We’re not all born angels. When I was five years old, I told a lie. Of course, I don’t remember what the lie was, but I clearly recall my father’s reaction: “You can’t lie to me—it’s written all over your face!” Imagine my horror at this discovery—when I tell a fib, writing appears on my face and everyone can see it! I didn’t need commandments, spankings, or threats of eternal hell. My deeds would be publicly obvious. That was enough to keep me on the right path.
Like all good parents, mine aimed to raise children with noble qualities. They understood that the habit of telling the truth would make me a better person. Many years later, through yoga’s teachings, I discovered a direct connection between truth and happiness.
Truthfulness: A Universal Virtue
Indeed, truthfulness is stressed in all religions and philosophies, both Eastern and Western. Buddha’s five precepts to moral conduct include abstention from lying. One of the Ten Commandments prohibits bearing false witness. And science, void of religion and philosophy, strives for truth.
It’s worth noting that Eastern philosophies regard telling the truth as a practice that leads to knowing the truth. The highest truth is to realize your own Divinity—spiritual enlightenment. To this end, yoga masters tell us that truthfulness is vital.
Why Truthfulness is So Important
Living in integrity is the foundation for mental strength and purity. A strong and pure mind is necessary for spiritual growth.
A strong mind is a seeker’s best friend. It’s steady and unwavering through life’s storms. A strong mind can overcome negative thinking and make good choices. When you’re truthful to yourself and others, your mind gains strength. Your meditation practice is greatly enhanced by this.
On the other hand, a weak mind is restless with mental chatter. It can’t stop the internal noise, and as in a dense fog, a weak mind lacks clarity. It makes bad choices.
Lying weakens the mind. For example, telling a lie often requires that we create cover-up lies. Remember the line from Walter Scott’s poem, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” Even a little white lie causes restlessness because we must remember it—and then protect it with more lies.
A pure mind is insightful and intuitive. It’s not agitated by guilt or shame. A pure mind is at peace. And it understands deeper, subtler truths. Through a pure mind you can see yourself as Divine. And you can see the Divinity in others as well.
Living in Truthfulness
Living truthfulness is a primary stepping stone along the spiritual path. If that stone is weak, you will stumble and fall. To paraphrase a great saint’s aphorism:
“Know that secret cunning and silent hypocrisy…comprise the great corrupt discipline which removes one from the spiritual path.” – Swami Muktananda
This is a powerful statement. If we value our spiritual progress, we must commit to telling the truth. As this quote implies, this virtue starts in the depths of our own mind.
A Five-Minute Assessment Practice
Journaling is a great way to stay on track. It takes less than five minutes a day to check yourself. Each morning, write a short, simple statement in your journal: “Today I will practice telling the truth to myself and everyone I meet.”
Each evening, review: “How did I do?” Note how your commitment to non-lying was challenged. And don’t forget to mention your successes.
Remember, increasing virtues like truthfulness purifies your mind. It boosts your progress on the spiritual path while bringing peace and happiness to your life. Speaking the truth eventually shows you the ultimate truth—that you are Divine.
Why do you value telling the truth? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Chityānanda has been a disciple of Svāmī Gurupremānanda Sarasvatī since 1975. She teaches meditation and yoga as a spiritual path in Santa Cruz, California.