Sunday August 19, 2018

Satyam: Speak truth, speak useful

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By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4

Hindu scriptures are very vast and diverse. On the one hand, they speak about very high philosophy of Atman and Srishti that are beyond one’s imagination. On the other hand, they also give mundane instructions like how to think, how to speak, or how to live.

But, the beauty of Hinduism is that it blends harmoniously both the high and the low, both the philosophy and the practical, so that an individual can slowly travel towards the ultimate goal of Moksha.

Among its various practical instructions regarding how one must live, the last article had dealt with Ahimsa (non-injury). In this, I take up another important teaching: Satyam (truthfulness).

Truthfulness is considered one of the most important tenets of dharma. The Taittiriya Upanishad (1.11.1) says “Speak Truth, Practice Dharma.” The next question that arises is how to speak truth? How to practice truthfulness in everyday life? Manu Smriti (4.138) gives an answer to this:

satyam bruyat priyam bruyat na bruyat satyam apriyam |
priyam ca nanrutam bruyat esha dharmah sanatanah ||
Translation: Speak truth, speak pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truth. Nor also pleasant falsehood. This is the eternal law.

This verse captures the gist of truthful speech. A person should speak only that which is true. But that does not mean one should indulge in gossip, complaining, or back-biting even if the content of such discussions are based on truth. A person should only speak that which is pleasant. But that does not mean one should lie just to make it pleasant for the hearer. Neither unpleasant truth, nor pleasant lie should be practiced.

Here, priyam, or pleasant, refers to that which is useful, that which causes some good including but not limited to causing happiness to the listener.

A few examples would illustrate the tenet clearly. Consider this, a man is sitting under a tree. Another man comes running and hides behind the bushes. A few people come chasing this second person.

Situation 1: The second man hiding is innocent. The men who came chasing him are robbers or lackeys to some mafia. Now, if the first man tells these lackeys the ‘truth’ that the innocent man is hiding behind the bush, then though literally it will be ‘truth’, yet it will be adharma as the action will result in unpleasant consequences for the innocent person. Hence, in this case, feigning ignorance or speaking ‘untruth’ constitutes the practice of Truthfulness (Satyam).

Situation 2: The second man is a criminal. The men pursuing him are police. In this case speaking a lie, though it is pleasant for the criminal, will be adharma, as a criminal is a menace to society and hence he needs to be restrained. Therefore, speaking truth that is pleasant (i.e. useful) to larger society is Satyam.

Another example could be about a patient who is suffering from some serious medical condition. It is not advisable to reveal to the patient about his serious medical condition immediately and abruptly as it may lead to shock and hence harm the patient. Therefore, speaking truth immediately without caring for patient’s condition does not constitute Satyam.

At the same time, lying to patient and completely hiding from him does not constitute Satyam either (unless it is an extreme case and a doctor advises to do this). A person must instead assess the situation and condition of the patient, and must reveal to him the truth in the most delicate manner, so as to cause minimal harm to him, and that will constitute Satyam.

Of course, these were simplistic situations, and real life situations would be more complicated.

Yet, these situations are suffice to point out how one must practice Satyam, not just in words, but also in its spirit.

Glossary:

Satyam: It literally means “Truth.” It refers to being truthful in mind, body, and speech i.e. a person’s thoughts, words, and actions must be according to reality. It also means one must practice what one preaches and preach what one practices.

Atman: The Innermost Self (Note: Atman is not soul or spirit. It is the innermost Self. It is Jiva-atman, in its limited aspect it can be understood as the Individual soul).

Srishti: Manifestation of the Universe. Many different world views are offered in Hindu philosophy regarding the origination of the Universe.

Moksha: Literally, Liberation. It is liberation from the Karmic bondage of cycle of birth and death. According to Advaita Vedanta, this liberation is possible only by the realization of true nature of Atman that it is free and without bondage.

Dharma: It means “that which upholds” i.e. the essence. In various contexts it may refer to different things. With respect to human actions, it means duties and righteousness, as they alone uphold human life. Adharma is opposite of dharma.

More in this segment:

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3

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  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    Wonderful ..the teachings if adapted will only help us to be more peaceful with ourself and with others..as truth can’t be hidden. Speaking truthfully frees mind.

Next Story

Hinduism Should Not be Viewed Through the Narrow Prism of Marxism

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies

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Hinduism
Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male.

By Salil Gewali

“A little knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance”. And far more dangerous is when that little knowledge is spread in the society being propelled by the fuel of “prejudices”.  This write-up is with reference to a number of articles by a certain class of writers published in the mainstream media. Those articles are intended to rake up the issues in order to push the sacred temple of “Sabarimala” of Kerala or Shani Shingnapur and the culture associated with it, into the mire of controversy. Tarnishing the image of Hinduism is the main goal. Not unexpectedly, some stories even proclaim that in India “women” are thus demonized and their menstruation is abhorred.

