The second of the Yamas is Satya, truthfulness. When studying the Astanga 8 limbs one needs to build from the bottom up! Last week I wrote about Ahimsa (the first of the five Yamas, non-violence) and Satya is the second of those Yamas. The Yamas (outward observances) are to be learned together but the importance of their order is significant.
Whenever I begin to speak of Satya, there is always someone that says that they have done a good job of Satya all week long letting everyone have a piece of their mind! We must not forget that we need to take non-violence (Ahimsa) with us and build from that point on. Just because something is true for you does not mean you can be unkind or create pain for someone because you believe you understand truthfulness. I am hoping to explain this further. There are many truths, well not really there is only one, but we think there are many and they change for us depending on the circumstance we are in. This does not always mean it is a truth but only a moment in time. Let’s try to explore the deeper truths within ourselves before we begin to harm others with our temporary words and circumstances.
Satya is not just our truth, but the discovery of THE Truth! A bit daunting I’m sure but also exciting to explore the possibility of what this means.
Some Sanskrit words are more meaningful and powerful because of their brevity, all the more complex and difficult to understand because they are easy to pronounce. Satya is one of those words. The word Satya is made of two parts- “sat” and “ya.” Sat is translated as “existence,” which forms the word “being” or “existing.”
"Ya” is a suffix that means “pertaining to” or “deriving from.” So what is reality? Is the correlation mentioned in the dictionary definition possible or desirable? How can we reach that point?
According to the Yoga Sutras, reality is made up of two principles – that which sees and that which is seen. We could think that human beings are the seers and that reality is everything they can see around them, but that is only partly true. What humans can see forms their internal reality, a collection of thoughts, emotions, and feelings that are created within them by contact with the world around them. They think they are seeing the world, but in fact, just like in Plato’s myth of the cave, human beings see a reflection of the world in their own heads, they think it, they recognize it on the basis of past experiences, they do not see it as it is in the present. Creating their identity on the basis of a subjective vision of the world, humans become attached to that vision and get caught up in an illusion that the Yoga Sutras call avidya. They confuse reality and the vision they have of it, and, identifying with the subjective truth of their thoughts, emotions, and feelings, cut themselves off from the seers’ deep reality that would enable them to become aware of what is going on.
Avidya (illusion), is a source of suffering, but it is often physical or moral suffering or suffering in relationships that triggers a desire for change and sets us on the path of truth. Most of us are on this path and will continue to repeat this cycle until we have the strength and faith to break it.
The Yoga Sutras suggest several ways of avoiding future suffering. Even if we do not know it to start with, they have a common aim of enabling us to discover the link between suffering and avidya, in order to develop a clear view of ourselves and of reality. The areas that Patanjali suggests exploring are part of ashtanga yoga ( https://vimeo.com/528463574), which is represented as a wheel with eight spokes. The hub of the wheel is our deep unchanging reality, the seer. The spokes represent the different aspects of our changing field of vision, which are: our relationship with the environment and with ourselves (yama and niyama), the physical realm (asana), the breath and energy realm (pranayama), the senses (pratyahara), the mind. The latter is made up of three spokes: concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and integration with no thought (samadhi).
The role of these areas of experience is to throw light on the different aspects of our changing reality in order to distinguish them from our deep reality which illuminates them. As the spokes work together, any realization in one particular domain will benefit all the others and help us to ascend towards the hub. We collectively climb the wheel, round and round we go until we free ourselves, which is hardly ever done without guidance and great perseverance.
The first stage of the path towards truth requires effort and purifying, de-conditioning discipline (tapas), and this is done through a physical practice and breathing practices, which eliminate impurities from the body and the organs of the senses. A healthy body and sharp senses enable us to better perceive reality and establish a harmonious relationship with our environment.
The main obstacle to satya is that, in order to defend our identity, we retreat behind a fixed, vision of ourselves which cuts us off from the movement of life. Blocked breathing can indicate anxiety about living in an ever-changing reality. A regular practice helps us become aware of the constant changes in our physical and mental state, and reconnecting with the breath, freeing up the movement of the diaphragm, can help to liberate us from our defenses and accept the risk of living with change.
I have grown to love the word “Satya,” or “Truth.” I am not a scholar of Sanskrit, but simply an amateur student. That being said, I thought I would share a little bit more about this great and ancient word. So satya can be translated as “deriving from existence,” or “that which pertains to existence.” And isn’t this what gives Truth it’s power? Truth comes from Reality, the Is-ness of the moment. Speaking and acting out of Truth aligns us with a power far greater than our own.
In Patanjalis Yoga Sutras it states-
“To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.” (II.36)
It’s no wonder then, why great sages like Gandhi praised the power of Truth.
“The word satya (Truth) is derived from Sat which means ‘being’. Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth. That is why Sat or Truth is perhaps the most important name of God, In fact it is more correct to say that Truth is God than to say God is truth…Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence. All our activities should be centered in Truth. Truth should be the very breath of our life.”
“Total truth is necessary. You must live by what you say.”
When asked how the heart could be purified, Maharaj-ji said, “Always speak the truth.”
This teaching is central to all cultures and traditions. Truth is self-evident and needs no justification. It is saturated with existence itself and is pregnant with the moment. It is inherently valid and is its own reward. It is the Self uninhibited by the cleverness of desire. It is Being set free!
“And the truth will set you free” -Christ (John 8:32)
When I see just how incredibly beautiful Truth is, it creates a burning desire to strive for it. It also shines a light on the ways that I fall short of this great ideal. It shows me just how subtle the mind and its desires are and how deep these habits lie. In a flash of a moment my mind can churn Truth in its swirling stew of desires, tainting it’s beauty with a complex web of motivations and ego. I say I want God, but how many moments of the day do I truly allow raw, unfiltered Truth to flow effortlessly from my words, facial expressions, posture, and reactions?
Today I am awestruck by the power of Truth, and humbled by all of the ways I continually try to limit its transformational power! This is a daily struggle but I am steadfast in my continued practice.
What is your Truth? Do your truths help humanity or limit them? Does your truth fill only you with joy or others? Does your truth only think of yourself or others? This will give you the answer as to is this your Ego’s truth or Divine truth, much to contemplate for us all.
This is a good start at reflecting on what our truth is, there is no wrong or right only truth.
ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor māmṛtaṃ gamaya
From the unreal lead me to the real, from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to Eternal Life
Om Santi Santi Santi
Hari Om Tat Sat
Some information came from the writings of Pantajalis Yoga Sutras