Sat Chit Ananda 2 – Consciousness

Sat Chit Ananda 2 – Consciousness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The argument unfolds as follows: physicists have no problem accepting that certain fundamental aspects of reality – such as space, mass, or electrical charge – just do exist. They can’t be explained as being the result of anything else. Explanations have to stop somewhere. The panpsychist hunch is that consciousness could be like that, too – and that if it is, there is no particular reason to assume that it only occurs in certain kinds of matter.” – Oliver Burkeman

 

In the previous post we discussed the first component of the classic phrase from Hinduism, “Sat Chit Ananda”. The phrase means “being, consciousness, bliss” and is a description of a sublimely blissful experience of the boundless, pure consciousness, a glimpse of ultimate reality.

 

The second component “Chit” is translated as consciousness. It is our minds eye. It is our everyday experience of reality. Consciousness is actually the first manifestation of our true nature.

 

What we are striving to do in our contemplative practice is to make consciousness aware of itself. It is like looking in the mirror at your own eyes or looking into the eyes of another. There is a simple and deep recognition of the absolute as yourself, your essence.

 

We have become so used to consciousness that we habituate to it and take it for granted. It’s quite startling to realize that we are frequently unaware of something so essential to our existence. We are not conscious of our consciousness. This is what is meant by being lost in our mind; completely unaware of awareness.

 

In contemplative practice we strive to quiet the mind. When we have achieved this stillness we allow consciousness to simply gaze upon itself. This is a recognition of “Chit”. In a deeper state this consciousness seems to be streaming from all of creation, not a thing called “me” or “I”. It contains the “me” as part of consciousness, but not its center. It is only one component of an infinite reality. This is Sat Chit Ananda realized.

 

Pure being and consciousness are always present although they may not be recognized. And it is mostly the mind or ego which distracts us from the direct experience of this divine presence. So, use contemplative practice to quiet the mind and allow “Chit” to be fully present.

 

“Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon… Nothing worth reading has been written on it.”  – Stuart Sutherland

 

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Sat Chit Ananda 1 – Being

Sat Chit Ananda 1 – Being

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we go deeper into the character of the absolute, Sat. We are able to dig into it, because it is intimate to us, and when it is intimate to us, when it is our consciousness, because it is our consciousness” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

 

Many engage in contemplative practice in order to better function in their lives. But for many it is practiced to achieve a deep spiritual awakening. The phrase Sat Chit Ananda is a beautiful pithy descriptor of the state of being that is the ultimate destination of spiritual awakening.

 

Sat Chit Ananda is a classic Sanskrit phrase originating in Hinduism. It has been translated as “being, consciousness, bliss.” In Hinduism it is a description of the subjective experience of Brahman. It is a sublimely blissful experience of the boundless, pure consciousness. It is a glimpse of ultimate reality. Sat Chit Ananda is a beautiful pointer to our true nature.

 

The first component “Sat” describes an essence that is pure and timeless, that never changes. Sat is what always remains regardless of time or situation. When we awaken, we constantly recognize Pure Being. We are consciously aware of Pure Being as our true nature, the core and foundation of all life.

 

This concept arises in multiple religions. In the Bible when Moses asked the god who he was he responded “I am that I am”. This is often interpreted to indicate a singular god, as an indicator of monotheism. But from the standpoint of “Sat” what is indicated is pure being; “I am”. When the Christian, Muslim, or Jewish mystics indicate that they have achieved oneness with god, they are referring to the fact that they have experienced themselves as pure being; “Sat”.

 

In our everyday experience we are focused on the contents of our awareness; what we’re seeing, hearing, feeling etc. This is actually the essence of mindfulness, being completely in the present moment. But, if we look deeply we can begin to realize that the contents are interesting, but, what is observing these contents is the essence of our existence. What is seeing? What is hearing? What is feeling?

