Satya, or truthfulness, is the second Yama in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga Path. The Eight-Limbed Path that Patanjali laid out in the Yoga Sutras specifies eight steps to take in order to reach enlightenment.
The Yamas (or ethical restraints) are the first step on that path, and there are five separate Yamas. We’ve previously explored the first Yama (Ahimsa or non-violence), so let’s dive deeper into the second Yama: Satya.
Translating as truthfulness or non-falsehood, Satya is an essential principle of the yogic path.
What Are the Yamas?
The Yamas are the first limb of the path to enlightenment that Patanjali compiled in the Yoga Sutras.
The Eight-Limbed Path consists of:
- Yamas: Ethical Restraints
- Niyamas: Ethical Observances
- Asana: Seat of Meditation
- Pranayama: Extension of Life-Force Energy
- Pratyahara: Withdrawal of Senses
- Dharana: Single-Pointed Concentration
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: Enlightenment
As the first limb, the Yamas are the ethical restraints that a yogi must adhere to. These are essentially the “don’ts” on the yogic path.
There are five Yamas:
- Ahimsa: Non-Violence
- Satya: Non-Falsehood
- Asteya: Non-Stealing
- Brahmacharya: Celibacy
- Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness
Let’s explore the second Yama, Satya, in greater detail.
What Is Satya?
Satya is the principle of truthfulness and non-falsehood. This is often an essential tenet to many religious and philosophical schools, and yoga is no exception.
The principle of Satya is about being truthful and honest in your personal life, but also in your spiritual life. It is about telling the truth but also following a greater “Truth.”
We all know deep down, that the path of truthfulness and honesty is the right path. And when we remove falsity from our lives, we create clarity, transparency, and simplicity so that we may never waver from our spiritual goals.
How Do You Practice Satya?
Being honest and truthful is crucial to the spiritual path, but it isn’t always so easy to do. While we may not be bold-faced liars, we may sometimes withhold the truth from others or even ourselves.
Perhaps we tell a little lie about why we were late for work rather than owning up to our own mistakes. We may even convince ourselves that it’s fine to stay in an unhealthy relationship or to continue working in a dead-end job.
There are so many ways that we can mislead or withhold the truth from others and ourselves, so to truly practice Satya, we must live with integrity, honesty, and openness. We must practice complete vulnerability as we own our own mistakes and practice true honesty.
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But Satya is far more than just telling the truth. It’s also about following the Truth, living the Truth, and accepting the Truth. This eternal Truth (with a capital T) is the unwavering path that a yogi must follow.
It is through practicing truthfulness and earnestly understanding and exploring a greater cosmic Truth that we can really apply the principle of Satya to our lives.
The Takeaway on Satya and Truthfulness
It’s important to remember that Satya is the second Yama on this hierarchical path to enlightenment. The first Yama, Ahimsa, means non-violence and there is a reason that it comes first.
We must practice truthfulness by first respecting the principle of non-violence. So we can’t go around being blunt and uncouth. We can’t just assault people on the street with our violent words about disliking their style choices.
First, we must practice Ahimsa, and then with that non-violence in mind, we can practice truthfulness.
Truly practicing Satya allows us to be honest and open on our spiritual path. And this opens the door to so many other opportunities along our journey toward enlightenment.