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What Is the Sat Chit Ananda Self?
Deva: Dear Ram, in the commentary on Ramana’s teachings you are about to explain what is the natural state. True to the Upanishads, it is existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda). You are about to explain these terms. But as far as I can see that didn’t really happen.
Ram: I’m sure I’ve unfolded their meanings somewhere in my writings, but I can’t remember anymore. I’m getting old and my memory isn’t what it once was. Anyway, I’ll explain it now. These three words are different ways of looking at or describing the self for the purpose of inquiry. Sat means “what is.” It also means “the truth.” So when you are inquiring into the self, one way you can access it in your understanding is through contemplation on being. Sat is nitya, unchanging. Sat is the “truth” because it is always the same. If something changes, like the mind, it is called anitya, impermanent. The self is the only no-thing that fits this definition. Chit means “awareness.” When you look into sat, being, you find that it is awareness, that because of which what is known is known. So sat and chit are synonyms. They are words which describe the non-dual self from two perspectives. Ananda means “what doesn’t end.” When you investigate being, or consciousness, you find that it is limitless. Another word for ananda is brahman, which means “limitlessness.” So the self has no boundaries. It is timeless, eternal. Ananda negates time. Ignorance of the nature of reality causes people to think of time as real and feel limited by it. But reality, sat, is nitya, eternal, and ananda, limitless. The primary practice in Vedanta sadhana is called viveka, the discrimination between what is eternal and what it temporal, between what doesn’t change and what does. So these words are used to identify that part of you that is eternal. They point to it, like signs point to a destination. And if you let your mind go in the direction they indicate it will realize the self, assuming it is predominately sattvic (yoga is useful in getting a sattvic mind). To practice Vedanta you need a pure mind. This doesn’t mean a thought-free mind, not at all. It means that the mind is calm enough so you can hold your attention on a subtle object for a considerable period. Once the mind is turned inward, looking at the self, it is asked to separate the activities of the mind from the light in which these activities occur. The “light” of course is the self.
Deva: Do you know where Dayananda’s The Teaching Tradition of Advaita Vedanta is available in the United States?
Ram: At his ashram in Saylorsberg, Pennsylvania. A friend of mine, a Dutch jnani, recently purchased a copy.
Deva: Did Dayananda follow up Introduction to Vedanta with a book that unfolds the central Advaita Vedanta teachings – the prakriyas, etc. ?
Ram: I don’t think so, but the sections in What Is Advaita Vedanta? where I mention the cause and effect, three states of experience and the five sheaths, which are the most famous prakriyas, are traditional Vedanta. There would be no reason to write it, because the tradition is oral, even today, so we all learned them by heart from hearing them. He speaks and his disciples tape his words and edit them into book form. He’s an amazing mahatma. If you really want a serious look at traditional Vedanta from the inside you should read his four-volume Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course. Only once in hundreds of years will such a work come to human beings. It is over one thousand pages and covers Vedanta inside and out. In it you will see the prakriyas wielded by a master because unfolding the Gita is the essence of Vedanta pramana, insofar as the Gita has the status of an Upanishad. But it is more useful than the Upanishads because as a Pauranic text it is more accessible to the modern mind.
Deva: In your book Meditation: Inquiry into the Self you mention Kenneth Wapnik. Do you think it is important to study his teachings regarding the birth and development of the ego?
Deva: Does Wapnik teach Advaita?
Ram: Yes and no, mostly no. A Course in Miracles is sometimes called Christian Vedanta and one can find the non-dual view there, but it is a channeled work and the language is very confusing. It needs to be purified and it is stuck in the belief that it is a purification of Christianity, which it is. It has a long way to go. In fifty years it will be like Theosophy is today.
Deva: Thank you so much.
Ram: You’re welcome. I’ll reply to the other email, if not tomorrow by the end of the week. I’m driving going up to Portland on Wednesday and Thursday, so I probably won’t feel up to writing.
~ Om and prem, Ram