To utter the truth or not

There are times in life when we find ourselves in a quandary, dithering over whether to utter the truth or refrain from doing it. Since, in certain situations, telling the truth could spark an unsavoury effect. But, telling an untruth may mean going against your self-dictated principles.

Here I’m reminded of a Sanskrit verse which goes like this. “Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat. Na bruyat satyam apriyam. Priyam cha nanrutham bruyat. Esha dharmah sanatanah.” This somewhat means, ‘Speak the truth that is pleasant. Never speak the truth that is unpleasant. And, never speak the untruth even if it’s pleasant. This is eternal philosophy of righteousness.”

Let us consider the first line, “Speaking the truth that is pleasant.” This is when you shower genuine compliments on people over some good quality in them. Here you are speaking the truth, besides creating dollops of pleasant effect on the mind of compliment recipients.

Now, the second line that says, “Never speak the truth that is unpleasant.” Here, I am reminded of an apocryphal story that is germane to this context. It seems, once a king, with supposedly grumpy nature, summons an astrologer and evinces interest in knowing of his future. The astrologer utters the unvarnished grim truth saying the king, right before his eyes, would painfully witness the death of each of his relative.
Feeling deeply flustered after hearing this, the infuriated king instructs his guards to have this astrologer shackled in the prison. Later on, the king calls for the next astrologer to prognosticate his future.

This astrologer, slickly and niftily tweaks the truth a tad, and says the king would enjoy the glory of longer lifespan than all his relatives. Feeling exulted, the king offers him a princely remuneration.

The subtext of the story is the stark, naked truth at times could be more bitter than the bitter pill. So, while conveying unpalatable things, a whit of tweaking of truth is essential, such that it cushions or mitigates the negative impact.

Apparently, the choice of words, the tone and manner in which certain things are conveyed matter a lot. For instance, positive compliments, if uttered in a crude or coarse manner, could sound harsh on ears. Conversely, the candid negative comments may not sound all that negative, if conveyed in a gentle/refined way.

The third sentence “Never speak untruth even if it’s pleasant.” The classic instance here is of those sycophants, who indulge in extravagant blandishment. They try fawning eternally those influential folks, so as to wring out favours from them, for their own personal benefits.

Finally, we should remember, whether it’s the truth, tweaked truth or untruth, our words do reflect our inner persona and principles, besides creating varied impacts. That’s why it’s said, “What all we think, we needn’t have to utter. But, what all we utter, we need to think!”

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