Exploring Truth: Introduction

A few days after I made a commitment to implement satya, truth, into my daily life, I found that I’d slowed down my speech and made a greater effort to actively listen to my interlocutor. I thought that maybe I’d continue in this vein, but over the next two weeks, satya seemed to sneak up on me in forms that I had not anticipated. I began to refine my understanding of the Yama, and to explore more deeply various relationships through the lens of satya. I noticed a consistent struggle with the concept of satya in two relationships in particular: my relationship with my work environment and my relationship as a bicyclist with motorists on the road. Because satya has taken on personal meaning for me, I’ll first describe how I have interpreted it in my daily life, and then I’ll offer two examples that demonstrate how satya has transformed how I work in my job and how I ride my bike.

Satya is the second Yama. According to T.K.V. Desikachar, “yama” can mean more than simply an ethical precept. It can mean “a ‘discipline’ or ‘restraints,’” and Desikachar further suggests, an “‘attitude’ or ‘behavior’” (98). In particular, the Yamas refer to an attitude we adopt toward others: in this way, Satya confronts language, communication, and the ego in the tricky process of interacting with the world.

My colleagues and I had discussed in our initial meeting what satya means and our own understandings of how it might apply to us: why did we choose this Yama? My struggle with truth manifests itself overtly: often, it is obvious that I am not telling the truth. I hyperbolize, overstate, stretch, bend, and spin what would otherwise be true. We agreed to ponder the question: What is my motivation for non-truth? When and where does it happen? I hypothesized that I exaggerate for social reasons – for humor or shock value for example – in order to augment others’ perceptions of me. Through this experiment, I realized that also commit non-truth by omitting the truth.

In my process of examining satya, I began to consider the space that non-truth occupies. I find it useful to use the words “fabrication” and “omission” to describe that space. A fabrication is the creation of something that was not already there: for one who lies about the world her or she lives in, fabrication creates distance between the self and the world – between the subject and the object – the same subject-object distance that Derik described during his discussion of ahimsa. In his discussion of satya, B. K. S. Iyengar offers the following analogy, “as fire burns impurities and refines gold, so the fire of truth cleanses the yogi and burns up the dross in him” (33). Non-truth is rubbish. It is extra. I will examine my relationship as a bicyclist with motorists on the road from this perspective of fabrication.

Satya, as a restraint, means to control and limit non-truth. As I discussed, this can mean to refrain from amplifying the truth. It also implicates truth that should be spoken, but it not: omission, the negative space that non-truth occupies. I will examine my relationship with my work environment from the perspective of omission.

Non-truth, lies, fabrications, and omission prevent the subject from being fully present in the world. Satya asks the practitioner to confront the world.