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Efficacy of truth

When the solemn declaration is uttered truthfully, “By this truth, I wish...” it can bring about wonders that benefit the suffering ones.
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 00:46 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 00:46 IST

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In Buddhism, a truth command, or Sacca Kiriya, is associated with a moral force of the truth. When the solemn declaration is uttered truthfully, “By this truth, I wish...” it can bring about wonders that benefit the suffering ones. 

When the Buddha walked on this earth, there lived Angulimala, a bloodthirsty murderer in the forests who was known to wear a ‘finger-necklace’ around his neck, made of the fingers of his victims. One day his path crossed with that of Buddha, and he ran towards him with the intention of killing him but couldn’t catch up, although the Blessed One seemed to be walking at a normal pace.

Amazed by this divine display, Angulimala called out to him to stop walking. Buddha stopped and addressed him, with neither anger nor fear: “I have stopped, and it’s time you too stop.” Angulimala was so struck by these words that he experienced a deep sense of remorse and, in a moment of profound realisation, was determined to abandon violence. He hurled his weapons off a cliff and requested ordination from the Buddha. The merciful one obliged, and Angulimala joined the community of monks, practiced severe austerity, and embraced a life of meditation and spiritual practice.

When the king wanted to imprison the outlaw, the Buddha convinced him to give the ex-bandit a second chance. But the villagers were not ready to forgive him, and when the former brigand was out on the streets, he was beaten and bruised. The Buddha reminded him that he had to suffer the consequences of his past actions.

Many years passed, and one day Angulimala came across a young woman undergoing difficult labour due to a breech birth. He was profoundly moved by her cries of pain and felt compassion to an extent he never knew when he was a brigand. He tells her, “Sister, ever since I was reborn into this noble birth, I do not recall that I have ever intentionally deprived a living being of life. By this truth, may you be well, and may your infant be well.” His efficacy of truth blesses the woman, and she safely gives birth to her child.

After performing the act of truth, Angulimala was seen “to bring life rather than death” by the villagers. It’s noteworthy that Mahatma Gandhi’s strict adherence to truth in the non-violent resistance movement draws parallels to the principles underlying the Sacca-Kiriya.

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Published 16 May 2024, 00:46 IST

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