Truth can stand by itself. ~Thomas Jefferson
There are many who are always worrying about these two. One is advised that one should speak the truth as one knows it. This is where many of us stumble. To speak the truth and nothing but the truth is something that is nearly impossible. But what is truth is requires some consideration.
Does truth comprise of what is seen with both our eyes? Can what is seen be a falsehood? Possible. Certain occurrences may have been maneuvered to make us believe them to be the real. What is unreal may be made real. From politicians to jugglers and magicians many daily make us believe them.
Does the Sun travel round the Earth or the Earth that goes round the Sun? What is actually seen requires some deep analysis and wisdom to understand. When we travel in a train do the trees travel in the opposite direction? Do beard and grey hair are marks of wisdom or the big mush of courage?
Many lies-of-convenience pepper our day-to-day speech or activities. From reasons for being late or absent to avoiding certain unprepared-for circumstances, one utters lies without any compunction. But the beauty is that the same person wants others to be truthful in all their utterances and activities. Are we all are truthful when we talk to our doctors or lawyers? Even parents encourage their children to tell lies to their teachers and others.
Then what are we to do?
A great sage and poet has written that even lies may be preferred in the place of truth if such lies can do general good without affecting anyone much. If falsehood is preferred to truth to earn personal gains, it has to be avoided. Then falsehood becomes the hall-mark of selfish interests. Then where can one use lies?
In a country a foreigner was found to be in the wrong and was arrested by the constabulary. He was talking in a language that was not known to them; but the crime was proved and was taken before the King for punishment. The King heard the complaint and asked the foreigner for his explanation. He told something in a strange language, and the King bade the soldiers to whip him ten times and release him.
The prisoner uttered something very fast and two of the King’s ministers entered then. They both knew the language and one of the ministers after enquiring on what had happened, went to the King and told him that the prisoner was much pleased and praised him like anything though he had punished him. The King was pleased and immediately repealed the order and set him free. The other minister was surprised. He could not accept his colleague telling a lie and misleading the King. He went to the King and informed him of the truth.
Do you know what the King said?
The King said that what the other minister had said had pleased him and also had saved the foreigner. Though it was a lie, it had created goodwill and saved a person from punishment. But the truth might have brought about displeasure and more sufferings. The minister did not gain personally. So he allowed his verdict stand.
But later when he was alone with the minister, the King asked him why he had given him the lie. The minister said that the person was a foreigner. He did not understand our ways of living. His action and words were right according to his custom and ways. He had not bothered to learn our ways, since he was going to stay only for a few days. So if he was punished he would have been punished for what he had done inadvertently. Since the minister did not have the time to analyze these, he just resorted to falsehood to save him. That had not only saved the prisoner but also the King from acting without taking the circumstances and the truth into consideration. He said that compromising with a lie had saved the situation rather than the truth.
This does not mean that one can resort to telling lies in a court of law. It is more the circumstances and the weighing of possible consequences that decide the need for falsehood. When falsehood is employed to bring about general good it is also truth according to the sage.
But Truth is Truth and Falsehood Falsehood. There is no mistake about it. The two appended quotes from two great persons should throw the needed light on the unconquerable nature of Truth.
There is no god higher than truth. ~Mahatma Gandhi