Rta, Satya, Dharma: The Gaps between Thought and Word

This article is part 5 of 9 in the series Rta Satya Dharma


With reference to this topic, we need to understand three more words: ऋतु, ऋजु, and ऋण.

  1. ऋतु has come from the root (धातु) word 'ऋ.' ऋ denotes happening or receipt. Here it represents the right time,  appropriate time, or the time appointed for any action or any settled point of time.
  2. ऋजु originates from ऋजु धातु. 'ऋजु' refers to that which occurs, being there, to earn, or to experience. It also indicates being upright or acting in the right manner. That is called आर्जव (sincere or propriety of act or observance)
  3. ऋण like ऋत has originated from ऋ धातु. It denotes 'debt.' During the transactions between two people, the natural outcome of the relationship is ऋण. In the nexus or liaison between the human being and the universe the naturally emerging succession of cause and effect is ऋण.

ऋत is the synonym of ऋजु. In the mind when there is no sham or insincerity and when it is unaffected by the external world, the concept or thought that arises in the mind about a subject is ऋत . The appropriate behavior to such ऋत is ऋजु or आर्जव. Thus it is naturally occurring and not being artificial or distorted; therefore it is natural or real (true).

In Sanskrit the synonym of the word 'निज' is not 'सत्य' in practice. But in Kannada it is a natural usage. The practical meaning of ನಿಜ is firm. We must recollect that in Sanskrit 'निज' means 'natural' or 'naive.' Given the meaning to be naive or natural, if we tally them, then like in Kannada we can appropriately consider them to be synonyms.


In the mind being ऋत while it is being spoken as सत्य will it undergo any change? Without being different if they are the same then is it not redundant to have two different words? Since the Vedas have recognized them as two words it has permitted them to have differential meanings. Is that difference right? Can speech be different than thought? Can the mouth change the words that are deep inside?

It is unlikely that there would be difference in cognizance of our mind and the words that we speak. The spoken words should be the reflection of our inner understanding. It is a matter of fact. Therefore it is धर्म or nature. But there are situations that occur when it becomes impossible. Out of ten situations, we may be able to speak our mind without distortions in eight or nine of them. But there would be hindrances in the rest. In those, before we translate our thought into speech it may become our duty to examine it from the well-being of the world (community or immediate space). The main reasons for this are:

  1. Necessity to examine other proofs
  2. Deficiency or extremity of the language
  3. Duty towards the thinking of effect on the world
  4. Need of external evidence

The spoken word should be salubrious is the fundamental rule. Being that, in speaking there should be caution — examining mind — sympathy and empathy.

1. No human being can assume that the first thought aroused in his mind is appropriate and complete. This is because there could be two kinds of defects in his conscience or thinking faculty:
(a) His sense organs such as eyes and ears could be impaired or not sharp. A person with a jaundiced eye could see even milk as turmeric water (representing prejudiced view). Such illusions are common to human mind. To negate such defects he needs to tally (compare) his experience with those of others.
(b) In every human being there would be preconceived notions and opinions that are inherently present. These are likes and aspirations. They being internally present can mask our eyes and disorient our thinking. Therefore without our knowledge our thought process may get distorted. Prejudice is not uncommon. To get rid of such dangers one needs to look at the truth spoken by others and examine with our experience.
Thus in both views, self-experience has to be verified with the experiences of others. By this examination one needs to rectify his first knowledge or comprehension.

2. Strength of the language is naturally limited and finite. In many situations we may not find the necessary words to translate the feelings that arise in our mind into words appropriately without any contortions. Speech appears to a coarse medium for expression of thoughts which are polished and fine-tuned. But we have no option to convey our thoughts other than colloquial speech. Our mind being lethargic or forgetful or lacking command over the language or being ineffective in communication, the words spoken by us may convey meaning higher than what is in our mind to the listener. In our conversational haste such shortcomings are bound to occur. Due to such reasons सत्य may fail to become the exact reflection of ऋत. In the verbal form of सत्य there could be the larger representation of the thought but could leave out the finer nuances involved with it.

3. Our words should be useful to the world but not harmful. In our urge to speak our mind it is inappropriate or unrighteous to present difficulty to the world. Let us assume that a mishap has occurred with a family, can we derive satisfaction by spreading the truth about it to the entire world? Was there anything beneficial to that family by us spreading the truth? In our circle of friends and relatives there may arise a need for a husband to be informed about his wife or a wife to be informed about her husband; that information may be an unpleasant one, in such a situation how does a true friend act? Will he immediately convey whatever that is in his mind? No. With certain nicety, refinement, and etiquette it will have to be conveyed. He will attempt to reduce the anxiety or anger that may germinate to the extent possible. Let us assume sorrowful or painful news has to be conveyed to a friend. Can we instinctively speak about it? An intelligent person will prime the situation, incrementally reveal the truth, and then ultimately allow the friend to sink into situation by himself. Reducing the impact of the sorrow as much as possible and increase the endurance and tolerance to face the truth will be the objective of the friend. Thus, when we speak our mind we need to evaluate the situational context. Thus, the speaker needs to harmonize between the external environments and to what is there in one's mind. One should not let go of what is there inside and not provoke the external things. We shouldn't deviate from our internal understanding and at same time not disturb the mind of the listener. We need to negate the mutual opposition of ऋत and common good of the world and create a conducive environment. That ऋत which gets shaped from the harmonization of this interior and exterior aspect is सत्य. In order to get the complete vision one needs to comprehend the others opinion and viewpoints. There is no suspicion about others words being proof. It may not be favorable to our opinion but for sure to be examined. It will also have its proofs.

The ego in a few people is so strong that it does not appear they have consideration that others also have some wisdom, they also have certain understanding, they also may have good thinking and for the sake of courtesy at least, let me listen to them. Such an ego itself may be a dangerous hindrance in the process.

To be continued…

This is an English translation of a Kannada monograph by D. V. Gundappa titled ‘ಋತ, ಸತ್ಯ, ಧರ್ಮ.’ Edited by Hari Ravikumar.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Haricharan has been an entrepreneur and software marketer. He has a deep interest in Indian history, culture, and Carnatic music. In 2014, he translated D V Gundappa's classic 'Baligondu Nambike' into English as 'Faith for Life.'

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