Vedanta teaches us that our true self is SatChitAnanda. Let us now discuss what we mean by ‘Sat Chit Ananda’.
Sat: Sat means ‘Real’. According to Vedanta, for anything to be Sat, it must exist and be present in all the 3 tenses – past, present and future. If you investigate nature, you will not find anything which is Sat.
- This universe was born 13.7 billion years ago and therefore it did not exist before that. So, it cannot be Sat, also we know if anything is born it must die. So, Sat must be unborn and anything which is unborn must be uncreated (to make it existent, forever).
- Everything which is born must have a cause. You were born because of your parents and they were born because of their parents. Since Sat is unborn it is also uncaused. No cause created it, it was and it will always be present.
- If anything changes in anyway small, e.g. (atoms have been displaced) or big, e.g. (planetary positions are different), it is not the same as what it was before. Therefore, it cannot be Sat, because Sat is unchanging.
Atma or ‘I” or Self is Sat and it is uncreated, uncaused and unchanging.
Chit: Chit means ‘Awareness’. Many books will also translate this as Consciousness but I feel this is not very accurate. Awareness is a better way to understand this. Shortly, we shall discuss Awareness in more detail.
Ananda: Your essential nature is Ananda or Bliss. This term can be confusing because we do get momentary bliss in our day to day lives and this is not the Ananda we are talking about. Our inner core is full and complete. When there are no additional needs or wants, our inner core is at complete peace with itself. This peace and completeness is our inner core, and this is the Ananda we are talking about.
Issues with SatChitAnanda or Brahman
- The goal is to discover this inner core of SatChitAnanda within us. The other term used for SatChitAnanda is Brahman. According to the scriptures Brahman is the underlying reality of the universe. It is the substratum of the universe. The scriptures then make a connection by saying that SatChitAnanda, which is our inner core is the same as Brahman, the underlying reality of the universe. This is completely correct and the only truth. Unfortunately, I have been studying Vedanta for over 15 years and I find this confusing. This maybe my problem but it would seem that you have to discover another object out there which Brahman is or look within us to discover SatChitAnanda. The connection is not intuitive and not easy to assimilate. They seem like objects but both SatChitAnanda or Brahman are not any objects, it is our inner core. It is our Self. Unfortunately, these terms do not convey this effectively – at least to me.
- The other problem I face, the term SatChitAnanda or Brahman do not convey the inherent awesome power it has. It has the power to create everything in the universe – all the possible objects. It is also the witness of everything in the universe. We discussed earlier that there are only two things in the universe – the witness and all the objects in the universe. SatChitAnanda is both the witness and creator of all the objects. It is both the Subject and Object. Within SatChitAnanda there is no distinction between subject and object. Subject is object and object is subject. This unique relationship and understanding is not very clear with the term SatChitAnanda or Brahman. Sometimes, SatChitAnanda is referred to as Sakshi (Witness) and sometimes it is referred to as creator with Maya Shakti. This unity of Subject and Object is not very explicit with SatChitAnanda. This adds a layer of confusion in this subject matter.
- The source of any mind is SatChitAnanda. Everything comes from SatChitAnanda only, including the mind. We know the mind is powerful. All these powers in the mind is due to the grace of SatChitAnanda only. According to Vedanta, you can breakdown the mind into the following structure.
- Manas (mind)
- Buddhi (Intelligence)
- Sakshi (Witness)
- Ahamkara (Ego)
Unfortunately, there is no proper discussion in the scriptures on how SatChitAnanda, which is the source of everything, becomes the mind. How a non-dual SatChitAnnada becomes manas, buddhi, sakshi and ahamkara? Why not something else? What is the connection between SatChitAnanda and these 4 parts of the mind? How do these 4 parts interact with each other in the mind to create the universe out there? This lack of proper explanation does cause confusion. It makes the proper understanding of SatChitAnanda or Brahman more difficult and makes the subject matter more mysterious.
Over the years, I have discovered that understanding ‘Self Awareness’ is a better way to know your inner core or your true Self. If you get a proper understanding of Awareness and the inherent powers within Awareness, it will answer the objections mentioned here and bring clarity to understanding your inner core or Self.
Understanding Self Awareness
To understand Self Awareness, it is necessary to understand what Awareness is. Then again, the pre-requisite to understanding awareness is to analyze the experiences we have. So, let us start with our experiences. All our perceptions, feelings, thoughts and current thinking are nothing but the experiences we have. When we are awake, there is hardly a moment when we do not have some sort of experience. Experience can only happen in the mind and nowhere else.
Experiences Decoded: The following simple equation is a perfect analysis of an Experience.