Having gone through some of them I immediately contacted a number of top scholars in Kerala for hands-on verification — whether “women” are being despised so heartlessly or not. Since one of my books is translated into their language I did that with all ease. Not a single scholar (women included) informed me suggesting that they, or temple management of Sabarimala, have ever “despised women”, or hated “menstruation”.  I rather got an earful for asking such absurd questions.  They instantly reiterated referring to Hindu scriptures which teach all and one to look upon women as “Motherly figures”. One scholar remarks, “this confrontation has actually been orchestrated by the politicians with the help of certain forces which want to demean our culture”.  I heaved a sigh of relief!

Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male. But some vested interests with an ulterior motive have been distorting the true history/legends of India and also merrily belittling or shrugging off the literary treasure troves of the country. It was first done by the British in order to divide and rule Indians, in which they were very successful. And later, the legacy has been faithfully and aggressively carried forward by the Indian intellectuals influenced by certain thinkers and writers of the West and their culture.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Well, the seers of ancient India not only knew as information but they “fully realized” that everything, in and out, is pervaded by “Brahman” (Almighty). The modern science too has arrived at the “same conclusion”. The father of Quantum Mechanics — Erwin Schrodinger has scientifically discussed this fact in his world-famous book – “What is Life?”.  All knowledge associated with the ONENESS of Universe and the “Unity in Diversity” is systematically enshrined in 108 Upanishads.  They expounded with a force that “Purusha” (male) and “Pratriki” (female) both combine themselves to put forth the infinite COSMIC CREATION. One without other is like the fire without the heat. They are mutually complementary, inter-dependent and inter-related. The “discrimination” of any kind, not just “against women”, but even against the tiny “insects” and “plants” are considered irreligious. I would also request such biased scholars to read between the lines from the literature authored by Sri Aurobindo and Vivekananda who just quote from them to gloss over the footprint of their agendas. One wonders when they will learn to shake off the baggage of prejudices against while getting down to study the literature of the home country.

Now about the legend Ayyappa of Sabarimala in brief. The story which is long and interestingly too drawn-out, says —  Lord Ayyappa, who was born out of Lord Shiva and the feminine energy of Lord Vishnu, had exceptional power. His birth on earth was in order to kill a female demon– Mahishi. After having been killed the demoness, the curse against her ends. She again takes birth, this time the Goddess incarnate. This is laws of karma works. When she grew up she approached Lord Ayyappa for the marriage. But Ayyappa, who was practicing celibacy, denied. But, he consoles her saying that he will only marry her when no “first timer” will visit his temple for blessings. However, Lord Ayyappa asks her to reside just near to his temple. Later, in her memory, the devotee constructed a temple known as Malikapurathamma just adjacent to the temple of Ayyappa.

Since Lord Ayyappa, who was known for his celibacy, and had promised to marry Malikapurathamma, it has become a sort of a tradition among women not to visit the temple.  It should not be  misunderstood that it is apparently as a mark of showing respect to both Lord Ayyappa and Goddess Malikapurathamma.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies (five sheaths mentioned in Upanishads). The areas of study are very vast. They caution that a woman during her monthly cycle should abstain from the religious public rituals, but can perform the personal spiritual practice. In fact, contrary to the modern tradition and practice, the seers didn’t “limit themselves” to the personal and public hygiene alone, but they went further, and so taken the “spiritual aspect” into consideration. Of course, lot many such dos and don’ts are beyond the understanding of we mundane people with limited five senses and “scattered mind”. It is too absurd who interpret that it is a practice of “untouchability”. A medical doctor will never allow you to enter into ICU unless you are well washed. Is not everything there meticulously sterilized?  Do you say that the hospital is practicing “untouchability”? I don’t think any mother will allow her children to enter the kitchen and take food immediately after the latrine without washing hands and feet.

Going by such biased articles in the mainstream media intended to denigrate the culture and heritage of the country; and also literary books (who unfortunately receive “Sahitya Akademi” and “Padma Shree” awards), I fervently wish that one should have the deeper knowledge of the subjects. Here the crucial prerequisite is that they must first unlearn false history and start to learn the true history without being weighed down by the prejudices.  Moreover, the cosmic ocean of the Indian wisdom is so deep, even it has described many “inconceivable” laws and principles which are seemingly out-of-box and discriminatory. I humbly suggest not to selectively pick up a few odds and use them to demean this vast culture of knowledge. The Vedanta should not be view through the narrow prism of Karl Marx and LeninEven their favorite master Fredrick Hegel (front ranking philosopher of the west) cheerfully confessed the depth of ancient wisdom, –  “It strikes everyone in beginning to form an acquaintance with the treasures of Indian literature, that a land so rich in intellectual products and those of the “profoundest” order of thought”. How I wish that a dagger not be wielded by an untrained person or else it will be disastrous!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.