One Reality

एकं सत विप्रा: बहुदा वदन्ति

The Rig Veda (Book I, Chapter CLXIV, Verse 46)

Translation:

Sages variously express one reality.

Commentary:

This pithy sentence is at the core of Hinduism, having been excerpted from the ancient Rig Veda.

Some have interpreted the Sanskrit word sat (सत) to mean “God.” They used this sentence to explain polytheism in Hindu history, or to validate the idea that all religions are “trying to say the same thing”. In my opinion, there is better justification to interpret the word as “reality” or “existence.” (It is related to the word satyam, सत्यं, meaning “truth”.)

In sales and marketing jargon, we like to say, “perception is reality”. Ayn Rand’s Objectivism rebelled violently against the idea that reality is whatever the majority of people think it is. This sentence, on the other hand, states simultaneously that there is a single reality, and that even wise people interpret or express it in different ways. There is a call to leadership in this sentence: it encourages us to respect diversity while seeking the unity at its foundation.

Tags: Philosophy, Religion

Updated at: 3 January 2013 9:01 PM

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