I wanted to know if speaking something Untrue (unknowingly) is Adharma or not.

Say, for example :

My watch is 5 minutes ahead of the actual time, but I am unaware of this fact.

(I am still under the impression that my watch is telling me the Correct Time)

So let's say someone asks me what time it is and I tell him it is 3:30. (But in reality the time is 3:25)

So here, unknowingly, I have said something untrue.

In such a situation, have I done something Adharmic? Also, what do the scriptures say about this?

  • ....and how will you ever know what is really the 'actual' time? Is not the actual time arbitrary? Feb 26, 2022 at 6:02
  • 1
    @SwamiVishwananda Yea I know, I was just trying to state an easy example lol. You can think of a situation yourself - 'Where you thought you said the truth but later on you realised that what you said was untrue'. For example, A rope appeared like a Snake to you in the dark and you went and told everyone that you saw a snake. But later on you realised that you told everyone a lie.
    – MahaMuni01
    Feb 26, 2022 at 7:20

2 Answers 2


If you never realized that you spoke an untruth (by mistake, of course), then ultimately it won't matter. However, after unintentionally speaking an untruth, and realizing it, later on, this kind of activity becomes a sin, which is to be expiated.

Manu Smriti 11.45

अकामतः कृते पापे प्रायश्चित्तं विदुर्बुधाः । कामकारकृतेऽप्याहुरेके श्रुतिनिदर्शनात् ॥ ४५ ॥

The learned understand Expiatory rites to pertain to cases where the sin is committed unintentionally; some people however assert on the evidence of ‘Śruti texts’ that they apply to cases of intentional offence also.—(45)

Medhatithi on the above says -

Committed unintentionally.’—They declare that Expiatory Rites are meant, to be performed in cases where the ‘sin’—the transgression of the ordinances—has been committed through negligence or want of care.

And so says the Devala Smriti

Devala Smriti

When a sin has been committed unintentionally, and only once, there is expiation prescribed for it by persons versed in the Law. If the sin is committed a second time, the penance shall he the double of the former; if it is repeated for the third time, it shall he the three-fold Kṛcchra; and for the fourth repetition, there is no expiation. Nor is there any expiation for a sin committed even once, if it has been committed intentionally. But some people lay down expiation even for sins committed intentionally.’

So for unintentional acts, expiation can be done. Because after realizing their unintentional intent, they do count as a sin and thus Adharma.

Yājñavalkya (3.219-221).—

By the performance of expiatory penances does that sin disappear which had been committed unintentionally; if the sin had been committed intentionally, the performance of the penances only makes the man fit for being associated with; such being the declaration. Those who commit sins, and yet do not perform the penances, nor repent their misdeeds, fall into terrible hells.’

So, as you ask

So here, unknowingly, I have said something untrue. In such a situation, have I done something Adharmic?

Since you realized that you lied, thus, it will count as a sin and thus Adharma, which has to be expiated, as per scriptures.


In the Matsya Purāṇa, we get a list of situations where lying/speaking untruth might not be considered as a transgression of the Dharma

This is quoted by Sarmiṣṭhā (Devayānī's maid-servant) to King Yayāti

Chapter 32, Matsya Purāṇa


न नर्मयुक्तं वचनं हिनस्ति न स्त्रीषु राजन्नविवाहकाले ।
प्राणात्यये सर्वधनापहारे पञ्चानृतान्याहुरपातकानि ॥ ३१.१६ ॥
पृष्ठास्तु साक्ष्ये प्रवदन्ति चान्यथा भवन्ति मिथ्या वचना नरेन्द्र ते ।
एकार्थतायान्तु समाहितायां मिथ्या वदन्तं ह्यनृतं हिनस्ति ॥ ३१.१७ ॥

Sarmiṣṭhā said:—

  1. & 17. “O King! there is no sin in speaking untruth at the time of indulging in sexual pleasures, on the occasion of marriage, when life is in danger, wealth is at stake, and while joking. Lying on these five occasions is venal. It is only a sin to speak an untruth at the time of being summoned as a witness, or when one is entrusted to the dispute of a thing, or when one is asked his advice on any point.”

So basis this, such kind of lying is considered forbidden because of its corrupt nature, but not a sin or an act of Adharma.

Although, we must be aware that this quote is coming from Sarmiṣṭhā, who at that point was clearly emotional & infatuated by, and desperate to have King Yayati, so one might construe that she might be making things up. But, fortunately, a similar verse is found in the Vāyu Purāṇa too, so that means Sarmiṣṭhā is quoting the right Dharma as per scriptures.

Chapter 18, Vāyu Purāṇa

न म(न)र्मयुक्तं वचनं हिनस्तीति मनीषिणः ।
तथाऽपि च न कर्तव्यः प्रसङ्गो ह्येष दारुणः ॥ १० ॥

क्रीडा-परिहास के समय असत्य बोलने से कोई दोष नहीं होता है; - किन्तु ऐसा नहीं करना चाहिये क्योकि ऐसा प्रसङ्ग ही भयङ्कर होता है । १० ।

  1. No harm or sin is incurred from lies or untruths spoken during playful jest-dalliance; although, such behavior is not encouraged much on account of its inappropriateness.

So basis the above two standalone verses from the two Purāṇas, we may conclude that at the very least, the example case cited by the OP in the question may not be considered Adharma, since no sin was committed in the first place.


The basic principle give in Hindu scripture is that what one says must not be knowingly harmful to others and not violate dharma. The example you have given does not knowingly harm others and is thus not adharma.

Bhishma said, ‘To tell the truth is consistent with righteousness. There is nothing higher than truth. I shall, now, O Bharata, say unto thee that which is not generally known to men. There where falsehood would assume the aspect of truth, truth should not be told. Then, again, where truth would assume the aspect of falsehood, even falsehood should be said. That ignorant person incurs sin who says truth which is dissociated from righteousness. That person is said to be conversant with duties who can distinguish truth from falsehood.’

[i.e., who knows when truth becomes as harmful as untruth, and untruth becomes as righteous as truth.]

Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CIX

  • Thank you for your response, I have a small doubt. What if the situation is a bit more "tense". Like if I'm walking in a Forest at night and I see a Rope on the ground, but due to the darkness the rope appears like a Snake. Now I go back to my village and I tell everyone that I've seen a Snake. So here, unknowingly, I have said a Lie. But this Lie has the potential to affect people's lives in a negative way. So would I have done Adharma in this situation?
    – MahaMuni01
    Feb 21, 2022 at 13:13
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    I think an apology should take care of this situation since it is a very mild violation of dharma. Feb 23, 2022 at 4:51

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