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Self-Realisation, Its Meaning and Method
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 3

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 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.

Now, I have to repeat some of the ideas I tried to express earlier on the preceding two occasions, that the concept of ‘within' has to be clear to our minds. We are accustomed to think of ‘within' buildings, within houses, within temples, within halls, etc., but the ‘within-ness' of this Self, or the Atman, is not to be understood in this manner. This is a difficulty which will face anyone and everyone, one day or the other, in the pursuit of the meditational career. We as human beings, accustomed to think in terms of within-ness physically through enclosures of walls, etc., cannot but think of the Atman also as something within the body of this person. We touch our physical heart, chest,—”here, within me, is the Atman.” We cannot but think like this. The within-ness of the Atman is as difficult to understand as the universality of Brahman. I pointed out in meagre words that the all-comprehensive character of the Absolute, or the Ultimate Being, is not to be equated with spread-out-ness in space, or a lengthened duration of time, that it is durationless eternity and spaceless expanse. In a similar manner we have to be cautious in understanding what this within-ness of the Atman is. It is a word, again, having a logical significance, rather than a spatial connotation. Why is it so? The word Atman, which is translated often as the Self, implies the non-objective character of Brahman. It is consciousness, as was pointed out. Consciousness cannot become an object of someone's awareness. Consciousness cannot be known by somebody else. Consciousness knows things but it itself cannot be known by somebody else; because, if that somebody is to be there as the knower of consciousness, then consciousness would not be consciousness, it would be an object, it would be limited. Objects are always limited because they are bifurcated from the location of the knower. They are distinguished from the percipient. But consciousness cannot be divided, because the concept or notion of division implies the presence of consciousness even in that divided or bifurcated space. Hence, consciousness cannot become an object. Now, inasmuch as consciousness is Brahman, the Absolute, and therefore cannot be an object, and inasmuch as also it is the Self, the Atman, of everyone, it cannot be the known, it has to be the knower. The within-ness of the Atman, or the Self, indicates only this much, that it cannot be known through any means of knowledge. There are no means known or available by which the Atman can be known. Nobody can know the Atman, nobody can know Brahman, because, if these are to be known, there must be somebody to know, other than Brahman and the Atman. Since it is impossible to even imagine anything outside Brahman or the Atman, there cannot be a knower of Brahman or the Atman. Then, what do we mean when we say that we seek the realisation of the Self, realisation of God, Brahman, the Absolute? How is it possible to know, realise, experience, be in union with Brahman, or the Atman, if it is not possible to know It through any means available?

