The Yoga Sutras: Satya or ‘truthfulness’
Satya is often thought of as not ‘lying’: Telling the truth and being honest.
This is true on one level as Satya urges us to live and speak our truth at all times. Being true to what we believe in, true to our convictions, goals and our nature. Living in your truth creates respect, honour and integrity. This is all positive for sure, but the real teaching of Satya is much deeper than that.
Satya (truthfulness), the second of the five yamas (the quality of intelligence that governs a higher state of consciousness) described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s. The word Satya derives from the Sanskrit word ‘sat’ meaning ‘the true essence’ or ‘true nature’, it can be described as “that which exists, that which is.”
This insight of the word leads us to understand that ‘sat’ also holds the meaning of that ‘which is unchangeable’, ‘that which has no distortion’ and ‘that which is beyond distinctions of time, space and person’, meaning ‘reality’. This gives us the deeper knowing that Sat is something that is unchanging and pure. Many Sanskrit words use the prefix ‘sat’ for example ‘satsang’ meaning true company, and ‘sattva’ meaning peace, bliss, purity.
Therefore, Satya or truth is much more than expressing truth (in speech and action). Satya is to be established in the truth of who we really are, and the nature of reality.
Our thoughts, emotions, moods are extremely variable – from day to day, moment to moment. These are things that are unstable, yet things that often create our ‘truth’ and colour our whole experience of life. We often identify completely with our emotions and irrational thoughts; ‘I am a bad person because of this…’ or ‘I’m not worthy enough because of that…’ When we follow this, what we experience as truth one day will not be the same truth we live the next.
It is exactly these vrittis or fluctuations of the mind which we look to still through a yoga practice according to Patanjali’s Yoga sutras. Sutra 2 states “yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhah” – Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
Understanding Satya makes us aware that much of our experience of life is brought about by paying attention to that which changes, rather than the unchanging truth.
Satya teaches us that we are not our thoughts, our emotions or even our physical body. These aspects of life are the relative, not the absolute. Then what is?
Absolute alertness. Pure alertness. Pure intelligence.
Satya is then the truth of that non-changing field of Pure intelligence. Being.
According to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Yamas happen naturally as you attain greater awareness of the Self.
The Yoga Sutras are not meant as steps to a higher state of consciousness, as often interpreted and sometimes referred to as ‘Yoga’. They are characteristics of the ‘State of Yoga’ that naturally and spontaneously develop as you practice.
The Sutras are limbs of Yoga. Limbs by nature are extensions which grow automatically with the body’s development. Therefore, the eight limbs of yoga grow as yoga develops in our lives, in action.
Maharishi describes Satya (Truth) as “That which never changes”. He says that speaking Truth cannot be practiced, he suggests instead practicing the development of higher consciousness, a state in which one naturally then speaks the Truth. This is Satya in its true essence.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras Ch2-36 states “Satya pratiṣṭhāyāṁ kriyā phalā ‘śrayatvaṁ” – As truthfulness (satya) is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result according to the will of the yogi.
This inner State of Yoga, the goal of our yoga practice, is the experience of a transcendental field of pure intelligence, found deep within. The is the unchanging truth – sat/being. It is an infinite ‘ocean’ of creativity, intelligence, happiness and peace, our inner Self.
The best way to achieve Satya is to practice Meditation daily. Meditation enables anyone to easily and effortlessly take the awareness deep inside to experience the blissful and peaceful state of Yoga.
As our infinite, unbounded inner intelligence becomes increasingly lively outside of meditation, we naturally and spontaneously become more truthful (satya).
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Author: Tegan Wallis
Holistic Health Practitioner.