For the first time in its history, Ananda has a written statement of its guiding principles and beliefs– “The Way of Ananda Sanghis”—and also a simple membership procedure. One of the core concepts, “Satchidanandam,” is discussed. Below. For more information, see the article The “Cream of the Cream” of Yoga.
What is “Satchidanandam?”
by Jyotish Novak
The first line of Swami Kriyananda’s new brochure, The Way of Ananda Sanghis, states:
We believe in a single, blissful eternal consciousness, Satchidanandam, which pervades the entire universe, unifying it, and all creatures, in a bond of mutual service.
Nothing else exists
The concept of the whole universe being an expression of Satchidanandam is at the very heart of the Indian teachings. Whether we consider the universe real or a dream, we know there had to be some type of consciousness that produced all that we perceive.
In our essence, we are all Satchidanandam because nothing else exists. But some forms of Satchidanandam are more aware of their essential reality than others.
The greater our sense of separation from that one unifying consciousness, the dimmer its qualities become in our lives. It’s like a sun that’s shining. When you’re close to the sun, you can feel that it’s full of energy, light and heat. As you get farther away, your perception becomes dimmer and dimmer.
The whole of human activity could be summed up as the effort to move back into a stronger expression of Satchidanandam through union with the Divine. But for a long time—billions of lifetimes—our awareness of this goal is not very clear.
“We are immortal beings”
Satchidanandam has three parts: “Sat,” “chid” and “anandam,” and each part has a particular meaning. “Sat” means eternal existence—immortality. This quality of immortality is at the core of every particle in the universe.
Yogananda said that the most useless prayer is to pray for immortality. “We are immortal beings,” he said. Why pray for something you already have?
A primordial desire
Everyone, down to a cellular level, has a primordial desire to stay in existence. The very cells of our body try to keep themselves in existence. Our body knows that if a virus is allowed to exist, it may not survive. So our white blood cells are there to attack and devour the virus.
Why do advertisers always try to show models who are young and beautiful? In a dim way it’s an attempt to portray eternal existence. A great deal of human effort goes into the attempt to perpetuate physical existence. Yet, in the end we know that all our attempts at eternal, physical existence are going to fail. This body is going to pass away.
Our bodies may change, but our soul is eternal. It simply moves from point to point until we finally recognize that we have always been eternal.
“Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come.”
The second part of Satchidanandam is “chid,” which means infinite consciousness. This quality is also inherent in all of nature. As Swami Kriyananda has said humorously, even a little mollusk on a rock is dimly trying to expand its awareness.
As soon as we come into a physical form, we’re trying to expand our awareness. We’re curious—we want to understand things. And that expansion of consciousness will go on and on, until it literally becomes infinite.
In his beautiful poem, “Samadhi,” in Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda describes consciousness at the highest level of awareness. He describes that consciousness as embracing the “thoughts of all men, past, present, to come.”
Those thoughts are already part of our consciousness. But we can’t even begin to experience them as long as we’re limited by a sense of separation from our true selves. However, once that delusion of separation passes, as it must eventually for all of us, we can enter into that state.
Life’s primary motivating force
The last part of Satchidanandam is “anandam,” bliss. Yogananda says that bliss is the primary motivating force behind all life. But in our present state of delusion, pure unalloyed bliss would burn out our nervous system.
That bliss is like a vast dynamo that has to be stepped down. If you tried to plug an electrical appliance directly into 5000 volts, the motor would burn up. The electricity has to be stepped down to 110 volts before you can use it safely. In the same sense, this unalloyed bliss has to be stepped down for us.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda describes how he left his guru’s ashram in search of a saint in the Himalayas, Ram Gopal Muzamdar, who could give him samadhi. But Ram Gopal refused and counseled him to go back to his guru’s ashram. He said, “Your body is not ready. If I were to give it to you now, it would burn up your nervous system.”
For us, too, things must be stepped down. But as soon as we give up our desire for delusion, our nervous system can then expand enough for use to receive pure bliss. Even the desire for that state is very, very good karma.
Not everyone understands that it’s bliss that they really want. At a lower level of awareness, we define what we’re seeking not as bliss but as happiness. At an even lower level, it’s not happiness we’re seeking, but pleasure.
But we keep seeking happiness at more and more refined levels, because our hearts and souls will never rest until we find that eternal bliss. Gradually, as we seek more refined forms of Satchidanandam, we will wake up into samadhi, where we will have final, conscious unification with Satchidanandam, our one and only true nature.
