Truth, (sacca) is speech, writing, notions or an understanding that corresponds with reality and which, if comprehended correctly, can lead one to a more accurate and complete perception of that reality.
There are two types of truth - mundane and super mundane. If one says ‘It is raining’ and it is raining, this statement can be said to be true. However, this is only a mundane truth because it is of limited value. If, on the other hand, one says ‘Craving causes dissatisfaction’ and it actually does, this can be said to be a super mundane truth because if understood and taken into account it could lead to a radical change in one’s attitude, one’s life and ultimately, one’s destiny. Some truths can be partial in that they correspond to some aspects of a reality but not others. However, one truth cannot contradict another. If a person says ‘Two plus two equals four’ and another person says ‘Two plus two equals five,’ one or another of these two statements must be false. Thus the Buddha says, ‘Truth is one’ (Sn.884).
The most significant super mundane truths taught by the Buddha are The Four Noble Truths. The Buddha laid the greatest stress on speaking truthfully. The first and most important characteristic of Right Speech is that it be true to the best of our understanding. Of speech that accords with the Dhamma he said, ‘One should refrain from false speech. When summoned before the court, an inquiry, a family gathering, a guild or the king and asked, “So, good man, tell us what you know” if he does not know he says “I don’t know” and if he knows he says “I know.” If he did not see he says “I didn’t see” and if he saw he says “I saw.” He does not knowingly lie for his own advantage, or another’s advantage or for some trifling gain’ (M.I,288).
- The Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, K.N. Jayatilleke, 1963.