Friday, 1 June 2018


There are two definitions offered of the absolute by the advaitin. There is Sat Chit Ananda Brahma and Satyam jnanam anantam Brahma. The former is the one that is usually met with, the latter is in the Taittiriya Upanisad and the subject of a profound commentary by Shankara.

The knower of Brahman attains the highest. Here is a verse uttering that very fact: "Brahman is truth, knowledge, and infinite. He who knows that Brahman as existing in the intellect, lodged in the supreme space in the heart, enjoys, as identified with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things simultaneously.

From that Brahman, which is the Self, was produced space. From space emerged air. From air was born fire. From fire was created water. From water sprang up earth. From earth were born the herbs. From the herbs was produced food. From food was born man. That man, such as he is, is a product of the essence of food: Of him this, indeed, is the head; this is the southern side; this is the northern side; this is the Self; this is the stabilising tail.
Tai Up. II.i.1

Satyam, jnanam, anantam - truth, knowledge, infinite (an anta / without boundaries).
Sat, Chit, Ananda - Being, Consciousness, Bliss.

I am going to focus on Ananda/Anantam in this note.
What is it that gives bliss? It is primarily the freedom from the trammels of contingency and the limits of a conditioned individuality. The state of liberation is defined as the unconditioned. We escape from what the Buddhists call 'causes and conditions'. This is achieved by a resolution back into our true nature in a reversal of the order given in the latter half of the sutra quoted. Freedom is also the knowledge of necessity because here we are stuck within a range of possibilities. The non-liberated/realised individual can get a sense of moving past his limitations through creativity.

Philosophers who have speculated on the meaning of life and on the destiny of man have failed to take sufficient notice of an indication which nature itself has given us. Nature warns us by a clear sign that our destination is attained. That sign is joy. I mean joy, not pleasure. Pleasure is only a contrivance devised by nature to obtain for the creature the preservation of its life, it does not indicate the direction in which life is thrusting. But joy always announces that life has succeeded, gained ground, conquered. All great joy has a triumphant note. Now, if we take this indication into account and follow this new line of facts, we find that wherever there is joy, there is creation; the richer the creation, the deeper the joy. The mother beholding her child is joyous, because she is conscious of having created it, physically and morally. The merchant developing his business, the manufacturer seeing his industry prosper, are joyous, — is it because money is gained and notoriety acquired? No doubt, riches and social position count for much, but it is pleasures rather than joy that they bring; true joy, here, is the feeling of having started an enterprise which goes, of having brought something to life. Take exceptional joys,— the joy of the artist who has realized his thought, the joy of the thinker who has made a discovery or invention. 
(from the essay Life and Consciousness in the collection Mind Energy by Henri Bergson (1920).

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