Sat and Sattva

by Raghavan Iyer @ Theosophy Trust


SAT AND SATTVA


In one sense, Oeaohoo is the "Rootless Root of All"; hence, one with Parabrahmam; in another sense it is a name for the manifested ONE LIFE, the Eternal living Unity. The "Root" means...pure knowledge (Sattva), eternal (Nitya) unconditioned reality or SAT (Satya), whether we call it Parabrahmam or Mulaprakriti, for those are the two aspects of the ONE. The "Light" is the same Omnipresent Spiritual Ray, which has entered and now fecundated the Divine Egg, and calls cosmic matter to begin its long series of differentiations. The curds are the first differentiation, and probably refer also to that cosmic matter which is supposed to be the origin of the "Milky Way"– the matter we know. This "matter", which, according to the revelation received from the primeval Dhyani-Buddhas, is, during the periodical sleep of the Universe, of the ultimate tenuity conceivable to the eye of the perfect Bodhisattva – this matter, radical and cool, becomes, at the first reawakening of cosmic motion, scattered through Space; appearing, when seen from the Earth, in clusters and lumps, like curds in thin milk. These are the seeds of the future worlds, the "Star-stuff".

The Secret Doctrine, i 68-69

 The eternal life (Sat) and pure knowledge (Sattva) of the perfected Bodhisattva transcend the boundaries of cosmic manifestation. They have their pristine root in a realm that precedes and encompasses the universe, a realm that is undisturbed by its eventual passing away. During the night of Maha Pralaya – "the periodical sleep of the Universe" – the spiritual eye of the Bodhisattva bears eternal witness to the slumbering veils of rarefied cosmic matter. This state of exalted spiritual wakefulness (Turiya) lies at the farthest end of the path of pure knowledge, the Bodhisattvic path of self-sacrifice, self-correction and self-regeneration in the service of universal enlightenment. It is the serene fulfilment of both mind and heart, the self-conscious intelligence of the Manasa and the spiritual intuition of the Dhyani-Bodhisattva. It is a path of self-sanctification travelled through honouring the sanctity of all beings. The supreme realization of the one ray of Spirit in the Bodhisattvic heart rests upon the recognition of the presence of that ray in the heart of every atom and every creature throughout the entirety of manifestation. Yet it depends too upon the realization that the spiritual ray, in essence, is uninvolved in any manifestation or any differentiation.

 This supernal understanding of the Bodhisattva is at once a cognitive concept of the mind and a mystical conception of the heart. It is compassionate understanding, transcending the seeming otherness of "other" beings. However intense one's concern, one cannot ever understand another human being through egotism alone. To understand one's parents, for example, one must set aside lower Manas. True understanding of human beings is different from personal love or hatred. It consists, rather, of an active sense of moral bonds between human beings and a willingness to engage in sacrifice to deepen one's understanding and observance of those bonds. Such understanding is akin to that of a parent for a child. While the child is swept along by the vicissitudes of change that accompany infancy and youth, the parent offers an understanding born of pain and sacrifice. Ordinarily, however, this is mostly involuntary and not enriched by wisdom. The understanding of the Bodhisattva is rooted in wisdom which comes from a long and arduous path of deliberate sacrifice of memories and expectations, of self-image and the sense of will, of the very conception of success and failure. To enter this path means to sacrifice much more than people normally think they should or even could sacrifice. Yet every vestige of the separative self must be renounced to sanctify the field of one's awareness and prepare it for the awakening of pure understanding.

 Every day human beings enjoy innumerable opportunities to touch the Buddhic stream of intuitive understanding that underlies their lives as incarnated souls on earth. At twilight it is possible to take stock of the day and to welcome into the sanctuary of one's inner understanding wise thoughts and compassionate feelings that come unbidden. Through cleansing one's motivation and transcending the egotistic sense of likes and dislikes, one may avail oneself of life "s innumerable opportunities to sanctify and deepen the power of understanding. Authentic understanding of anything at all, whether it be of the events of the day or of other human beings, reaches towards that which is hidden within the surface and succession of events, behind the dense veil of likes and dislikes, beyond predilections and habits. To understand that which is truly at the heart of a situation is to pass beyond and behind all names and forms, to become the object of one's scrutiny. Sometimes people use the colloquial expression "understanding what makes somebody tick". One cannot know what makes a human being tick unless one becomes receptive to the inaudible vibration in the imperishable heart of a human being. That anahata heart is inseparable from the eternal vibration – AUM. Ultimately, to understand another human being one has to become that human being. Though perfectly possible, this involves a tremendous act of the imagination.

