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Embodiment of truth

The Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.5) emphasizes the importance of truth in spiritual practice and liberation by stating that the Self is attained by truth, austerity, right knowledge, and continuous practice of celibacy. Truth is imperative for right knowledge, self-purification, and liberation. The next verse (3.1.6), which is stated below, emphatically declares that truth alone triumphs (satyameva jayate), and only by truth one can go by the path of gods to the world of immortality, the supreme treasure of truth.

satyam eva jayate nanrtam satyena pantha vitato devayanah; 
yenakramanty rsayo hy aptakama yatra tat satyasya paramam nidhanam.

“Truth alone wins (the Self), but not untruth. By truth is laid out the path of the immortal gods, by which the sages, who are without any desires, ascend to where that supreme treasure of Truth is.”

Thus, truth and truthfulness form the core values of Hindu religious and spiritual practice. The Vedas declare that Truth is the support of the mortal world. Rta (Order), Dharma (Law), and Satyam (Truth) are the triple guardians of creation who keep the worlds free from chaos.

Sri Rama

Rama is hailed as the very embodiment of truth and dharma. In the Ayodhya Kanda, Sage Valmiki repeatedly alludes to His eschewing harsh words, speaking only when necessary, and putting others at ease. The many references to Rama’s speech is a preamble to highlight His total commitment to truth, pointed out Sri B. Sundarkumar in a lecture

Dasaratha is devastated by Kaikeyi’s insistence on the boons that not only deprive Rama of the kingdom but also imposes a 14-year exile on him. He pleads with her to think of his own plight. How could he inflict such commands on him, especially when he had just then promised Him the kingdom? He is driven to summon Rama to his presence who finds His father overwhelmed with grief and unable to speak. Rama entreats Kaikeyi to explain this strange situation. She hints that Dasaratha’s hesitation to convey to Rama what he wants of Him may be due to the unpleasantness it is likely to cause Him. The wily Kaikeyi first seeks an assurance from Rama that He would fulfil His father’s words even as she suggests that Dasaratha’s distressed state may be due to the fear that Rama may not act according to his wishes. Rama is saddened and wonders aloud: ‘Knowing my commitment to my father’s words, what is the need for me to take a vow again or reassure you in this regard? Why should there arise any doubt at all?’.

The prime commitment to uphold truth and preserve dharma, when myriad other ways and means by which this could be bypassed are available to mortals, is mirrored in Rama’s words. In yet another occasion, Rama reiterates with greater emphasis His stance of being rooted to Truth. When Bharata stubbornly refuses to accept the kingdom and fervently pleads with Rama to return, He recalls His vow to uphold Dasaratha’s words. “Even the effulgence of the moon may diminish from it; or the snow part from the Himalayas; the ocean may enter the land; but I will not swerve from my commitment to my father’s word.” Rama’s commitment becomes explicit not only to Bharata but also to the people of Ayodhya who realise that ‘Rama will never deviate from truth and that He will stand firm by His promise to Dasaratha.’

Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna was an extraordinary example of someone totally established in truth. His adherence to truth was of a very rare nature something unheard of before. It was not just that he was speaking truth. It is not even that he only acted truthfully. Even in very thought he was truthful to an unbelievable extent. One of his disciples, Swami Yogananda, who was called Yogen in his younger days, used to bring a few pieces of lemon for him from a garden in the vicinity of the Dakshineswar Temple where Sri Ramakrishna spent the major part of his life on earth. The owner of the garden was known to Sri Ramakrishna and he had heartily given permission to a few lemon pieces being plucked for his use. Every day Yogen would go to the garden, pluck a few pieces of lemon and bring it for Sri Ramakrishna. But, one day when Yogen brought the fruit, Sri Ramakrishna could not even touch it. He investigated the matter and found that the ownership of the garden had changed the previous evening. While the previous owner had given permission to Sri Ramakrishna for lemons being plucked on his behalf, he did not have permission from the new owner for plucking lemons. Accepting or taking something from someone without his consent would amount to thieving and would come under the category of untruth. So, although Sri Ramakrishna did not know about the change of ownership, yet because he was so completely established in truth even unknowingly he could not transgress it. That is why at one point of time when he had surrendered completely to the Divine Mother he would offer everything at Her feet. He would say, O Mother, please accept my papa and punya (i.e. sins and virtues) and so on, but he could never offer truth to the Divine Mother because if he would have given up truth he would not have survived in a human body.

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