Satya, or truthfulness, is the next of the Yamas that comes up. It’s not a particularly appealing one in my opinion. An absolute minefield in fact and not at all easy to negotiate in life. People often wonder what exactly it means and how it fits with Ahimsa. Have you ever seen that Jim Carrey film The Liar, where he loses the ability to lie and has to tell the truth all the time….. well, it makes the point perfectly. Being brutally honest is often not kind and causes problems in relationships of all kinds – if the truth is brutal or will possibly cause harm you’ve got to ask yourself: does it need to be said, does it need to be said now and does it need to be said by me?
It may well be that the answer to those questions is affirmative in both cases due to some other moral imperative – we don’t have to become passive and powerless in the face of wrongdoing, for example – but what Satya and Ahimsa working together lead us to is the idea that due care and consideration does need to be given to the potential impact of what we say or do, as well as the when and the how. Even if a loved one, or simply someone we know casually is doing something we think is silly, irritating or simply not what we would do, we also have to question whether our judgment is really that important – who cares? Keep that ego in check and tend your own garden as they say….each of us is finding our own way most of the time and that is necessary. And yet it is important to be honest with yourself always and with others when it matters. The art lies in judging when that is, I suppose, and that's the truly thorny issue for most, I'd guess.
Related to that, there is, of course, the whole concept and culture that’s grown up around the idea of being true to yourself. Again, I have found this to be pretty vital for living my life if I want any hope of having a sense of balance and coping with the darker parts of living. There are big (but actually very simple) questions to be asked like: What do I actually want if I am truly honest? Am I happy doing this job? With this person? In that friendship? In this country? Is my life serving me well and am I serving life well? If you’re not honest with yourself, how can you hope to be connected and content in life? I find that what causes most suffering for people who share these kinds of things with me is living someone else’s idea of success and finding it wanting or being disconnected from self to the extent that ignorance (or lack of knowledge – in this case of the self - avedya) reigns. We can cause a lot of pain and suffering to ourselves and others simply by not being honest about what we really want and living a lie.
It’s a well-established idea that ignorance is not bliss in Vedic tradition – far from it! But it takes courage to find your own truth and accept that it is what it is, not least because it might not be what you have been taught to expect it will be, or even what you necessarily want it to be! Hmmmmm, food for thought…. Clearly there’s a connection with the next Yama – non-stealing - as well, but we’ll save that tbd for next time…. In the meantime, get on the mat and start getting connected to yourself I say! Namaste.