Yes, it is not possible to know the Atman through any available, known, empirical means of perception. Not by perception, not by inference, not by any known logical process of knowledge can It be contacted or experienced; because all logic is an externalisation of the knowledge process. And, as this Brahman, this Atman, which is identified with consciousness, cannot be an object, It cannot also be an object of logical understanding. And all our knowledge happens to be logical; therefore, nothing with which we are acquainted in this world can be considered as adequate to the purpose. This also sums up the situation of modern learning as an inadequate means of the knowledge of Reality. Then, how do you know this great Being? What actually is meant by knowledge of God, Brahman, Atman? It is not someone knowing Brahman, someone knowing the Atman. This has become clear because there cannot be someone outside It. Now, are we, seated here in this hall, a part of It, outside It, inside It, or where are we? These questions also should not arise. We cannot say that we are part of It, because It is partless. We cannot say we are outside It, as outside It nothing can be. We cannot say that we are inside It, for It has no such thing as inside in a spatial or temporal sense. What is our relationship with It? There cannot be any relationship. We have now found ourselves in a particular position, where we seem to be requiring a new system of education by which the unknowable can be known, by means which are not available anywhere in the world. Contactless contact is contact with God, says the great Acharya Gaudapada, the Grand-Guru of Acharya Sankara, in one of his passages. He says that even Yogis are frightened to hear all these things, what to talk of other people. We get frightened as children are frightened in a place where they can see nothing. This is an analogy that is given herein. If you see a baby crying in a place where nothing is outside it, you will know that it is crying merely because of the fact that there is nothing outside it. It is not frightened by the presence of anything; it is frightened by the absence of things! So, the consciousness of the seeker is frightened and taken aback by the possibility of there being nothing outside it. While it is understandable that we can be frightened with things outside, it is ununderstandable as to how we can be frightened by an absence of things. The reason is the togetherness of our consciousness with temporality and process. We are so much tied down to empirical process and hectic activity through transient methods of living that we cannot understand what the ultimate existence is. Why was Arjuna frightened at the vision of the Almighty? Arjuna represents anyone of us, the jiva, the individual seeking knowledge, experience and contact of the Reality. But it wants to contact the Reality without losing ‘itself'. The difficulty arises here, and here is the crux of the whole matter. The fright or the fear that is referred to by the great Acharya, or that which we can see even in Arjuna as we have it in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad- Gita, is consequent upon a subtle insecurity felt before the Almighty-Inclusiveness; insecurity because ‘I am perhaps not to be in His presence.' It has to be, and I cannot be. If That has to be, I cannot be, and why should I not be? All love is love of the Self, finally. The fear of death is the greatest fear and the love of one's own life is the greatest of loves. We struggle hard, sweat through the brow, only to exist in this body. Not to lose this body, lose this individuality, lose this ego, lose this personality, is the last thing we can conceive. And Arjuna's fright is nothing but the fright of the salt doll in the presence of the mighty ocean which it is trying to enter. It may melt, it will not come back. The impossibility to come back, again, is a fear. We want to travel, not that we may not return, but that we may see a thing and then come back. So, we are tourists even to God. This concept of going and coming, having an experience and then being what we were once again, is the malady of human thought. Impurity of the mind is the cause behind these difficulties and fears.

The knowledge of Brahman, or the Atman, is not the knowledge of Brahman, or the Atman, by ‘someone else'. It is the knowledge of the Self only. Says Arjuna here: “Lord, You know Yourself through Yourself, only. Nobody else can know You.” For, that somebody who is trying to know God is inside God. The difficulty will not leave us still. Where are we, then! Though it has been explained, the question should not arise for reasons that should be clear. If He is to know Himself and nobody else can know Him, where, are we? Such question should not arise because this has already been answered when it was said that He ‘is,' and that ‘is'-ness is inclusive of every other existence, including our existence, mine, yours. His knowledge of Himself is not to be confused with any kind of separatist knowledge distinguished from our knowledge of That. Hence, we can very well imagine why the means of knowledge available in this world are not sufficient here. All available means of knowledge in this world are knowledge pertaining to that which knowledge itself is not. When you know a tree, the tree is not the knowledge of the tree. Knowledge is the process of knowing, coming in contact in perception; the tree itself is outside the process. But, here, the object of knowledge is not outside the process and, therefore, processes of knowledge are inadequate for the purpose of contacting God. What are the means? The Self is the means, and when we say the Self, we mean the logical inwardness of that which is all-comprehensive. This knowledge of That is by That only, which includes us all. It is to be attained by the melting down of all extrovert impulses of consciousness imagined in space and time. This is called self-control. This is self-restraint, this is tapas. Only a person endowed with tapas can afford to tread the path of God. A person who cannot perform tapas, this austerity, cannot touch the fringe of this problem.

