by Swami Krishnananda
The Great Reality which is the object of everyone’s quest is, according to accepted tradition, designated as Sat-Chit-Ananda, a compound word in Sanskrit, suggesting a blend of the threefold characteristic of Ultimate Being. The ultimacy or the final character of the great object does not suggest incidentally a spatial remoteness of its existence or location. “Ultimately, what have you to tell me?” When you put questions of this kind, you seem to imply thereby a temporal sequence and a distance measured by the time-process. “Finally, what is the outcome of all endeavours?” Questions of this kind also make a suggestion of distance in time. “Then, what happens?” When you ask like this, you think of the measurable quality of time. It is long, it has a character of being spread out in space. But the Ultimate Being is not to be understood in this sense of ultimacy of temporal process or spatial measurable distance. Hence, when we use terms like the Ultimate Reality, we should be cautious in deciphering the import or the meaning of these words. The necessity to think only in terms of distance and process makes it incumbent on the human mind to measure the Ultimate Being also with the yardstick of available instruments of human perception. Ultimacy here is a logical ultimacy and not a temporal or spatial ultimacy. The logical completion of a process also is thought by us in temporal terms, like the educational process, for instance. The completion of the career of education from the point of view of the number of days that you may take to undertake this career, may be a temporal process. But education itself is a logical process. One stage comes after another stage in logical sequence and order, not like physical steps that we take when we walk on the road. In this sense it is that we have to understand what the Ultimate Being is. Sufficient to say that it is an inclusiveness that we are referring to when we speak of the Ultimate Reality. It is not ultimate as the last end of a temporal process or linkage or a chain of developments. It is not the last link in the chain of movement from one state of being to another state. It is a logical completion of every process in a state of fulfilment wherein is to be found not only the movement, but also the path and also the traveller. It is all-engulfing perfection, in which the tentative assistance that we took from the activities through space and time gets transmuted into a non-spatial and non-temporal existence. Such may be said to be the characteristic of what the Ultimate Reality is, and it is, as I mentioned, called Sat-Chit-Ananda, in the Sanskrit language. This is what we are searching for. The words Sat, Chit, Ananda, as you are well aware of, indicate existence, consciousness and bliss. Here, again, we have to know clearly that existence, consciousness and bliss are not like the three legs of a stool. It is threefold, here, again, logically, and not sequentially, temporally, or spatially. It is not like the three ingredients of a cup of tea, for instance—there is milk, there is tea decoction, and there is sugar. Sat-Chit-Ananda is not like such a decoction of three characteristics, because whatever word or description we employ to connote the significance of this eternity, our words seem to fail and fall short of adequacy. While the Ultimate Reality is not a spatial or temporal distance to be covered by movement of any kind, it is also not a threefold ingredient like the mixture of a physician. It is not a chemical compound—Sat-Chit-Ananda. What else is it? It is, here, a single indivisibility that is described as a threefold blend, as it were. It is True Being, Sat, existence. It is true existence, and not a processional existence of transient life we are accustomed to in this mortal world. The world in which we are living cannot be called existence, because it moves, it is in a process of evolution. Life is a movement from one temporal link to another temporal link in a succession we call growth, decay and destruction. Such is not this existence, because it is the finale of all these movements. It is, therefore, an existence which is not tending towards another existence. All temporal existence in this world is tentatively so, because it has the inherent trait of self-transcendence. There is growth, movement and what you call evolution. Thus, all phenomenal existence, all visible forms of life, should be considered as pointers to the Ultimate Existence, but they themselves are not to be designated as true existence. Sat, in this context, is Ultimate Existence, and, here, again, I have to repeat that to be ultimate is not to be spatially or temporally far away. It is a logical distance. So, this Ultimate Reality is Sat-Chit-Ananda. It is existence, but it is an existence which is conscious that it is existence. It is not like a stone which is also, for all practical purposes, apparently an existence; it is there, but there should also be an awareness that it is there. I am existing as a person, but I have also a consciousness that I exist. Now, my being and my consciousness of being cannot be separated as two different isolated phases. It is not that my being is somewhere and my consciousness of the fact