Theosophical Motto

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Motto of the Theosophical Society, in Sanskrit

The Theosophical motto is seen around the bottom of the seal of the Theosophical Society reads “There is no religion higher than truth.”

History of its adoption

On December 1, 1880, the Founders went to Allâhâbâd to visit Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett. Two days later, Col. Olcott left for Benares to stay as a guest of the Mahârâja. Mme. Blavatsky joined him on the 11th.

The family motto of the Maharaja of Benares was Satyan nasti paro dharmah, which is a phrase that appears a few times in the Mahabharata (See the following volumes, chapters and verses of the critical edition: 1.69:24; 12.156:24; 12.329:11; and 13.61:89).

On December 14 Col. Olcott met with a number of scholars and Pandits, and it was about this time that the Theosophical Society adopted this motto as its own.


The motto is an English translation of the Sanskrit phrase, one word of which has special meanings that shed light on the whole motto. The original Sanskrit is satyān nāsti paro dharma, which might also be translated as “Nothing is greater than truth.” The first three words can be literally translated thus: satyan “than truth,” nasti “is not,” paro “further, greater, higher.” Dharmah is difficult to translate because it means so many things. Its root meaning is “what is established or firm.” And from that basic root sense radiate such other meanings as “law,” “customs,” “duty,” “morality,” “justice,” “religion,” “teachings or doctrine,” “good works,” and “essential nature.”

The motto is not specifically about what we think of as religion. Instead it is saying that none of our commitments or social conventions or ideas can measure up to the reality of what truly is. Reality is greater than any of its parts and is beyond all our notions about it. In saying that, the motto at the bottom of the seal directs our attention back to the word Om at the top. That word is a symbol of what truly is, of Truth. And so the whole seal, just like the serpent, ends where it began—affirming the supreme Truth that unites all things.

Motto in background of letterhead of Filipinas Lodge

Online Resources