There was this story about a man who had many problems. He vowed during prayer that if the problems were solved, he would sell his house and give away the proceeds to the poor. His prayers were answered and with his problems gone it was time to redeem his vow. When it came to selling the house, there was a change in his mind. Unwilling to give away so much money, he devised a ploy to overcome the tricky situation. He marked the price for the house at one silver piece and included a cat as part of total package with the price of cat fixed at 10,000 pieces of silver. When someone bought the house and the cat that went with it, our man happily gave the single piece of silver to the poor as vowed and kept the balance with him. He felt comfortable that he had kept his word.
This was a clear case of deception and there is no salving of the conscience as he felt. Was he truthful? There is a world of difference between telling the truth and being truthful. When someone asks you whether you have see his missing young daughter of five years in the colony and you say no, you are saying the truth as you have not seen her in the colony. But not saying that you saw her in a nearby park with some stranger is not being truthful. It is not the words that count but something more than that. Silence can be a thunderous lie. Being truthful means truth not only in words but in thought also. The harmony among speech, thought and action should not be strained.
Pandavas unable to stop the onslaught of Drona prevailed upon Dharmaputra to tell Ashwathama hatha,kunjara (‘Ashwatthama killed, the elephant’) when conches were blown to drown the words ‘the elephant’. Coming from Dharmaputra who always spoke the truth, Drona thought it was his son Ashwathama and stopped fighting overcome by grief. Dharmaputra though he said the truth about the death of elephant, the unusual juxtaposition of words and the intent made him untruthful.
As a young boy when I lied or promised to give someone something I was unwilling to part with, I kept my fingers crossed unseen at my back to negate the lie or promise. I believed childishly but earnestly I had said no lie or made no promise. We witness each day around us that what is promised is rarely given and lies hidden in the fine print or no print. There are always mental reservations when one promises. Promising and not performing is akin to a child crossing the fingers. Actions, speeches and thoughts are components of the same element and must in conformity with each other