What is tapas? We have curious notions of it, again, but it is principally a tapas of consciousness. We have no problems from the physical body or the physical world outside, though sometimes we imagine that these are the sources of our problems. The problem arises from an erroneous movement of consciousness. As there can be problems in the world of dream, we can manufacture a problem by the movement of consciousness as in dream, in a fashion which is not natural. We are in a waking condition now, our consciousness is free from the object of dream perception, and, therefore, objects of dream perception will not anymore bother us. But they certainly bother us when consciousness enters into that peculiar manufactured condition within its own self, called dream, and things which are not there are seen to be there, and this, in one sentence, is the problem of consciousness—the pursuit of that which is really not there, as if it is the only thing that is there! When we are confronting solid objects, living beings in dream, we are honestly seeing them, perceiving them, contacting them and reacting to them, not as if we are in dream, but as one hundred percent in reality. There was a thorough mistake of consciousness in imagining that there were objects in dream, that it had to contact them, evaluate them, and react to them. The engagement of consciousness in contacting things which are really not there is the cause of dream; otherwise it would be awake. A similar thing is happening to us in the so-called waking state. The objects that we see before us are really not there. They are not there because they have been placed in this context of objectivity before a perceiving consciousness in the same way as consciousness places objects in front of it for contact in the dream world. The analogy of tapas may be made more clear from the instance of what our duty would be in dream in order that we may wake up into the reality of the consciousness of the world. The consciousness that is engaged in the perception of objects in dream has to be educated into the conviction that these objects are not there and therefore there is no point in even thinking of them. Then this is tapas. The consciousness has redeemed itself from apparent objects of perception and centred itself in itself. This centering of consciousness in itself is waking and the adoration of it as if it is outside is dream. Yoga is only this much. It is the pulling of consciousness from apparent objects of what we call the world of sense-perception today, and tapas need not necessarily mean torture of the body. It is an education rather than a punishment. It is an evolution organically rather than any kind of imprisonment of consciousness into beliefs and convictions to which it is not accustomed. The great admonition of the Bhagavadgita, here, is very pertinent. Yoga, religion, spiritual practice, or the pursuit of the path of God, is a healthy, living movement in eternity rather than in time. It is a growing process organically, and, there should be no pain for a child to grow into an adult, as it is totally natural, even imperceptible. The movement to God is like the movement of a baby to the condition of an adult. The baby does not move by vehicles or by walking with its feet; it is an organic growth from a lesser completion to a wider inclusive completion. Even so, God-Realisation is not a movement to some place. It is neither movement outside nor movement inside. When a child becomes an aged individual, it has not moved outside, it has not moved inside, it is in itself only, yet its dimension has increased, it has become organically more inclusive, and its awareness has become more complete. The way to God-Realisation is an increase in our logical dimension, in our capacity to know, rather than doing something, running here and there,—nothing of the kind is spirituality. It is a dimension of being that enlarges itself by an inward withdrawal of the erroneous movement of consciousness in the direction of things which are really not. Why do you say that things are not? You may ask me, “I see the world outside, there is a thick wall in front of me, how can it be said to be non-existent?” Nobody says that it is not there. The world is there, as everything that is seen in dream is inside the mind of the dreamer, but the ‘is'-ness of the object, the wall in the front, or the world external, is to be taken in its proper position. The world exists, but does not exist outside consciousness. The idea that the world of dream is external to the perceiving consciousness is the cause of the dream world being a harassment. The world is very much there, but it is not outside consciousness. Why should it not be outside consciousness? Because, we have already decided that consciousness cannot be divided into the subject and object, it cannot be partitioned into bits here and there. It is an inclusive being and, therefore, even that which consciousness perceives, knows, is included in consciousness only. Thus, our mind pursuing sense-objects in any way, whatsoever, is a blunder. This blunder is to be taken care of. And austerity, spiritually speaking, tapas, is the restraint of consciousness from erroneous movements in emerging circles of outward externality, space and time, and the centring of it in itself, which is the Atman, and which is Brahman. There is neither an outside nor an inside, but an everywhere-ness, minus the limitations of space and time. Such is the grand objective we are in search of. And you need not ask me where it is, because you would have seen clearly before your mental vision where it is. You need not also ask me, how it is possible. This also will be clear to you, of its own accord, when you know where it is. When it is clear to you as to where it is, you would also know where you are in this context. And when you know where you are in this relation to yourself, you would know how to contact it, also; because the basic question has first to be answered—what it is. And if this is clear, everything connected with it also becomes clear. Hence, caution is to be exercised even in our pious enthusiasm to pursue the path of God.