 

In our practice, it is very useful to focus on, not what we’re experiencing, as the mind wants us to do, but on what is having the experience. If you look at it deeply you will find an entity that is silent and peaceful, that is unchanged by whatever is occurring, and that is always present and in fact has always been present. This is “Sat”, you pure being, pure awareness. This is what you truly are.

 

Just experience it. Do not try to see it. Do not try to think about it. Do not try to understand it. The mind cannot grasp it. The more you try the more elusive it becomes. Simply experience it. Observe the mystery of the miracle of “Sat”, of being.

 

“Sat. That which exists in the past, present and future, which has no beginning, middle and end, which is unchanging, which is not conditioned in time, space and causation.” – Swami Sivananda

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Relativity of Time and Awareness

“But Einstein came along and took space and time out of the realm of stationary things and put them in the realm of relativity—giving the onlooker dominion over time and space, because time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.”- Dimitri Marianoff

 

Einstein’s theory of relativity is based upon the notion that everything that is observed has to be viewed relative to the observer. Indeed from the perspective of an observer on earth, the moon appears to be orbiting the earth. But, from the perspective of an observer on the moon, the earth appears to be orbiting the moon. One of Einstein’s great insights was that not only the position of things is observed relatively, but so is time. He postulated that time is not constant but also changes relative to the observer. In other words, time is not constant, but is variable. Indeed as an observer is moving relatively approaching the speed of light time slows down and at the speed of light time stops entirely. In other words space-time is not a constant but varies with relative position and speed of the observer.

 

It should be noted that an observer is a conscious entity. So, how might we look at the experience of the observer? Perhaps, we might look at awareness in a relativistic way. The observer’s awareness is of the present moment and only of the present moment. The past is gone and the future isn’t here yet, so all the observer has is the present. What the observer experiences in the present can be viewed in two very different ways. It can be looked at that the observer is moving through time and viewing the changes that occur in time. The observer’s awareness is of the different things that are occurring at different moments in time. The observer is simply watching the stream of different sensations. This is the usual and typical way that humans look at their internal observer, otherwise known as awareness.

 

Alternatively, we can look at the experience of the observer as time has stopped but things are moving in observer’s awareness. The observer’s awareness in the present moment is the movement in the observer’s awareness.  Experiences then are arising and falling away in that singular moment. Time is defined as change. Because the observer detects things changing, the observer concludes that time must be passing. But as Einstein said “time is an illusion.” It is only because change is observed in the present moment that the observer concludes that time has passed. Perhaps time hasn’t passed but awareness has moved.

 

Let’s translate these ideas to the meditation cushion. When meditating the individual can sit and watch things happening as time passes. Maybe it’s the movement associated with the breath, or the sounds of a bird song, or the light penetrating our eyelids, or the odors wafting through the room. That is how most people meditate. But, in essence we’ve just translated how we view the everyday world to the cushion, making meditation just like everyday experience. Perhaps that’s why many people meditate for years without becoming awakened. How can we expect to see things differently if we’re looking at them the same way?

 

On the other hand when meditating we can sit and observe things moving in our awareness at a fixed point in time called the present moment. This is a radically different approach that is unlike our everyday way of experiencing the world. The rising and falling of the breath, the bird song, the light, odors, are simply movements of our mind that awareness observes in a stationary present moment. Time has stopped, but things are moving in our awareness. Perhaps this could lead to a redefinition of experience as the product of a moving mind being observed by a stationary awareness. Now this is different. It is unlike our usual way of experiencing everyday life. Perhaps this change in the perspective of the observer can lead to a different view of reality. Perhaps this can lead to an awakening.

 

This perspective then needs to be broadened and employed with our everyday experience and not just in the cloistered environment of meditation. All that is happening in the “real world” should be viewed as sensations and thoughts simply arising in our awareness in a present moment that does not move in time. There is no time, only things entering, changing, and leaving in our awareness. From this perspective it is possible that we will begin to see that time is an illusion and our essence is pure awareness in which experiences are created. This may take a while, as lifelong mental habits of viewing everything occurring outside in time with us as simply an observer that is also moving along through time, has to be unlearned and replaced with the new perspective. For some this happens suddenly in a life altering opening termed an awakening experience. For others, it is a slow progressive change that is hardly noticeable, but move inexorably to the same point, awakening.

