Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “punishments for falsehood” 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 2 - Punishments for falsehood

Question. – What are the punishments for falsehood?

Answer. – The liar first deceives himself, then he deceives others. He takes the true to be false and the false to be true. Deception relating to true and false (anṛtasatyaviparyāsa) prevents the gathering of good dharmas (kuśaladharma); it is like a closed vase (praticchannaghaṭa) where water cannot penetrate. The mind of the liar is without shame (apatrāpya) or modesty (hrī); he closes the door to the divine destinies (devagati) and to nirvāṇa. When one thinks about these punishments, one does not lie anymore.

Consider also true speech (satyavāk) and how great are its advantages (anuśaṃsa): these advantages arise by themselves and are easy to obtain: they are the power of all monastics (pravrajita); virtuous lay people (guṇin gṛhastha) also share them with the monastics.

Moreover, the truthful person has a straightforward mind and, by this straightforwardness, he easily succeeds in escaping from sorrow. It is like a thick forest: if the direction followed is correct, one comes out of it easily.

Question. – If falsehood brings such punishments, why do people lie?

Answer. – There are fools (mūḍha), people of little knowledge who, upon [157b] meeting with some difficulty, an enemy, or an obstacle, try to escape from it by lying. They ignore that their difficulties will increase and that they will be punished in this very life (ihajanman); they ignore that the future life (aparajanma) also has great punishment in store for them. – Furthermore, there are people who, even knowing the punishments reserved for lying, nevertheless lie under the sway of desire (rāga) hatred (dveṣa) or delusion (moha). – Finally, there are people who, although feeling no desire or hatred, bear false witness of the faults of others and even think they are right: these after death will fall into hell (niraya).

[Kokālika’s mendacious accusations]

If by consciously (saṃcintya) nourishing defamatory suspicions in this way, one ends up by persuading oneself (niścaya), it is just the same as a lie. And the liar ends up by not trusting the words of the Buddha (buddhavacana); he will suffer the punishments we have spoken of. This is why one should not lie.

[Exhortations to Rāhula].

As the Buddha said, falsehood has ten punishments.[1] What are these ten?

1)     The mouth has a foul odor.

2)     The good deities avoid the liar; the Amanuṣyas use him as their messenger.

3)     Even when he tells the truth (satyavac), people do not believe him.

4)     He never takes part in the councils of the wise.

5)     He always meets with criticism (abhyākhyāna) and his bad reputation spreads everywhere.

6)     People have no respect for him and even if he has some authority, nobody obeys him.

7)     He is always sad (daurmanasya).

8)     He plants karmic causes and conditions [which will merit his] being criticized.

9)     At the dissolution of the body (kāyasya bhedāt) at the end of life (jīvitaparyavasāne), he will fall into the hells (niraya).

10)   If he is reborn among men, he will always suffer criticism.

Not committing all these lies is “to abstain from falsehood” (mṛṣāvādavirati), and this is called the proper discipline of speech (vāksaṃvara).

Footnotes and references:


Nandikasūtra, in Feer, Extraits, p. 246; T 81, p. 899b23–26.

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