of my being is somewhere else. My existence is the same as my consciousness of my existence. Hence, to be aware that one is, includes the ‘is’-ness of that particular situation and ‘to be’ and ‘to know’ mean one and the same thing, quite different from the way in which we know things in this world. Here, in this Sat, or existence, which is consciousness, consciousness does not know existence as our mental consciousness knows objects of the world. When I say, ‘I know that there is a building in front of me,’ when I know there is some person here, or something is happening, I mean something quite different from what is to be understood here in this context of existence being the same as consciousness. Consciousness is not aware of the existence as I am aware of a table or a desk in front of me, because existence itself is consciousness. Now, the whole existence has to be consciousness, inasmuch as consciousness is incapable of division or partition of any kind. You cannot have a little consciousness somewhere and some absence of it somewhere else. The absence of consciousness in any part of existence is unthinkable, because the absence so called, imagined, has also to be a content of consciousness. To say that consciousness is not present somewhere in existence, it has already to be there. If it is not to be there, there would be no one to know that it is not there. Hence, a critical analysis of the circumstance of the nature of consciousness shows and demonstrates that consciousness cannot be absent anywhere, and even to imagine that it can be absent somewhere, it has to be there already. And such an argument would be begging the question, as they say. Thus, all-existence is all-consciousness. This existence is ultimate in the sense explained, and it is to be distinguished from temporal phases of momentary existence with which we are accustomed in this world. Hence, it is all-existence and not some existence like the individual location here, there, in some part of the world, in space, in time. So, all conceivable jurisdiction of Reality is existence. Everything is existence and nothing can be non-existence, because the idea of non-existence is a self-contradictory notion. That notion cannot arise, because the idea of non-existence has also to exist. Hence non-existence is a word which conveys no sense. This existence, therefore, in the manner explained, is all-comprehensive, and there is nothing, there can be nothing, external to it. To conceive something external to existence would be to make it a link in the long chain of a developmental process, and it would then become a temporal existence and not the Ultimate Reality. Inasmuch as it has to be ultimate in its realistic nature, it has to be free from the limitation that can be imposed upon it by the introduction of space or time. Hence, it is all things, everything, everywhere and at all times. This all-existence is, therefore, all-consciousness. It is so because of the fact, as already mentioned, that it is incapable of division. Neither existence can be divided, nor consciousness can be divided. Now, while, for philosophical analysis, for the purposes of metaphysical disquisition, this much understanding of the nature of Reality is a adequate, it is also added, for the satisfaction of the seeker of this great Truth, that it is also all-satisfaction, all-fulfilment, all-happiness, all-joy, all-freedom, not knowledge minus happiness. It is not existence minus consciousness, and it is also not existence-consciousness minus happiness. One can exist with consciousness like a learned person, but very unhappy personally. Here, these three predicaments of limitation are ruled out. It is not temporal, located existence; it is all-existence. It is not unconscious existence but conscious existence. It is not merely conscious minus the sense of completeness, freedom, happiness, but it is that, also. So, it is existence-consciousness-bliss, not existence ‘and’ consciousness ‘and’ bliss. No ‘and’ is possible there, no conjunction. It is existence which is itself consciousness and therefore bliss.
When so much has been said about consciousness, we have again to be cautious that we do not locate it somewhere in space; because, to place it somewhere in space would be to make it a temporal object like anyone of us or anything in the world. Now, if this is the nature of the Ultimate Being, and this is the object of the quest of all life anywhere, it has also to be within everyone, inside the core of the electron and the atom it has to be. Inasmuch as it is indivisibility and perfection, as it is wider than even conceivable space and more perpetual than even conceivable time, it is designated as the Absolute, and is known, in the Sanskrit language, as Brahman, the plenum, the supreme perfection. Inasmuch as it is indivisibility, it is plenum, it is Bhuma, the all-encompassing completeness. Because of the fact of its being everywhere, it has also to be in the heart of everything, and so it is at the same time the Atman, or the Self of all beings. It is Brahman, and therefore it is the Atman. It has to be the Atman because it is Brahman. Why is it so? Because of its all-pervading existence. As it is everywhere, it has to be within everything.