Last modified on 16th Sept. 2015
[From an edited version of my part of a recent conversation:]
Truth has a great power. Even if somebody lays down his/her life for Truth, his/her spirit triumphs. Satyameva Jayate - Truth alone triumphs (Truth (eventually) prevails) - is a famous quotation in India.
It is on Indian currency notes and India's emblem (but in Sanskrit/Devanagari script). I mean, as an Indian (brought up in india) you cannot miss it. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyameva_Jayate:
"Satyameva Jayate" (Sanskrit: सत्यमेव जयते satyam-eva jayate; lit. "Truth alone triumphs.") is a mantra from the ancient Indian scripture Mundaka Upanishad. Upon independence of India, it was adopted as the national motto of India. It is inscribed in script at the base of the national emblem. The emblem and the words "Satyameva Jayate" are inscribed on one side of all Indian currency. The emblem is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka which was erected around 250 BCE at Sarnath, near Varanasi in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is inscribed on all currency notes and national documents.
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Ravi: The issue is that the belief in this mantra has diminished significantly in India, and that belief needs to be reinforced.
Somehow, I am quite serious about truth, though I do realize that one should not be splitting hairs on truth in every small thing we do (I can understand the necessity for white lies, at times). I can't handle liars easily - I try to stay away from people that I know from experience are liars. Once again, I am talking real lies and not white lies.
I think that when it came to big truths, Swami (Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) too was very serious about it. Sathyam Jnanam Anantham Brahma, as he would sing. I think Bhagavan was very respectful of truthful people (Puttaparthi has quite a few liars), especially those who stuck to it despite facing material problems for sticking to the truth. I further think that Bhagavan would be very happy with us if we do our little bit to promote REVERENCE for TRUTH. I am saying this from some personal experiences I have had of Bhagavan, and also from a lot of Swami experiences others have shared with me. Of course, Bhagavan would keep reminding devotees that his name is Sathya (Truth)! I think such reminders were not casual but carried a big & deep import.
About sticking to Satya no matter what: For a determined sadhaka (spiritual aspirant) I think that is the GREAT and NOBLE path. And Swami too taught that. An extract from http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2014/11/sathya-sai-baba-on-truth-from-1958.html:
Have faith that Truth will save you in the long run; stick to it, regardless of what might befall. For if you are true, the sense of guilt will not gnaw your insides and cause pain. It is cowardice that makes you hide the truth; it is hatred that sharpens the edge of falsehood. Be bold and there is no need for a lie. Be full of love and there is no need for subterfuge. The easiest habit is speaking the truth, honesty; for if you start telling lies, you will have to keep count of them and remember how many you have told to whom, and be always alert not to contradict one lie with another! Love a person and you need no longer deceive the person with a lie; you will feel that the loved one deserves the truth and nothing less than the truth. Love saves a good deal of bother. (Divine Discourse, March 3, 1958)
From Thought for the day for Nov. 28th 2014, http://www.theprasanthireporter.org/
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But I have seen in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram system itself, especially in the chaos & confusion after Mahasamadhi, that some who chose to stick to the truth have been put through the wringer. While, yes, today one can say that such people are shining bright spiritually due to them having stuck to the path of Sathya & Dharma, at that time the test was very severe, even impacting the physical health of these persons.
About white lies being a slippery slope: For those involved in worldly affairs (raising a family, involved in a large orgn. etc.) in a country like India, many times one is forced to say 'white lies' to avoid hurting somebody or to overcome some bureaucratic type TRIVIAL hurdle. But what do I mean by a white lie? I mean "a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone's feelings". I think such 'white lies' are accepted in Indian culture today, both from a viewpoint of not hurting somebody's feelings and as a means to overcome some bureaucratic TRIVIAL hurdle. For example, in Indian culture, conveying news of a sudden death to affected family members, is one area where white lies are expected, as saying the unvarnished truth may result in deep emotional trauma to the affected family members leading to serious physical health challenges for them. The tragic news has to be conveyed in small doses, with the earlier doses, quite often, being white lies (e.g. met with an accident and is in serious condition in a hospital instead of died).
