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Ananda is a Sanskrit word that has found a place in international English because of the influence of yoga, meditation, and the philosophies and arts of India.

Its near equivalents are pleasure, joy and bliss. However these do not convey the special meaning of Ananda, which is more than these experiences, as it points not just to an experience but to an inherent characteristic of consciousness. Experiencing Ananda is both a capacity of consciousness and it is also its highest impulse. In Indian philosophy a gradation of functions was described for consciousness (Sanskrit:chit): starting with activities of nutrition and of other perceptual functions for body-mind survival, followed by the collective activities of the senses and of mind which lead to cognition, and finally, at the apex, ananda—absorption and transformative bliss.

This conception of bliss as transformational can be explained as follows - bliss is not seen as being ‘blissed out’, but rather as being ‘blissed in’ or/and ‘blissed up’ – an experience that is integrative and causes a progression in understanding and cognitive growth.

This movement of consciousness towards ananda furnished the highest purpose of the arts (music, drama, dance, painting and sculpture) in classical Indian cultures – which was to help create transformational shifts in the human mind and spirit through Ananda.

Ananda is experienced as deep, profound and blissful joy. It is integrative and is marked by a sense of non-duality – the separation between the experience and the experiencer softens and dissolves, and a taste of non-conceptual understanding – of reality as it is (“suchness”, “is-ness”, “thus-ness”) is attained. It is one part of the inseparable triangulation of ‘reality-consciousness-ananda’ (sat-chit-ananda).

Tasting Ananda is considered transformative as it is part of the experiences of deep meditation, and because its experience is a moment of mini-awakening. It is an experience that becomes a part of one’s deep inner being. We wish to re-experience ananda, and, if possible, to make it a more active and continuous part of our everyday consciousness.

See also


Author: Shakti Maira