Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Truthfulness means mind and speech being well integrated. The wise say
that speech being at variance with the mind is untruthfulness.
Vangmanasyoh aikarupyam satyam
God has given man the gift of speech so that he may give expression to
his thoughts and feelings. If what we speak is at variance with what we
think (with our mind) God will take away the faculty of speech from us
our next birth- that is we will be born in the animal kingdom.
There are, as we have seen before, exceptions made in our sastras to the
rule of absolute non-violence: in waging a war to preserve dharma, in
offering animals in sacrifice. Are there similar exceptions to the rule
truthfulness? You will perhaps say none. But, as a matter of fact, there
In a locality there must be a number of undesirable characters. Let us
suppose that a certain citizen is annoyed with such characters and gives
open expression to his anger. "He committed this outrage. That other
man is guilty of such and such a crime, “he keeps recounting the
misdeeds of the bad elements. In doing so he is being truthful, that is
speech and mind are in accord. But by giving expression to his feelings
purpose is served for neither he not the community is benefited. It is a
futile kind of accord - that of his speech and mind - and it cannot be
Take the example of another person. He is full of evil thoughts and, if
gives expression to them, can he be called truthful? No.
So truthfulness, now we see, is not merely accord between mind and
speech. It means voicing good thoughts, thoughts that are beneficial and
are liked by people: "Satyr bhuahitam priyam."
Doing good through thought, word and deed is truthfulness. All that does
ill is untruthfulness. It is not enough that you speak to a man what is
for him. You must speak with affection and the one to whom your words
are addressed must find them acceptable. If you speak harshly nobody
will listen to you even if you mean well. Thus words that serve no
do not constitute a truth. Your speech must be beneficial and, at the
same time, capable of bringing happiness to the man to whom it is
addressed. This is truthfulness.
The wise say: "May he speak the truth. May his speech be pleasing. May
he not speak the truth that is unpleasing. And may he not speak an
untruth that is pleasing."
Satyam brutapriyam bruyan-
Priyam ca nanrtam bruyad-
A mind that is subject to desire and anger will not give rise to words
bespeak affection and cause well-being. Truthful words that create good
are the product of a mind free from desire and anger.
What is truth then? Thought and speech must be in accord; the mind
must be serene; and the words spoken must do good to the speaker as
well as the listener.
For a man rooted in truth there is an avantara prayojana, an incidental
benefit, gained from his speech. Since such a person habitually speaks
truth, his words will become the truth. Such a man will never
utter a lie. But, if unwittingly or out of ignorance, he commits an
while speaking, that error will turn out to be the truth. I will tell
story to illustrate this.
In Tirukkadavur, in Tanjavur district, there was a great devotee of Amba
called Abhiramibhatta. He would often go into an ecstasy of devotion to
the goddess. During such times he would speak like one mad. Someone
poisoned the ears of the raja Sarabhoji against him. "Abhiramibhatta is
drunkard," he told the ruler. "His devotion is a mere pretence."
wanted to find out the truth. So he went to see Abhiramibhatta in
Tirukkadavur and asked him: "What day of the moon is it today?" The
Bhatta was then lost in devotional joy and, thinking only of the radiant
face of Amba which was like the moon, said that it was a full moon day.
Actually it was the new moon. The raja concluded that what he had heard
about the Bhatta must be true and said scornfully: "Is that so? Let us
up and see whether the full moon has risen."
At that very moment the full moon did appear in the sky. Abhiramibhatta
was steeped in truthfulness. By mistake he had spoken an untruth but
Amba made it the truth by hurling her ear stud into the sky causing it
shine like the full moon. The blessings as well as the curses of great
come true because of the force of their innate and habitual
This is the "incidental benefit" they derive from their habit of
truthfulness. But truthfulness must not be practised with the deliberate
intention that what one speaks must come true. Power such as this is
earned unintentionally and unconsciously.
A man will purify himself completely if he performs the forty samskaras
and adheres to principles like non-violence, truthfulness,
cleanliness and also controls his senses. He will then
develop the maturity and wisdom to find out who in truth he is, who
Isvara is and what the Ultimate Reality is.