Patanjali Yoga Sutras Ch2-36 “Satya pratiṣṭhāyāṁ kriyā phalā ‘śrayatvaṁ”
As truthfulness (satya) is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result according to the will of the yogi.
In spite of there being nearly 1000 schools of yoga in the modern world; everyone in is agreement that the roots of Yoga philosophy are contained in a manuscript prepared by the great sage of ancient India, Patanjali. In this treatise titled ‘Yoga Sutras’, Patanjali codified the existing knowledge of Yoga so that it could be transmitted from Guru (Teacher) to Shishya (Student) in a coherent manner. Thanks to this work we have a clear understanding of the purpose and goal of practicing yoga.
Although almost all people start learning Yoga in a class that will teach them simple yoga poses (Asanas) and breathing practices (Pranayam); Patanjali actually created an 8-step ladder of yoga practices. In these he started off with YAMAS and NIYAMAS (ethical and moral/ societal restraints and observances) even before he listed Asanas, Pranayam and more. Hence, for centuries Yoga Gurus stressed the need for ethical living even before they taught their students yogasanas! In the Middle Ages; the thinking changed and many yogic masters decided that students could start learning asanas and pranayam; and that practicing these yogic techniques would help the students to live more ethically; rather than expect them to be Saints before starting the physical yoga.
And so we come to the YAMAS of Patanjali. Often people complain that there is no set of moral codes to the philosophy of Yoga; which is very incorrect! In Chapter 2, Verse 30 of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras; the student is introduced to the concept of YAMAS.
The Yamas are basic human codes that will help you as a Yoga practitioner achieve mental/ emotional equilibrium. The 5 Yamas are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (non-obsession with sex) and Aparigraha (non-covetousness). If you pay attention; you will appreciate Patanjali’s selection of qualities and realize that you stand to gain a lot of Contentment by observing them. Try Meditating after having Lied to someone or having Stolen something! You will never have the Peace of Mind required for Meditation.
SATYA is the Sanskrit word for TRUTH. Now, one might assume that we are all mostly Truthful and don’t go about lying all day. However, the understanding is deeper still. In observing SATYA, we must not even resort to this fanciful creation called – White Lies! No, SATYA means that we do not lie. Period. Not even if we believe it to be non-harmful – not even if we can find any number of justifications to lie. Any words (or actions) of ours that may wrongly influence other persons regarding our motives, is to be avoided.
Conversely, SATYA does not mean that we need to go and tell everyone we know what we think about them; thereby causing them great hurt – when they have not asked for our opinion in the first place! This is a foolish, juvenile extension of the concept of truthfulness. We must understand the power of our own speech.
In conclusion, I think SATYA is actually even deeper than just not ‘lying’. Satya to me means being TRUE to what we believe in, being True to our convictions, our goals in life and to our Nature. Usually when we live True to ourselves; we don’t really need to lie and please people or deceive people to further our vested interests! The Truth we Live will usually ensure that we also speak the Truth – a perfect union of Thoughts, Words and Actions.