Jnaneshvar: Is Sat-Chit-Ananda the supreme?


Jnaneshvar (1275–1296), also known as Jnanadev is widely acclaimed as a great self-realised master and teacher whose poetry and writings have influenced many generations after him. He was part of the Nath tradition, an ancient lineage of spiritual masters, which has become recently famous in the West due to Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981), a more recent initiate in the Nath tradition.

Below I have included some excepts from Chapter 5 of his poetic work Amritanubhav (which means The Nectar of Experience) as translated by Swami Abhayananda.

In this text Jnaneshvar sublimely leads us to the Supreme stateless-state. He points out that the Supreme Brahman is beyond words. Even words such as Sat (existence), Chit (consciousness) and Ananda (bliss), which are traditionally used to describe Brahman, do not apply.

These are just concepts, he says, and they are just three aspects of the One Brahman. He even goes so far as to negate these three saying that Brahman is unknowable, that it is beyond consciousness and is not blissful. How can a vedantin say this? Here is the translator Swami Abhayananda’s take on it:

“Jnaneshvar appears to have demolished the old concepts of Shankara and the Vedantists, but the astute student will easily perceive that, when all the destruction is through and the dust has settled once more, Jnaneshvar has brought us to the same destination to which Shankara led us.”

Excerpts from Amritanubhav
(Chapter Five)

1. These three attributes, Sat, Chit, and Ananda
(Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss),
Do not actually define Brahman.

4. Camphor is white;
Not only that, it is soft.
And not only that, it is fragrant as well.

5. Just as these three qualities signify
One object — camphor, and not three objects;
So the three qualities,
Sat, Chit, and Ananda,
Are contained in one reality.

7. Sat is Ananda and Chit –
Or is it that Chit is Sat and Ananda?
They cannot be separated;
Just as sweetness cannot be separated from honey

10. In the same way,
The scriptures describe Reality
As Sat, or Existence,
In order to negate Its non-existence.
They call It Chit, or Consciousness,
In order to negate its unconsciousness.

11. The Vedas,
Which are the very breath of the Lord,
Declare It to be Ananda, or Bliss,
Only in order to negate the possibility
Of pain existing in It.

13. Thus the word, Satchidananda,
Used to refer to the Self,
Does not really describe Its nature,
But merely signifies
That It is not the opposite of this.

18. The fact is, if we try to know That,
The knowledge itself is That.
How, then, could the knowledge
And the object of knowledge remain separate?

19. So the words Sat, Chit, and Ananda
Do not denote That;
They are merely inventions of our thought.

20. These well-known words, Chit, Sat, and Ananda,
Are popularly used, it is true;
But when the knower becomes
One with That to which they refer,

21. Then they vanish
Like the clouds that pour down as rain,
Or like rivers which flow into the sea,
Or like a journey when one’s destination is reached.

25. Similarly, these three,
Chit, Sat, and Ananda,
After awaking the seer to his Self,
Disappear into silence.

26. Whatever may be said about Him –
He is not that.
It is not possible to speak about His real nature,
Just as it is impossible
For one to measure himself
By taking the measurement of his shadow.

28. Of course, what exists cannot be said not to exist;
But can such existence be called “Existence?”

30. In perfect wakefulness
There is neither sleeping nor waking;
Likewise there is no consciousness
In the pure, absolute, Consciousness.

31. In blissfulness
There is no feeling of unhappiness;
But can it, for that reason, be called “Bliss?”

32. Existence vanishes along with non-existence,
Consciousness along with unconsciousness,
And bliss along with misery;
In the end, nothing remains.

33. Discarding the veil of duality
And all the pairs of opposites,
That alone remains
In Its own blessed state.

35. If it were able
To be something other than Bliss,
It could enjoy bliss,
But since it is itself Bliss,
How can it enjoy?

39. Abandoning all so-called illuminating concepts
As but jabberings in a dream,
He conceals himself
From even His own understanding.

52. Pure Consciousness is beyond
Both generalizations and particular statements;
It remains ever-content in Itself.

53. After such a discourse,
That speech is wise
Which drinks deeply of silence.

57. Thought, along with its intent,
Has died,
Like a courageous warrior
In the cause of his master;

66. Truly, there is neither bondage nor freedom;
There is nothing to be accomplished.
There is only the pleasure of expounding.

3 thoughts on “Jnaneshvar: Is Sat-Chit-Ananda the supreme?

  1. Baba Muktananda introduced me to Jnaneshwar many years ago. I believe that Swami Abhayananda was once one of Baba’s disciples. One of my favorite segments is:

    “There is no cause of bondage and freedom.
    There is nothing to be accomplished.
    There is only the pleasure of expounding.” ~ Jnaneshwar in Amritanubhav


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