Thursday March 21, 2019

Satyam: Speak truth, speak useful



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.


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

  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

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

Next Story

Westerners Adopt Indian Practices, Deny Giving Due Credits

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument.

Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to protect our own heritage and Dharma. Hindu Council Of Australia

By Shashi Holla (WA) and Surinder Jain

Colonial or a white supremacy mind set may be clever enough to adopt Hindu practices but denies giving credit where it is due. Stealing Hindu Intellectual Property, they do not hesitate to rename and repackage so that they can sell it back to India for immense profits. Off course, they will leave no chance to tell Indians to stop their superstitious ways and to adopt the new scientific knowledge which “they” have “invented”.

Following has been already digested or appropriated by West. Some of the Western academics don’t believe that they belong to India.

Yoga Nidra   AS  Lucid Dreaming

Nadi Shodhana AS Alternate Nostrils Breathing

Vipassana  AS Mindfulness.

The latest addition to this list is

Pranamyam AS Cardiac Coherence Breathing

Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders.[29] But the latest attempt has taken the appropriation too far. An American magazine “Scientific American” in its article titled “Proper Breathing Brings Better health” termed “Pranayama” as cardiac coherence breathing. (15 January 2019). The article gives us an idea about how West is so sophisticated in stealing knowledge from ancient cultures particularly Hinduism.

Man doing Yoga. Wikimedia Commons

Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā.[11] According to Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, prāṇāyāma is translated to “trance induced by stopping all breathing”, also being made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇa and āyām.[12] Pranayama is the fourth “limb” of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[14][15] Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice.[16] Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.[18]

“Pranayama” a department of Yogic science practiced and documented 5000 years back ( even 15,000 years back) by Rishis is not even acknowledged by the author of the article. If one read the article they vaguely suggest that breathing exercises also existed in China, Hindu and in Greek culture.  This is how appropriation of ancient techniques takes place by West.  As Sankrat Sanu an entrepreneur, researcher and writer put it in his tweet “after erasing the origin they claim it as their own invention, attack original traditions as Superstition”.

As famous Indian American Author Rajiv Malhotra summarizes: “The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”. Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to  protect our own heritage and Dharma.

The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”.  Pixabay

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument. West has created an eco system and mechanism in which their knowledge system is Well protected and patented by international norms. Unless West does not give a new name and fits into their framework native wisdom is not recognized in academia and media. Whereas Hindus were generous in sharing their health techniques freely from millennium never thought they will struggle in proving things which belong to them. In fact in a westernized framework of Yoga and other techniques Indian scholars, insiders and practitioners are blatantly ignored. So our own knowledge will be repackaged and exported back to us at an extra price and conditions.

Also Read: Climate Change Will Melt Vast Parts of Himalayas: Study

Many of our practices are being called to be Biofeedback systems. According to WikipediaBiofeedback systems have been known in India and some other countries for millennia. Ancient Hindu practices like yoga and Pranayama (breathing techniques) are essentially biofeedback methods. Many yogis and sadhus have been known to exercise control over their physiological processes. In addition to recent research on Yoga, Paul Brunton, the British writer who travelled extensively in India, has written about many cases he has witnessed. (Hindu Council Of Australia)