If you have thrown a surprise birthday party for someone, you have lied. When one says “lying” or “dishonesty” our minds immediately interconnect those words with immorality and negativity. However, this nuance misguides us about how to live a good Zoroastrian life; filled with righteous thoughts and actions. We need to realize our current perspective on the term, then learn the other judgements regarding it and finally, connect our new understandings with the Gathas.
To begin, since we were children we have been taught that lying is shameful. When I was six I learned the story of the boy who cried wolf; which, was then followed by Pinocchio’s tale. It has been ingrained in our minds from such early ages to be a binary thing: you are either a good and honest person or a liar and a dishonorable one.
As I grew older, my parents always told me that it is better to be honest and suffer consequences, than to be dishonest and hurt those you love. In a majority of ways, lying, even white lies, are corrupt. We tend to use them to ignobly benefit ourselves or others. We tend to lie to make the easy choice, not the right one.
Moreover, we need to reframe our relationship with the term lying. It’s more complex than we naturally assume. You can be a good person and have lied similar to you can be a singer with stage fright. For example, you are negotiating with a car salesperson, and they ask you the maximum you’d be prepared to pay. You say $25,000 when you’d actually spend $30,000.
Or, you are given the gift of a sweater you don’t truly like, to be polite, you thank them and wear it the next time you are at their home. Furthermore, it is why we lie that determines our morality level. In “The Penderwicks of Gardam Street”, Mr Penderwick states “…even a tiny bit of deceit is dishonorable when it’s used for selfish or cowardly reasons”, explains how if why we lie is sinful, then so is the lie.
On the other hand, there are some moments where lying is accepted and even awarded; such as, storytelling. When authors write non-fiction stories, they are merely lying, Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said, “Fiction was invented the day Jonah arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale..”
We tend to have a very obdurate mindset; we believe what were used to, not really accepting or looking for the complicated truth. That’s partially why some believe the binary view of lying while others, see there isn’t always a right or wrong answer. It is choosing the most considerate and virtuous path instead of the easier one.
Finally, Zarathustra’s Gathas teach us about how to make good decisions that will greatly benefit others. By following the ideology of the Gathas, no sudden miracles will surpass, they are useful in making “good thoughts, good words and good deeds” logically possible. Specifically, Asha is very useful when deciding whether your lie is righteous in troublesome situations where there isn’t a clear right or wrong answer.
The literal meaning of Asha is “what fits” by using the natural laws of the universe and what in our minds seems right to make good decisions. Therefore, you take all factors into consideration and use the tool of Asha to do “the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, and with the right means in order to obtain the right results”. Additionally, in the Gathas there are two opposing forces, Vahyo and Spenta versus Aka and Angra.
These forces come into play when having to determine to lie or not. They are internal battles similar to: in cartoons where the character has the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other when trying to decide upon something. The Gathas help guide us through gray areas.
To summarize, our current ideology of lying, the other perspectives and their connection to the Gathas help us to understand lying. It is inevitable; however, using the Gathas to know when those unavoidable moments are, is important. As well as, understanding the complexity of lying to make good decisions.