Don‘t Mistake the False for the True

In this world, there are more phonies and hypocrites than honest, genuine people.


In this world the liars outnumber the honest people; there are more people who speak falsehoods than who speak the truth. Let‘s look into this. Why is it this way? Why are people dishonest? Why do they lie whenever possible? Why do they like to say false things rather than the truth? It’s because in this world, there are more phonies and hypocrites than honest, genuine people. If you cater to people‘s feelings and say only nice things, everyone is happy. If you speak the truth, everyone gets upset. Why? Because people in the world like the false and dislike the true. That‘s known as "recognizing what's false and not recognizing what's true." This is how ordinary people‘s minds are. They know very well that something is false, but they love it and don’t want to give it up.


Upasaka Cunda was an honest fellow. Although he was poor, the things he said were true and honest. He was not like the demon king Papiyan, who spoke beautifully and claimed that his mantra could save people. That kind of sweet talk was plain nonsense; it gave people the shivers and goosebumps. Cunda was very honest. He didn‘t boast about how rich his offering of food was, or how savory and appetizing it was. Instead he very humbly said, "I hope the World Honored One will compassionately accept our last offering." He was just like Chinese people when they give a banquet. Even though the table is covered with food and drinks, they still very modestly apologize to their guests, "We haven’t been very hospitable today; we don‘t have anything special to serve you."


This reminds me of a story. Once upon a time, there was a wealthy man who threw a big party to celebrate the birth of his son. He invited many people, so that “distinguished friends filled the tables, and honored guests were as many as clouds." He also invited three monks to recite the Auspicious Mantra and say a few auspicious words of blessing. Some of the guests said, "Your son will surely be rich and honored and live to a ripe old age." Some said, "Your son will enjoy blessings, wealth, and longevity, and he will suffer few illnesses, calamities, and disasters." Upon hearing these auspicious words, the host smiled and was very happy, and he toasted his guests.


As for the three monks, one recited the Auspicious Mantra, another said auspicious words, and the third said, "Your son will surely die in the future." When the host heard that, he flew into a rage. “Nonsense! How can say that my son will die?” He thereupon had the monk beaten up. This monk had cultivated great skill in patience and did not have any temper. On the contrary, he very amiably said to the host, "Upasaka! You do not recognize the truth, and you like to wear high hats. In fact, do they really know that your child will be honored and wealthy and live a long life? Those are but words of praise. I said your child will die in the future. That is the truth. Not only will your son die, but all the people of the world will die. You do not understand this principle, and so you‘ve had me beaten up. You are a very foolish person." The monk‘s words made sense to the man, and he repented. From that time on, he believed in the Triple Jewel and became a supporter of the temple. If that monk just said some auspicious words like everyone else, the rich man would not have been moved to believe in Buddhism and in the truth.


We should not be fond of praise, nor should we be self-satisfied and brag about ourselves. We ought to be amiable and modest, not haughty or arrogant. We should also have the spirit of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving, and resolve to universally save living beings. Take a look: Why are there four social classes in India? It‘s because some people looked down upon the poor in their past lives, so in this life they themselves were born into a low class. This shows that the principle of previous causes leading to subsequent effects is really true.


We should understand cause and effect, and believe that causes always bring about corresponding effects. Therefore, we should be honest in whatever we do, and not be even the slightest bit false. If we are even the slightest bit false, we will have to suffer the retribution. There‘s a saying, "If one is not true on the causal ground, the retribution one receives will be crooked." If you plant beans, you get beans. If you plant melons, you get melons. If you plant wheat, you harvest wheat. If you plant rice, you reap rice. This principle never fails. If you do muddled things, in the end you’ll find that you‘re only cheating yourself and not others.


A talk given on November 20, 1985


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