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This article is about the Sanskrit word. For wife of Hindu god Krishna, see Nagnajiti. For the 1998 Hindi film, see Satya (film). For the 1988 Tamil film, see Sathya (film).

Satya (सत्य) is a central concept in Indian religions. It is a Sanskrit word that loosely translates into English as "unchangeable", "that which pervades the universe in all its constancy". It is also interpreted as "absolute truth" or "reality".


"Satya" is derived from Sat, which is the present participle of the root as "to be" (PIE *h₁es-; cognate to English is). sattva ("purity") is also derived from "sat".



Satya has several meanings or translations:

  • "unchangeable"
  • "that which has no distortion"
  • "that which is beyond distinctions of time, space, and person"
  • "that which pervades the universe in all its constancy"
  • "absolute truth"
  • "reality".

Facets of truth[edit]

See also: Aletheia

There are many references, properties and explanations of truth by Hindu sages that explain varied facets of truth, such as:

  • "Satyam eva jayate" (Truth alone wins),
  • "Satyam muktaye" (Truth liberates),
  • "Satya 'Parahit'artham' va'unmanaso yatha'rthatvam' satyam" (Satya is the benevolent use of words and the mind for the welfare of others or in other words responsibilities is truth too),
  • "When one is firmly established in speaking truth, the fruits of action become subservient to him ( patanjali yogasutras, sutra number 2.36 ),
  • "The face of truth is covered by a golden bowl. Unveil it, O Pusan (Sun), so that I who have truth as my duty (satyadharma) may see it!" (Brhadaranyaka V 15 1-4 and the brief IIsa Upanisad 15-18),
  • Truth is superior to silence (Manusmriti), etc.


Combined with other words, satya acts as modifier, like "ultra" or "highest," or more literally "truest", connoting purity and excellence. For example, satyaloka is the "highest heaven" and Satya Yuga is the "golden age" or best of the four cyclical cosmic ages in Hinduism, and so on.

Supreme consciousness[edit]

See also Brahman, Turiya and The One[note 1]

Satya may also refer to Citsvaru'pa, the Supreme consciousness, or Parama Purusha, the Supreme Being. "Sat" is one of the three characteristics of Brahman, as described in sat-chit-ananda.


See also Metta, Karuna and Agathou[note 1]

Another meaning is "the Truth which equals love". This concept of truth is not merely a synonym of fact or correctness, but is more metaphysical, like the difference between brain and mind. This 'bigger picture' notion of truth implies a higher order, a higher principle or a higher knowledge. Satya is what one becomes aware of upon becoming a Bodhi (enlightened or awakened person). Thus, this is more akin to the sum of the rules of the universe or the universal reality. This idea of a universal reality is common in Eastern philosophy.[citation needed]

In connection to Sadhana, spiritual practice, the meaning of satya is "Parahit'artham' va'unmanaso yatha'rthatvam' satyam", i.e., satya is the benevolent use of words and the mind for the welfare of others. This is to say that a benevolent sage must be truthful regardless of the meaning of satya.

Use in Indian religions[edit]


Main article: Hinduism

In Hinduism, Truth is defined as "unchangeable", "that which has no distortion", "that which is beyond distinctions of time, space, and person", "that which pervades the universe in all its constancy".

Human life progresses through different stages—from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to youth, and youth to old age. It is through these changes that people progress in the manifest world. Human life or its receptacle, the body, are not satya, not completely true, as they change with time.

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is written, “When one is firmly established in speaking truth, the fruits of action become subservient to him."[1] According to Paramahamsa Yogananda, "During deep, dreamless sleep (sushupti), and in the samadhi meditation of the yogi, man abides in his true nature, the soul, and cognizes Absolute Truth (Paramarthika).

It is a mistake to think that ordinary persons are never in communion with God or the Ultimate Truth. If all men did not occasionally pass into the state of deep, dreamless sleep, even if only for a period of minutes, they could not live at all. The average person has no conscious recollection of his soul experiences; but, as a part of the Universal Whole, from time to time he must replenish his being from the Source of Life, Love, and Truth." [2]

The Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata declares, "The righteous hold that forgiveness, truth, sincerity and compassion are the foremost (of all virtues). Truth is the essence of the Vedas."[3]

Vedic Hinduism[edit]

Ethics in the Vedas are based on the concepts of Satya and Rta. Satya is the principle of integration rooted in the Absolute,[4] whereas Ṛta is the expression of Satya, which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it.[5]

In Jainism[edit]

Main article: Jainism

Jainism considers satya to be one of its five core principles and all sadhus must take a vow to adhere to it.

