World Scripture


It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Similarly, a lie may do more damage than a gun fired in anger. Lying is the doorway to any number of evils. But we may distinguish between lying in the sense of teaching a falsehood about Reality--e.g., propagating atheism or a false doctrine--and lying in the sense of deliberately misleading and deceiving another about a matter of which he has certain knowledge. The first type of lie may in fact be based on honest conviction; the second type of lie is deliberate deception. In this section, we have gathered passages on lying and falsehood only the latter sense of deliberate deception; untruth in the former sense may be classed as Ignorance, pp. 280-285. Even so, often there is only a short distance between ignorance about truth and lying to one's neighbor, as several passages in this section affirm.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.

1. Judaism and Christianity. Proverbs 12.22

Do not assert with your mouth what your heart denies.

2. Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way

No man should talk one way with his lips and think another way in his heart.

3. Judaism. Talmud, Baba Metzia 49

Dishonesty in business or the uttering of lies causes inner sorrow.

4. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Maru Solahe, M.3, p. 1062

O you who believe, wherefore do you say what you do not?
Very hateful is it to God, that you say what you do not.

5. Islam. Qur'an 61.2-3

Qur'an 61.2-3: Cf. Matthew 23.2-3, p. 810; Analects 2.13, p. 810; Dhammapada 51-52, p. 811; James 1.22-24, p. 811.

No man who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no man who utters lies shall continue in my presence.

6. Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 101.7

A speaker of falsehood reaches purgatory; and again so does one who, having done a misdeed, says, "I did not." Both of them, men of base deeds, become equal in the other world.

7. Buddhism. Dhammapada 306

Lying does not mean that one could not be rich;
Treachery does not mean you may not live to old age;
But it is the day of death [judgment] about which one should be baffled.

8. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

Falsehood implies the making of a wrong statement by one who is overwhelmed by intense passions.

9. Jainism. Upasakadasanga Sutra

You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

10. Christianity. Matthew 12.34-37

There is no evil that cannot be done by the liar, who has transgressed the one law of truthfulness and who is indifferent to the world beyond.

11. Buddhism. Dhammapada 176

All things are determined by speech; speech is their root, and from speech they proceed. Therefore he who is dishonest with respect to speech is dishonest in everything.

12. Hinduism. Laws of Manu 4.256

There are three characteristics of a hypocrite: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he acts treacherously; and when he is trusted, he betrays.

13. Islam. Hadith of Muslim

Psalm 101.7: Cf. Psalm 24.3-6, p. 229; Shabbat 31a, p. 1020. Yoruba Proverb: Don't think that just because you have used lying to advantage in this world, that lying will similarly avail you in the hereafter. Cf. Yoruba Proverbs, p. 1019. Matthew 12.34-37: Cf. Matthew 15.11-20, p. 860. Dhammapada 176: Cf. Tosefta Shebuot 3.6, p. 397. Laws of Manu 4.256: Cf. Markandeya Purana, p. 494; Matthew 15.11-20, p. 860; James 3.6-9, p. 496.

Confucius said, "I do not see what use a man can be put to, whose word cannot be trusted. How can a wagon be made to go if it has no yoke-bar, or a carriage if it has no collar-bar?"

14. Confucianism. Analects 2.22

The Venerable Rahula saw the Lord coming in the distance; seeing him he made ready a seat and water for washing the feet. The Lord sat down on the seat made ready; as he was sitting down he bathed his feet. And Rahula, having greeted the Lord, sat down at a respectful distance.

Then the Lord put a little quantity of water that was left over into the water vessel and addressed Rahula, saying, "Do you, Rahula, see this little quantity of water that is left over and that is put into the water vessel?"

"Yes, revered sir."

"Even so, Rahula, little is the recluseship of those who have no shame at intentional lying."

Then the Lord, having thrown away that little quantity of water, addressed Rahula, saying, "Do you, Rahula, see this little quantity of water that has been thrown away?"

"Yes, revered sir."

"Even so, Rahula, thrown away is the recluseship of those who have no shame at intentional lying."

15. Buddhism. Majjhima Nikaya i.414, Ambalatthika-Rahulovada Sutta

A liar lies to himself as well as to the gods. Lying is the origin of all evils; it leads to rebirth in the miserable planes of existence, to breach of the pure precepts, and to corruption of the body.

16. Buddhism. Maharatnakuta Sutra 27, Bodhisattva Surata's Discourse

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

17. Judaism and Christianity. Isaiah 5.20

Beings who are ashamed of what is not shameful, and are not ashamed of what is shameful, embrace wrong views and go to a woeful state.

Beings who see fear in what is not to be feared, and see no fear in the fearsome, embrace false views and go to a woeful state.

Beings who imagine faults in the faultless and perceive no wrong in what is wrong, embrace false views and go to a woeful state.

18. Buddhism. Dhammapada 316-18

Analects 2.22: Cf. Analects 15.5, p. 1020. Maharatnakuta Sutra 27: The Maharatnakuta Sutra is a collection of Mahayana sutras in the Chinese Tripitaka.