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Telling The Truth All The Time
by Georg Feuerstein, PhD
and Larry Payne, PhD


rocks with the word truth over themThese days, many folks seem to believe that truth is relative. Yoga, however, insists that facts and perspectives are many but truth is always one and that truthfulness (satya) is a supreme moral virtue. Truth is the cement that holds together good relationships and entire societies. The sorry condition of modern society says something about the society’s commitment (or lack thereof) to truth. For instance, consider the following questions:

  • Have you ever told a little white lie not because you wanted to protect someone but because you deemed it more convenient than to tell the truth?Have you ever prettified or omitted certain facts from your resumé to look more suitable to a prospective employer?
  • Have you ever failed to declare taxable income (even that negligible amount that no one could possibly care about)?
  • Have you ever instructed your spouse to say you aren’t at home when an unwanted caller is on the phone for you?
  • Have you ever lied about your age?
  • Do you ever fail to keep your promises? (This question is a must for politicians.)

Probably, few people can answer all these questions with a resounding “No,” unless, of course, they’re lying to themselves. Admittedly, lies appear to vary by degree of severity. You may consider these examples fairly insignificant, and from a conventional point of view, they are. But Yoga doesn’t let you off the hook so easily. Yogic practice values simplicity and clarity, whereas lying usually ends up being more complicated and confusing. Yoga is also concerned about the pathways you build in your brain. If you become accustomed to not telling the truth in little matters, sooner or later you may not be able to distinguish truth from falsehood in big matters as well.

Truthfulness is a marvelous tool for keeping your energy pure and your will undiluted. Of course, in your attempts to be truthful, you must bear the principal moral virtue of non-harming (ahimsa) in mind. Life isn’t black and white; many gray areas exist. If speaking the truth may bring more harm than good to another person, you’re wise to remain silent. As with nonharming, your intention is the key.

Georg Feuerstein, PhD, is a practitioner of Buddhist Yoga. He has been featured in many national magazines both in the United States and abroad. He has authored over 40 books, including The Yoga Tradition, The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, and Yoga Morality. Since his retirement in 2004, he has designed and tutored several distance-learning courses on Yoga philosophy for Traditional Yoga Studies, a Canadian company founded and directed by his wife, Brenda (see www.traditionalyogastudies.com).

Larry Payne, PhD, is an internationally prominent Yoga teacher, author, workshop leader, and pioneer in the field of Yoga therapy since 1980. Larry is co-founder of the Yoga curriculum at the UCLA School of Medicine and is the founding director of the Yoga Therapy Rx and Prime of Life Yoga certification programs at Loyola Marymount University and has a thriving private practice in Yoga therapy as a back specialist. He is the coauthor of five books and is featured in the DVD series Yoga Therapy Rx and Prime of Life Yoga. His Web site is www.samata.com.