Satya, The Four Buddhist Rules of Speech

March 21st, 2014

“Three things cannot be hidden, the sun, the moon, and the truth.”  James Russell Lowell

Satya, the second yama, is defined as truth in speech, thought, and action. Speaking in terms of opposites, satya is not lying, exaggerating, and not playing into sarcasm.

The most useful tool to guide us towards truth in speech is the Buddhist Four Rules of Speech.  When speaking to others, or to yourself, think first:

  •  Is it kind?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it honest?
  • Does it improve upon the silence?

These four rules of speech can help to dictate when, how, and why we should speak.  Satya is very much about speaking our truth. The other side of satya is knowing when to honor silence, and refrain from speaking.

Is it kind?  This principle is founded on ahimsa, non-violence.  Will my speech hurt another person?

Is it necessary?  Does what I have to say really need to be expressed? I like to think of this as the “having the last word clause.” Often we say things just because, or to get the last word.  This is a reminder that silence is golden and can carry much more weight than words expressed out of anger, frustration, or discontent.

Is it honest?  This speaks for itself, bit also goes into little white lies, exaggeration, and the ways we spin our versions of the truth.  The truth speaks for itself and does not need embellishments.

Does it improve upon the silence?  Does what we say make a difference in any situation?  This can be translated to how we inter-act with others and also the conversations we have with ourselves.  Gossiping, sarcasm, negative self talk, judgments and criticisms are all examples of speech that do not serve any party involved.

This being said, I will allow satya to guide me in saying that not every situation in life is worthy of talk about sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you have to hash it out, life can be intense.  Even in these moments, satya allows us to speak our truth from a place of reflection and clarity that allows us the wisdom of knowing that our truth is enough, without embellishments, over-simplifying, or over-reacting.

Here’s to speaking your truth with the wisdom that it is enough, because you are enough!!


with love, k

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