Flash 5 required; if you don't have Flash, this page will help you download it. Flash 5 required; if you don't have Flash, click the Home button first, which will help you get Flash. Flash 5 required; if you don't have Flash, click the Home button first, which will help you get Flash. Flash 5 required; if you don't have Flash, click the Home button first, which will help you get Flash. No Flash required. No Flash required. No Flash required. Flash 5 required; if you don't have Flash, click the Home button first, which will help you get Flash.

New Karuna Notes | Karuna Notes Archives

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Satya: Truthfulness

The second Yama seeks to overcome Moha (Delusion), which along with Anger and Greed make up the "Three Poisons." The ancients saw truthfulness as more than "correct information." They saw it as a veritable force. Patanjali (2.36) says that when a yogin is grounded in truthfulness, his actions bear appropriate fruit. Often interpreted as, "whatever he says comes true," Georg Feurstein explains that more is meant, "Whatever he does is appropriate and will be successful." Vyasa, in his commentary says that our speech should not be deceitful, erroneous or barren, and must not cause damage to another person. In the Vedas, Satya is closely connected to Rita (Cosmic Order). When we are living in truthfulness, we reflect the cosmic order.

The Buddha felt that truthfulness is so important, he not only made it one of the Five Precepts (Mindfulness Trainings), but it is also one of the limbs of his Noble Eightfold Path: "Right Speech." The following is how it is practiced according to the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am commited to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope.

I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small."

Like all the Trainings, we are being offered a deep experiential life koan, as each training offers us paradox and contradiction -- as does life. For instance, as Steve Hagen, in his wonderful Buddhism Plain and Simple, points out, we are not prescribed specific actions, but encouraged to live by remaining awake in each moment. "If you were to attempt strictly to follow a moral rule, before long you'd be in real confusion because you would come up against a variety of contradictions and paradoxes..." He continues, "Suppose you're harboring a family of Jews in your attic when two Gestapo officers come to your door. They ask you the whereabouts of the family. Do you say they're in the attic?

In these circumstances, the wisest and most compassionate course of action will very likely be to lie. Yet if you felt compelled to follow an absolute rule, then you'd have to say, 'Oh, they're upstairs.'" Of course, this doesn't imply that lying is generally the thing to do, but what it does mean is that to be moral we must observe the actual situation as well as our own cast of mind. For instance, speaking truth out of anger and an urge for revenge may be breaking the spirit of both Satya AND Ahimsa!

We may also break the Precept of Satya in our own inner monologue. How many times a day do you judge yourself harshly? Listen to the inner voice(s) that tell you you are not good enough or unworthy. In yoga class pay attention to what voices arise when you lose your balance in Tree, or cannot go as far as you'd like in a particular asana. Even when meditating, when the mind wonders, what is the quality of the mind's voice that brings you back to the breath?

Feurstein writes that there are four kinds of lies: (1) Outright Lies, (2) White Lies, (3) Advertising, and (4) Politics. This is not the cynical statement it may at first seem to be. We KNOW that advertising is based on arousing greed, and desire and works to a great extent by telling us we are lacking in some way that the advertised product can fulfill. We know that this is so and that it is at heart a lie, yet we accept it with a shrug. Worse, how many times have we listened to a politician and known that he is merely saying what he believes the majority of voters want to hear. We again shrug this off as "politics," and in our shrug, allow such lies to persist. Are we not as culpable of lying as he who mouths the words?

Another conundrum offered by this training is especially pertinent during these trying times. We may honestly aspire not to utter words that "can cause division or discord," yet as a recent article in The New York Times points out, the very Buddhist message of compassion has been causing division and discord. Richard Gere's message of compassion at The Concert for New York was the only thing that received boos from the packed house. The Dalai Lama has cancelled his up-coming tour, in part the article stated, because advance ticket sales were so weak.

I wrote an article for a local paper, that merely called for impartial dialogue on the causes of terrorism, and unleashed a barrage of attacks on myself and my "patriotism," for "offering solace to terrorists." I woke today to a report on NPR that a "War-Time Moratorium" on criticizing the goverment is being seriously considered. Should those of us with a different message refrain from speaking up, merely to avoid causing "division and discord"?

And finally, let us not forget the aspect of listening that relates to this training. The Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara, whose name means, "Hearer of the World's Cries," offers us a model of how to practice this aspect of the Training:

"We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person."

Through the long-term practice of deep listening in Sangha practice, we have found that the gift of listening deeply, invites "Deep Speech," and "Deep Speech" is always "Truthful Speech," as it comes from the heart of our lived experience.

To begin to engage with this trainng, you may like to undertake for one week not to gossip (positively or negatively) or speak about anyone you know who is not present with you.

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 11:25 AM

If you'd like to participate in the Karuna e-mail community, please click here to join the list.
We show joyful appreciation to our friends at Blogger, who make Karuna Notes possible.