08 May 2014

Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything

"Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything" — this is a very famous quotation of Swami Vivekananda. The Bengali version of the quotation is also very popular and widely quoted— Bengali: সত্যের জন্য সব কিছু ত্যাগ করা যায়, কিন্তু কোনও কিছুর জন্য সত্যকে ত্যাগ করা যায় না।

You'll find this line in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 5, chapter: Sayings and Utterances. The chapter is a collection of Swamiji's sayings and utterances. At the end of this article, I'll provide CW link of this chapter with PDF download option.

"Everything can be sacrificed for truth. . ."

Image source: Wikimedia Commons (modified)
Swamiji strongly recommended his followers to be truthful. On 23 March 1900, in a lecture delivered at San Francisco, he quoted from Sanskrit verse— "सत्यमेव जयते न अनृतम् ", he told—
No fear! Speak no more of God and [the] superstition of the world. Truth alone triumphs, and this is true.[Source]
He also told—
  • Truth has always been universal.[Source]
  • Truth is heaven.[Source]
  • Truth is infinitely more weighty than untruth. . .[Source]
  • Truth requires no prop to make it stand.[Source]

He observed—[Source]
To tell a lie, you have to imitate a truth, and that truth is a fact.

Now what is "truth"? Here Swami Vivekananda mainly meant religious or philosophical truth, and not mere daily facts like "today" is Thursday, which will become "untruth" soon.[1]

Swamiji told—[Source]
The greatest name man ever gave to God is Truth.
This is an interesting and powerful comment. Here he stated, "god" is "truth", and right after that, he told
Truth is the fruit of realisation.
In a letter written to Alasinga Perumal, dated 19 July 1895, Swamiji wrote—
The Sanskrit word for truth is "isness" (Sat) . . .[Source]
Here the word "sat" may be translated as "virtue", and now in Swamiji's own words—
Doing good to others is virtue (Dharma); injuring others is sin. Strength and manliness are virtue; weakness and cowardice are sin. Independence is virtue; dependence is sin. Loving others is virtue; hating others is sin. Faith in God and in one's own Self is virtue; doubt is sin. Knowledge of oneness is virtue; seeing diversity is sin.[Source]

These are "truth", man's eternal quest for God— that is truth. His unselfishness, courage, knowledge of oneness, love for freedom, faith — these are truth.

Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything
[ You may add your own explanation/comment on this quote in the comment section below. Detailed comment will be highly appreciated.]

Scholarly analysis

P. R. Bhuyan in his book Swami Vivekananda: Messiah of Resurgent India, discussed this quote of Swami Vivekananda. He wrote—[Source]
People all over the world should know how to hold truth in high esteem and extol its force in cementing human relation. As he said, "Society has to pay homage to truth. Societies should be moulded on truth. The society is great where the highest truth becomes practical. It is my opinion. If society is not fit for the truth, make it so; and the sooner the better: He further said that people all over the world should express their adherence and allegiance to truth at all costs. "Everything can be sacrificed for the sake of truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything."Truth makes man discern what is just and proper amidst all evils and superstitions. It makes man very strong both spiritually and intellectually and puts him above all superstitions.'" So we must not be reluctant to die for the cause of truth : "To accomplish anything," said Swami Vivekananda, "We must be willing to die for truth."

P. J. Alexander, in his book Policing India in the New Millennium, applied this teaching of Swami Vivekananda in the field of criminology and suggested a crime investigator's goal must be "truth" and he must never compromise. It is an interesting remark—[Source]
Since investigations, as we have seen, are a quest for truth, an investigator must not compromise with his conscience whether a case in hand succeeds or fails. He should try his best to collect evidence as it exists, travelling always from evidence to the accused and never from an accused to the evidence. It is this latter type of link in the chain of conduct that sometimes tempts police people to supply the so-called missing evidence by fabrication and concoction. Such temptations must be resisted at all costs. He should never forget that the motto of the state is "Satyarneva Jayate" and he has taken an oath to uphold it. Let then every investigating officer in this country make a firm resolution never to deviate from the path of truth, virtue and rectitude taking inspiration from the immortal words of Swami Vivekananda, the patriot saint of India, when quoth he:
"Everything can be sacrificed for Truth, but Truth cannot be sacrificed for Anything."


  1. The day I was writing this article, it was really Thursday.

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This page was last updated on: 9 May 2014, 8:08 am IST (UTC+5:30 hours)
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