A Practical View of Yama pt2 — Satya

by Jul 4, 2016

Satya is Truthfulness. In the “Yoga Mala” Guruji writes, “One should always tell the truth in thought, word, and deed.” I also remember him in “conference” in Mysore, asking someone who Patanjaliclaimed to have experienced “kundalini rising,” if they practiced Satya. He followed up by saying that to practice truthfulness was very, very difficult.

To practice always telling the truth is an exercise of will. This takes an incredible amount of discipline and self control. Especially because the person we most frequently deceive is ourselves and yet, to be truthful to others we first must be honest to ourselves. This requires absolute clarity.

So how do we develop the discipline required? How do we find the clarity, because the ultimate lie we tell ourselves is to identify with our vrttis rather than purusa, our unchanging soul? Of course, this is where our practice comes in. To practice consistently requires discipline and to practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in full, as Guruji taught us in Mysore, that is every day except Saturday and the full and new moon, takes incredible discipline. And yet Guruji told us this amount of discipline is nothing to what it takes to practice Satya.

Our practice should also always be directed toward achieving clarity. Your practice should not be complicated. It should not lead to doubt. Making the practice complicated is a mistake that many teachers make, especially with beginners. Guruji always kept things very simple. What could be less complicated than “practice, practice, practice, and all is coming”? He also showed us a method that leaves no doubt about what we should do on our yoga mats. Many people seem to struggle with this and want to change what they do on the mat, but there is honesty in following the method taught by the Guru. There is no room for doubt, no room for the ego to deceive you about what you need rather than what you want.

It is important to note that, as with all Yoga, Satya must be imbued with Ahimsa or non-harming. So not only should we always tell the truth but we must be careful that the truth we tell causes no harm to others or to ourselves. Again, this is very, very difficult. How can we know the full repercussions of any statement we make? We cannot and so we must be very mindful of everything we say. In the end only silence will do. And yet many Yoga teachers talk and talk and talk, always filling their students heads. This is not the “Mysore Method”.

As with Ahimsa, it can be seen that to fully practice Satya you need to be in the end state of Yoga, or Samadhi. We need to practice with dedication, discipline and honesty for many years, lifetimes even, to achieve this end. In the meantime be truthful and honest in all your dealings and as Patanjali states in Sutra ii : 36 “Satya pratishthayam kriya phalashrayatvam” – “when one is established in truth, one ensures the fruition of action.” It is only by practicing the truth that we ensure that we achieve goals. Besides which, the world could always do with less talking and more honest action.

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1 Comment

  1. Fiona Johannessen

    Excellent words and a good reminder of the true practice of yoga. Thanks Mike, your thoughts are always inspirational!