 One cannot persist in looking at the world in terms of sights and sounds and external forms. One's sensations, perceptions and conceptions must all be transcended, not only in their successive multiplicity, but also at their genetic core. Distant and difficult as this may seem to ordinary understanding, this exalted state of transcendence and knowledge is inherently possible. That pure knowledge or Sattva enables the soul to gain full and true understanding of anything and everything.

 The original for Understanding is Sattva, which Sankara(acharya) renders antahkarana. "Refined", he says, "by sacrifices and other sanctifying operations."... Sattva is said by Sankara to mean buddhi – a common use of the word.... Whatever meaning various schools may give the term, Sattva is the name given among Occult students of the Aryasanga School to the dual Monad or Atma-buddhi, and Atma-buddhi on this plane corresponds to Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti on the higher plane.

Ibid.

Buddhi is no other than direct perception, divine discrimination and spiritual intuition. Very often people ignorantly associate intuition with inexplicable hunches or vague guesses. Self-indulgence and self-rationalization of such psychic tendencies are quite harmful to the true awakening of Buddhi, and should never be confused with it. It is far better to be humble than to pretend to have exact knowledge when one does not. It is even better, in fact, to avoid talk about Buddhi and Buddhic awareness than to be involved in the shadowy world of pseudo-speculative knowledge. True Buddhic understanding is real knowledge, which comes in the Silence. At times, it comes with a laser-like flash of instantaneous directness and recognition so exact that one might call it microscopic omniscience. This is, however, nothing alien to human nature. It is none other than the highest subtlest material field within the hebdomadic human vestures. Buddhi is to Atman like spiritual subliminal and noumenal matter lit up, made radiant in relation to the perpetual motion and light-energy of the Atman. Buddhi, activated and aroused, is pure Sattva, refined pure knowledge, free from all taint of separateness, all taint of selfhood. It is totally unblemished by any trace of partiality, any bias of partisanship, any vestige of attachment and possession. As pure knowledge, it is a principle entirely independent of the standpoint, or even the existence, of the lower self. It is the living wisdom of eternal life itself.

 The teaching of the Aryasangha school of the great Yogacharya tradition regards Buddhi not only as the highest principle of understanding in human nature, but also as inseparable from the principle of Universal Wisdom in the cosmos. Sattva, taken as the Atma-Buddhic duad, is itself only an analogue within the human field to that in the cosmic field which represents the unity of primordial cosmic substance and cosmic ideation. Atma and Buddhi are two in one, just as Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are inseparably one. Parabrahm is the Absolute, and Mulaprakriti is similar to a veil upon the Absolute. In the highest fusion of ideation and substance, at the cosmic level, which is theoretically accessible to every human being, one finds the ultimate root of the Bodhisattvic standpoint which is identical to the basis in Atma-Buddhi of the highest pure knowledge. To understand the sense in which this knowledge transcends even the manifested cosmos in its entirety, though subtly diffused throughout it, one must understand the relationship between cosmic ideation and its many differentiated vestures.

 Cosmic Ideation focussed in a principle or upadhi (basis) results as the consciousness of the individual Ego. Its manifestation varies with the degree of upadhi, e.g., through that known as Manas it wells up as Mind-Consciousness; through the more timely differentiated fabric (sixth state of matter) of the Buddhi resting on the experience of Manas as its basis – as a stream of spiritual INTUITION.

Ibid., 329

 In its ultimate sense cosmic ideation has no necessary connection with forms or events, with succession or simultaneity, nor indeed with any of the terms belonging to a differentiated world of subjects and objects in space and time. Thus, Gupta Vidya speaks of pre-cosmic ideation, the conceptual correlate of pre-cosmic root substance. In relation to both ideation and substance, there is that which is pre-existent. This pre-existence is ontological and not temporal. It is not merely at some prior point in time, but comes before the existence of the cosmos in the order of being itself. Cosmic ideation, in order to focus, requires a lens or instrument – an upadhi. At the subtlest conceivable level this basis is cosmic substance, an extended purely spiritual quality called suddhasattva, the subliminal matter that makes up the subtle vestures of Mahatmas. It is only by focussing pre-cosmic ideation upon an upadhi that there is individuation, the active capability of consciousness to take an individual standpoint in relation to a world. To begin to imagine what this Bodhisattvic standpoint might be like, one could attempt to visualize what it would be like to see omnidirectionally. This could be helped by meditative exercises, in which one visualizes oneself as a point of perceptivity radiating in every direction throughout space, reaching towards the surface of an ever-receding and infinite sphere. Such pure vision cannot be trammelled by limits that apply to sense-objects, whether on the gross physical plane or the subtle astral plane.

