Vyasa (the first commentator on the Sutra) defines truths as “one’s words and thoughts being in exact correspondence to fact, this is, to whatever is known through the three processes of knowledge accepted by the Yoga school (sense perception, inference, and verbal testimony). Speech, he continues is for the transferral of one’s knowledge to others and should not be deceitful, misleading, or devoid of value….Sankara quotes Manu here: “Let him not speak what is true but unkind; let him speak was is kind and not untrue. This is eternal righteousness” (IV.138)” – Edwin Bryant’s commentary
This decree from the Manu Samhita illustrates the important point of ahimsa trumping satya, as we discussed in the previous post; if your truthfulness will cause violence, it is more important to uphold ahimsa first and thus, refrain from speaking.
Obviously lying is a big no-no for a yogi/any decent person. Lying is harmful to others and also to yourself. Duh! The yamas are often described as dealing with how the aspiring yogi relates to others, but I think it’s also important to recognize the importance of upholding the yamas within oneself and for one’s own relationship with his/her self.
Satya – truthfulness – goes beyond just not lying. Lying implies a certain premeditated distortion of truth/reality. But sometimes we can speak or act in a way that is not an outright and specific lie but it is still untruthful.
We can tell “white lies” to others but we can also be untruthful in subtle ways with ourselves; this is almost worse since the aspiring yogi’s goal is self-realization (a process that absolutely requires honesty and authenticity with one’s self!). We can be untruthful with ourselves about our level of knowledge, experience, expertise or evolved nature. I’m afraid this is all too common in the Western Yoga world. Nobody likes a phoney. Living in Truth requires a certain amount of humility. Until you personally come to a place of acceptance of where you are, however advanced or lowly, it’s very hard to approach people where they are with an open heart.
Being honest and authentic with yourself is a process and a practice, just like yoga. Learning to turn off the unnecessarily negative and untrue voices, those voices that speak of catastrophe, disaster and failure and deceit, is an essential practice for dwelling in truth. Same thing goes with those voices that are overly boastful, hyperbolic and grandiose. My beloved teacher in Crestone would often instruct us to go for a meditative walk and “take a break from yourself, because only then will you realize how important You really are.”
I love Josh Schrei’s point here that in order to practice satya we must first accept that there is in fact Truth with a capital T. That’s not always the most popular point in the post-modern, anti-essentialist world, but if you’re going to be a yogi, I think you kind of have to get over that BS and recognize that there is such a thing as Truth. (Personal Opinion of course).
Speaking and living in Truth is yogic because despite the superficial divisions that might initially occur (disagreements etc.,), this practice brings one to a greater state of Union.
Ram Das once asked Neem Karoli Baba how to become enlightened. His Guru answered, “Love everyone and tell the Truth always”.
When a person tells lies, s/he creates walls and barriers in relationships with others and with oneself. It will be impossible to attain Union if one is constantly creating divisions. If our goal is to attain Self-realization, Truth and Love must be honored and practiced always.
On a really simple note, think about a time that you told a lie (even a little white lie) and how much trouble that caused you. For example, you might have needed to tell more lies to cover up that one little lie, you had to remember who you told what to and that can be a real headache, you had to make sure that no one told the truth to the person that you lied to…and in the end, did the truth come out anyway and make you look like a fool? All in all, was it worth the hassle and embarrassment? I doubt it! Lying causes stress! And who wants more of that?
So how can we strive to be more truthful in our daily lives?
To start, one must become more mindful of his/her actions and words. Notice when you make an excuse or tell a fib. Ask yourself why you did such a thing, was it necessary and if there is a more honest (and kind!) way to deal with the situation at hand. Admit when you make mistakes and strive to do better. Speak honestly to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your most beloved friend or partner – you wouldn’t lie to them would you? Don’t engage in slander or gossip. Instead, try to use your words to uplift, educate and benefit yourself and others.
How can you better practice satya? Comments? Ideas to share? Please join in the discussion!
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