How Many of You Would Tell the Truth?
Question: Can a little lie told to a person be loving and actually prevent hurt? Sri
Gurudev: Well, I have a philosophy about that. What is a lie? Is a lie something terrible? Is it always bad to lie? If so, why should there even be such a thing as a lie at all in this universe? Why has lying been created? Lying by itself is not bad. You can lie under certain conditions. If it is going to produce at least some benefit to somebody and no harm to anybody, then even a lie is the truth. In the same way, don’t think that your own golden truth is always wonderful. Sometimes truth can be more terrible than lying. Would you like an example?
Once upon a time there lived a sadhu (a wandering mendicant) in a remote wooded area. He lived in a nice, small hut. One fine day a young, beautiful girl who was wearing all kinds of nice jewels, diamonds, rubies and what not, came running up to him. “Swami, please help me.” He was startled to see the young girl. She said, “Please, somebody is chasing me to rob me of all these things. He may even kill me. Please let me hide somewhere.”
And without even waiting for his permission, she just ran into the hut and hid herself in a corner. Within a few minutes, a terrible looking man with a nice dagger in his hand came running by. “Hey, sadhu. Did a young girl come by here?” Sadhus should not tell lies, isn’t it so? What should he say? The truth and nothing but the truth? How many of you would tell the truth? Probably not even one.
The sadhu said, “What? What do you mean by that? Why would a young girl come here? Don’t you see that I am a sadhu and this is a hermitage? This is no place for young girls.” “Oh, so you didn’t see anyone?” “Why are you looking for a young girl here? I am just an old man living in a forest.” Did he tell the truth? No. So, it’s a lie, in a way. He didn’t say, “No;” he just questioned the man. And by doing so, he saved three lives: the life of the girl, his own life and the life of the thief. The thief was ready to kill the girl to get the jewels; then he would have had to kill the sadhu who would have been a witness; and the police would have caught the thief and put him to death.
So don’t worry about whether something is the truth or a lie. Think about what the outcome of it is. Always look at the outcome of your actions and the motive with which you perform them. The sadhu was not really cheating the man by that lie; in fact, he saved that man’s life by preventing the crime. He wished well for him, so his lie had a good intention and a beautiful outcome. That’s how we should think. In that sense, there is nothing bad in this whole universe.