 It is an understanding capable of tracing back causes to their root, and of anticipating from that root cause the entire series. It is like knowing the seed and limit of a series, and all the intervening stages and rates of transformation in its expression. This is merely an imperfect mathematical analogy to a transcendental process of consciousness which far outstrips the sluggish structures of rationality. Buddhi is one with the finely differentiated spiritual substance of the sixth plane of matter. Differentiated from it and at a greater degree of differentiation of the same fabric of substance is the principle of Manas on the fifth plane of matter. Supported by the refined experience of Manas, "by sacrifices and other sanctifying operations", according to Shankara, Buddhi emerges as a stream of pure spiritual intuition having a quality of unbroken continuity of perception. The Buddhic individual carries within him through day and night, through dreaming and sleeping and waking, a knowledge of the Atman. He is awake in dreams and can anticipate before sleeping his first thought upon waking. These are, in effect, nothing but minor applications of the developed capacity to overcome the discontinuities that arise through separate states of consciousness. These common interruptions arise out of inherent imperfections of the vestures, the fabric and matrices through which cosmic ideation is refracted. If one views human nature prismatically, Buddhi may be compared to golden yellow light, which is the closest ray to the one pure white colourless Light. Transcending the more extreme contrasts in the spectrum, it synthesizes them and sees their apparent differentiation as merely an illusion within a single, undivided and unbroken stream of pure spiritual intuition.

 The capacity for such unbroken vision is seen in the eyes of a child. The ray of lower Manas enters the lower vestures during the seventh month in the womb, and the ray of Manas enters the child around the seventh year. But out of the eyes of a baby, where Manas has not been aroused, radiates the light of Atma-Buddhic awareness. It is this intensity and integrity of focus that makes an infant's eyes eloquent. That same directness is apparent when a baby grasps an object, feels it and seeks to know what it is. This same capacity is latent, though lost, in every human being. It persists through sleep and through all the ageing processes, and if it is not pursued on the basis of separative personal consciousness, it can be recovered. All such notions of individual spiritual progress are bound up with differentiations and inversions of consciousness on the lower planes of matter. Through meditation, one must reach beyond all these to the cosmic core of human identity, saluting this principle of Buddhic awareness at work throughout the entirety of Nature. One must through discipline attempt to enter the mind of the Adept, the Bodhisattva and the Buddha.

 One must extend one's conception of the principle of Buddhi in every direction, encompassing all objects, forms and beings on the subtlest planes of matter, because ultimately matter itself is the entire range of all possible objects of perception. Pure Buddhic understanding, as an analogue of Mulaprakriti, is the noumenal ground of substance underlying the entire collective range of differentiated objects and perceptions. This notion of Buddhic substance is so abstract and philosophical that it could scarcely be appreciated during the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century contemporary notions of matter and space are beginning to converge with arcane knowledge, although they lack philosophic clarity and moral relevance. For the student of Gupta Vidya who is able to link metaphysics and meta-psychology, the concept of spiritual ideation inhering in Mulaprakriti begins to reveal the extraordinary possibilities in human consciousness.

 The fundamental obstacle blocking the realization in consciousness of the Bodhisattvic possibilities of human nature is identification with personal name and form (namarupa). It is the problem of the ego. The Jams say that to acquire all virtues yet not conquer the ego is to achieve nothing. Perhaps one is kind to cats, contributes to charities, pays all dues and performs every mundane and religious duty. Perhaps one even assumes the role of a neophyte on the Path, seeking to honour one's vows and be a true companion to others. Yet if at the moment of death one has not overcome the ego, one has gained nothing. This is why the Path is not easy, and this is why to grasp the problem is not to simplify it. Through hydra-headed salvationism, through desperate pursuit of moksha, through frenetic attempts to escape, people have all too often tried to opt out of the difficult stages of authentic inner growth. Inevitably, these misconceptions arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of self-existence, self-consciousness and hence of individuation.

