SATYA – TRUTHFULNESS

Satya – the second Yama – translates to “truthfulness” (‘sat’ = ‘true essence’ or ‘true nature’). It means a lot more than ‘not telling lies’. It’s about aligning your thoughts, words, and actions with your authentic self and living in harmony with reality. Think of it as living with integrity, radiating genuine light from within.

Sanskrit is a vibrational language and so each word is so much more than a label – it literally holds the very essence of the word. Because of this, ‘sat’ also holds the meanings; ‘unchangeable’, ‘that which has no distortion’, ‘that which is beyond distinctions of time, space and person’, and ‘reality’. Many Sanskrit words use the prefix ‘sat’ such as ‘satsang’ meaning ‘true company’ and ‘sattva’ meaning ‘pure’, which leads us to understand that ‘sat’ really means more than ‘truth’, it’s something that is unchanged and pure.

Being honest with ourselves is the cornerstone of Satya. Often, we’re entangled in identifying solely with fleeting emotions and irrational thoughts; ‘I am a bad person because of this…’ or ‘I’m not good enough because of that…’ These mental fluctuations, or vrittis, cloud our perception of reality. By quieting the mind through Yoga practice, as prescribed in the sutras, we create space to discern truth from emotional turbulence. This practice enables us to transcend instant reactions driven by fear and conditioning, fostering a clearer, more truthful perspective. Once we know we are not our thoughts, there’s a little sigh of relief as a bigger gap is created between who we think we are sometimes, and who we really are.

To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.

YOGA SUTRA 2.36

This Yoga Sutra suggests that steadfast commitment to truthfulness aligns actions and their outcomes, transcending fear and ignorance. Honest introspection liberates us from the grip of the ego, revealing a truer sense of self.

While honesty is paramount, compassionate communication is equally vital. The sutras advise restraint if honesty risks harm. Indian philosophy embraces contextuality, advocating kindness over righteousness when necessary. So if the situation calls for it, remember the saying ‘sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right’. Observing the motives behind our actions – ‘will it truly serve the other person, or am I doing this because of a need to prove something or gain something?’ – is a useful tool to help us apply both Satya and Ahimsa to our situations.

The Asato ma mantra from the Upanishads serves as a daily reminder of the journey from falsehood to truth :

Asato ma Sad-gamaya
Tamaso ma Jyotir-gamaya
Mrityor ma Amritan-gamaya
Aum Shanti Shanti Shantihi

From untruth to truth
From darkness (ignorance) to light (enlightenment)
From mortality to immortality
May I be led
Aum peace, peace, peace

Our thoughts, emotions and moods are transient, yet these are the things that shape our subjective truths and our whole life experience. By acknowledging the unchangeable nature of ‘sat’, we learn to detach from transient thoughts, fostering peace and stillness within.

Practicing Satya :

  • Each situation offers us the opportunity to perceive truth if we are open to it. A daily practice of slowing down, taking a couple of deep breaths, observing things as they really are, and detaching from irrational thoughts can help us move closer towards inner peace and stillness. Remember, thoughts are transient – they come and go. You are not your thoughts.
  • Be truthful in your words, but remember, honesty doesn’t have to be brutal. Make sure that you speak with compassion, kindness and intention. According to a Sufi saying, you should allow your words to pass through three gates: 1. Is it true? 2. Is it necessary? 3. Is it kind?
  • Ask yourself if you’re living your most authentic life. What is your true purpose? And what’s preventing you from being your most genuine self? Rechart your course and create a plan of action to set yourself on the path to living your best, most authentic life.
  • Don’t bury your thoughts or feelings when they arise. In an effort to avoid conflict or appease others, sometimes we hold back what we’re thinking or feeling. Express your authentic feelings and opinions, even if it feels scary – your voice matters.
  • Be true to your promises and commitments, building trust with yourself and others.
  • Become aware of your internal dialogue and challenge negative self-talk. Replace it with affirmations that align with your true self.
  • Cultivate mindfulness to observe your thoughts without judgment, seeing them as passing clouds rather than absolute truths.
  • Align your thoughts with your values, creating a strong inner compass to guide your choices. Live in congruence with your values.

Yoga takes you into the present moment, the only place where life exists.

PATANJALI