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File:Rigveda MS2097.jpg
Satya is an important concept and virtue in Indian religions. Rigveda, dated to be from the 2nd millennium BC, offers the earliest discussion of Satya.[1][2] It can be seen, for example, in the fifth and sixth lines, in above Rigveda manuscript image.

Satya (सत्य) is the Sanskrit word for truth.[3][4] It also refers to a virtue in Indian religions, referring to being truthful in one's thought, speech and action.[5] In Yoga, satya is one of five yamas, the virtuous restraint from falsehood and distortion of reality in one's expressions and actions.[6]


In the Vedas and later sutras, the meaning of the word satya (सत्य) evolves into an ethical concept about truthfulness and is considered an important virtue.[5][7] It means being true and consistent with reality in one's thought, speech and action.[5]

A related concept, sattva, also derived from "sat", means true essence, nature, spiritual essence, character.[8] Sattva is also a guṇa, a psychology concept particularly in the Samkhya school of philosophy, where it means goodness, purity, clean, positive, one that advances good true nature of self.[9][10]


Vedic literature[edit]

Satya is a central theme in the Vedas. It is equated with and considered necessary to the concept Ṛta (Sanskrit ऋतं ṛtaṃ) – that which is properly joined, order, rule, nature, balance, harmony.[1][11] Ṛta results from Satya in the Vedas, states Holdrege,[12] as it regulates and enables the operation of the universe and everything within it. Satya (truth) is considered essential, and without it, the universe and reality falls apart, cannot function.[12]

In Rigveda, opposed to rita and satya are anrita and asatya (falsehood).[1] Truth and truthfulness is considered as a form of reverence for the divine, while falsehood a form of sin. Satya includes action and speech that is factual, real, true and reverent to Ṛta in Book 1, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 of Rigveda.[2] However, Satya isn't merely about one's past that is in context in the Vedas, it has one's current and one's future contexts as well. De Nicolás states, that in Rigveda, "Satya is the modality of acting in the world of Sat, as the truth to be built, formed or established".[2]


Satya is a widely discussed concept in various Upanishads, including the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad where satya is called the means to Brahman, as well as Brahman (Being, true self).[13][14] In hymn 1.4.14 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Satya (truth) is equated to Dharma (morality, ethics, law of righteousness),[15] as

Nothing is higher than the Law of Righteousness (Dharma). The weak overcomes the stronger by the Law of Righteousness. Truly that Law is the Truth (Satya); Therefore, when a man speaks the Truth, they say, "He speaks Righteousness"; and if he speaks Righteousness, they say, "He speaks the Truth!" For both are one.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, I.4.xiv [14][15]

Taittiriya Upanishad's hymn 11.11 states,[16] "Speak the Satya (truth), conduct yourself according to the Dharma (morality, ethics, law)".[15]

Truth is sought, praised in the hymns of Upanishads, held as one that ultimately, always prevails. The Mundaka Upanishad, for example, states in Book 3, Chapter 1,[17]

<poem> सत्यमेव जयते नानृतं[18] Translation 1: Truth alone triumphs, not falsehood.[19] Translation 2: Truth ultimately triumphs, not falsehood.[20] Translation 3: The true prevails, not the untrue.[21] </poem>

Sandilya Upanishad of Atharvanaveda, in Chapter 1, includes ten[22] forbearances as virtues, in its exposition of Yoga. It defines Satya as "the speaking of the truth that conduces to the well being of creatures, through the actions of one's mind, speech or body."[23]

Deussen states that Satya is described in the major Upanishads with two layers of meanings - one as empirical truth about reality, another as abstract truth about universal principle, being and the unchanging. Both these ideas are explained in early Upanishads, composed before 500 BC, by variously breaking the word satya or satyam into two or three syllables. In later Upanishads, the ideas evolve and transcend into satya as truth (or truthfulness), and Brahman as the Being, Be-ness, real Self, the eternal.[24]


The Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata states, "The righteous hold that forgiveness, truth, sincerity and compassion are the foremost (of all virtues). Truth is the essence of the Vedas."[25]

