Yamas and Niyamas – 2

The second rule is Satya. It means to be with what is right now, to be with something that is not changing. Satya does not mean just speaking the truth. It is total commitment for truth. It is not just words. Unfortunately people mistake satya to be just speaking words. Many people consider being blunt as being truthful.

The sutra is Satyapratishtayam kriyaphalashrayatvam (Sûtra 2.36), meaning. When you are established in truth then the fruits of action will follow.

When you become established in truth, any action you do will become fruitful. Many people do their actions, but their action does not bring about results because there is no truth consciousness inside. When there is truth consciousness inside, when you are established in the truth, the fruit of the action will follow the action immediately. It is the quality of the consciousness. Even if you lie, if you are bold enough to say that, ‘I am telling a lie right now’, you are speaking the truth!

When you lie, your consciousness is not straight-forward or strong. A person who is committed to truth is committed to the presence of the being. For them, success comes easily. The ancient saying in India is Satyameva jayate meaning ‘truth alone triumphs’. Truth will eventually win though it may appear not to be winning.

There is a story about Emperor Akbar and his minister Birbal. Once Akbar heard a lecture on truth and he became so enthusiastic and said “Okay, I will make everybody speak the truth.” Immediately he ordered that ‘‘anybody who says a lie will be hanged!” He wanted this law to be implemented. As this law was announced, there was a big commotion in the market place. What was the commotion about? All the lawyers gathered together and said “What is this law? Our profession will be finished.” In another corner all the merchants gathered together and said, “See, what is happening. This is disastrous. How can we sell anything?”

Next, all the priests gathered and it was the same story there too. The doctors gathered and said “Oh! We have to migrate to some other country. This law is too dangerous.”

All of them approached this wise minister in the king’s court, Birbal and said, “Come on Birbal, you have to do something. What will happen to our trade? This is outrageous.” Birbal said “Okay I will do something.” So, the next day Birbal, the minister entered the king’s bedroom. As he was trying to enter, the guards stopped him and asked him where he was going. Birbal said “I am going to get hanged.” Now, this was a lie! He was one of the top ministers of the cabinet. He was getting into the king’s room and saying “I am going to get hanged.” That was not a place to be hanged. So the guards said, “Minister Birbal has spoken a lie!” He was brought in front of the king. If Birbal was to be hanged then he had not spoken a lie. Whatever he had said was the truth. Then it means that an innocent man will be punished for no crime of his. It will be a big crime. If he will not be hanged then the law becomes obsolete. Then what to do?

All the wise people and all the ministers were called and there was a big debate, “Now, what should we do? Should we hang him or not? If we hang him we violate a law. If we do not hang him, even then we violate a law.” The king was in a fix. Everybody else was in a greater fix. So they told Birbal, “You yourself suggest to us as to what we should do?” Birbal then said, “Truth is not what is spoken. Anything you speak becomes a lie. The moment you open your mouth, you are distorting the truth.” Akbar realised this and withdrew the law!

Satya or truth means ‘to be with what is’. It is not just the words but it is to be truthful in one’s life, heart and presence. Truth is not what we speak, but what we are.

[Courtesy Sri Sri RaviShankar’s column in New Indian Express on Patanjali Yoga Sutra]

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