Satya 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]

Rigveda MS2097
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.


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]

Satya has cognates in a number of diverse Indo-European languages, including the word "sooth" in English, "istina" ("истина") in Russian, "sannhet" in Norwegian and "haithya" in Avestan, the liturgical language of Zoroastrianism.[11][12][13]


Vedic literature

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][14] Ṛta results from Satya in the Vedas, states Holdrege,[15] 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.[15]

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).[16][17] In hymn 1.4.14 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Satya (truth) is equated to Dharma (morality, ethics, law of righteousness),[18] 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 [17][18]

Taittiriya Upanishad's hymn 11.11 states,[19] "Speak the Satya (truth), conduct yourself according to the Dharma (morality, ethics, law)".[18]

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,[20]

सत्यमेव जयते नानृतं[21]
Translation 1: Truth alone triumphs, not falsehood.[22]
Translation 2: Truth ultimately triumphs, not falsehood.[23]
Translation 3: The true prevails, not the untrue.[24]

Sandilya Upanishad of Atharvanaveda, in Chapter 1, includes ten[25] 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."[26]

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.[27]


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."[28]

The Epic repeatedly emphasizes that Satya is a basic virtue, because everything and everyone depends on and relies on Satya.[29]

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[29]


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."[30] 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][31] 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.[30] 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.[32]


Satya is one of the five vows prescribed in Jain Agamas. Satya was also preached by Mahavira.[33][34] According to Jainism, not to lie or speak what is not commendable.[35] The underlying cause of falsehood is passion and therefore, it is said to cause hiṃsā (injury).[36]

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".[37]

According to Jain text, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya:[38]

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, [39]

Indian emblem motto

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

See also


  1. ^ a b c Roderick Hindery (2004), Comparative Ethics in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120808669, pages 51-55
  2. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c KN Tiwari (1998), Classical Indian Ethical Thought, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120816077, page 87
  6. ^ a b 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, OCLC 492970792
  9. ^ Monier Monier-Williams, Indian Wisdom, 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. ^ Dept. of Classics and Ancient History, University of Auckland, Prudentia, Volumes 11-13, University of Auckland Bindery, 1979, ... The semantic connction may therefore be compared with the Sanskrit term for the 'moral law', dharma (cognate with Latin firmus) and 'truth' satya (cognate with English 'sooth' and Greek with its well known significance in Plato's thought ...
  12. ^ Charles H. Kahn, Essays on Being, Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 9780191560064, ... A derivative of this participle still serves as the normal word for 'true' and 'truth' in languages so far apart as Norwegian (sann and sannhet) and Hindi (sac, satya).4 In English we have a cognate form of this old Indo-European participle of 'to be' in 'sooth', 'soothsayer' ...
  13. ^ (Editors) Christine Allison, Anke Joisten-Pruschke, Antje Wendtland, Kianoosh Rezania, From Daēnā to Dîn, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009, ISBN 9783447059176, ... Av. haiθya-, from the verb "to be" - truth in the sense of "the way things actually are" - corresponds to its cognates, Skt. satya-, Rus. istina ...CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Joel Beversluis, Sourcebook of the World's Religions, New World Library, ISBN 978-1577311218, pages 52-55
  15. ^ a b Barbara Holdrege (2004), "Dharma", in: Mittal, S. & Thursby, G. (Eds.) The Hindu World, Routledge. ISBN 0-415-21527-7, page 215
  16. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Translator: S Madhavananda
  17. ^ a b 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
  18. ^ a b c 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)
  19. ^ Original hymn is: सत्यं वद । धर्मं चर, satyam vada dharmam cara, ॥ तैत्तिरीयोपनिषत् ॥ Sanskrit Documents
  20. ^ a b E. Easwaran (2007), The Upanishads, ISBN 978-1586380212, page 181
  21. ^ Mundaka Upanishad (Sanskrit) Wikisource
  22. ^ Ananthamurthy, et al (2008), Compassionate Space, India International Centre Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 2, pages 18-23
  23. ^ Brij Lal, A Vision for Change: Speeches and Writings of AD Patel 1929-1969, Australian National University Press, ISBN 978-1921862328, page xxi
  24. ^ Max Muller, The Upanishads, Part 2, Mundaka Upanishad, Oxford University Press, page 38-40
  25. ^ 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
  26. ^ KN Aiyar (Translator), Thirty Minor Upanishads, Madras (1914), page 173-174, OCLC 23013613
  27. ^ Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, T&T Clark, Edinburgh, Harvard University Archives, pages 128-133
  28. ^ Page 392 Mahābhārata: Shanti parva (Mokshadharma parva, ch. 174-365), By Om Nath Bimali, Ishvar Chandra, Manmatha Nath Dutt
  29. ^ a b MN Dutt (Translator), Mokshadharma Parva The Mahabharata, page 344-345
  30. ^ a b Patanjali, Sutra Number 2.36, Yoga Sutras 2.30-2.45; B. Ravikanth, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, ISBN 978-0988251502, pages 140-150
  31. ^ A Palkhivala, Teaching the Yamas in Asana Class Yoga Journal (August 28, 2007)
  32. ^ Edwin Bryant, in Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions (Editor: Steven Rosen), Praeger, ISBN 978-0313397035, pages 33-48
  33. ^ Sangave 2006, p. 67.
  34. ^ Shah, Umakant Premanand, Mahavira Jaina teacher, Encyclopædia Britannica
  35. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 61.
  36. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 66.
  37. ^ S.A. Jain 1992, p. 197.
  38. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. 33.
  39. ^ Sri Guru Granth Sahib page 23 Full Shabad

