One of the most creative intuitions of Upanishadic seers is the concept of Sat-Chit-Ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss as the nature of the ultimate Realty. This concept is as much psychological as well as metaphysical.
The eternal source of “I am”; I am that;
The Eternal Source of “I AM”
The most fundamental psychological experience of our being is the sense of “I AM” or in other words, “I exists and aware of my existence.” What is the ultimate inner source of this experience? It is Sat-Chit-Ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss, which are, according to Upanishad the eternal and inseparable attributes of the Absolute, Brahman.
The first attribute is Sat which means BEness or ISness of all that is. Sat is that by which all exists. When I say “I AM”, Sat is the ultimate source of that “Am” ness. It is the essential, immutable and indivisible substance of which all existence is made. Katha Upanishad states,
“when he perceives him as the IS, the essentials of God downs upon Man.”
The second attribute is Chit, consciousness which is not the limited, ignorant, human consciousness but the absolute and infinite Consciousness beyond mind, the eternal Self-awareness of Sat, by which It knows Itself and all that exists within Itself. If Sat is that by which we exists, Chit is that by which we are conscious. Sat-Chit is the inner source of the “I AM” experience. Our human mind is only a partial and limited expression of Chit. This eternal Consciousness is not only Awareness but also Energy inherent in it, Chit-Sakthi, which is the source of all energies—physical, vital, mental and spiritual—in the individual and the universe. Thus Chit is not confined to human being, but it is the divine source o our self and the world. Chit is there in the stone, plant, animal, in various forms, evolving or manifesting more and more of its potentialities, and has achieved mental self-consciousness in the human being.
The third attribute of Brahman is Ananda, Bliss, the eternal Delight inherent in Sat-Chit. We must note here that Sat, Chit and Ananda are not three distinct and separate attributes of Brahman. We have described them as attributes for analytical purpose. Sat-Chit-Ananda are the inseparable triune nature of Brahman. Brahman is Sat, Sat is Chit, Chit is shakthi and Shakthi is Ananda. An infinite and eternal Being or BEness whose nature is an infinite and eternal consciousness-fore-delight is the upanishadic intuition of the ultimate Reality.
The concept of the Divine as eternal Delight is one of the most positive, optimistic and hopeful note of upanishadic thought. For according to Upanishads, Delight is the essence, source and sustenance of all life and experience. From Delight we come, in Delight we live, to Delight we return and none can live or breathe without this Delight, says Taitria Upanishad. Meditate on the Self as “that Delight” counsels the sage of Kana Upanishad. Our human pleasure and pain are deformed expressions of the eternal Delight of being. This is in direct contrast to Budhistic philosophy which conceives being and life as a sorrowful flame driven not by Delight but by Desire. When desire is extinguished, the individual being and life is also extinguished in an eternal Non-being. Whether this is the true teaching of Budha is a debatable point. But this is the traditional conception of nihilistic school of Budhism. Upanishads insist as much on the elimination of desire as Budhism. But in the Upanishadic thought, elimination of desire does not lead to the annihilation of individual being and life but to the recovery and realization of the Delight inherent in the eternal Self of the individual and the universe and the Delight inherent in all life. So says Is a upansihad in an enigmatic verse, “by renouncing enjoy” which means by renouncing the personal ego-centric desire and attachment to things, enjoy the impersonal and universal Delight which is in all.
I Am That
The other intuition of the Upanishad with deep psychological implications is the intuition of the identity of the individual Self, the Atman, with the universal and transcendent Self, Brahman. In other words the individual I and the Universal I are one. In the essential, deepest and innermost core of our being, we are one with Brahman and also with all humanity and all creation. This universal and eternal Self of each individual is the Atman of the Upanishad. When we are able to enter into the consciousness of our atmic Self we realise our oneness with God and feel all beings and the entire creation as a part of our own Self. It is this experience or realization which is described in the Upanishad as seeing all existence in the Self and the Self in all existence.
Someone who has attained this unity-consciousness of his higher Self, Atman, has gone beyond the ethical struggle for virtue and goodness. When we know, not intellectually, but in the very core and substance of our being, that others are part of our own self, and therefore by harming others we are doing harm to our own self and by doing good to others, we are promoting our own good, then we don’t need any ethics or morality to desist from evil and do good. Goodness then, becomes a spontaneous and inherent impulse of our nature, flowing effortlessly into our thought, feeling, will and action like the light from the Sun.
This Brahman-Atman concept is one of the major contribution of the Upanishad to the religious thought of the world. The upanishadic achievement lies in the luminous clarity and originality of expression, communicating a living, concrete and vivid perception, intuition or experience of an infinite, eternal and universal Reality beyond Space and Time; oneness of all existence; unity, universality and immortality of the human soul and its oneness with God. All these ideas are presented not as a food for speculative thought or an utopian ideal, with no bearing on life, but as something to be lived and made real to our consciousness and life. And the ultimate result of such a realisation is Moksha, an inner spiritual freedom from ego and desire. When we have the experience of this infinite unity of the Self it leads to the elimination of ego which is the central knot of bondage, division and suffering.