Satya, or truthfulness, is the second of the five yamas and one of the highest callings of yoga. In this article, I will share with you a deeper look at what Satya is, why it’s so important to practice it, and how you can do it.
What Is Satya?
The word ‘sat’ literally translates as ‘true essence’ or ‘true nature’ but also holds the meanings; ‘unchangeable’, ‘that which has no distortion’, ‘that which is beyond distinctions of time, space and person’, and ‘reality’. As you can see, ‘sat’ means more than just ‘truth’, it’s something that is unchanged and pure. By realizing the unchangeable nature of the truth, we become more aware of how much of our time and energy is invested to that which changes, rather than the unchanging truth.
Our emotions and moods always change. If ‘sat’ means ‘unchangeable’, then any information that comes from our emotions can’t be considered as the pure truth. Emotions, thoughts, and moods shape our opinions on certain topics, however, the opinions are very subjective, thus, may change and has nothing to do with Satya.
The word “Satya” means truth in all its manifestations: thoughts, words, and actions. The more precise meaning of Satya is “abstinence from untruth”. You see, truthfulness becomes natural only when we overcome the very desire to distort the truth.
It’s also important to understand that Satya is not always synonymous with truth. If truthful information can cause harm, then it cannot be considered the truth in the highest sense. The truth, in the highest sense, cannot cause harm (Ahimsa), it is always beneficial, whereas a statement of fact or shared opinion can bring both good and harm. Therefore, when you feel that uttering the truth can cause harm, you should practice Mauna – silence.
Inner Satya is the projection of thoughts into actions. The mind contemplates, makes decisions, and remembers information. It makes choices and generates decisions, assessments, and opinions. When the mind speaks, the person speaks. Since mental Satya supports the truth of speech, it is important to switch the mind from false activities to true ones. Therefore, the very task of searching for truth should become the main goal of life.
Violating Satya hinders the achievement of harmony. Lying in any form can destroy all types of energy — physical, mental, spiritual.
By practicing Satya in your daily life (not just in your words and actions but also mentally), you become able to acquire siddhi-supernatural powers of clairvoyance, receive the gift of foreseeing the future, knowledge of the past and present.
We always attract what we radiate. If you are being truthful, your visions and dreams become prophetic, you are able to tap into your intuitive abilities easily, and your intuition always guides you in the right direction. But if you are being untruthful in your words, actions, or thoughts, eventually you start receiving false information, you don’t know what to believe anymore, and your dreams and visions are nothing more than meaningless hallucinations.
Therefore, if you have doubts about your intuitive abilities or wonder if you should trust your visions, ask yourself if you’re being truthful in your daily life.
Being Truthful To Ourselves
Satya towards ourselves is essential! When we are truthful to ourselves we can see the internal problems that exist, and, therefore, make efforts to solve them. When we see a problem, it is easier for us to understand and choose the tool that will help solve it. Only when we are truthful to ourselves can we be truthful to others.
Complete honesty with ourselves requires us to slow down the mind. When we react instantly to situations on a purely emotional level, we are often not able to see the truth and are acting from a place of fear and conditioning. But when we can actually slow down the response to stimuli within our minds, we create a fraction of more time to process situations. This will allow the more evolved part of our brains – the cerebral cortex – to actually consider things before the emotional brain takes over. As a result, we will start to see situations more clearly (truthfully) than reacting blindly to the stimulus.
By observing each thought as it arises, watching it as it passes without getting caught up in it, you will become more mindful and start seeing the truth more clearly. Learning and accepting that all emotions and situations come and go and are in fact not unchangeable or true, helps us come to terms with the fact that life isn’t as complicated as it might seem sometimes.
How To Practice Satya?
In order for us to start practicing Satya, we need to learn to recognize the cascade of negative emotions that prompt us to twist reality. Once we have understood and processed those emotions, our thoughts, speech, and actions can be realigned with the truth, even as we look more deeply into our needs and desires. Outwardly, refrain from telling lies and speak with kindness, compassion, and clarity.
There is a beautiful Sufi saying:
“Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.
At the first gate, ask yourself ‘Is it true?
At the second gate ask, ‘Is it necessary?
At the third gate ask, ‘Is it kind?”
Alan Redpath, a well-known British evangelist, pastor, and author gives a powerful explanation to the word “THINK”:
T – Is it true?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it inspiring?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?
“If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut!”
It is very important to always observe the motives behind our actions. Before you do or say something, ask yourself: ‘will it truly serve the other person, or am I doing this because of a need to prove something or gain something?’. By doing this you’ll be able to apply both Satya and Ahimsa to any situation.
We should always keep in mind that each situation we face in life offers us the opportunity to see the truth if we are open to it. A daily practice of slowing down, taking a couple of deep breaths, and observing things as they really are can help us move closer towards a state of peace and stillness in the mind.
Asato Maa Mantra Practice
The Asato Maa mantra is a powerful tool used by many practitioners as a daily acknowledgment of moving towards truth:
Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya
“Lead me from the unreal to the real
From darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge)
From death to immortality”
The Bottom Line
Honest communication and living a life of integrity are the foundation for all of our relationships: with ourselves, with others, and with society as a whole. By making Satya our life principle, we are making an essential step towards living a happier and more fulfilled life at all levels.