The Epic repeatedly emphasizes that Satya is a basic virtue, because everything and everyone depends on and relies on Satya.[26]

सत्यस्य वचनं साधु न सत्याद विद्यते परम
सत्येन विधृतं सर्वं सर्वं सत्ये परतिष्ठितम
अपि पापकृतॊ रौद्राः सत्यं कृत्वा पृथक पृथक
अद्रॊहम अविसंवादं परवर्तन्ते तदाश्रयाः
ते चेन मिथॊ ऽधृतिं कुर्युर विनश्येयुर असंशयम

To speak the truth is meritorious. There is nothing higher than truth. Everything is upheld by truth, and everything rests upon truth. Even the sinful and ferocious, swear to keep the truth amongst themselves, dismiss all grounds of quarrel and uniting with one another set themselves to their (sinful) tasks, depending upon truth. If they behaved falsely towards one another, they would then be destroyed without doubt.

— The Mahabharata, Chapter CCLIX, Shanti Parva[26]


In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is written, “When one is firmly established in speaking truth, the fruits of action become subservient to him."[27] In Yoga sutra, Satya is one of the five yamas, or virtuous restraints, along with ahimsa (restraint from violence or injury to any living being); asteya (restraint from stealing); brahmacharya (celibacy or restraint from sexually cheating on one's partner); and aparigraha (restraint from covetousness and craving). Patanjali considers satya as a restraint from falsehood in one's action (body), words (speech, writing) or feelings / thoughts (mind).[6][28] In Patanjali's teachings, one may not always know the truth or the whole truth, but one knows if one is creating, sustaining or expressing falsehood, exaggeration, distortion, fabrication or deception.[27] Satya is, in Patanjali's Yoga, the virtue of restraint from such falsehood, either through silence or through stating the truth without any form of distortion.[29]


Satya is one of the five vows prescribed in Jain Agamas. Satya was also preached by Mahavira.[30][31] According to Jainism, not to lie or speak what is not commendable.[32] The underlying cause of falsehood is passion and therefore, it is said to cause hiṃsā (injury).[33]

According to the Jain text Sarvārthasiddhi: "that which causes pain and suffering to the living is not commendable, whether it refers to actual facts or not".[34]

According to Jain text, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya:[35]

All these subdivisions (injury, falsehood, stealing, unchastity, and attachment) are hiṃsā as indulgence in these sullies the pure nature of the soul. Falsehood etc. have been mentioned separately only to make the disciple understand through illustrations.

— Puruşārthasiddhyupāya (42)


The term satya (Sanskrit; in Pali: sacca) is translated in English as "reality" or "truth." In terms of the Four Noble Truths (ariyasacca), the Pali can be written as sacca, tatha, anannatatha and dhamma.

'The Four Noble Truths' (ariya-sacca) are the briefest synthesis of the entire teaching of Buddhism, since all those manifold doctrines of the threefold Pali canon are, without any exception, included therein. They are the truth of suffering (mundane mental and physical phenomenon), of the origin of suffering (tanha 'pali' the craving), of the extinction of suffering (Nibbana or nirvana), and of the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the extinction of suffering (the eight supra-mundane mind factors ).


The Gurmukhs do not like falsehood; they are imbued with Truth; they love only Truth. The shaaktas, the faithless cynics, do not like the Truth; false are the foundations of the false. Imbued with Truth, you shall meet the Guru. The true ones are absorbed into the True Lord.

— Gurubani, Hymn 3, [36]

Indian emblem motto[edit]

The motto of the republic of India's emblem is Satyameva Jayate which is literally translated as 'Truth alone triumphs'.

