ānandamayo'bhyāsāt आनन्दमयोऽभ्यासात् (I.i.12)

ānandamayaḥ - This not only denotes blissful state, but also refers to Brahman, the Supreme Self; abhyāsa – repetition.

As discussed in the previous Brahma Sutra, now Brahman is being declared in two different angles, one without attributes and another is with attributes. Repetition mentioned here means perpetually contemplating Brahman, who alone is in the state of Bliss. Abhyāsa in recent philosophical terminology means, inculcation of a truth conveyed in sacred writings by means of repeating the same word or the same passage, which is nothing but the effort of the mind to remain in its unmodified condition of purity. For example, let us take one of the sayings of Upaniṣad-s, “I am Brahman”. When this is repeated through an un-afflicted mind, the one who repeats this with confidence and faith (it is called self affirmations) becomes Brahman over a period of time. There is significant difference between a Guru saying, “tat tvaṁ asi” (meaning you are That) and the disciple making a self-affirmation saying, “I am That” or “ahaṁ brahmāsmi” (I am Brahman). A Guru, after having realized Brahman teaches his disciple that he is also Brahman. While saying this, the Guru cites different examples and gives explanations, making his disciple to understand Brahman within his own self. (Here one should clearly understand the difference between a Guru and a guru. A Guru is the one, after resorting to sādhana and abhyāsa realizes that he himself is Brahman. He teaches the ways and means of his sādhana and abhyāsa to a select few of his disciples by making them to follow what he has fruitfully practiced all these years. But a guru is not a Self-realized person or he is yet to realize Brahman. He is more ritually oriented, which only postpones realization. A Guru is the one, who is fully aware of both nirguṇa Brahman and saguṇa Brahman. But a guru is only aware of saguṇa Brahman. This will be discussed in detail, as we progress.)

How do we know that Brahman is full of Bliss and what is Bliss? If one understands what Bliss is, then the first question can be answered directly. Bliss is the state of inexplicable happiness. One is extremely happy and he cannot explain why he is extremely happy. He sits quiet and tears rolls down his cheeks without any efforts on his part. This is the state of inexplicable happiness. His happiness is not due to sensory organs; had it been due to sensory organs, it can be explained. For example this fruit is tasty and he is happy because he has consumed this fruit. His happiness is caused by some object, in this case fruit and it is also related to senses and in this instance taste is the sense. Such instances fall under interpretable happiness. But inexplicable happiness cannot be explained and has nothing to do with senses and objects. It is purely to do with the mind and consciousness. When the mind is pure, consciousness also becomes pure. It is only the mind that distracts consciousness. Multifunctional awareness at any given point of time is only due to an impure and fluctuating mind, which also decides the level of one’s intellect. As long this problem persists, Self-realization is difficult, as focussing one’s awareness without any distraction (this is known as Consciousness) is extremely important in realising the Self within.

Apart from our own understanding, arising out of experience, Upaniṣad-s also say that Brahman is Bliss or Brahman alone is Bliss. Taittirīya Upaniṣad (II.7) explains this. “First there was no world and only Brahman existed as un-manifested. Then Brahman manifested and thus came creation. Since creation was at its best, Brahman is known as Sukṛta (meritorious act, an acknowledgement of Brahman’s unique ability). Because He is Sukṛta, He is also known as Bliss (happiness due to perfection). This Self is within all of us and He is the source of Bliss in all of us.” Why He is Bliss? Because, He is Sukṛta; He is Sukṛta because, He cannot be realized through sensory organs. At every stage of Self-realization, sensory organs are ignored, as Brahman can never be realized through them. Bliss is triggered in an individual, the moment he realizes the source of this Bliss within (Manifestation of Bliss is different from the source of Bliss. For example, a seed is the source and the tree is the manifestation of the seed.)

Let us assume that Brahman is deep within the body and He is known as the Self. This Self covered by five sheaths known as kośa-s. First two sheaths (annamaya and prāṇamaya kośa-s) form the gross body; the next two sheaths (manomaya and vijñānamaya kośa-s) form the intermediary body (subtle body, more related to the mind) and it is only ānandamaya kośa, which forms the causal body, is just above the Self. Brahman is beyond all these five types of sheaths. Depending upon one’s spiritual advancement, each one of us wrongly identifies these sheaths as Brahman. A person with no knowledge of the Self identifies annamaya kośa as the Self; the one who knows something about Brahman identify different sheaths, depending upon their perception, as Brahman. But the one, who has the highest spiritual knowledge, identifies the Self as Brahman, not even ānandamaya kośa. In order to attain Brahman, even this Bliss is to be transcended. Therefore, what is the right method to attain Brahman? Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (III.ix.28.7) says, “Knowledge, Bliss and Brahman” (vijñānamānandaṁ brahma). This is the order, by which one can attain Brahman. First, knowledge, then the state of inexplicable happiness; when these two become too powerful he enters into Brahman (becoming Brahman Himself).

At the end of this Brahma Sutra, we know that Brahman is the source of Bliss. By remaining in the state of inexplicable happiness (Bliss), one does not realize Brahman. He has to have the highest spiritual knowledge. How highest spiritual knowledge can be attained? Either through the words of Guru, which is extremely rare nowadays, or by reading and understanding Scriptures like Upaniṣad-s, Vivekacūḍāmaṇī , Brahma Sūtra, etc. These Scriptures teach the highest form of spiritual knowledge, leading to the state of Bliss. Basics of spiritual knowledge are imparted by Scriptures like Tattvabodha (Series of articles of Tattvabodha can be read here).

This Brahma Sutra, for the first time gives an attribute to Brahman. When Brahman is without attributes, how it can be said that He is in a joyful state or how can there be an adjective like Sukṛta? Does this not mean that Brahman too has attributes? When Brahman is beyond attributes, how can He become the source of attributes? These doubts are answered in Brahma Sūtra, as we progress.

More related articles:

Brahma Sutra - I.i.10 & 11

Brahma Sutra - I.i.13 - 17