External links

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Satya 2

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Satya Paul Agarwal is an Indian neurosurgeon, academician and public health administrator. He is the incumbent Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross Society. The Government of India honoured him in 2010, with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, for his services to the fields of medicine and public health.Agarwal has been active during several disaster relief operation such as epidemic control activities and the tsunami of 2004 for which he was awarded the Henry Dunant Medal. He has also written several books and articles. He is the spokesperson for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Statutory Meetings on Health and access to safe water and improved sanitation He has delivered several lectures and keynote addresses in seminars and conferences

Satya Vrat Shastri

Satya Vrat Shastri (born 29 September 1930) is a highly decorated Sanskrit scholar, writer, grammarian and poet from India. He has written three Mahakavyas, three Khandakavyas, one Prabandhakavyas and one Patrakavya and five works in critical writing in Sanskrit. His important works are Ramakirtimahakavyam, Brahattaram Bharatam, Sribodhisattvacharitam, Vaidika Vyakarana, Sarmanyadesah Sutram Vibhati, and "Discovery of Sanskrit Treasures" in seven volumes.He is currently an honorary professor at the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was the Head of the Department of Sanskrit and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Delhi, where he was the Pandit Manmohan Nath Dar Professor of Sanskrit (1970–1995).

During his career he has won many national and international awards, including, the Sahitya Akademi Award for Sanskrit, given by Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, in 1968 for his poetry work, Srigurugovindasimhacharitam, then in 2006, he became the first recipient of the Jnanpith award in Sanskrit language (conferred in 2009 by his disciple and Thailand's Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn).

Satya Yuga

The Satya Yuga (Sanskrit: सत्य युग), also called Satyug, or Kṛta Yuga (Sanskrit: कृत युग) in Hinduism, is the first of the four Yugas, the "Yuga (Age or Era) of Truth", when humanity is governed by gods, and every manifestation or work is close to the purest ideal and humanity will allow intrinsic goodness to rule supreme. It is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Age". The Satya Yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. The goddess Dharma (depicted in the form of a cow), which symbolises morality, stood on all four legs during this period. Later on in the Treta Yuga, it would become three, followed by two in the Dvapara Yuga. Currently, in the immoral age of Kali, it stands on one leg.


Satyaagraha (Sanskrit: सत्याग्रह; satya: "truth", āgraha: "insistence" or "holding firmly to") or holding onto truth or truth force – is a particular form of nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. It is not the same as passive resistance, and advocates resisting non-violently over using violence, but at the same time advocates using violence over cowering in fear (while pretending to be a satyagrahi). Resisting non-violently, without feeling fear, is thus considered the summit of bravery. Someone who practices satyagraha is a satyagrahi.

The term satyagraha was coined and developed by Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948). He deployed satyagraha in the Indian independence movement and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa for Indian rights. Satyagraha theory influenced Martin Luther King Jr.'s and James Bevel's campaigns during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and many other social justice and similar movements.Towards satyagraha, Gandhi said in 1939 as the Indian Independence struggle was peaking: "For I cannot in any case tolerate cowardice. Let no one say when I am gone that I taught the people to be cowards. I would far rather that you died bravely dealing a blow and receiving a blow than died in abject terror. Fleeing from battle is cowardice and unworthy of a warrior. Cowardice is worse than violence because cowards can never be non-violent."

Two truths doctrine

The Buddhist doctrine of the two truths (Wylie: bden pa gnyis) differentiates between two levels of satya (Sanskrit), meaning truth or "really existing" in the discourse of the Buddha: the "conventional" or "provisional" (saṁvṛti) truth, and the "ultimate" (paramārtha) truth.The exact meaning varies between the various Buddhist schools and traditions. The best known interpretation is from the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, whose founder was Nagarjuna. For Nagarjuna, the two truths are epistemological truths. The phenomenal world is accorded a provisional existence. The character of the phenomenal world is declared to be neither real nor unreal, but logically indeterminable. Ultimately, phenomena are empty (sunyata) of an inherent self or essence, but exist depending on other phenomena (Pratītyasamutpāda).In Chinese Buddhism, the Madhyamaka position is accepted and the two truths refer to two ontological truths. Reality exists of two levels, a relative level and an absolute level. Based on their understanding of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Chinese supposed that the teaching of the Buddha-nature was, as stated by that sutra, the final Buddhist teaching, and that there is an essential truth above sunyata and the two truths.The śūnyatā doctrine is an attempt to show that it is neither proper nor strictly justifiable to regard any metaphysical system as absolutely valid. It doesn't lead to nihilism but strikes a middle course between excessive naivete and excessive scepticism.


Yuga in Hinduism is an epoch or era within a four-age cycle. A complete Yuga starts with the Satya Yuga, via Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga into a Kali Yuga. Our present time is ascending Kali yuga.


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