Ṛta (Sanskrit ऋतम् ṛtaṃ) is the eternal universal truth or order.

In the Rigveda, the term Ṛta appears as many as 390 times, and has been characterized as "the one concept which pervades the whole of Ṛgvedic thought"

Can someone explain the concept in a clear and simple manner so that any lay person would understand it ?

  • see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E1%B9%9Ata – zaxebo1 Mar 26 '18 at 2:12
  • @zaxebo1 dude i have included question passage from wiki only – Rakesh Joshi Mar 26 '18 at 2:16
  • you had not mentioned it, as reference – zaxebo1 Mar 26 '18 at 19:43
  • @zaxebo1 i am.looking for detailed answer with better and.simple explanation – Rakesh Joshi Mar 26 '18 at 19:50

Satyam is Truth and Rtam (pronounced as Ritam) is the law that governs the working of that Truth. So, although both words basically mean the same, there is still a subtle difference between the two.

One Mantra can be cited here from the Rig Veda, that has both Rtam and Satyam in it:

Rtam cha satyam chAbhidhdAt (1), tapaso adhyajAyata (2)

Truth was born and the Law of Truth (1), From the kindled fire of Energy of Consciousness.

Rig Veda 10.190.1

Another one from Atharva Veda:

satyam brihat rtam ugram, dikshA tapo brahma yajnah, prithivi dhArayanti ||

The Truth (satyam), the Vast (brihat) and the Truth-in-movement (rtam), strength (ugram), initiation, askesis, mantra (brahma) and Yajna- These uphold the Earth.

Atharva Veda 12.1.1

On the Rig Vedic Mantra, the commentary by Dr R.L.Kashyap (who is with the Sri Aurobindo Kapaly Shastry Institute of Vedic Studies) is as follows:

The Supreme Reality is not a mere existence, immutable and featureless. It is supremely aware; it is a Consciousness. And this Consciousness is again not a mere awareness. It is dynamic, it is a Power. When this Consciousness as Power moves into action, creation ensues. First the Truth (Satyam) behind the creation, formulates itself leading to the Law of the working of that Truth (Rtam). This self-determination of Truth is the seed of creation and it's Law lays down the lines of manifestation and governs its development.

So, i think this commentary sufficiently explains the concept of Rtam and also how it is subtly different from the concept of Satyam?

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Ṛta is the central moral concept in the Rig Veda, opposed to druh (deceit) and to nirṛti (disorder). It is very similar to the concept of dharma, which also occurs many times in the Rig Veda. Ṛta is the order fulfilled by the regular rising of the sun as well as orderly behaviour of people (vrata) and of gods. Ṛta is associated with light whereas nirṛti is associate'd with darkness. Ṛta is promoted or enforced by the Ᾱdityas, the moral gods, including Mitra and Varuṇa. It can be understood by looking at some examples of ṛta in the Rig Veda –

  • the very important but difficult to interpret Sūkta 164 of Mandala 1, which describes the “cakram ... ṛtasya” which is a little bit like the dharmacakra or 'wheel of dharma' imagery of modern India
  • Sūkta 63 of Mandala 5, where Mitra and Varuṇa are described as protectors of ṛta (“ṛtasya gopāu”)
  • Sūkta 65 of Mandala 1, where we witness the gods conforming to ṛta
  • Sūkta 7 of Mandala 9, where ṛta is linked with dharma
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In the Mahanarayanopanishad, verse I.6 it says (Swami Vimalananda translator, pp 8-9):

Sages declare: That alone is right [rtam] and That alone is true. That alone is the venerable Brahman contemplated by the wise. Acts of worship and social utility also are that Reality. That alone being the navel of the universe, sustains manifoldly the universe which arose in the past and which springs to existence at present.

[and his commentary on this verse] Paramatman described in the previous stanza as the cause of the universe is the one existence, and apart from Him nothing else can be presumed. So He is not only present in every atom of the universe but also in every quality, action and relation. This is the truth illustrated in the present stanza. Rtam and Satyam rendered as right and true are two important terms in the Vedas. The first term stands for the physical, moral, and spiritual laws or the order of things evident everywhere, and the second one denotes individual and social acts of truthfulness. Bhattabhaskara explains rta as manasayajna and satya as vacikayajna. Sanyana explains rta as right thought and satya as right speech. Brahman in the hemistich means the Vedas which are venerable, being the highest authority. The simile of the nave of a wheel supporting the spokes is common in the Veda. Hence Brahman is spoken of as the navel or support of the universe.

In his book A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol 1 (http://consciouslivingfoundation.org/ebooks/13/CLF-HistoryOfIndianPhilosophy.pdf), S. Dasgupta says in Chapter III, pp 36-37 that

The word Brahman according to Sayana meant mantras (magical verses), the ceremonies, the hotr priest, the great. Hillebrandt points out that it is spoken of in the Rig Veda as being new, "as not having hitherto existed," and as "coming into being from the fathers." It originates from the seat of the Rta...[and on page 37]...The whole process of Upanishad thought shows that the magic power of sacrifices as associated with Rta (unalterable law) was abstracted from the sacrifices and conceived as the supreme power.

From the above quotes, a summary translation could be the unalterable physical, moral and spiritual laws of the universe.

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