Experience = Awareness + Form
We are always aware of our experience. We can never say we had an experience, but we are not aware of it. This is simply not possible because awareness is a critical pre-requisite and ingredient of an experience. You are having an experience because you are aware of it. If there is no Awareness, there can be no Experience. We are aware that we have a non-stop and continuous flow of experience. Usually no two experiences are the same, the ‘form’ part of the experience is always different and keeps changing. Sometimes it is visual, sometimes it is auditory and sometimes it is based on memories. The Forms keep changing, the Experience keeps changing and so does the underlying Awareness, also, keeps changing? Our experience confirms that Awareness will always remain the same. The Form part is superimposed on the unchanging Awareness to complete the Experience.
The common factor in everyone’s experience is Awareness. This Awareness seems to be present in everyone’s mind. Can there be so many different Awareness’s? Is the same Awareness present in everyone’s mind? Is your Awareness different from mine and everyone else? These questions will answer themselves once we get a better understanding of what we really mean by Awareness.
Awareness is the most powerful force in the universe and it is the underlying reality of this universe. It has the power to connect with a Form present in the mind and create an Experience which you are aware of. For an analogy, think of the sun. When there is no light from the sun, you cannot see anything but in the presence of light everything becomes visible. In the same way when any form which comes in the presence of the light of Awareness, the experience bulb lights up in your mind and you are aware of the form. If you think about it, even the light of the sun is a form in the presence of the light of Awareness.
If you carefully study Awareness, you will conclude that the Awareness is made up of a Subject and Object with the following functions –
- There must be a Subject, who is Aware of the experience. This subject is the knower of the Awareness
- There must be an Object, which must be experienced. This object is the known part of the Awareness
- There must be Intelligence by which the subject gets to know the object. This is the knowing part of the Awareness
Knower, Known and Knowing are the 3 powers of Awareness. It must be clear that
- Awareness = Subject + Object + Intelligence
- Power of Awareness = Power of Knower + Power of Knowing + Power of Known
Awareness is made of Subject, Object and Intelligence, and it has three different powers – Knower, Knowing and Known. It must be understood that the Subject and Object, and the three powers are not something outside in the world, but they are within Awareness and make up Awareness. If any one of them is missing, the awareness will not work and will be incomplete.
- If there is an object to be observed but there is no subject, there will be no awareness, as there is no one to see the object.
- If there is a subject but no object to see, there will no awareness as the subject has no objects to observe.
- If there is an object but the subject has no way of knowing what this object is, no awareness will take place. This knowing must have intelligence.
Wherever there is awareness, the Subject, Object and Intelligence must be present with all the three powers. In the article “Understanding the Mind – Part 1’ we have given a detailed analysis of the 3 powers – power of Knower, power of Knowing, power of Known.
- With the power of Known, Awareness has the power to become any object in the universe.
- With the power of Knowing, Awareness has the power to know the content of everything in the universe
- With the power of Knower, Awareness has the power to witness everything in the universe.
Awareness and Maya Shakti: Vedanta teaches us that Maya Shakti is the creative power and this creative power is available within Awareness. From our earlier discussion, we saw that Awareness has the following 3 powers:
- Power of Knowing/Intelligence
- Power of Knower
- Power of Known/Objects
Maya Shakti is the total of these 3 powers.
Maya Shakti = Power of Knowing + Power of Knower + Power of Known
Self-Awareness: Awareness is the substratum of anything and everything in this universe that you experience every day. It is the knower of everything that is happening in the mind, it can take the form of all the possible objects and has infinite intelligence to give meaning and understanding to any experience.
There must be a Self, who is Aware; someone says, ‘I am Aware’. So, who are we? We are the Self, the ‘I’, who says they are Aware. The Self knows it is Aware or it is Self-Awareness. What does Self-Awareness mean? We could understand ‘Self Awareness’ in different ways:
- Self-Awareness means that Self is Awareness and Awareness is Self. There is no separation between ‘I’ or ‘Self’ and Awareness. They are one and the same.
- Self-Awareness means that the ‘Self is Aware of the Self’ or ‘I is Aware of the I’. In this type of statement, it would mean that the Self is the Subject and Self is also the Object.
In Self-Awareness, Self is both the subject and object. Self is the subject or knower and Self is also the object to be known. Self-Awareness is therefore full, complete and non-dual. Since it is the subject and object, it does not need anything else, it is a ‘stand-alone’, it is self-shining, and it is complete with all the Powers of Awareness (Power of Knowing + Power of Knower + Power of Known). It is like a Self-Shinning bulb of Awareness within the core of all of us.
This Self Awareness is the same as SatChitAnanda or Brahman which is within each living being. Self Awareness brings more clarity to our understanding of our inner core as compared to SatChitAanada or Brahman.