Examining the word “Sat”

Author: Gopal Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)


Examining the word “Sat”.

In modern Saḿskrta, “sat” means “good” and “asat” means “bad”, but in Vaedika Saḿskrta (Original sanskrit dating back more than 2000 years ago), “sat” means “that which undergoes no change”.

So the word “sat” means “that which undergoes no change.

The word “Sat” is found in many words that we use commonly.

Such as “Satyam”. What is Satyam? The movement towards Sat is satyam. What is sat? “Sat” means “that which does not undergo metamorphosis.” What is the object that undergoes no metamorphosis? The Cosmic Cognitive Principle undergoes no metamorphosis; hence it is the Sat entity. That entity is also known as “Sat Cit Ánandam”; and the mental movement towards that Sat entity is “Satyam”.

Saccidánanda is derived from a conversion of three terms, namely: sat, cit and ánanda. These are so often translated as “existence”, “knowledge” and “bliss”. This is not only loose terminology but incorrect.

Cit does not mean “knowledge”. It means “consciousness”. It is by the power of cit that the Cosmos is created, and it is this power that through the unit mind experiences or activates created substance. This subjectivation is only due to the Consciousness or Citishakti in Brahma.

The meaning of ánanda is of course “bliss”. It may more correctly be translated as “divine bliss” – the bliss experienced subjectively and not in an objective manner.

Another example, the word sannyása had been derived form saḿ (or sat) plus nyása. The word sat refers to the unchangeable Entity. The word sanyása implies one’s total identification with that unchangeable Entity.

Now the word “Satsauṋga”. Sat means “Truth”, that which is unchangeable, the Absolute. Only He is unchanging, so He alone is Truth. Sauṋga means “company”. So satsauṋga means “the company of Parama Puruśa”. But a second meaning is also there. This term is also used to describe the company of good people. The first is internal, the second external. As we said above, internal satsauṋga is given through our growing love for Him, and this, if the sádhaná be done faithfully, is an internal satsauṋga. But external satsauṋga must be sought out by us, by our careful choosing of the company we need. Time spent with others who are also actively seeking His internal satsauṋga, will give very much momentum to your own spiritual quest (sádhaná).

Asato má sadgamaya

tamaso má jyotirgamaya

Mrtyormá amrtaḿ gamaya.

The Rishi prays,

“Lead me from the mutable (asat) to the immutable (sat),

from darkness (tamas) to light (jyoti),

from mortality (mrtyu) to immortality (amrta).”

Before understanding the meaning of the shloka, try to understand properly the significance of the words used in it and their reference. The first pair of words is “asad-sad.” That which undergoes a process of metamorphosis is called “asad.” There is no happiness in it. We don’t want this changing world; it gives us pain. It converts our happiness into unhappiness. The second word is “tamas.” Where there is tamas there is no essence of spirituality. Therefore the prayer petitions someone to take him from asad to sad, from darkness to light.

Through change, a baby becomes old. Final change is known as “death”. That which is mutable is death. Therefore the Rishi wants to be led from mortality to immortality.

Let us see how the term “Sat” applies to Gandhari. Gandhari of Mahabharata was a noble lady of firm principles. A woman of integrity is called a “satii”. (In Sanskrit, the term “sat” means a virtuous man, whereas the word “satii” is used to describe a woman of integrity and pure character.) Both a maiden and a widow can be called “satii nárii”. Gandhari was a noble lady of high integrity. She was virtuosity par excellence. She was a princess of Gándhára, or Kandahar, a province of Afghanistan. When she was told that she would be married to Dhritarastra, who was born blind, she immediately blindfolded her eyes with a piece of cloth. Her contention was that as her husband was blind, she too should be blind. She removed the blindfold from her eyes only twice in her lifetime. The first time was on the eve of the Kurukśetra war when Dhritarastra instructed his one hundred insolent sons to go to her and ask for her blessing. “Go, my sons, to your mother. She is a lady of uncommon virtue,” he said. “Go to her and ask for her blessing.” They did according to their father’s bidding.

Now, one cannot bless others with closed eyes. Dhritarastra thought that Gandhari would surely take off her blindfold while blessing her sons, and that she being a satii nárii, blessing with her eyes open, the blessing would certainly be effective. Dhritarastra reminded his son Duryodhana that his arch-enemy was Bhima. He advised him, “My son, your mother being a Satii nárii, if she casts a benevolent glance on your body, it will become as hard as a thunderbolt.” At that time Duryodhana was already a fully grown man, so he went to his mother wearing a loincloth, not completely undressed. The story goes that when Gandhari blessed him, his body grew as hard as a thunderbolt, except that portion covered by the cloth, which remained as soft as before. Krśńa alone knew this fact. At the end of the war, when Bhima was trying in vain to strike Duryodhana down, Krśńa signalled to Bhima to indicate the soft point on Duryodhana’s body where Bhima could deal a mortal blow with his mace. Bhima struck Duryodhana on that soft point and he died.

So Gandhari first removed her blindfold when blessing her sons. (As she was firmly committed to dharma, she did not say, “May you be victorious,” but proclaimed,

“Yato dharma tato Krśńah, yato Krśńah tato jayah”

“Where there is dharma, there is Krśńa; where there is Krśńa, there is victory”.

It was against her principles to pray for the victory of the impious.

And she removed the blindfold for the second time when the battlefield of Kurukśetra had become a burial ground. After Krśńa had spoken some words of consolation to Gandhari, she said, “O Krśńa, I know and admit that You are Táraka Brahma, that You are Parama Puruśa. If You had only wished something to happen, it would have certainly taken place accordingly. What then was the necessity of enacting such a bloody drama? It was totally unnecessary. You played the role of an ordinary man. You wrote the drama to serve as a lesson and inspire the common people. Yet you played the role of an ordinary man. Being Táraka Brahma, whatever You mentally imagine will take place accordingly. But no, You unnecessarily killed my sons and made my one hundred daughters-in-law widows. Had You only wished the victory of dharma, dharma would have been victorious.”

In Sáḿkhya philosophy this same question comes up. Since He was the vast Puruśottama, whatever He wished would have come to pass. Krśńa replied, “It is true that Parama Puruśa could do everything by mere wish. He could do everything without creating this world, without this Cosmos. But the drama of the Kurukśetra war was enacted to teach the common people that ultimately dharma always triumphs over adharma (injustice, unrighteousness). It was meant for popular education. If Parama Puruśa were to accomplish everything by mere thought-projection, that would be hidden from people’s sight, and people would not learn anything from it. But when people see these events with their own eyes, they learn what should be done and what should not be done. Hence, the battle of Kurukśetra had to be conceived and dramatized. You, being an intelligent lady, certainly understand this.”

The bereaved Gandhari understood, but she threw back one more question. “I understand that You conceived of such a drama to educate the masses. But was it necessary to give my sons the roles of the adhármikas? You could have given the Pandavas the roles of the adhármikas, and my sons the roles of the dhármikas.”

The argument was irrefutable. Krśńa had no choice but to keep silent. Then Gandhari said, “Krśńa, I shall pronounce a curse on You. Accord me Your permission.” Before cursing Parama Puruśa, one should first take His permission. Krśńa said, “So be it.” Gandhari then uttered the curse, “Just as the Kuru princes perished before my very eyes, let the Yadava princes die in Your presence.”

Krśńa said, “Tathástu”, “Let it be so”. This very utterance, Tathástu, proves that Krśńa was not an ordinary puruśa.