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Satya - Truthfulness

“Say what is true, say what is sweet, but do not say what is true but not sweet, nor say what is sweet but not true, this is wisdom.”

As yogis, we know that when we use our speech to speak kind and positive words–we create a kind and positive reality. Violent, unkind, and derogatory words are destructive. Words have power, more than we imagine.

In these fearful times, people are concerned about being in a post-truth world. Facts and fiction are now intertwined. However, here is a reality check: even the so-called Truth that we believe is somehow absolute, based on evidence, corroborated by other people, or when published in a reputable newspaper, is far from the full picture. Many of us can feel deep within us that although information is fact-checked, it still doesn’t capture the full reality. We are all subject to an intuitive feeling that we may not take seriously on a daily basis, but it surfaces all the time.

Is it kind, Is it true, Is it necessary?

According to neuroscientists, the brain makes stuff up and fills in gaps when we witness an event. Apparently, it is a useful evolutionary strategy to find shortcuts and save mental energy. To conserve resources, the brain takes a lazy approach. If that person sounded like this, it must have been that. We are so certain that we swear to have seen that person and can even spot them in a witness line. Imagine the consequences if we are wrong.

I have often been surprised that some of my childhood memories and traumas may or may not have been accurate! Have you ever had this same experience? When sharing a memory with a sibling of an awful and life-changing event, they have a completely different take on it or it actually may have never happened. How is this possible?

Many of you have heard of aspects of my earlier life and how I grew up. For those that did not, it was a violent upbringing, but also one that I learned much from.

So many years ago, I found a tin can with many of my father's old 35mm films, and I thought wow, let me turn these into a VCR tape and give them all to my family as a gift.

The gift was one that was given to me because I didn't have a memory of any happiness in my life up until then. I would have sworn to you that there never had been any happiness and this was my truth! It was my memory and my belief.

But there I was at the age of 29 and I put that VCR tape into the player and started to watch. At first, I didn't know what I was watching, it didn't make any sense, there was laughter on those films. I was laughing. I didn't remember laughter. I saw things that I had no memory of. I saw floaties in the ocean when my memory had only remembered the worse scenarios, Those had also taken place, but there were also floaties! There was laughter! I saw a woman, my mother, flirting with the person taking the video, who was my father. My mother and father flirted! I had no memory of this, but there it was on the VCR. What was true and what was not? I had existed up to that point with only sadness in my life and for some reason removed the joy. I had proof now that there was laughter and floaties!

I decided to begin to live in this other truth, the truth that laughter existed, and that I had a happy childhood, that I was loved, that I was cherished! I had evidence on my VCR.

What is truth then? I now know that it is not my memory of my past. It is not my imagined future. It is the stripping away of all of those illusions and existing in the present, recreating my past, and stepping into my future.

My truth is that facts and the recollection of our own direct experiences are likely to be deeply flawed and are actually only one of many versions of the real truth. We know of several experiments when, under certain circumstances, well-intentioned, intelligent, truthful, and rational people come up with the most flawed observations based on what they heard or what they were so certain of. This subject has been studied by cognitive scientists, philosophers, and behavioral economists. The concepts of bias, implicit bias, and other factors we are subject to are quite fascinating.

We have all spent years and much effort painting a well-crafted picture of ourselves which may not be entirely truthful or necessary. Reviewing the basis of this delusion is an important part of the quest for self-knowledge. How many times have you heard people say “Just be yourself, your authentic true self”? So what is the real truth? Is there such a thing?

Ancient yogis have this explanation:

Truth is something that is not affected by the three phases of time; past, present & future. Satyam is Truth. It is not affected nor bothered by time and space. The past, present, and future denote a linear passage of time. The changeless, the unchangeable element of who we are is the only Truth. The rest is noise. We place our thoughts, perceptions, and our limited observations within space-time. They are important, they give us a sense of who, when, and where we are. Yet it has limited value in the grand scheme as we pursue liberation and strive to understand the true self.

Examine how most things in life change and are changing all the time. The seasons, people around us, our perceptions, our likes and dislikes, our preferences, and what we desire – are all in flux, as we move through the lives we experience. Things that excited us in our younger days no longer produce the same effect. What happened? Things change around us, and our feelings and desires change. Yet, there is something we can point to – our real self, that has not changed. Our sense of self, at the consciousness level, remains the same from when we first gained cognition and memory, maybe when we were two or three years old, and that sense never really changes. That is probably the closest we can get to an absolute truth within the mind-body framework. Tapping into that sense of self brings many people a feeling of calm and peace.

It is said that we create our own reality. We misperceive ourselves because of ignorance of our actual self. Shyamdas, the well-known bhakti practitioner and teacher, was fond of stating, “We are Truth, Consciousness and mostly Bliss!” His approach was to highlight and celebrate the joy of life, seeing God everywhere and in everything. Not negating anything, but seeing everything, truthfully and in its entirety. That makes it a divine experience.


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