What is Satchidananda? by Swami Satchidananda

What is Satchidananda 1Many people think that there is a person called “Satchidananda.” “Oh, he’s about 5’11” tall. He has a long beard, wears an orange robe.” But that is just a composition of elements that you see. You don’t see the real Satchidananda, but you can experience it.

It’s a combination of three words: Sat, Chid, Ananda. Sat means Existence or Truth. Chid is the expression, knowledge, of it. Ananda is the Bliss you get out of it. So Truth, Knowledge, Bliss is what we mean by the word Satchidananda. In a way, the meaning could be compared to the Holy Trinity. God exists always. He expresses Himself as the Son. Through the Son you know the Father. If He didn’t express Himself, you couldn’t know the Father.

Sat, Truth, should express itself as Chid, knowledge. Then, when you know that, you get the joy, the Bliss, the Ananda of it.Sat-Chid-Ananda is everywhere, in everything, even in an atom.

That is your name as well. That is the name for everything. That is the common name for all that you can name. All matter has this Sat-Chid-Ananda. I’m not talking only about human beings. Everything, even a speck of dust, is Sat-Chid- Ananda. There It is, expressed as dust; and It brings some kind of joy by putting Itself together into a form. So, everything is Sat-Chid-Ananda. That is the spiritual view.

If you see everything as Truth-Knowledge-Bliss, you have a divine vision, the vision of God, the vision of Spirit.

Constant Change

In the worldly level, you have two more aspects—a name and a form. The nama rupa prapancham we call it. On the divine level we have only three What is Satchidananda 2distinctions; in the worldly level, we have five. If somebody asks who you are, you don’t just say “I’m Sat-Chid-Ananda!” instead you say, “I’m Jacob; I am a man.” So you have a name and a form, in that case, a masculine form; in another case, a feminine form. The name and form come and go; they change constantly. But Sat-Chid-Ananda, your true nature, will remain even when your body is in the powder form.

When you were a little younger, you were called a baby. Then you grew into a young boy or girl. Then you were a teenager, a student. Probably later on you became a boyfriend, a girlfriend, then a spouse. You got all these different names. A husband becomes a father, then a grandfather, then a great-grandfather, then an old, old man; and, ultimately he becomes a dead body. These are all changes in the body, in the name.

When a piece of wood changes form, you might call it pulp. The pulp is processed, and you call it paper. When that paper is cut into pieces and stitched together, it becomes a notebook. If you print something on it, it becomes a book. When it gets torn, it becomes waste paper. When you burn it, it becomes ash. So what is it that is lost here? The name and form keep on changing, but that Sat-Chid- Ananda in it never changes. The common element is that Truth-Knowledge-Bliss. When it expresses itself in the worldly level, you have the name and form to relate to. It is the name and form which you see. If you have the proper perspective, you will use the name and form for your convenience; but you will go deep into the Sat-Chid- Ananda and see the oneness in everybody.

What is Satchidananda 3The Lord’s Fun

If everything was just Sat-Chid-Ananda, without name and form, don’t you think the whole world would be boring?

Imagine another piece of wood. This big piece of wood is no fun by itself so you begin to chip it into small pieces. Still there is no fun, no game. Only when you carve it into a king, a queen, a pawn, a castle, a bishop, then you have a nice game of chess. They are all different pieces, with different purposes—all of the same wood.

The Bible tells us that in the beginning there was only God and nothing but God. Probably God got bored just sitting as God always. So God said, “Come on, let me multiply myself. Let me separate myself into different names and forms and let there just be fun.” So, this is the Lord’s play, God’s is fun.

Going Back

Sometimes, though, we forget and make God’s play into something too serious. We forget that the differences are all part of the fun, and we fight with each other.

When you finally get tired of that, when you really feel caught in it, you sit back and think, “Why do I get into these situations? Ah! I forgot, this is all just for our enjoyment; and, ultimately, we are all one. We just took different names and forms to play the game. I forgot that. I forgot the common Spirit behind everything. I applied the importance to the differences, the names and forms, so now I’m in a terrible state. Let me get back to the root of it.”

That is when you become a religious person. What is religion? You are trying to bind yourself back to the Original. “Religio” means to go back or bind back. You started with Sat-Chid- Ananda. Just for the sake of fun you got into a name and form, but you forgot the Sat-Chid-Ananda because it’s not always visible. When you get tired of indentifying with all the differences, then you try to go back to the source, you become a religious person.

God is unlimited, infinite. Spirit has no name or form. But we are limited; our thinking is finite. We cannot understand something infinite with the finite mind. So, for the sake of our convenience, we bring that infinite One to the finite state. Through that finite image, we go further in understanding and finally see that God is infinite.What is Satchidananda 5

Imagine wanting to bring the sea into your house. How will you do that? The sea is comparatively infinite. If you want to bring it into your home, you’ll have to just bring it in a bucket. So the bucket limits the sea, and you say, “Hey! I have a bucketful of sea.” See? To you the sea has become a bucketful of water. It’s not the real sea. You limited it according to what you could do. In the same way, due to our own limitations we limit the Unlimited One.

Of course, the limitations in us differ. My mind perceives in one way; yours, in a different way. Each mind has its own capacity and limitations. According to each mind, one perceives God in his or her own way. There are so many minds, and there are so many perceptions of God. You see God in your own light; I see God in my light. When we forget that originally God is nameless and formless and that it is only because of the mind’s limitations that we limit Him, then we forget the Truth and fight.

Don’t try to bring the sea into the house; because it is impossible to do that. Instead, you can get into the sea and become it. Then you are in the sea, but it is not separated from you. You are the sea. That is where the great prophet Lord Jesus Christ said, “Ultimately, I realize that I and my Father are one and the same. I get lost in Him and am no longer separate.”

May you all experience that Sat-Chid-Ananda as your own true Self. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.

(from IYTA Newsletter, May 2009)