We all know that honesty is the best policy. But, sometimes, telling the truth can get us or others into trouble.

There is an old Indian tale about a group of forest bandits who used to steal money and valuables from passing travellers. One night, while they all slept, one of the bandits, quietly took the loot for himself and ran away. In the morning, when the bandits woke up and found their loot gone, they were furious! They grabbed their guns and started looking for the thief.

They found some of his tracks and nailed his location to a certain area. The thief, seeing that he would be caught soon, ran for help to a kindly sage who was well-known for never telling a lie. Hysterical with fear, he begged the sage to save his life.

The sage’s strategy

The sage, hearing the loud and angry voices of the bandits in the distance, and seeing that the thief was carrying a heavy bag, guessed what was happening. He calmly told him not to fear and instructed him to hide in a gaping hole at the base of the huge tree under which he sat. The thief gratefully scrambled into the hole to hide. The sage covered the hole with his blanket and quietly settled in front of it.

Within a few minutes, the band of fuming bandits arrived at that spot. They stormed towards the sage, and asked loudly, “O, holy man! We know you will never lie. We are chasing a traitor. He has stolen from us and is now running away, that coward! When we catch him, we will not let him live! We saw him coming this way. Tell us, where did he go?” The sage looked up and coolly replied, “I saw him run that way.” He pointed to some trees in the distance. The bandits, having full faith in the wise man’s words, wasted no time. They darted off in that direction.

When they were safely in the distance, the sage moved the blanket aside and instructed the thief to come out of the hole. The terrified thief tentatively peeked out. Convinced that it was safe, he emerged from the hole. With an overwhelming sense of gratitude, he thanked the sage profusely and ran away.

Nobler than the truth

Now, you might be asking, why did the sage, who never lied, go against his principle of always being truthful?

You see, in this situation, telling the truth would merely feed the anger and revenge of the thieves and be detrimental to the safety of the culprit. Telling the truth would not serve a higher purpose. So, the sage told a lie to serve the higher good of saving a life.

Nobler than speaking the truth is speaking words that consider the well-being or good of others.

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Manisha Melwani

Manisha Melwani is a teacher and the author of, "So You're a Spiritual Being–Now What?" She offers spiritual and wellness solutions for life and stress management. She teaches classes in personal growth, stress management and meditation. She is based in Richmond Hill and Markham, Ontario. Contact her for more information or to have her speak to your group or organization. She also offers private counselling sessions in person or on-line.
Manisha Melwani

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