Life in a State of Bliss
by Devi Novak
A few years ago a new visitor at The Expanding Light was having a wonderful, joyful visit. She went to Swami Kriyananda and asked, “I’ve never been happier in my whole life. Is it the meditation? The yoga? The people? What is it?”
He replied, “What you’re feeling is the joy of your own Self.”
Why do we suffer?
Yogananda said that all human suffering is caused by forgetfulness of that inner source of joy. We don’t suffer because we lose our job, or we have a car accident, or someone mistreats us. We suffer because our memory of that joy becomes dim.
There is that wonderful phrase in the Indian teachings, “Tat twam asi.” Thou art that—eternal existence, consciousness, bliss. Satchidanandam may seem foreign to us, yet it is the most essential part of our being.
In a recent talk, Swami Kriyananda spoke of approaching everyone “with adoration for the presence of the divine being within them.” He was describing what it means to live in a state of bliss.
How could we compete with anyone?
If we really lived in a state of Satchidanandam, if we knew in our deepest nature that we were bliss and that everyone else was bliss, how could we criticize someone else? How could we judge or try to demean another person?
How could we lie, cheat, steal, or kill anyone? We would bow in reverence to the bliss in others, and the whole world would be transformed.
What would education look like, if we knew in our deepest nature that we were bliss? How would we train young people?
Kriyananda has written a book about that called, Education for Life. He describes an approach to education that doesn’t try to stuff information and facts into young people, or prepare them to succeed in the corporate world.
It seeks instead to give them the tools that will enable them to express their unique talents and gifts. It seeks, to whatever extent possible, to nurture and honor their highest self and to bring out the bliss of their own nature.
All life becomes an art form
What would the arts look like if we really knew that we were bliss? In his book, Art as a Hidden Message, Kriyananda gives us a vision of art as the deepest and highest expression of the artist, and not simply what happens to be popular at the moment.
A friend of mine who became a successful artist in New York sent me a review of one of her shows. Her art consisted of lots of tiny squares in different colors. I don’t know whether that type of art was already popular or if she set the trend. But she was approaching art from the periphery, not from that which is eternal.
If we were in a state of bliss, we would compose music that reflects eternal harmony and joy. This is what Swami Kriyananda has been able to do. We would see everything we do, whether it’s cooking or driving our car, as an art form and expression of bliss.
What would leadership look like if we lived in a state of bliss? Kriyananda has
written a book about that called, The Art of Supportive Leadership.
He doesn’t talk about being a captain of industry or having people doing your bidding. He says that leadership from a state of bliss is drawing out the best in each individual and finding where their growth lies, so that they can know themselves more and more fully as Satchidanandam.
Bliss in the marketplace
What would business and commerce look like if we were in a state of bliss? Kriyananda is writing a course called, Material Prosperity through Yogic Principles, which tells us.
This new course shows us that it’s possible to live in bliss and still prosper, even in the cold hard light of the market place. If we were in a state of bliss, how could we compromise our principles? Or lie and cheat? Or advance our career at the expense of others?
What would government look like if we were all in a state of bliss? Kriyananda wrote a book about it called, Cooperative Communities, How to Start Them and Why. In it he encourages people to live together in small groups, where they can get to know one another as individuals, and interact with mutual respect and appreciation.
In the early days of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda would come into a room and say to us, “Good morning, all you great souls!” I would look around to see to whom he was speaking. Then I realized he was speaking to us.
He made us believe in ourselves. He helped us believe that we were great souls, not in our egos, but because we were expressions of Satchidanandam. He helped us to understand that we could forget all of the outward distinctions and simply live in that bliss.
We wouldn’t need religion
Finally, what would religion look like if we knew in our deepest nature that we were bliss? How could there be killing and hatred among religions, and all the things that people do falsely in the name of God?
Yogananda and our great line of our gurus have shown us what religion would look like. We don’t focus on our sins or mistakes, but try instead to remember that we are Satchidanandam. The great ones come again and again to remind us of this.
In a certain sense, we wouldn’t need religion because our very life would be a prayer. Our movement through the world would be a flow of divine grace, as with Buddha when he received enlightenment. His preached his first sermon simply by walking.
Your name, your age; what you do, where you live—all these things are passing. What is eternal and real is the bliss of your nature, Satchidanandam.
From talks given at Ananda Village, Spiritual Renewal Week 2004.
Other Clarity articles by Jyotish and Devi Novak are listed under “Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi.”