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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A lie by any other name is still a lie. However, can a sour stench of a lie at times transform into something sweet? By centering Asha as the guider within all our decisions the conclusion becomes, though lying may perceptually seem unethical, in certain scenarios it is the best use of our Vohu Mana. Simply, I will argue that lies which avoid serious harm are within the path of righteousness.
First, specific examples from both historical contexts prove, that situations exist in which lying is the only unerring choice. One historical example of great magnitude, is when in Mumbai, around 1992 tensions between Muslims and Hindus were raising to the extent of riots that left lifelong lasting harm on hundreds.
The next year in 1993, 12 bomb explosions had killed 257 people and harmed 713 others – the attacks had all targeted Hindu majority areas. However, when the Chief Minister announced the attacks, he stated there had been 13 explosions, instead of the 12 real ones.
He had rightfully decided to lie about and fabricate an extra explosion, which he said had hit a city of Muslim majority. Through making the two opposing groups both victims, which as a result, did not allow the groups to blame each other, his lie had prevented an eruption of attacks between the Hindus and Muslims. Such attacks would have hurt and taken the lives of hundreds. Thus, this lie, although large, perfectly demonstrates how at times avoiding the truth can save lives.
Some may argue telling lies weighs you down with guilt, moves you towards Druj and hurts yourself as well as those around you.
All those things are true but become irrelevant if you only lie in scenarios where it saves others from grave danger. Consistent and unnecessary lying should be avoided at costs, but people should not fear not telling a lie when it prevents mass suffering or death, like the Chief Minister did in Mumbai. Second, the main concepts of the Gathas agree with such a concept. The notion best in line with my thesis is that of Asha. According to the California Zoroastrian Center (CZC), Asha in its simplest meaning is “truth, order, righteousness.” While, these are not the only definitions of it, and the concept is much more complex, these three things for my present argument become the most the most relevant components.
One of the three elements to Asha is truth, but if a lie maintains righteousness and order it becomes truthfully, the correct decision to make. By making a decision that prevents harm unto others as well as yourself, one is maintaining order and remaining righteous, and as a result holding up two of the three pillars of Asha. Though, it is ideal and always best to maintain all three pillars of Asha, there are times when you either lie and maintain order and righteousness, or you tell the truth but lose the other two factors. Going back to the example from Mumbai, had the Minister lied, his decision would have wrecked order within the society, and caused riots between Hindus and Muslims. Such a result would have killed many and injured even more.
Which proves, even if he had he told the truth and followed the first pillar of Asha, his decision would mean he wasn’t following the other two. Simply, the choice would become tell the truth and follow one-third of Asha’s elements, or lie and follow the other two-thirds. The wiser person would err towards the latter. The second concept from the Gatha that supports this argument is Vohu Mana. CZC further writes, that Vohu Mana is “good mind, good thinking.” At times, using our Vohu Mana may result in lying since saving others is “good thinking.” CZC then goes onto say “There is always a thought before an action. If a good action is taken, there must have been a good thought behind it.”
Which flawlessly demonstrates how a good action requires good thought. The distinction between justified lies and immoral lies then becomes the thought behind them. The lies which, have negative thought and intention behind them and are meant to hurt others are those which are not justified and should be avoided. On the other hand, the lies that are meant to save others from harm and hurt are justified through our Vohu Mana. Some may disagree, by stating the Zoroastrian concept of Druj says lying is never moral. CZC continues to say Druj is “harmful lie.”
This statement at first glance may suggest lying is harmful, but after taking a closer look, the key word in the statement becomes “harmful.” This portrays how a lie is only dishonorable under Druj if it is “harmful.” Subsequently, lying is warranted when it prevents harm to others – as it did in 1993. A lie though by most names is sour, by some names, in certain scenarios, it manages to transfigure into something sweet. When one is confronted with a situation in which they either tell the truth and bring irrevocable harm to others or lie and prevent such an atrocity, they should like the Chief Minister in Mumbai, use their Vohu Mana and pick the latter. Through doing so, they can maintain two of the three elements of Asha and the well being of hundreds of others.
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