 

So, try looking relatively at your awareness and see where it leads.

 

“I had a sneaking suspicion that time was not constant, but I guess I could never prove it…. I even had a theory that time didn’t go in straight line at all…… I had the sneaking suspicion that everything had happened, was happening, or would happen was really happening all the time. There was no past, present, and future. Everything was going on all at once and forever. If that was true, then each moment was eternity.”  ― Mark A. Roeder

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

If a tree falls

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” ― George Berkeley

 

The Philosopher George Berkeley 300 years ago first posed this question for philosophical analysis. It has been discussed ever since. He posed it in a deep philosophical sense to discern if anything actually exists outside of the observer; that is whether anything exists without a perceiver. Buddhism asserts that there is nothing outside of awareness and that each individual is only pure awareness. So, Buddhism would definitely answer Berkeley’s question that there was no sound. On the other hand, materialism asserts that there is nothing but a physical world. So, a materialist would answer Berkeley’s question that the physical sound occurred regardless of whether someone was there to perceive it or not.

 

In one sense, sound requires a perceiver, as sound is a psychological experience. The tree falling creates pressure waves in the surrounding air, but these are mere vibrations in the atmosphere. It is only when you insert an observer are these oscillations in air pressure translated into something called a sound. Similarly, are leaves green without a perceiver. No, the experience of green is like a sound a psychological experience. Leaves reflect electromagnetic radiation of a particular frequency. It is only when you insert an observer are these light waves translated into something called green.

 

This answer, though, would probably have been very dissatisfying to Berkeley as it doesn’t address the deeper question that he was posing. Is there anything beyond experience? Are there physical things outside of ourselves that we are able to experience because of our senses or are things simply constructs occurring within experience without anything actually present outside?

 

Contemplative practices in general work to quiet the mind of internal chatter so that the individual attains a state of pure experience. Even when thoughts occur the practices involve simply letting the thought itself be simply another experience, letting it rise up and fall away like any other sensory experience. In essence when we are successful in a contemplative practice we have become pure real-time experiencers.

 

As a real-time experiencer, we hear the pure crash of the fallen tree and we see the pure green of the leaf. In truth, these experiences have no real outside analog. The experiences of sound and green are unique unto themselves and there is nothing physical like it. Just try to describe the sound to a person who was deaf from birth or the color to a person blind from birth. You will quickly note that there is no external referent that you can bring to these peoples’ attention that is even vaguely close to the experiences.

 

I personally, thoroughly enjoy observing wine connoisseurs attempting to describe the experience of drinking their favorite wine. A complex vocabulary has been developed but it is funny to listen to the struggle to transmit an experience that is only an internal experience to another who hasn’t themselves tasted the wine. “It’s insolent and spunky with overtones of smoke and blackberries with a satiny finish.”

 

So, what your experiencing in a deep contemplative state, or actually at all times, are completely unique to you as an experiencer, cannot be perceived by anyone else, and has no exact replica in a physical world. That would make you a perceiverless perceiver, an experiencer that cannot be itself experienced, a watcher that cannot be watched. It’s in essence the sound with no one there to hear it.

 

This does not happen without your awareness. There is nothing here except your awareness. It is what is doing the experiencing, perceiving, watching. So without awareness these things do not exist. There is no sound. There is no green. This in essence answers Berkley’s deeper question. There is nothing without awareness.

 

So, engage in contemplative practice and see what you truly are, pure awareness.

 

“Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, “The flag moves.” The other said, “The wind moves.” They argued back and forth but could not agree.

The Sixth Ancestor said, “Gentlemen! It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves.” The two monks were struck with awe.” – The Mumonkan Case 29, translation by Robert Aitken

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies