by Swami Krishnananda
Now we describe the nature of Absolute Bliss, or Brahmananda, by realising which in actual experience one is totally freed from all sorrow, instantly. One attains to supreme satisfaction, incomparable in nature, and quite apart from the ordinary happiness with which a mortal being is familiar. There are innumerable passages in the various Upanishads which state that Brahman is Bliss, and by attaining it one becomes immortal. The Taittiriya Upanishad says that one who knows Brahman reaches at once the highest state. The Mundaka Upanishad says that one who knows Brahman becomes Brahman itself. The Chhandogya Upanishad declares that the knower of the Atman crosses beyond all sorrow, and one who is established in Brahman attains immortality. the Taittiriya Upanishad, again, compares the Bliss of Brahman to Rasa, or the quintessential essence, the highest taste conceivable, and it is said that having obtained this essence, one enjoys divine bliss. We are also told that one who has gained perfect establishment in that super-sensible Brahman becomes absolutely fearless, and he who tries to see a difference in it, even in the least, has fear from all sides. That the Jiva is an integral part of Brahman, inseparable in nature, and identical with it in essence, is the import behind the whole teaching. The Jiva-consciousness, which is mostly characterised by egoism in some form or other, tries to create a difference between itself and the Reality, not only in its activities, but even in its thoughts and feelings. It is this erroneous notion on the part of the Jiva that explains its Samsara, its suffering. Everything in this creation works in rhythm, and in unison with the perfect and inexorable law of the Absolute, and so pain should be the inevitable consequence of the attempt of the Jiva to break away from this universal law. Even the deities, the celestials, the denizens of heaven, in short, all things, stand in a state of perfect and harmonised relation with the Supreme Being. It is as if for fear of this Being that everyone performs his allotted duty without failure. It is impossible for anyone, at any time, to get away scot-free by violating the universal law, by asserting selfishness, however slight it may be. The Law of Brahman is utterly just and absolutely impartial. Therefore, it is the duty of everyone to maintain a consciousness of harmony with its existence, and it is this maintenance of a perpetual consciousness of harmony with Reality that goes by the name of Yoga. One who knows in experience the Bliss of Brahman fears not from anything and lives the true life of freedom from all grief and of deathless delight.
The Taittiriya Upanishad says that one who knows the Atman regards it as the only Reality, and is permanently established in that Consciousness, and then nothing that he has done or not done, viz., no Karma whatsoever, can affect him, or torment him. The results of action no more worry him. They may be there or not there - he is just not concerned with them. Abandoning, thus, both these Karmas, done as well as not done, he considers that everything is a manifestation of the Atman alone. “All this is the Atman alone” to him, says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Having regarded everything as an appearance of the Absolute Atman, he feels the presence of the Atman even in these Karmas and, naturally, it seems then that they should not be a source of trouble any more. In his case the knots of the heart, i.e., the connections apparently established between the Consciousness and the mind, are broken and the Consciousness stands supreme in its own Self without external relations, either with the mind, or the body, or the object outside. All the doubts are rent asunder and there remain no misgivings within in regard to the real nature of the Atman, or the world. The Karmas, too, perish and, excepting that the Prarabdha-Karma seems to linger on for some time notwithstanding that the Jivanmukta has no concern with it consciously, all the Karmas in his case drop off from his consciousness the moment he beholds the Eternal. He transcends death by knowing that resplendent Divine Being, and the scripture is emphatic that there is no other way to attain this state than direct realisation (na anyah pantha vidyate). By knowing and realising that splendid Existence, the Supreme Being, there is a cutting off of all bondage in the form of likes, dislikes, anger, and the like, and all these afflictions of the soul having crossed, there is a cessation of rebirth. Rebirth is due to the remnant of unfulfilled desires. When they are no more, there is no rebirth, too. By an inner vision of the Supreme Atman, one gets rid of pairs of opposites, like exhilaration and grief, etc., caused by events in the world, and that unusual hero who is adorned with a rare moral toughness within, sets aside both merit and demerit, which mean so much to the ordinary individual. One attains to supreme transcendence (Kaivalya Moksha). There are statements in the scriptures which affirm that Brahman is Ananda, or Bliss, and its realisation puts an end to all sorrow and affliction.
Happiness may be spiritual, intellectual or sensory. These three types of happiness are being discussed here in detail. In the Taittariya Upanishad we learn that Bhrigu approaches his father for wisdom and hears from his father the nature of Brahman as that which is the cause of all things, the sustenance of all things and also the end of all things. Bhrigu tries to investigate Brahman in his own experience and passes, stage by stage, from the physical to the vital, from the vital to the mental, from the mental to the intellectual, and from the intellectual to the blissful layers of experience. He does not go beyond Bliss, and recognises that Spiritual Bliss is the source of everything, and everything lives on account of this Bliss and returns finally into this Bliss, at the end of time. Brahman should definitely be Eternal Bliss in nature.
Prior to the creation of this world, there was the One, undivided Absolute, unconditioned by the differences of the seer, the seeing and the seen. There was that divine, Infinite Brahman, above the differences of knower, knowledge and known. It was without distinction of space, time and causality. This difference starts only when the Jiva arises as an evolute at the time of creation, wherein are the intellect as the seer, the mind as the process of seeing, and the various external objects as the seen. No such thing ever was before creation. This state of feeling is faintly indicated in such relapses of consciousness as in Samadhi, sleep and swoon. Sage Sanatkumara asserts that Bhuma, or the Plenum (fullness, completeness) alone is Bliss. There is no Bliss in the finite things which are subject to the distinction of knower, knowledge and known. This was the reply given by the Sage to Narada who complained about the dissatisfaction of his mind and the grief that was tormenting him in spite of his vast learning and proficiency in the arts and the sciences. Well, prior to learning there is only the triple affliction from the internal, external and celestial causes, but after it comes there is the pain of committing it to memory, the possibility of forgetting it, the chances of humiliation before more learned ones, and also the likelihood of priding oneself in front of learned ones. With all this grief, Narada approaches Sanatkumara requesting to be taken to what is beyond all sorrow. Sanatkumara’s answer is that Bliss is what is beyond sorrow, and it is only in the Absolute; it is not to be found anywhere else. Certainly it is not the happiness that one is accustomed to in this world, because the happiness of the world is entangled in many troubles and afflictions, and often it brings only sorrow as its consequence. Hence it is the opinion of Sanatkumara that all earthly happiness is pain only in another guise and he gradually asserts that wherever there is a perception of a second to oneself, it should be considered as finite and a source of unhappiness, and where there is no second to oneself, it is the Infinite, and it is Bliss. The Non-dual Infinite is not directly experienced by mortals, yet it is the consequential effect of the experience of the relativity of things, and naturally it does not require any proof to establish its existence, because of its Self-luminosity.
Prior to the creation of the dualistic world there must have been only the non-dual condition, since there is no other alternative at all. This is known to us as a semblance in the state of deep sleep. One’s own sleep is a valuable proof of it. Sleep does not stand in need of any other proof, though the experiences of others are inferred by us from their behaviour, etc. Our own experiences are not so inferred, but are directly known, as, for example, in deep sleep, where we are sure of our existence though there are no mind and senses functioning. This conviction is what is meant by Self-luminosity. In the state of deep sleep, there is absolutely no grief. Even the blind, the sick and the wounded have no such feelings of deformity, then. Thus, we have to conclude that the absence of sorrow in sleep is felt by us directly and positively, and inasmuch as there is no sorrow at all, we cannot identify it with anything other than happiness. Else, there can be no reason why people should take so much pain in preparing beddings, and so on, to go to sleep, even at the cost of wealth and much inconvenience. There is definitely something positive in deep sleep which is to be investigated.
The happiness of deep sleep should be considered as positive and not merely as an attempt to forget the pains of the world. Even healthy persons who have everything that they want and cannot be said to have any pain whatsoever, go to sleep and find there is happiness which is incomparable. Though the arranging of soft bed, etc. at the time of entering into the state of sleep may be regarded as sensory in the sense that it is born of a contact of the tactile sense with an object, viz., soft bed, yet, the happiness of deep sleep is not born of any such contact. Tired by the activities of the world and seeking for a place of rest to remove this fatigue, one tries to go to sleep and prepares several means for this purpose, such as soft bed, etc. The truth, however, is that there is a total dissatisfaction with the business of life, because, the Jiva, though it may not be aware of it, is wandering away from the source of happiness when it moves amongst the objects of the world. Whenever there is a dualistic experience, the mind is naturally in a state of aberration and cannot be satisfied until it reverts to the natural state of unity. Soft bed etc., is only a preparation for this natural rest which it finds when the distinction of the knower, knowledge and known is transcended, and duality is completely negated. All mental activities in a world of space, time and cause should, thus, be regarded as unnatural from the point of view of the Supreme Absolute. It is to forget its miserable plight in the world that the Jiva runs to Brahman constantly in order that it may become one with its supernal Bliss.
In the Upanishad, the examples of a falcon, a hawk, a child, a king and a wise man are given to illustrate the nature of Divine Bliss which far surpasses the pleasures of the dualistic world of desires. Just as the falcon, which is tethered to a peg or held firmly in the hand by means of a string, may try to fly higher and higher, but cannot find a place of rest till it returns to the source to which it is tied; just as a hawk may soar to lofty heights throughout the day in all directions but must return to its own nest at the end of the day for final rest, it being possible for it to find real satisfaction and true freedom and peace only in its own nest; just as a small child lying happily on a tiny beautiful bed after having drunk deep from the mother’s breast smiles lovingly and appears to be an embodiment of happiness due to the fact that it is completely free from the distinction of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and from the afflictions of and likes and dislikes; just as an emperor who is the master of a large empire, who has all the conceivable pleasures of the world, and has the joy of having possessed everything and living unopposed and uncontested, may be regarded as an embodiment of the climax of satisfaction among human beings; so does a person who is well-versed in the scriptures and is established in Brahman, having attained the peace that comes by the realisation of having done everything that is necessary to be done and having obtained everything and known everything, having reached the summit of wisdom, have a different kind of happiness altogether, beyond all the happiness of the world, due to a direct communion with Brahman.
All these types of happiness are due either to a slight reflection of the Bliss of Brahman or a direct experience of it. The Jiva craves for this unearthly happiness and never rests until it finds it. It is for this reason that there is a regular entering into a state of deep sleep by the Jiva after all its frantic attempts at acquiring happiness in the world of objects.
The ignorant condition of a child’s mind, the perfectly satisfied condition of an emperor, and the spiritually poised divine condition of the sage, represent three examples in this world of the state of the absence of likes and dislikes, due to which there is a degree of indication of the approximation of the individual to the Absolute. Everyone else who is entangled in the network of likes and dislikes is unhappy in this world, for the obvious reason that in the latter case there is a forgetfulness of the Atman and a constant contemplation of outside objects. When there is union of oneself with one’s most beloved possession, there is a forgetfulness of both the internal and external world, and there is a merging of oneself, as it were, in the beloved object. The Jiva is busy with the outward world in the waking state and enters the inner world when it is in the state of dream. In deep sleep it loses its individuality and so does not know whether it is human or animal, with desire or without desire, and knows no distinction whatsoever. In this sense, we may say there is, for the time being, an obliteration of Samsara in the state of deep sleep, the Jiva having been there one with Brahman. It is one’s egoism or the personal restricted consciousness relating to its specific qualifications and conditions in life that becomes responsible for one’s pleasures and pains in this world. The Upanishad proclaims that when egoism is removed, one goes beyond all the sorrow that afflicts one’s heart. The Bliss of sleep and the ignorance that characterises sleep are both experienced by a Consciousness, and this fact is confirmed later on by a memory that one has after waking up from sleep. But for this Consciousness which is permanently present, there would have been no remembrance later on of either one’s having had happiness in sleep or one’s having known nothing there. This Consciousness is Brahman, says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and this Consciousness is Bliss. This ignorance which acts as a covering veil in the state of deep sleep is only a withdrawn condition of the intellectual and mental sheaths which are active in the waking state. This temporary dissolution of the mind is called sleep, and this itself is called ignorance. As ghee can be solidified and melted, the intellect of the Jiva can solidify itself into certain special experiences of the waking state or get merged into the molten condition of complete negativity of experience in sleep. This state is also called Anandamaya-kosa (bliss-sheath).