Satya is the second Yama in the Eight Limbs of Yoga and is translated as truth, or honesty. If you're lost already with Yamas you can catch up with the first one here. As with non-violence, truth seems a relatively simple thing to live by, but as with all things Yoga, there are many layers.
We can speak or write the truth which is external. In simple terms that would be speaking of 'reality'. On the surface this is pretty easy to do. We just say what ever we believe to be true right? What if the truth hurts someone? Is that fair and a good thing to do? There is a Vedic saying, 'Speak the truth, speak the sweet truth and never speak the bitter truth.' That seems reasonable to do. My guru Alan Partridge agrees too: “I know lying is wrong, but if the elephant man came in now in a blouse with some make up on, and said ‘how do I look?’ would you say, bearing in mind he’s depressed and has respiratory problems, would you say ‘go and take that blusher off you mis-shapen headed elephant tranny’? No. You’d say ‘You look nice… John’.” I know that's a silly example, I just had to slip some Partridge in. Yet, what if somebody finds out the bitter truth and feels deceived by you? Your act of never speaking the bitter truth will end up hurtful and dishonest. So maybe we apply 'if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all'. If someone asks you directly what are you supposed to do? This is just the first side of Satya, which I for one am already stumped and struggle with.
And then what is reality anyway? We can only truly speak of our own reality, which is guided by our experiences in life. One of my favourite ways to explain this is with Inuits. In England when the temperature is one degree we will pretty unanimously say it's cold. An Inuit in the same temperature would say it's bloody boiling (or Inuit words to that effect). So what really is truth?
There is an ancient story which somewhat gives us an answer some of these questions. I will not detail the whole story here, but what the sage in it says:
'Truth is not only speaking of reality. Truth is for saving life, serving life, protecting nature'
It seems truth is that what is true to self and Mother Nature. It is important to do this with openness and clarity. The difficulty for most of us lies in what really is true to ourself; our inner truth. In Yoga philosophy we are subject to our negative and positive karma, in our present life, and also our past lives. Simply put, we are a result of everything that has happened to us. The path of a Yogi is one which seeks to understand and resolve all of these karmic events, which leads to your true self.
Many seek to do this in their lives and quickly learn it's a life long process. Karmic events are happening to us constantly, so it can seem as fast as you have managed to resolve one, another materialises. This is before we've even worked through past life karma! Bearing in mind we're only at the second Yama, this Yogic path is pretty damn tough hey?