicide to prevent capture and dishonor by the enemy.
  17. Nītidvishashtikā of Sundara Pāndya, verse 67
  18. He lived in 1868 - 1929.
  19. Thakur is the name by which he called Bhagavān.
  20. Bhagat means devotee.