(Sharing by Charlotte Tan as part of the 30hr Yoga Discovery Programme)

I think for me, instead of using this Yama to decide if I should lie or not, it is more important to understand the intention behind the Yama.

It’s analogous to “girls should not leave the house after 7pm”. It might not as useful to live by the rule or decide to break it. It’s perhaps more helpful to understand the intention behind the rule, and make adjustments from there, according to our value system. Or perhaps change our value system, after engaging in a thought process of deciding what kind of person we want to be and what is actually important to us.

So for Satya, always telling the truth. I feel the main reason people lie is because of their ego, that they want to preserve a certain image, facade. Lying is simply put: the easy way out.

The issue I have with this, is that we can’t grow in character if we always go for the easy way. How can we say we are someone of courage if we’ve never been through battle? Similarly, how can we say we are people of character, if we lie, and take the easy way?

Sometimes we lie to protect others (we justify it to ourselves in this manner). The ancient Mahabharata mentions that we shouldn’t lie to give pleasure. I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with lying to give pleasure (eg telling a child their art piece is amazing when it usually isn’t — I think this is okay, it’s a form of encouragement). The main issue is that if you’re caught out in that lie the harm you’d end up causing usually outweighs the pleasure.

This is perhaps why we don’t like lying to our family or our close friends. It’s that much more painful to them when they realise that someone close to them has lied. That sense of betrayal cuts deep, even if it’s of good intention.

I’m not really certain what the ancient Mahabharata was trying to say regarding “truth should be told when agreeable”, it sounds tautological: tell the truth when it’s acceptable.

That said, the philosophical discussion was really intellectually stimulating. And I think it can really help us to decide on what kind of person we want to be, how we want to live our lives in a way that can really make us better people, and be more mindful of bringing love to those around us.