We derive happiness from three sources – from Brahman, which is known as brahmānanda, from senses, which is known as viṣayānanda (viṣaya means anything perceptible by the senses, any object of affection or concern or attention, any special worldly object or aim or matter and sensual enjoyments) and vāsanānanda (vāsanā means impression of anything remaining unconsciously in the mind, the present consciousness of past perceptions, knowledge derived from memory). Out of these three blissful states, brahmānanda is considered as the best and everlasting one. The other two blissful states are only momentary and not perpetual. Even in the case of brahmānanda, in the initial stages of our sādhana, bliss will last only for short duration and by entering into higher stages of sādhana only, we will be able to experience bliss for longer duration. Sādhana here means only meditation and not ritualistic practices. The difference between these three categories of ānanda is only related to the state of mind (purity of the mind). In the state of brahmānanda, mind is annihilated because of the spiritual knowledge gained. In addition to annihilation of mind, our ego also gets subdued due to higher spiritual knowledge. Higher spiritual knowledge can be learnt only with the help of a Self-realized Guru, whereas, mantra sādhana can be practiced on our own, provided we have adequate knowledge regarding mantra pronunciation.

The entire universe is pervaded only by Bliss and Consciousness. For the sake of mere understanding, Bliss can be explained as Śakti and Consciousness as Śiva. {Further reading: According to Tantrasāra, Consciousness is self-illuminating and attains different forms at will. Svātantrya śakti is the power of Consciousness, which visualizes, illumines and manifests all phenomena. Both Consciousness and Bliss are inseparable like Śiva and Śakti and this is also known as saccidānanda.} When Consciousness and Bliss are connected to objects through sensory organs, they get bound by the objects. It is only the sensory organs that causes duality in our mind. In other words, sensory organs are the cause of māyā or delusion, which causes bondage and attachment. When this bondage and attachment is removed through meditation, it leads to liberation and the process of removing bondage and attachment is known as knowledge (spiritual knowledge which leads to affirmation “I am Brahman”, as opposed to material knowledge which kindles our ego and desires). In the case of bondage, there are seer and the seen. Seer is Brahman (because of the Self within) and the seen is an object which is nothing but māyā. All the objects we see are only illusionary in nature as everything is only Brahman. Everything is Brahman is non-duality and only this highest spiritual knowledge is imparted through Upaniṣad-s. When the seer and the seen becomes one, it is Self-realization. Then what happens to the actions that unfold before us? As we are Brahman, we are only witnessing the actions and not partaking in those actions. This is called Self-realization. Though Brahman has no qualities, He witnesses all the actions that are unfolded in the universe. Hence Brahman is also called Witnessing Consciousness.

How to realize the Self (Brahman)? With the higher spiritual knowledge, we have to meditate on the prakāśa or illuminative Brahman, we have to meditate on the Witnessing Consciousness. This will not happen overnight and it needs regular practice, which is often called sādhana. Even during meditation, we will not be perpetually connected with Brahman, as our mind swings from no-thought state to active state. During active state, lots of thought processes are generated due to vāsanā (impression of anything remaining unconsciously in the mind, the present consciousness of past perceptions; knowledge derived from memory). When the mind becomes inactive, we enter into the state of samādhi and when the mind is active we become conscious of our existence and partake in all the actions. Samādhi is like waves of an ocean. It will remain for some time and will go away only to come back again. With persistent practice, the duration of trance or samādhi will increase. It is like the time between two oceanic waves. Perpetual trance is like mid-sea, where there are no waves. In enteral trance, mind remains annihilated and we remain steadfast like a stone. Brahman is omnipresent and is not separable from any object. It is like a clay pot and its clay remaining inseparable. Only the non-dualistic Consciousness (Brahman) pervades everywhere, hence all that exists is nothing but Consciousness (omnipresence of Brahman).

Often there is confusion about space (ākāśa which is philosophically explained as the subtle and ethereal fluid, supposed to fill and pervade the universe and to be the peculiar vehicle of life and of sound) and Brahman. It is explained that both Brahman and ākāśa are the same, but for a significant fact that Brahman is full of Consciousness and ākāśa does not have consciousness, as it is inanimate. When Brahman is realized (Self-realization due to highest spiritual knowledge), we come to know that the entire universe is nothing but Brahman, thus eliminating all the dualities, leading to identifying ourselves with the universe. To attain this state, we have to contemplate that formless Brahman and obviously the best mantra would be “I am Brahman” (ahaṁ brahmāsmi or śivoham). “I” in this affirmation is not ego; it means the knowledge gained. This knowledge is Brahman, is the meaning. When this stage intensifies, one is freed from ego and his conscious and subconscious minds are annihilated. The knowledge he has gained sweeps his mind clean, leading to his identity with all pervasive Brahman. The one who realizes Brahman does not indulge in any sinful acts. He perpetually remains in perpetual state of Bliss, also known as Ānanda. 

Therefore, Liberation is possible only through two successive actions. The first one is acquiring spiritual knowledge and the second is meditation. Without knowledge, there is no point in seeking Brahman. Even Lord Rāmā had sage Vāsiṣṭha to explain the path of Liberation through Yoga Vāsiṣṭha.

Further Readings:

Yoga Vasishtha Explains Jivanmukta

Yoga Vasishtha Explains Dissolution of the Mind

Twin Mental States - Yoga Vasishta