 The mere knowledge that one's most fundamental spiritual problem is egotism in no way dispels that egotism. In fact, a focus upon one's own ego problem is itself a manifestation of that problem. Instead, one should attempt to see the problem of the ego in impersonal terms, in relation to the entire cosmos. "I-am-I" consciousness exists in individual human beings only as a reflection of universal egoity.

Ahamkara, as universal Self-Consciousness, has a triple aspect, as also Manas. For this conception of "I", or one's Ego, is either sattwa, "pure quietude", or appears as rajas, "active", or remains tamas, "stagnant", in darkness. It belongs to Heaven and Earth, and assumes the properties of either.

Ibid., 335

 From a philosophical perspective one might say that the entire universe has an ego problem. That is why it exists. Yet at its core there is no differentiation and no fragmentation. That is why the ground of the universe is held to be beyond the spectral rays of light, beyond even the one white Light that synthesizes the colours. The true ground of self-existence is the Divine Darkness. If this is true of the universe as a whole and of universal self-consciousness as a principle in invisible Nature, one can imagine in that universe beings who stand outside the stream of differentiated existence. They are fully aware of the limits of existence in reference to the whole universe, in reference to solar systems and in reference to worlds like the earth. They can, like Prospero in The Tempest, contemplate the "great globe itself". The universal self-consciousness which they realize in themselves as their perfected Manas is nothing but a ray of Mahat. Conversely, Mahat, the cosmic mind, is the consciousness of perfected beings who together, by their ideation, give expression to the Divine Thought in the Divine Mind. Self-consciousness of self-existence at the Mahatmic level is the highest Ahamkara, pure Sattva or quietude.

 During the long night of non-manifestation, such perfected Bodhisattvas may be conceived of as thinking of pure possibilities. Even during the long period of manifestation they can see beyond everything that exists. Their vision transcends not merely that which is actual, but also that which is potential, and through a negation of everything that relates to even the possibility of manifestation, they experience pure quietude. It is as if the ego problem of the universe is put to rest, falling into deep dreamless sleep. Such perfected beings should not be confused with the host of creators, who, early in the dawn of manifestation, became captive to the cosmos. Extraordinarily important as these creative beings are, they still become trapped in the process of the emerging cosmos through the quality of their wonderment at its appearance out of the night of non-manifestation. By greeting the cosmos with a sense of otherness, they fell away from pure quietude into a more active state. At the same time, the wisest beings shared in the thrill of the dawn of manifestation, but stood apart from it, and resisted enthralment.

 To begin to understand what it might mean to stand apart from an entire period of cosmic manifestation, one might apply the principle of negation to one's entire life. Instead of being caught in the details of the present incarnation, one might think of how one should live one's next life. Before the age of seven one would want to do all that can negate the unnecessary illusions of later life. One would want to become so strong within oneself that even the most demonic environments of corrupt societies could not distort or interrupt one's tranquillity. For most human beings, even to consider such a possibility is extraordinary. It would involve being ready before the age of seven for the opportunities that exist at the age of fourteen. By fourteen one would be ready for the opportunities at the age of twenty-one, by twenty-one for the opportunities at the age of twenty-eight, and by twenty-eight for those that come at the age of thirty-five.

 To live life in such a Promethean manner, neither appearing pretentious to others nor becoming anxious about being considered foolish, one must anticipate myriad illusions. One must purge oneself of a brittle personality dependent upon likes and dislikes. One must free oneself from psychic vicissitudes, imagining oneself an untouchable one day and a saint the next. In principle, the capacity to cut through all the psychic froth stems from the possibility of awareness of the night of non-manifestation. Practically, as an individual aspirant, one must rescue the notion of one's being from deep sleep or sushupti. The capacity to withstand the bombardment of events and situations during the day is directly proportional to one's ability to bring back from deep sleep an awareness of formless self-existence.

 This continuity of consciousness has its cosmic basis in pure quietude or Sattva. It can also involve activity and an acceptance of ceaseless cosmic motion. This is actionless action. It is like a dance. If one experiences actionless action, then one can sleep undisturbed by the noisy traffic of the world. For one has gained a more exalted view of motion than known to the ordinary world. One has learnt to see behind that which is stagnant, or tamasic, finding there some sort of mirroring of the Divine Darkness. One is able to reach up to heaven, while keeping one's feet on earth. Mahatmic self-consciousness spans heaven and earth and is capable of assuming the properties of either. The perfected Bodhisattva is able to reach to the empyrean, the rarefied altitudes of Akasha, where pure substance exists in its ultimate tenuity, and to enter into the maximum field of differentiated matter. He can move at will from one state to another, freely passing in and out of vestures, not captive to them nor concerned to escape them.