White lies can become a slippery slope if one gets into lies that cause harm or one lies about important matters (it then is NOT a white lie). Of course, one should not utter even white lies when under oath or when performing important official functions (as one may be liable to face official/legal disciplinary/punitive action if one does so).
I should also mention here the distinction between Vyavharika satyam and Paramarthika satyam. [I tried to get a reference from a discourse of Swami but was not able to get it in the small time I spent on it.]
From http://www.sathyasaiottawa.org/Gunarchana/spiritual%20pointers_gunarchana8_Sathyam.pdf (end of doc), sentences which may be from Sathya Sai but I cannot be sure as there is no reference provided:
Prathibhasika satya is the reality one experience(s) in his state of dreaming(.) It remains true till he wakes up. Vyavaharika satya (refers) to the empirical reality. It is experienced by many, and hence accepted as true. It lasts till the dawn of (Brahmajnana). Paramarthika sathya is the absolute reality or state of Brahman. It is the highest end of all.
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Here's a link which says something similar to the above but is an explanation of Adi Shankara's commentary on an Upanishad shloka (verse), http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2010-February/023740.html. A related extract from it:
While commenting on the mantra सत्यं च अनृतं च सत्यमभवत् ''satyam cha anRtam cha Satyam abhavat' (Taittiriya Up. II.6) Sri Shankaracharya says: satyam = vyavaharavishayam since this is being mentioned in the context of 'sRishti' of the world. He adds: this is not paramArthasatyam (absolute reality) since Brahman alone indeed is paramArtha satyam. This vyavaharavishayam satyam is only Apekshikam, relative, empirical. He explains: when compared to the water in a mirage, the water (that we actually use for drinking, etc.) is real. This is what is meant by
'vyavaharika satyam'. That which is not thus real is anRtam, unreal.
सत्यं च व्यवहारविषयम्, अधिकारात्, न परमार्थसत्यम्; एकमेव हि
परमार्थसत्यं ब्रह्म । इह पुनः व्यवहारविषयमापेक्षिकं
मृगतृष्णिकाद्यनृतापेक्षया उदकादि सत्यमित्युच्यते । अनृतं च तद्विपरीतम्
। किं पुनरेतत् सर्वं सत्यमभवत् परमार्थसत्यम् ।
//satyam cha vyavahaaraviShayam, adhikArAt, na paramaarthasatyam; ekameva hi
paramaarthasatyam Brahma. iha punaH vyavahaaraviShayamaapekShikam
mRgatRShNikAdyanRtaapekShayA udakAdi satyamucyate. anRutam cha tadvipareetam.
kim punaretat sarvam satyamabhavat paramArthasatyam...//
The above bhashyam [Ravi: commentary] brings to the fore that three types of 'reality' are admitted in the Shruti. Commonly these are known as:
1.PAramArthika Satyam which is Brahman alone,
2. vyAvahArika satyam which constitutes the common world experience of samsara and
3. prAtibhAsika satyam which is a seeming reality, actually within the samsaaric experience. This seeming reality of say, the mirage-water or rope-snake, is corrected in the vyavahara itself and does not require Brahma jnanam for this.
The vyvahaarika satyam, of course, gets corrected upon the rise of Brahma jnAnam.
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Ravi: So while we may make a lot of efforts to be truthful from a point of view of worldly life (Vyavharika satyam), there is a higher level of truth (Paramarthika Satyam) on attaining which our Vyavharika Satyam is seen as an illusion and so false, as per the enlightened masters.
A Sai university alumnus responded over email, as follows:
When PV Narasimha Rao, ex PM, visited Swami after he had been acquitted of corruption cases against him, I heard Swami say this in the verandah: "When he came to me agitated about the false court cases, I had told him only one thing, Sathyameva Jayathe. Now he has come to thank me as my words came true."
[I thank Wikipedia, theprasanthireporter.org, sathyasaiottawa.org and advaita-vedanta.org and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]