In Buddhism[edit]

Main articles: Buddhism and Sacca

The term satya (Sanskrit; in Pali: sacca) is translated in English as "reality" or "truth." In terms of the Four Noble Truths (ariya-sacca), the Pali can be written as sacca, tatha, anannatatha and dhamma.

'The Four Noble Truths' (ariya-sacca) are the briefest synthesis of the entire teaching of Buddhism, since all those manifold doctrines of the threefold Pali canon are, without any exception, included therein. They are the truth of suffering (mundane mental and physical phenomenon), of the origin of suffering (tanha 'pali' the craving), of the extinction of suffering (Nibbana or nirvana), and of the Eight Fold Path leading to the extinction of suffering (the eight supre-mundane mind factors ).

In post-canonical Theravada and Mahayana literature, sacca is seen as twofold: conventional and ultimate (sammuti sacca and paramattha sacca). The phenomenon which have their own characteristic, including those that are conditioned and Nibbana (which is unconditioned), are collectively called ultimate reality. The uncharacteristic that can found as collectively but not in the unsubstantial, in any context, comes under conventional.

"Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found. The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there. 'Nibbana' is, but not the man that enters it. The path is, but no traveler on it is seen." (Visuddhimagga XVI)

The Buddhist practice mainly deals with ultimate reality while Buddhist teaching explicates both.

In Sikhism[edit]

Main articles: Sikhism and Satnam

In Sikhism, Sat is the most important virtue which Sikhs try to develop during their life. God is Truth and by trying to ‘practise truth’ (i.e. live a truthful life), Sikhs believe that they can live in accordance with God’s will - hukam - which teaches that: Truth is not just about speaking the truth but also about recognizing and living in line with the true nature of reality. Acting justly towards others, honesty, treating everyone as equals and avoiding criticising others are all examples of truthful living for Sikhs.

Sikhs believe that human beings must work at developing all the God-like qualities they have in order to truly love God. Love of God is not just a feeling but always involves showing love for God by selfless service to God’s creation. A person who is Gurmukh does not act out of selfishness but, by focusing on God acts out of compassion for others and becomes the slave of the Lord’s slaves. Thus finding the Lord, he eradicates ego from within.

Maya and haumai are overcome by focusing only on God while serving God in creation. Material wealth, fame and praise are unimportant because the Gurmukh is focused on the only thing of lasting value – God - as the wealth of the Naam shall never be exhausted; no one can estimate its worth.

The other four qualities in the arsenal of five that a Sikh must wear are Contentment (Santokh), Compassion (Daya), Humility (Nimrata) and Love (Pyare). These five qualities are essential for Sikhs and it is their duty to meditate and recite the Gurbani so that these virtues become a part of their mind set.

Indian emblem motto[edit]

The motto of the republic of India's emblem is Satyameva Jayate which is literally translated as 'Truth alone triumphs'.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Similar ideas can be found in Neoplatonism, which originated in ancient Greece, and shares common grounds with Indian religions via the Proto-Indo-European religion. "Hè idea tou agathou" means 'Reality in her most true appearance'. The One and The Good are identical to The Good. See RKK, Plato: leer


  1. ^ Patanjali, Sutra Number 2.36, Yoga Sutras 2.35-2.45: Benefits from the Yamas and Niyamas. [1]
  2. ^ Paramahansa Yogananda, "God Talks With Arjuna," Vol 2., Self-Realization Fellowship, 1999, pp. 961-962 [2]
  3. ^ Page 392 Mahābhārata: Shanti parva (Makshadharma parva, ch. 174-365), By Om Nath Bimali, Ishvar Chandra, Manmatha Nath Dutt
  4. ^ Krishnananda. Swami. A Short History of Religious and Philosophic Thought in India, Divine Life Society. p. 21
  5. ^ Holdrege (2004:215)

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