Being Honest

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Being Honest

Master Jingzong; English translation by Foying, edited by Jingxing

If what we say is reliable, we are honest. If our words are unreliable, we are telling lies and are dishonest. If our words are true, we would certainly reap abundant good results from our deeds. Honesty bears fruit, hence the Chinese word chengshi (“sincerity and fruit”). But telling lies bears no fruit, causing our hopes to crumble to nothing; hence the Chinese word xuwang (“futile and false”). Honesty is the cause while fruit is the effect. Dishonesty, however, harvests a crop of seedless grain and empty husks.

It’s no harm for a toxic sore to appear ugly if there is new flesh forming underneath. On the other hand, it is futile to beautify the exterior of a grievous wound if it is rotting away inside.

Our mistakes are similar to malignant sores. New flesh will not grow from underneath unless we are honest. Without honesty, our wounds will never heal. If we are dishonest, we mean to deceive others, but only end up deceiving ourselves. Those who beautify malignant sores will certainly claim that they have healthy skin, free of swelling and pus. But does their pain end because they successfully deceive others? Isn’t this a typical self-deception?

Mistakes may be forgiven, but the concealment of mistakes through deception should never be taken lightly. Even the best doctor cannot treat an infected sore that is hidden to avoid treatment.

It is impossible for a sentient being not to make mistakes. Yet we can be honest about our mistakes. Those who are dishonest with their mistakes basically want to escape punishment. Yet more punishment awaits them, like sores that endlessly weep pus. Once they choose to be honest about their mistakes, the leakage of pus will stop and healing will begin.

Of course, it’s natural for people to take a chance and conceal their mistakes out of fear of exposure. But every trick, scheme and calculation will eventually fall through, leading only to prolonged unrest within. Eventually, the truth will out. It is like a strong wind scattering dark clouds, a lumberjack felling a rotten tree, or subsiding water exposing jagged rock.

Being honest brings strength to people, making them respectful and revitalizing their spirits. The Fundamental Vow of Amitabha Buddha emphasizes “sincere entrusting.” And in the Contemplation of Infinite Life Sutra, the “sincere mind” comes first among the three mental states required for rebirth in the Pure Land (i.e. “sincere mind”, “deep mind” and the “mind of merit-dedication towards rebirth”).

When we choose to be honest after an inner struggle, we resurrect ourselves immediately.

Admitting our fault to others and receiving their pardon is analogous to the Two Kinds of Deep Faith taught by Master Shandao (i.e., deep faith regarding the aptitude of sentient beings, and deep faith regarding the deliverance of Amitabha Buddha). There is always a way out. And how can Amitabha Buddha fail to deliver those who sincerely repent?

A dishonest person is bound to be arrogant, thinking himself cunning and clever. He would rather rely on himself than Amitabha Buddha. As none of the Enlightened Ones condone deception, such a person necessarily removes himself from the compassionate protection of the Buddhas. By both making mistakes and alienating himself from the Buddhas, he becomes a truly lonely and helpless person.

  1. Buddhistdoor, indeed a great topic to share about, it is true that as a fellow human being, due to the fear of punishment people tend to lie, as they think that they are doing it out of protection. :).

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