Telling The Truth 101 – The 2nd Commandment of Yoga

2 DOVESTruthfulness, Honesty, Sincerity, Integrity, Authenticity

Are these words not supercharged and full of magnetism . . . are they not music to your ears?

Who amongst us does not value these traits, above all other traits, when searching for the ideal mate, partner, lover, friend, doctor, lawyer, political candidate, significant other or used car salesman?

The quality of honesty has to be the most highly sought after trait when, judging the character of a potential job applicant, mate, business partner or anyone else of any significance in our lives. What is it about honesty that makes it so appealing?

The yogis have a name for this trait.
It’s called Satya and it’s the second Yama (abstinence) in the yogi’s code of ethics. Essentially we abstain from lying.

It’s interesting . . . You may think of yourself as an honest person, but go ahead and try to remember the last time you told a lie. (Even a little white lie.) Is it not amazing how many “little white lies” we can tell in the course of a day?

And here’s an interesting definition of a lie that I think most people would agree with. “If it’s not 100% true, then it’s a lie.” OUCH! Think about it. How easy is it to refrain from lying?

Now the yogis were pretty smart dudes. I think they purposely put Satya as the # 2 commandment, just after non-violence. Maybe to remind people that hey – - if you’re not beating your wife, that’s pretty darned commendable, but if you are lying through your teeth to her, is that not a form of violence?

I believe these first 2 restraints (refraining from violence, refraining from lying) are quite related.    They fit together like a hand in a glove. If I beat you to a pulp, I may need to lie to cover it up. If I lie to you, is that not a form of violence in itself?

Okay, well let’s get to the meat of the problem, of why this second commandment of yoga is so difficult to live by and why the yogis might just let us bend the rules a tad.

If we are truly practicing non-violence, it means we do not speak harsh or hurtful words. But think about it for a moment – doesn’t the truth often hurt?

Imagine the following scenario: You, the husband are reading the paper, wearing slippers with your feet up. Wife walks into the room wearing a pair of skin tight white jeans. She gets your attention and does a quick 360 degree pivot, so you can view her from every possible angle and while fluttering her eyelashes asks you – “Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?” You swallow hard and try not to choke. “Well dear”, you stammer trying to figure out what to say next . . . . and then somehow you manage to say – “no of course not dear, you look beautiful!” Wife smiles and kisses your forehead and all is good with the world.

The hubbie in this scenario is surely a yogi in the sense that he practiced Ahimsa – non-violence with flying colors! But the question remains: Did he abstain from lying? Due to the fact that he nearly choked on his words, we can assume that said husband had some mixed feelings but somehow managed to say the right thing. A noble effort, and as yogis, it would be hard not to commend him.

So perhaps as yogis we can agree that yes, it’s important to tell the truth at all costs, except in the case when, if we didn’t color the truth just a tad, we would be hurting someone unnecessarily.

What do you think? Is it OK to lie just a little bit to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? And where do we draw the line? Please leave your comments below.

I’ll leave you with Billy Joel’s take on this subject:

And if  you’re serious about making changes . . . . .
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