Satya or truthfulness is the second of the yamas. We are to practice being truthful with ourselves and others. It one of five yamas, that as a practitioner of the yogic path, we are to incorporate into our lives. These yamas are our 'moral restraints.'
We probably all know that lying is wrong - it seems to be one of those things that is instilled in every child from a very young age. Our words are so powerful - they can harm just as much as they can heal and yet many of us fail to consider the ramifications of our speech before we open our mouths. Yet Judith Lasater presents an interesting idea on the concept of Satya that got me thinking, she says this:
"Patanjali's teaching on the subject has mainly been associated with restraint, rather than with action - with what we should refrain from doing rather than specifically what we should do. The teaching of Satya is not presented in this manner as an accident or oversight. In most ways, the practice of satya is about restraint: about slowing down, filtering, carefully consiering our words so that when we choose them, they are in harmony with the first yama, Ahimsa."
This is a very interesting way of looking at the concept of Satya. All the yamas are to be practiced together in our lives in order for us to fully incorporate right living. We cannot pick and choose. Telling the truth is important but so is the idea of also about not causing harm with our words (Ahimsa). Here is the proverb of an old sage which perfectly illustrates the point:
"In olden days there was a sage renowned for his austerities and observance of the vow of truth. It so happened that once when he was sitting by his little hut, a frightened man with a bundle ran past him and disappeared into the cave nearby. A couple of minutes later there cambe a band of fierce robbers with gleaming knives, apparantly looking for this man. Knowing that the sage would not lie, they asked him where the man with the bundle was hiding. At once, the sage, true to his vow of not uttering falsehood, showed them the cave. The cruel robbers rushed into it, dragged out the scared man, killed him mercilessly and departed with his bundle. The sage never realised God in spite of his austerities and tenacity for truth for he had been instrumental in the murder of a man. This is not the kind of truth that yoga requires. It would have been better if the sage had remained quiet for that would have saved the poor man. Great care is therefore to be exercised in speaking and each word must be carefully weighed before it is uttered."
There is a great lesson in this story that speaks to all of us and it is as simple as this - think before you speak. Your words are powerful and I am sure we have all been on the receiving end of untrue or unkind words spoken about us that have caused us considerable damage. Words cannot be taken back after they are spoken. One's silence may be more powerful than words.
copyright Gillian Taylor 2014