Monday, January 16, 2012

sate hitam satyam - सते हितं सत्यम्

There has been some questions and confusions about the word sat, the literal meaning. Spiritually, the word can gain many infered meanings like unchangeable, supreme divine etc. Searching the web, there seems to be a lack of the exact understanding of the word and phrase.
Some web links are: Wiki,, Melindanicity, Ryan, SOYA etc.

But what is the exact meaning of word sat (सत्) and satya (सत्य)? Sometimes it is referred as 'being', sometimes as 'truth' or 'true', sometimes as 'reality'...

What does sate hitam satyam (सते हितं सत्यम्) mean?

sat = सत् is pronounced as 'su' as in 'sum' and a half consonant of soft 't' (French or Italian pasta).

The root verb is 'as' - to be.
asti अस्ति = it/he/she is.
As in saḥ asti (saH asti / सः अस्ति) = He is.
sā asti (sA asti / सा अस्ति) = She is.

Now to signify an act that is going on (present participle), e.g. a student that is reading, a girl that is laughing etc. for parasmaipadī (parasmaipadI / ) verbs (like transitive verbs) a suffix shatṛi (shatRi / ) is used.
For pashyati (पश्यति = sees) -->
pashyat (पश्यत् , neutral),
pashyan (पश्यन् masc.),
pashyantī (pashyantI / पश्यन्ती ,fem.)

For paṭhati (paThati / पठति) (reads) -->
paṭhat (paThat / पठत् , neutral),
paṭhan (paThan / पठन् ,masc.),
paṭhantī (paThantI / पठन्ती , fem.)

So, 'as' (अस्) verb means 'to be'. 'asti' (अस्ति) means 'is'.
Applying the suffix, we get 'sat' (सत् - neutral), 'san' (सन् - masculine), 'satī' (satI , सती - feminine) as the adjectives of continuous form = while being.

So, 'sat' indeed means 'that which is being', 'is in the act/state of being', the act of being has not completed yet, it is still going on.

What is truth? That which is.

So 'sat' means 'truth' as well as 'being'.
sat (सत्) is present continuous. satya (सत्य) is formed by using the 'yat' (यत्) suffix (which adds the 'ya' at end) and is used to denote 'that which is worth doing, or that which should be'. The suffix comes in three flavors - -tavya (-तव्य), -nīya (nIya, नीय) and –ya (य).

For example, gantavyam (गन्तव्यम्)= that which should be gone to = destination.
paṭhanīya (paThanIya , पठनीय)= that which should be read (paṭh /paTh / पठ्)

So satya is that which is worthy of being, that which should be.

sat = that which is.
satya = that which should be.

sate hitam satyam (सते हितं सत्यम्) defines satyam (सत्यम्), which is using the -yat (यत्) suffix to 'sat', and it means that which is for the [benefit of, good of, enhancement of] sat (सत्)

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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  1. Thankyou for this explanation. Namaste.
    Scott Gordon - Sadhu Dhaya

  2. Sat is also Existence as distinct from Existent. Kindly elucidate this aspect in line with the above excellent and lucid explanation that you have given


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