The difference in meanings of ऋत and सत्य is unequivocal in the following mantra of the Vedas:
ऋतं त्वा सत्येन परिशिञ्चमीति सायं परिषिञ्चति |
सत्यं त्वर्तेन परिशिञ्चमीति प्रात:|
अग्निर्वा ऋतम् |
अग्निमेव तदादित्येन सायं परिशिञ्चिति |
अग्निनाsदित्यं प्रात: स: |
In this, the day and night are the two faces of principle of time. We need to comprehend and consume in the same fashion. In this, the goal of the evening deity of fire (used in the yajna) is ऋत, while the goal of the morning yajna of the sun deity is सत्य. Both deities are radiant in nature. Fire is inherently wrapped under the inflammable substances and being present is invisible. Sun is not hidden like that. ऋत is like agni (fire deity) and will stay dormant at times; it is the first comprehended and heartfelt understanding. सत्य is ever-glowing like the sun; it is the core and highlighting the as is transactional meaning. The root form in both is the same but their manifestations are slightly different.
In the universe, every object has two sides or dimensions; many of them have three or four or many more. But two is common for everything. Humans have the facial side and back side; a leaf has two sides to it; clothes have two sides to them. They are not different. One cannot separate the back side from the facial part as they are stuck to each other. Thus they are one object and they are its sides. In that sense, ऋत and सत्य are the same thing. In the first volume of the Amarakosha (Vakvarga), it says:
1. सत्यम् 2. तथ्यं 3. ऋतम् 4. सम्यक् अमूनि श्रिषु तद्वति
ऋत and सत्य like certainty or reality are two forms of the same word. The analogy provided by the Vedas seems to be completely appropriate:
The root cause of life is heat, without which nothing can survive.
स सर्वेषाम भूतानाम
असो योस्तमेति स सर्वेशाम्
Not only on earth, even the stars and other planets get energized by the sun. Thus the sun becomes the primary source of heat for the universe we know.
On the other hand the digestive fire or the gastric acid present in all living beings is responsible for heat. It is also common like the sun but exists independently in every living form. It gets generated in all beings and provides heat for that being.
One is an aggregated form and other is lying in silos. When both of them unite then the transaction happens in the universe; this is the meaning of the above mantra.
In "ऋतं त्वा सत्येन परिषिञ्चामि" or when we say "सत्यं त्वर्तेन परिषिञ्चामि," what we mean is "Around the सत्य, sprinkling ऋत, I will make it one" or "...encompass the ऋत with सत्य and unite them."
What does this translate to? In my innermost of innermost hearts what I perceive I will tally and review with the external evidence is the clean principle I will follow. Such observance of a pure principle which is validated by both the evidences is धर्म.
In the beginning of Taittariya Upanishad, we find ऋतं वदिष्यामि | सत्यं वदिष्यामि || and thereafter it comes as तस्य श्रद्दैव शिरः | ऋतं दक्षिण: पक्ष:|| सत्यमुत्तर: पक्ष: | योग आत्मा ||
To be continued…
This is an English translation of a Kannada monograph by D. V. Gundappa titled ‘ಋತ, ಸತ್ಯ, ಧರ್ಮ.’ Edited by Hari Ravikumar.