Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “definition of falsehood (mrishavada)” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Part 1 - Definition of falsehood (mṛṣāvāda)

“Falsehood” (mṛṣāvāda). – With an evil intention (aśubhacitta), wishing to deceive another, concealing the truth (satya), offering words different [from the truth]: this is called falsehood (mṛṣāvāda). The sin of lying arises in dependence on the intelligibility (samavabodha) of the words pronounced, for if these are not understood, there could be an incorrect comment (vitathavākhya), but it would not be a lie.[1] “When one knows, to say that one does not know; when one does not know, to say that one knows; when one sees, to say that one does not see; when one does not see, to say that one sees; when one understands, to say that one does not understand; when one does not understand, to say that one understands: this is what is called falsehood.”[2]

Not to act in this way is to abstain from falsehood (mṛṣāvādavirati).

Notes on the definition of a liar:

See the canonical definition of a liar in Majjhima, I, p. 226; III, p. 47, 55; Aṅguttara, V, p. 264; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 1039, k. 37, p. 271b:

Musāvādī hoti: sabhāgato vā parisagato vā ñātimojjhagato vā pūgamajjhagato vā rājakulamajjhato vā abhinīto sakkhipuṭṭho: evaṃ bho purisa yaṃ jānāsi taṃ vādchīti, so ajānaṃ vā āha: jānāmīti, jānāṃ vā āha: na jānāmīti, apassaṃ vā āha: passāmati, passaṃ vā āha: na passāmīti, iti attahetu vāparahetu vā āmisakiñcikkhahetu vā sampajānamusā bhāsitā hoti:

“He is a liar: summoned to appear before an assembly, a gathering, a family circle, a guild or a tribunal, and interrogated as a witness to tell what he knows, he says that he knows when he does not know, he says that he does not know when he knows;he says that he has seen when he has not seen, he says that he has seen when he has not seen; thus he consciously tells lies sometimes for himself, sometines for others, for some material advantage.”

Later scholasticism determines the conditions necessary for there to be falsehood: Daśakuś., JA, Oct-Dec. 1929, p. 269:

Tatra kathaṃ mṛṣāvādī nāma: vastu ca bhavati, vastupattitaṃ ca bhavati, vithasaṃjñī ca bhavati, vitathacittaṃ cha bhavati, mṛṣāvādaṃ ca bhāṣate: ebhiḥ pañcabhir aṇgaiḥ samanvāgato muriṣāvādī bhavati:

“How is one a liar? There is something true, there is something false, he knows that it is false, he has the intention to deceive and he speaks a lie: the person who fulfills these five conditions is a liar.”

Buddhaghosa in Sumaṅgala, I, p. 72; Atthasalinī, p. 99 (tr. Tin, Expositor, I, p. 131):

Tassa cattāro sabhārā honti: Atathaṃ vatthu visaṃvādanacittaṃ,, tajjo vāyāmo, parassa tadatthavijānanan ti. Eko payogoāhatthiko. So kāyena vā kāyapaṭi addhena vā vācāyo vā paravisaṃvādakakiriyāya karaṇe daṭṭhabbo:

“Falsehood has four constitutive factors: a false thing, the intention to deceive, a corresponding effort and communication to another. There is only one way to lie: personal action. This should be understood as the fact of deceiving another either by body or something in connection with the body, or by speech.”

– See also Kośa, IV, p. 158 seq.; Hardy, Manual, p. 468; Bigandet, Gaudama, p. 418.

Footnotes and references:

1.

Cf. Kośa, IV, p. 156–159: In order that there be a lie, the interlocutor must understand the meaning of the words pronounced; if he does not understand them, it is frivolous speech (saṃbhinnapralāpa) but not a lie.

2.

Free quotation from a sūtra on the sixteen “vocal conducts” (vyavahāra): – eight bad (anārya) ones: not having seen heard, known, felt, to say that one has seen heard, known, felt; – eight good (ārya) ones, the opposite of the preceding. Cf. Dīgha, III, p. 232; Majjhima, III, p. 29; Aṅguttara, II, p. 246, IV, p. 307; Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 8, p. 50b; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 49, p. 732b–c: Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 171, p. 861c; Kośa, IV, p. 159–160: cattāto anariyavohārā: adiṭṭhe diṭṭhavāditā, assute sutavāditā, amute mutavāditā, aviññāte viññātavāditā. Apare pi cattāro anartiyavohārā: diṭṭhe adiṭṭhavāditā