Honesty is the disposition to act without harming others, never placing our own interests ahead of theirs, and always cherishing the needs and wishes of others. It is the positive aspect of the avoidance of taking what is not freely given.
Honesty is respect for other’s properties and the right to own property. If something is not given, we may not take it away by stealth, force, deceit, or fraud. Besides these, we should avoid misusing money or property belonging to the public or other persons, and we should not forget our vows, evade our responsibilities, neglect our duties, or perform them without enthusiasm and proficiency.
The karmic effects of dishonesty are poverty, misery, and disappointment.
- If we know that a valuable object belongs to another,
- if we bring forth the intention of appropriating it,
- if we take the thing away from its original location, and
- if we then consider the thing to be ours, this constitutes dishonesty.
Valuable objects are of two types:
- those which belong to someone else, and
- those which do not belong to someone else.
Things which belong to someone else are also of two kinds:
- those which are in the proximity of the owner, and
- those which are not in the proximity of the owner.
If the object is not in the proximity of the owner, then we should reflect and come to an understanding as to whether or not it has an owner, and thus should not be taken. If our taking of things from either of these places is accompanied by the intention to steal, we incur the offense of dishonesty.
Aware of the suffering caused by dishonesty —exploitation, social injustice, and oppression— we cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants, and minerals:
- we make the determination not to take away by force or deception anything that belongs or should belong to others, and
- we discourage or prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species.
Observing honesty means that we cultivate generosity:
- by giving gifts to our parents, teachers, and friends because of the advice, guidance, and kindness they have shown us;
- by offering sympathy and encouragement to those who are hurt or discouraged;
- by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need, such as the poor, the elderly, and the sick; and
- by making offerings to the Three Jewels.
The best of all gifts is the gift of the Dharma, whether in the form of teaching or in the production and distribution of Dharma texts.
Generosity brings joy; honesty brings peace.