The Buddhist Path to Enlightenment (study)

by Dr Kala Acharya | 2016 | 118,883 words

This page relates ‘Abstention from falsehood (musavada)’ of the study on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. The Buddha was born in the Lumbini grove near the present-day border of India and Nepal in the 6th century B.C. He had achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty–five under the ‘Bodhi-tree’ at Buddha-Gaya. This study investigates the teachings after his Enlightenment which the Buddha decided to teach ‘out of compassion for beings’.

2.3.1. Abstention from falsehood (musāvāda)

[Full title: The Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya-aṭṭhaṅgika-magga)—(3): Right Speech—(a): Abstention from falsehood (musāvāda)]

Herein someone avoids false speech and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, not a deceiver of people. Being at a meeting, or amongst people, or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the king's court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: "I know nothing," and if he knows, he answers: "I know"; if he has seen nothing, he answers: "I have seen nothing," and if he has seen, he answers: "I have seen." Thus he never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of his own advantage, or for the sake of another person's advantage, or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever.[1]

In the context of right speech the first virtue is to abstain from falsehood and speak the truth. Such a person, as the Metta Sutta says, is straight, nay transparently straight (uju, suhūju).[2] He is sincere, upright and dependable. He does not stray from the truth to win fame, or to please another.

He may seem strict, but ‘truth is one, for there is no second’.[3]

‘The Buddha did not say one thing one day and the contrary the next.’[4]

‘Because he speaks as he acts and acts as he speaks (Yathāvādī tathākārī, yathākārī tathāvādī), he is called Tathāgata.’[5]

The Master is also known as saccanāma, ‘he whose name is truth.’

There are four components of falsehood:

  1. An untrue situation,
  2. The thought of deceiving,
  3. The corresponding effort, and
  4. The communication of the meaning to another.[6]

If one speaks something false believing it to be true, there is no break of the precept as the intention to deceive is absent. So we must not tell lies intentionally or deliberately. The Buddha taught the young novice Rahula not to speak a deliberate lie even in jest.[7]

Footnotes and references:


AN X, p. 176


Suttanipāta, Metta sutta


Suttanipāta, p. 884


Buddhavaṃsa, p. 12 Ver. 110 ‘Advejjhavacanā Buddhā’. AN III, p. 403. ‘How, when I have definitely decleared it, can there be an alternative (dvejjaṃ)?


DN III, p. 135. S. 29.


Vin III, p16; SN II, p. 370; Ps, p.332


AN II, p.87

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