Vedānta series 22

Tattvabodha now begins its elucidation on the Self. It asks “āttmā tarhi kaḥ” (then what is Self) and answers by saying “sacccidānandasvarūpaḥ” (It is sat-cit-ānanda). Sat means the existence, cit means consciousness and ānanda means bliss. Literally speaking, the Self cannot be explained at all, as Self is beyond perception because, It cannot be known through senses. Only the spiritual knowledge declared through Upaniṣhads tries to explain the Brahman by drawing comparisons, negations and affirmations.

Sat kim? What is sat? Sat is kālatraye api tiṣṭhati कालत्रये अपि तिष्ठति. This means the existence in the three periods of time. Three periods of time refers to past, present and future. Here, the periods of time – past, present and future refers to the existence of the Brahman. Brahman existed in the past, exists now and will continue to exist in the future. This is the difference between the Brahman and other beings. Other beings cannot transcend time periods. A person would have existed in the past, but he does not exist today. His life span is limited. A person who lives today is going to die at some point of time in the future. The one who is going to be born in the future is not going to live for ever and he will have his date with death. A person cannot transcend these three periods of time to exist in all the periods of time. All the three periods of times in other words mean infinite existence, from the date of origin of the universe until its annihilation. However, Brahman is the One who existed even before the origin of the universe and will continue to remain even after the annihilation of the universe. A person means an individual with a gross body. It does not mean the Soul within, but only refers to the gross body. What is born today undergoes continuous changes and modifications, ultimately leading to the decay of the body called death. Therefore, the one who undergoes modifications is susceptible to death. The one who does not undergo modifications, will not die and prevail over all the three periods of time. Hence, sat is one of the terms used to describe the Brahman. According to Vedānta, sat means eternity and asat means not existing at all the three periods of time at the same time. Sat is one of the exclusive terms used to differentiate the Brahman from the rest. The cause of difference between sat and asat is māyā. Māyā makes asat appear as sat, due to its illusionary capabilities. Māyā is the veiling power of Brahman. (To enable one to understand māyā better, it can be said that māyā is a testing tool of the Brahman to evaluate one’s spiritual attainment. This is only a crude statement and not according to advaita philosophy, as Brahman need not test anyone, nor does He indulge in any activities.)

In man real sat-cit-ānanda aspect of the Brahman is concealed and the man experiences only limited portions of sat-cit-ānanda. The point that is to be understood is that the past, present and future is applicable to only mental condition of the beings and not to the Brahman within the casual body. This also explains the concept transmigrations. When the body falls, the individual soul within (Brahman Himself) leaves the gross body along with subtle and casual bodies, only to re-enter some other shape and form. Therefore, the Soul becomes imperishable and the body becomes perishable.

Further Readings:

Vedanta - Sheaths of Vital air and Mind

Vedanta - Sheaths of Intellect and Bliss

Vedanta - Ego