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Atman is Sat-Chit-Ananda

by Swami Sivananda

Atman is Sat

Atman is Sat. That which exists in the past, present and future, which has no beginning, middle and end, which is unchanging, which is not conditioned in time, space and causation, which exists during Jagrat, Svapna and Sushupti, which is of the nature of one homogeneous essence (Sada Ekarasa, Sada Ekarupa) is Sat. This is found in Atman. Srutis emphatically declare: Sat only was prior to the evolution of this universe.

Our common experience, rather innate inherent feeling, that we never were not and that we never will cease to be, even though our physical bodies may disappear, clearly proves that Atman always exists. In reply to the question whether we are in this world or not, it is said by all men: We are here. Do we possess body or not? Yes, we have bodies. Whence came this body? There must be some cause for our getting these bodies, for otherwise it cannot be a cause. That cause is Karma. It is only our Karma that gives birth to this body. The Karma which generated this body in the previous birth ought to have been performed in a birth anterior to that and so on backwards ad infinitum. Thus, on enquiry, we find that Karma and body are beginningless, of the nature of an unceasing flood, the source of which is unknown. Karma and body form an ever-receding chain. Therefore it is certain that Atman which subsists and forms the substratum for this chain must also be beginningless by virtue of its nature. Thus it is proved now through inference that Atman is Sat during the past and present periods.

Why can we not say that this body is generated by the works performed in this birth? Just as the seed which can generate a tree cannot generate that tree which is the cause for its own birth, so also the works performed by this body will produce a new body in the next birth but cannot generate this body. Therefore we cannot say that this body has been produced by works done in this birth.

Then another point is, does that Karma which generates the body belong to us or to others? Certainly it is ours. We cannot enjoy in heaven through the Karma of another. If Mr. Krishna does an evil act, he will have to suffer. It cannot affect Mr. Sadasiva. Virtue brings its own reward for the person who does the virtuous action. That is the immutable law of Nature. If one were to go to heaven through the Karma of another man, a servant also should attain heaven through the performance of a sacrifice by a learned Brahmin. All should have attained liberation through the Nirvikalpa Samadhi of Sri Sankara or Dattatreya. But this is not the case. Therefore it is quite obvious that it is only one's own Karma which generates one's own body.

The Karma that we perform now in this birth will not go in vain. Actions are indestructible. They will generate fresh bodies in the future. We will do fresh Karmas with these new bodies which will form the seed for still future bodies and so on forwards ad infinitum. The current of Karma and body will never have an end in the future, but there is an end to Karma through Knowledge of the Self. Karma is completely annihilated by the dawn of Brahma-Jnana. Then comes a cessation of body. Even if Karma is destroyed and future births come to an end, the Atman does not perish. It is ever existent. It is eternal. Karma is of the nature of Avidya. When Karma is destroyed, all causes of pain vanish. Jivahood disappears. The Jiva enjoys the supreme bliss of the Self. Atman always is. It exists in the three periods of time. The world may come and go, but Atman always remains. Pralaya or dissolution is only for this phenomenal universe but not for the changeless, self-existent Atman. The deluge and fire may destroy the illusory names and forms but they cannot touch the imperishable Atman. You can thus clearly understand that Atman is Sat.

Atman Is Chit Atman is Chit for it shines by itself unaided by any other light and illumines the whole universe by its own light. It may be asked, how can we be said to illumine the whole universe when we are ignorant? The universe is of two kinds, viz., the external and the internal. The external universe embraces the five elements and their properties, sound, touch, form, taste and odour and their combinations of various sorts, various names and forms, qualities, properties, the quintuplicated elements, Brahma's egg, the four kinds of beings, viz., the oviparous or egg-born, the sweat-born, the seed-born and the womb-born. The external universe, however varied and big it may be, is after all only inert matter. It cannot be the object of our perception unless we throw upon it the flood of our consciousness light; it can never know us. It is illuminated by us only. It can never illuminate us.

