Satya and Compassion
Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth come what may, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. The Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, says: “Speak the truth which is pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truths. Do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear. That is the eternal law, the dharma.”
From: Desikachar, T.K.V. 1995. “The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice.” Inner Traditions International: Rochester, VT. 244p., p. 98-99.
I am repeating myself when I say that yoga is so much more than a physical exercise. The whole point of yoga is to evolve as a human being, to become a better person. Asanas (yoga poses) are an important part of this — by keeping the body healthy, it is easier to maintain a healthy mind. Being our best selves certainly includes being in our best physical health. That’s only a small part of the whole picture, though.
The Yamas and Niyamas are another essential part of yoga. Yamas are guidelines for how we interact with other people and the world around us. Niyamas involve how we behave toward ourselves. Satya, the yama described above, or “truthfulness” is one I sometimes struggle with and am focusing on now. I think satya and compassion are directly related, as Desikachar’s quote illustrates. Truthfulness is important, but one must consider the consequences of truthfulness before speaking.
I’ve been studying yoga for quite a while now and I’m still continually reminded that I have a lot of growing to do. At 37 years old, sometimes I’m amazed at how little I still know. Despite my desire to be the best person I can be, despite the fact that I strive to only spread love, I sometimes become selfish and do not act or speak with compassion.
The above quote struck me as an integral lesson I need to learn if I want my life to be peaceful and if I want to maintain healthy relationships with myself and others. I have always been a rather sensitive person. I tend to take things personally and I tend to overreact at times. I have been known to speak out of turn. I sometimes let my emotions take over and say things that I should not say, even if they are my true feelings in that moment. It can be easy to get emotional and express a thought or feeling in a way that hurts another person. Too easy. And once said, words cannot be taken back. Others are hurt and I subsequently struggle not to wallow in guilt, shame, and depression. Obviously not the way I want to live!
I’ve learned this the hard way too many times in my life (and maybe haven’t fully learned since I am still working on it)! I hope that by sharing this quote I can help someone else to think before speaking.
We all depend on each other and compassion is necessary. It’s great to read about it, meditate on it, and think about it, but practicing compassion is a whole other thing. I am humbled to acknowledge this publicly, but for me it can be difficult at times to show compassion toward the most important people in my life. When I feel attacked and under stress, I tend to lash out and say hurtful things. Once said, there is no way to take these things back and I’ve only hurt others and myself. I am working with satya and compassion. Sometimes silence is best. Stillness and patience are key. I intend to practice compassion in my speech, thoughts, and actions. I’d welcome any suggestions for working with this! Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a peaceful Sunday!