The Fourth Precept: Refrain from Telling Lies

Venue: SBS 
Special occasion: Visit by the Sunday school children of Bodhi Langka Ram Temple, Taiping

As children are by nature restless, I’ll keep my talk short.

Do you all consider yourselves Buddhists? Good, I see a show of hands from all here. My next question is: Do you consider yourselves good Buddhists? Aha, I see a show of hands from only about half of those present! How then can we be good Buddhists?

Once the Buddha was asked, “What is a Buddhist?” What makes a person a Buddhist? How are Buddhists different from others?

You are a Buddhist if you take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha. Whether or not you are a good Buddhist is a different matter.

The Buddha was also asked, “How is a person considered a good Buddhist?” The Buddha said that so long as he keeps the five precepts, he’s a good Buddhist.

Maybe we can say that there are different levels of being good Buddhists. Some may be able to keep only four precepts, others only three or two. But we should try to keep all five.

Today, I’ll just talk about one precept, one that’s very suitable and important to teach children. That’s the fourth precept. So what is the fourth precept? Yes, it is to refrain from telling lies. People say that this precept is very difficult to keep as compared to say, refrain from killing. For example, to kill a mosquito, you’ve got to take aim first. A lie can pop out from your mouth without having to think much.

How many of you have told lies before? Please raise your hand. Good. At least, we’re honest about that. So, all of us have lied before. So have I. See, I have my hand raised too. To refrain from lying is a very important precept to keep. If a person can lie, there’s nothing he cannot do because he can always cover up his misdeeds by telling lies.

This precept should be instilled into children from a very young age. If you do not tell lies, people will believe you when you speak. Have you heard the story, “The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf’?” If you are a habitual liar, like the boy in the story, then no one will believe what you say, even when you are telling the truth. If you want to be a leader, you have to be someone who can be trusted and dependable. So you must be careful about what you say.

People look down on those who lie a lot and do not listen when they speak. Lying is bad kamma. As a result of telling lies, your words are weak and nobody listens to you. Some parents complain that their children do not listen to them. The reason for this could be their past bad kamma of telling lies.

Sometimes parents lie to their children in order to get them to listen to them. For example, they tell their children that if they do or do not do such and such a thing, the police will come after them. Children may believe that in the beginning. However, they are not stupid. Sooner or later, they’ll know that it’s not true. As a result, these children will learn to lie in order to get what they want. So, if parents want their children to be truthful to them, they themselves should not lie to their children.

[Ven Kumara then led the kids in a game of “Land-Sea”, which teaches children to be honest in a positive way. The children had a lot of fun and performed well in the game.]

I’m happy to see that the children seem to be quite well taught to be honest. They are willing to stick to the truth even if they have to be dismissed from the game. This reflects well on the parents and the Sunday school teachers.

Let me end by saying that we should all try to avoid lying.

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