See also[edit]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Roderick Hindery (2004), Comparative Ethics in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120808669, pages 51-55
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Antonio T. De Nicolás (2003), Meditations Through the Rig Veda, ISBN 978-0595269259, pages 162-164
  3. A. A. Macdonell, Sanskrit English Dictionary, Asian Educational Services, ISBN 978-8120617797, page 330-331
  4. J. Wentzel Vrede van Huyssteen et al (2003), Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, Thomson Gale, ISBN 0-02-865704-7, page 405
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 KN Tiwari (1998), Classical Indian Ethical Thought, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120816077, page 87
  6. 6.0 6.1 GR Garg, Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World, Volume 3, ISBN 81-7022-3733, page 733
  7. A Dhand (2002), The dharma of ethics, the ethics of dharma: Quizzing the ideals of Hinduism, Journal of Religious Ethics, 30(3), pages 347-372
  8. Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Sattva, <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css" />OCLC 492970792 [archive]
  9. Monier Monier-Williams, Indian Wisdom [archive], Luzac & Co London, page 94-99
  10. Gananath Obeyesekere (1977), The theory and practice of psychological medicine in the Ayurvedic tradition, Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 155-181
  11. Joel Beversluis, Sourcebook of the World's Religions, New World Library, ISBN 978-1577311218, pages 52-55
  12. 12.0 12.1 Barbara Holdrege (2004), "Dharma", in: Mittal, S. & Thursby, G. (Eds.) The Hindu World, Routledge. ISBN 0-415-21527-7, page 215
  13. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad [archive], Translator: S Madhavananda
  14. 14.0 14.1 Charles Johnston, The Mukhya Upanishads: Books of Hidden Wisdom, Kshetra, ISBN 978-1495946530, page 481, for discussion on Satya and Brahman pages 491-505, 561-575
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Paul Horsch (Translated by Jarrod Whitaker), From Creation Myth to World Law: The early history of Dharma, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol 32, pages 423–448, (2004)
  16. Original hymn is: सत्यं वद । धर्मं चर, satyam vada dharmam cara, ॥ तैत्तिरीयोपनिषत् ॥ [archive] Sanskrit Documents
  17. 17.0 17.1 E. Easwaran (2007), The Upanishads, ISBN 978-1586380212, page 181
  18. Mundaka Upanishad (Sanskrit) [archive] Wikisource
  19. Ananthamurthy, et al (2008), Compassionate Space [archive], India International Centre Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 2, pages 18-23
  20. Brij Lal, A Vision for Change: Speeches and Writings of AD Patel 1929-1969, Australian National University Press, ISBN 978-1921862328, page xxi
  21. Max Muller, The Upanishads, Part 2, Mundaka Upanishad [archive], Oxford University Press, page 38-40
  22. Patanjali states five restraints, rather than ten. The complete list of 10 forbearances in Sandilya Upanishad are, in the order they are listed in original Upanishad manuscript: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, daya, arjava, kshama, dhrti, mitahara and saucha
  23. KN Aiyar (Translator), Thirty Minor Upanishads, Madras (1914), page 173-174, <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css" />OCLC 23013613 [archive]
  24. Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads [archive], T&T Clark, Edinburgh, Harvard University Archives, pages 128-133
  25. Page 392 Mahābhārata: Shanti parva (Mokshadharma parva, ch. 174-365), By Om Nath Bimali, Ishvar Chandra, Manmatha Nath Dutt
  26. 26.0 26.1 MN Dutt (Translator), Mokshadharma Parva [archive] The Mahabharata, page 344-345
  27. 27.0 27.1 Patanjali, Sutra Number 2.36, Yoga Sutras 2.30-2.45; B. Ravikanth, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, ISBN 978-0988251502, pages 140-150
  28. A Palkhivala, Teaching the Yamas in Asana Class [archive] Yoga Journal (August 28, 2007)
  29. Edwin Bryant, in Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions (Editor: Steven Rosen), Praeger, ISBN 978-0313397035, pages 33-48
  30. Sangave 2006, p. 67.
  31. Shah, Umakant Premanand, Mahavira Jaina teacher [archive], Encyclopædia Britannica<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 61.
  33. Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 66.
  34. S.A. Jain 1992, p. 197.
  35. Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 33.
  36. Sri Guru Granth Sahib page 23 <templatestyles src="Nobold/styles.css"/>Full Shabad [archive]

External links[edit] [archive]