As part of my deep dive into the Yamas of yoga, I wanted to post an article discussing Satya which means truthfulness. I want to first of all discuss what it is, and then see if we can figure out what it means in our daily lives.
Non-falsehood, or truthfulness, might seem obvious but lets just lay it out a little so we're all on the same page. Satya is one of the Yamas laid out in the Yoga Sutra, which details the teachings of Patanjali. The Yamas are restraints that yoga practitioners are encouraged to incorporate into daily life.
So from this, we can first glean that Satya is more about what we should not do than what we should. It is associated with restraint rather than action.
So, does Satya just mean not lying? Does it mean not lying in circumstances where the truth is harmful or hurtful? Does it mean something completely different? Or is it all of the above? Well, let's break this down a little bit. Firstly, not lying would definitely fit in with truthfulness - not lying to others OR to ourselves (which can be the hard bit!). How about not lying in circumstances the truth is hurtful? Well, say your friend gets a new haircut which you don't think suits them, and they ask what you think. Is it better to lie, or be honest and potentially hurt their feelings? Or is it better to come up with something vaguely neutral instead? Does it depend on the friend?
This is where Satya starts to become a little harder than we possibly first thought it might be on first glance. We've all been in that situation where we haven't wanted to hurt someone's feelings, such as that unflattering haircut, or we've felt like saying the honest thing would potentially open a can of worms we aren't willing or able to deal with. If we tell a 'white lie', we are not being honest with our friend, possibly for the greater good, and are not being honest with ourselves. Not being honest with ourselves can create damage within, but is it greater or less than the damage caused by upsetting a friend? Would it be better to not tell a white lie, but not hurt our friend by searching for something positive about the haircut or saying something like "oh I love that it's made you so happy and confident!".
These are things we may have to constantly wrestle with as we work our way along a spiritual path. New situations arise regularly that might require us to revisit our previous decision on Satya, or to decide which path is the least damaging, for ourselves and others. There may be situations where it is more obvious what to do, but there may be other where it is not. Is it good to be truthful with someone about something they are doing that you believe will be bad for them, risking their anger and hurt, or is it better to lie by omission?
I have found, from personal experience, that lying to ourselves can cause a lot of internal turmoil and emotional upset. Lying to ourselves is not always something we are even aware of. It can be something like consistently not asking for something we need because we do not want to bother others, or not telling someone that something they do often upsets or hurts us. We may tell ourselves it is not a big deal, or that we do not want to hurt others, yet it results in hurting ourselves instead. Part of practising Satya is not lying to ourselves and not hurting ourselves, and it is something that can be a tough balancing act - does being truthful to ourselves hurt others, and would that end up hurting us more? It's not something that is easy to answer!
None of the Yamas as 'easy' once we start to look a bit deeper and delve under the surface, but Satya is definitely something that I end up wrestling with more than some of the others. Each new situation can cause a new internal debate on what is the best way forward.
I find, for me, that Satya and Ahimsa tie in quite closely. Ahimsa, as you might remember from a previous post, is non-harm. Clearly one of the reasons we struggle with truthfulness is that desire to not harm others. One thing we need to be aware of though, is whether our desire to not harm others harms us.
I'm eager to hear what you guys think about Satya - do you find it an ongoing balancing act or do you find it easy? Maybe it's something you've not thought about before but want to delve a bit deeper. Feel free to comment or hit me up on Facebook or Instagram.
As always, namaste
I'm a yoga fanatic who been practising yoga for 22 years and teaching for almost 4. I'm quite spiritual, a bit of a hippy to be honest, and love discussing theoretical aspects of yoga as well as the practical elements. You'll find articles on how yoga benefits my life on both a physical, mental and emotional level, as well as how it can help you - as well as some non-yoga related articles just to keep you on your toes!