Vedic Lore Age of the Vedas Upanishads Brahma Devas I Devas II Rta and Satya Yajña RIGVEDA Mandala I Mandala III Mandala V Mandala X Author e-mail me

Rta and Satya


The Cosmic Law and Ordr


The mantra below points to the inevitability of life in unmistakable language.

Who sets our bodily and mental capacities/limits,

Whose rule the world and gods together obey,

Whose patronage is eternity (bliss), and death, otherwise;

That lord of bliss we revere with oblation and thoughtful surrender. (RV X.121.2)

Life comes to us as ‘given’ or destiny. This may look to people as pessimistic or fatalistic attitude. But that is what the reality is. This is stated in the Katha Upanishad: Experiencing Rta, the inevitable desert of our karma and belief. (III.1 and V.7 ibid.)

From countles past lives, each individual has as if a vast reservior of good and bad deeds (or of merits and demerits). He per force faces the prospects of births in different life forms to experience his desert (pleasures and pains). Freedom to the individual is debatable. Recall the story of Yudhishthira from my book Yoga: An Analytical Release:

Yudhishthira and his brothers were princes in exile. They were living life of commoners. One day a beggar came to their door for alms. Yudhishthira felt pity for him and even for himself as he had nothing worthwhile to offer. He promised to help the beggar and asked him to revisit the next day. Beggar believed him (who was well known for truthfulness) and went away.

Bhima, younger brother of Yudhishthira, overheard all this and was amused. He picked up a drum and ran out beating it. He announced to the villagers:

‘O folks, I do not believe you know someone who has conquered time [destiny]. My brother Yudhishthira has conquered time. He has promised someone to help tomorrow! Time is certain for him and not contingent.’


If we reflect on this, life is largely a ‘given’ thing. You are not sure the next moment which karma fruit is in store for you. You think of doing many things, but cannot or may not. You may be doing karma, but you cannot determine the sequence of karma fruition. Sequence is not arbitrary but, unfortunately, not humanly determinable.


We call this inevitability Cosmic Order or Justice meted out to us by gods. The Vedic word for it is Rta (literally, right or just). In the beginning, Rta and Satya were born as part of creation. From enkindled Tapas [Brahma-consciousness] were born Rta and Satya. (RV X.190.1)


What is Satya? The Vedas. Rta is perfectly consistent with Satya.


To lay man, both Rta and Satya mean Truth and Law. But according to the Nirukta, they also mean water. Let us look at their distinction.


What happens or befalls us, even if bitter, is Rta (right), because that is the Rta, Cosmic Order (i.e. Truth in Action), as part of karma and belief consequence. It is the truth or cosmic principle/order of karma justice and rain cylce.


On the other hand, Satya is principle-based, or what should happen. The Vedas are Satya. They are Rta too, because in accordance with their word alone, the world eventuates and evolves.


Devas (gods) collectively carry out Rta. Accept whatever bitter and untoward has befallen, as right and actual (Rta), but follow the Vedas (Satya) to set it right. You cannot change the past, but future you can.


Satya (the Vedas) is law or canon; Rta, order or execution of law. Together they form Cosmic Law and Order. You know from common experience what happens when there is no law and order or what happens when you disobey the law.