The True Meaning of Speaking the Truth

Svapardrohajananam, satyam bhashyam na karhichit

“Do not speak the truth which will bring harm to you or others.”

– Shikshapatri 26

One thing that truly encourages me to move ahead in my faith is that Bhagwan Swaminarayan has given us a philosophy and way of living that is actually meant to be lived and not just spoken about. His is a practical philosophy that is founded in a high ground of eternal ideals and practiced in the real world. One example of such a principle is the Shikshapatri’s 26th shloka, in which he clearly states that that truth which brings harm to oneself or others should not stated. A classical example used to explain this point is that if you were to see a cow running from a slaughterhouse and the chasing butcher were to ask you for its direction, it would in fact be moral to lie than to say the truth. In essence, truth is not an ends to be pursued blindly but is to be tempered by circumstance and compassion.

It is this morally high and also practical principal that Julian Assange misses in his (maybe) well-intentioned pursuit of unhinged openness and transparency. Just as he has to constantly hide his sources and his whereabouts and his staff in the pursuit of a higher good, countries are forced by the nature of the international system and domestic politics to keep some things off the record while putting together policies for a safer home-nation and the world. Assuming that everyone with power other than him is intrinsically evil is not only egotistical but is also making Julian ignore the larger picture. How can he expect even good things to be done if people discussing treaties or agreements can’t trust each other? How does he expect there to be any progress on positive and important treaties like non-proliferation regimes or disarmament agreements to occur between American and Russia if he’s going to put out every State Department employee’s less-than-sparkling review of Putin and the Russian government (the “alpha dog” comment comes to mind)? Does he want policy based on rosy pictures written in politically correct language or does he want policy based on frank assessment and honest recommendations? If he wants the latter, clearly he needs to consider how he violates field agents and informants’ privacy – something required if they’re to speak their minds freely.

I’m not convinced he wants a better world. I think Julian Assange is dedicated to some principles about truth and transparency. However, I also think that he is increasingly enjoying the increase in celebrity and power that he believes he is earning. I think it is this arrogant pursuit of fame and power which is stopping him from truly considering the harm his actions produce, the international good his releases jeopardize, and what speaking the truth really means.

I pray to Maharaj that He give Assange a better understanding of the high-minded and practical truth and morality He has shown us in the Shikshapatri.