 When the egoic principle is purified of all positive and negative desire, it is possible to experience universal selfhood. Sometimes enlightened beings say that they do not sleep, but rather that when the body wants to sleep, it does so and has nothing to do with them. They are always awake. This is a mirroring of the total uninvolvement in the modifications through the mind in the body and in the lower planes of existence of the perfect Bodhisattva. From this extraordinary state the Bodhisattva is able to witness the birth of worlds. Rooted in pure knowledge and unconditioned reality – Sattva and Sat – such a one is Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti Atma-Buddhi – and knows that

"the one Universal Light, which to Man is Darkness, is ever existent".... From it proceeds periodically the ENERGY, which is reflected in the "Deep" or Chaos, the store-house of future worlds, and, once awakened, stirs up and fructifies the latent Forces, which are the ever present eternal potentialities in it. Then awake anew the Brahmâs and Buddhas – the co-eternal Forces – and a new Universe springs into being.

Ibid., 337

 Such a Bodhisattva understands that there is a difference between darkness and light. From one perspective it seems possible to look at everything either as Absolute Light or as Absolute Darkness, but this is due to the contrast of light and darkness that human beings ordinarily experience relative to planes of extreme differentiation. These contrasts are relatively unreal. In a sufficiently homogeneous universal medium, there is a crucial difference between radiance and darkness. The wisest beings refuse to be impressed even by the most radiant and beautiful atom in pregenetic space. They have a metaphysical basis for appreciating beauty, whether in the flower of womanhood, in a glorious sunset or in the serene Himalayas, while at the same time not being captivated by any of these in concrete manifestation. Like Gandhi, they will not travel to the Himalayas, but rather extol the Himalayas of the heart which can be found in dusty crowded villages. They do not indulge themselves by surrendering to radiance because, through their metaphysics, they have come to contemplate Darkness, pure negation, and have recognized that the deeper one goes into the Darkness, the more one experiences pure Spirit.

 DARKNESS is the one true actuality, the basis and the root of light, without which the latter could never manifest itself, nor even exist. Light is matter, and DARKNESS pure Spirit. Darkness, in its radical, metaphysical basis, is subjective and absolute light; while the latter in all its seeming effulgence and glory, is merely a mass of shadows, as it can never be eternal, and is simply an illusion, or Maya.

Ibid., 70

 However beautiful, light is still matter. It is not spirit. Darkness is pure Spirit, and that is why one can experience most spiritual wakefulness, the greatest heights of meditation, in the night especially around the dawn of Venus. In the darkness it is possible to come closer to reality than in the bright light. Those who are metaphysically wise do not like the glare of the sun. They always seek the shade; they have no need of radiance on the physical plane. They know that at the moment of death, when one has the opportunity to leave the prison-house of the lower vestures, one will need to transcend the temptations of noumenal subtle light which have to do with the rupa devas. At an even higher stage, one must be able to transcend the subtler temptations associated with the hosts of the arupa devas and enter into the absolute Divine Darkness of total negation.

 No progress can be made in this direction at the moment of death unless one prepares for it now during life. That is why Plato and Shankara insisted on the importance of seeing the whole of life as a ceaseless preparation for death. Life should be lived as a continual transcendence of the illusion of being connected with a name and form, with the five sense-organs and with the subtler astral senses. One must move beyond the entire kaleidoscopic world of beautiful and radiant dreams bound up with the concept of a personal ego. One must see instead that there is nothing more real, nothing more radical or primordial, nothing more invisible and eternal, than Darkness as pure Spirit. The soul must realize that Light in its highest philosophic sense has nothing to do with what is normally called light on the physical plane. But it must also necessarily go beyond light in this exalted sense.

 Ultimately, even when one salutes Daiviprakriti Brahma Vak, Wisdom itself in the unmanifest, which is like radiant light – one should see it from behind, from within without. If one stands before the radiant veil of Wisdom, one may adore it. But when one abides behind it, one may see it from the standpoint of Divine Darkness (SAT). Then one may appreciate it all the more. And one may also see that aspect of it which is illusory, relative to a vast manvantaric period of manifestation. Rooted in that Darkness, one can understand and aid the travail of all beings engaged in the universal quest for enlightenment and so help them along the Path.

Hermes, May 1984
by Raghavan Iyer