The internal universe embraces the five Koshas; the three bodies, viz., gross, subtle and causal; the six changes, the six waves, viz., birth, death, hunger, thirst, grief and delusion; the five organs of knowledge; the five organs of actions; the five Pranas; the fourfold Antahkarana, Sankalpa-vikalpa, determination, self-arrogation and enquiry; the three states of consciousness, Jagrat, Svapna and Sushupti; the activities of the Avasthas, Visva, Taijasa, Prajna; Samadhi and fainting; mind, speech and body; friendliness, mercy, complacency and indifference; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi; the eight kinds of proofs; hatred, jealousy, lust, anger, pride, hypocrisy; Sattva, Rajas and Tamas; pleasure and pain; the four means of salvation; the three kinds of pain; thoughts, feelings, emotions, sentiments. This entire inside world is also inert and cannot be the object of our perception unless we turn upon it our consciousness. We only can know it; it can never know us. The mind is finite and inert. It has no independent intelligence. It is not self-luminous. It shines by borrowing the Light from the source. It is subject to various limitations and changes. It is only an inert product of subtle matter. Atman only is the source of Chit. Mind also is perceived by the Chit. Mind has a beginning and an end.

Gold shines with splendour when molten by fire in a crucible. Whence is this lustre? The fire does not impart this glitter in the gold. It is only an instrument in removing the dross from the gold. When the impurities in the gold are removed by fire, the gold shines in its real state. Even so when the purified mind dispels Ajnana, the Atman shines in its native glory and pristine splendour. The dispelling power of the mind is borrowed from the Atman. It does not belong to the inert mind. It is generally said that a lamp dispels the darkness of a room but the mere lamp-vessel, the oil or the wick have no power in themselves to remove darkness. Nor is Agni (fire) able in itself without the help of the wick, oil and lamp-vessel to dispel darkness. It is only when the fire and the three other materials join together that there arises the name, The light of the lamp, which light destroys darkness. Even so in this lamp of body filled with oil of Karma, the fire of Atman igniting the wick called mind acquires the name of Jiva and removes the darkness of Ajnana. This power is really in Atman and not in others. It is thus clearly proved that Atman is of the nature of Chit.

Atman is Ananda

Ananda is that bliss which is eternal, uncaused and unexcelled. It is the real nature of Atman. The pleasure derived from objects such as flowers, scents, woman, fruits, sweetmeats and others is temporary and subject to Upadhi or vehicle and degree and so it cannot be called the bliss of Atman. We experience the bliss of Atman every day in deep sleep. It is not mere absence of pain that we experience there. It is undoubtedly positive happiness, for we remember on waking up that we slept happily. This indicates the fact of the existence of bliss to Atman in that state. Other objects which make us happy in waking state and in dream are entirely absent in deep sleep. The bliss in deep sleep state is Upadhiless. The bliss of deep sleep is unexcelled, because we eagerly long for it above all pleasures and we dislike those people who stand in the way of our enjoying the happiness from sleep. We prepare soft beds, soft pillows to enjoy this happiness. There are eleven degrees of bliss from that of man to that of Hiranyagarbha. Each of these degrees of bliss is a hundredfold greater than that which precedes it. But the Supreme Bliss of Brahman is degreeless. It is infinite or illimitable as there is nothing superior to it. The bliss of deep sleep is degreeless.

It must not be argued that the bliss of deep sleep cannot be eternal as we do not feel it in waking state or dream. There is that bliss existing in the waking and the dreaming states also. But it is not enjoyed clearly in these states, being veiled by the actions of the internal organs. The experience of the passing, finite sensual pleasures obscures the ever-shining bliss of the Self. Although the smoke produced by the fire obscures the fire, though the fog veils the sun behind it, yet the wise do know that the fire or the sun can never be obscured by them. They see beyond the ashes and the fog, the fire and the sun. Similarly the knower of the Self fully knows that though the finite sensual pleasures caused by flowers, fruits, women and the like seem to veil the inherent infinite bliss of the Atman, they really owe their origin to the latter. They are fully aware that the infinite bliss of Atman shines unobscured and unlimited during all the three periods of time and all the three states of experience. The bliss of Brahman cannot be adequately expressed in words. It has to be felt and realised through direct Self-realisation. Though we experience it, it is not an experience like the enjoyment of an object, because you are then an embodiment of bliss itself. Therefore it is clear that the bliss of the Atman and that of deep sleep, which is no other than the former, are eternal.

The love which the father shows towards the friend of his son is on account of his love towards his own son. The love which the father has for the son is not on account of the friend of his son. Therefore son is dearer than the friend of his son. Similarly wealth and son are dear on account of one's own self. The love which one has for his own Atman is not on account of wealth or son. Therefore Atman is dearer than a son or wealth.

Man loves his wealth immensely. He crosses the seas and goes to the far off climes to earn money. But a son is dearer than the wealth; the father spends a lot of money to get his son out of the jail when he is locked up there for some crime. Therefore, son is dearer than money. Body is dearer than the son; the father even sells his son during famine for the sake of protecting his body. The Indriyas or senses are dearer than the body, because man protects his eyes, ears, nose, etc., when another comes to attack him. Prana or life is dearer than the senses. If the king orders to take away the life of a criminal, the criminal rather prefers to have one of his senses removed rather than give up his life. Therefore life is dearer than the senses. Atman is dearer than the life. When one is suffering from a serious incurable disease, he says: Let my Prana depart from the body. I will be happy. Therefore Atman is dearer than the life itself because it is an embodiment of bliss.

Satchidananda is only a provisional definition of Atman. We see in this phenomenal universe untruth, insentience and pain. The Atman which is distinct from Anatman is therefore characterised for the purpose of easy understanding by us as Sat (real) as opposed to Asat or Anrita (unreal), Chit (consciousness) as opposed to Jada (insentience or unconsciousness) and Ananda (bliss) as opposed to Duhkha (pain). Even these terms, therefore, do not define Atman, but only distinguish it which is beyond definition by words. To define Brahman is to deny Brahman only.

Sat, Chit and Ananda are not three distinct entities. They are not different from one another. They are coeval and coexistent with Atman. Just as water, Jal, Pani signify one and the same thing, so also Sat-Chit-Ananda signify the one Atman. Sat is Chit. Sat is Ananda. Chit is Sat. Chit is Ananda. Ananda is Sat. Ananda is Chit. You cannot split up Sat-Chit-Ananda into three separate entities, just as you cannot separate light, heat and luminosity from fire.

Limitation (Parichheda) is of three kinds: (1) by space (Desa), (2) by time (Kala) and (3) by things (Vastu). Body is limited by space. Atman cannot have any limitation by space, because it is all-pervading and all-full. It transcends space. Atman is eternal. It cannot be limited by time. This body is conditioned in time and so it is perishable. The third kind of limitation, by things (Vastu Parichheda), is of three kinds: (1) Sajatiya, i.e., limitation by the existence of a similar thing, e. g., a tree is limited as a similar tree exists. (2) Vijatiya, e. g., a tree is limited, as a dissimilar stone exists. (3) Svagata limitation by the existence of differentiation in itself, e. g., a tree is limited as it is differentiated into the trunk, leaves, branches, flowers, root, fruits, etc., or a man is limited as he is differentiated into face, trunk, hands, legs, etc. Isvara is Abhinna-nimittopadana Karana. He created this universe out of His own body (Maya), just as the spider creates its web out of its own saliva, and entered Himself into these names and forms. Therefore there cannot be any Sajatiya Bheda such as Jiva-Isvara Bheda. There is no second Atman. There are no two Sats.

This phenomenal universe is not real. It is a mere appearance like snake in the rope or silver in the mother-of-pearl. It has no independent existence. Therefore there cannot be any Vijatiya Bheda.

Sat, Chit and Ananda are one. Atman is partless and homogeneous. The three characteristics Sat, Chit and Ananda are not distinct from one another. The tree can be differentiated into branches, flowers, twigs, etc., for they are finite things limited to particular part, of the tree, but Atman has no parts. Sat is present wherever there are Chit and Ananda. Sat cannot be limited by another Sat for there are no two Sats, nor by Asat for Asat cannot exist. If it is said that Chit is different from Sat, then it will be Asat like the horn of a hare. This sort of assumption will land you in a serious dilemma and confusion. All miseries come to a termination when one realises Atman. Therefore Atman must be an embodiment of bliss. Sat is Chit. Sat is Ananda also.

He who has realised this Sat-Chit-Ananda Atman is a liberated sage. He has nothing more to learn, has nothing more to do, has nothing more to gain. All his desires are gratified. He has obtained all worlds. He is freed from the jaws of death. He attains immortality.


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