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(=Truth) and sustained by satya. Truth is not mere truth-speaking; it includes all forms of truth, beauty and perfection, any just cause, right action and a life of virtue. This broad interpretation of truth that Hinduism revels in talking about is so encompassing that the purANas are full of episodes which illustrate the numerous dilemmas that present themselves to the pursuer of truth. Whether at such and such a time a certain choice of action among several options available is the right one from the point of view of Hindu dharma and the principle of truth, is a recurring theme in Hindu mythology. The itihAsas (Ramayana and Mahabharata) abound in elaborate discussions of such situations and of the dharma-sankaTa (the dilemma of choice regarding dharma) involved in such problems. These discussions turn out to be equally valid even in the context of modern times and this is why these two epics are so valuable more than 25 centuries after they were composed.
Here are some specific injunctions from the various secondary scriptures which give us some idea of the sweep of the importance of Truth:
satyaM brUyAt priyaM brUyAt na brUyAt satyam-apriyaM /
priyaM ca nAnRtaM brUyAt esha dharmas-sanAtanaH //
Speak what is true, speak what is pleasant;
speak not what is true but unpleasant;
nor what is pleasant but not true ;
this is the tradition of dharma.
In the Ramayana King Dasaratha promises to the sage Visvamitra on welcoming him that he (the King) is at the sage's service and whatever he wants will be done. But when the latter wants the son Rama to be sent along with him to protect his yajnas from the demons, the father Dasaratha demurs. The preceptor Vasishta advises him as follows (Valmiki Ramayana 1-21-8):
pratiSrutya karishyeti uktam vAkyam akurvataH /
ishTA-pUrta-vadho bhUyAt tasmAd rAmam visarjaya //
Loss of merit accrued from sacrifices and noble works
will cause if you fail to redeem the promise made,
having solemnly declared that you will do it.
Therefore send Rama .
Here is again, Rama to Sage Jabali who, in order to support Bharata, deliberately played the Devil's Advocate to bring back Rama from the forest : (Valmiki Ramayana: 2-108-12,13):
udvijante yathA sarpAt narAd anRta-vAdinaH /
dharmaH satya paro loke mUlam sarvasya cocyate //
satyam-eveSvaro loke satye dharmaH sadASritaH /
satya-mUlAni sarvANi satyAn-nAsti paraM padaM //
People turn away in fear from a man telling lies just as they do
from a serpent. dharma has its culmination in truthfulness;
it is in fact declared to be the root of all.Truth alone is God
in the world, dharma ever hinges on truth.
All have their root in truth; there is no goal higher than truth.
July 31, 99 ©Copyright V. Krishnamurthy Home Contents Next
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