Ananda is a term that is used across Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. In yogic theory, ananda is used to mean pure joy or bliss.
Ananda Deep Dive
Ananda is divine joy, one of the highest states of being. You may have heard it as part of the phrase ‘satcitananda‘, referring to Brahman, the ultimate, unchanging reality.
Sat-cit-ananda is usually broken down into truth-consciousness-bliss. Though they are shown as three different words, they are not separate entities. These are all part of Atman and co-exist together.
Ananda in Hinduism
The ultimate pursuit of Hinduism is to know Brahman (the ultimate reality), who is also Atman (the true self) because they are one and the same.
This is clear in the Upanishads, for example:
He realized that bliss (ananda) is Brahman; for from bliss, verily, are these beings born; by bliss, when born, do they live; into bliss [at the time of dissolution] do they enter, do they merge.Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1
Here, the passage is explaining that bliss (ananda) is the manifestation of Brahman, which comes with the realization of non-duality (a belief that there is an indivisible reality from which all beings derive their consciousness).
The true self is a state of sat-cit-ananda – bliss is our natural state of being. It is both in Brahman and every human because we are Brahman too. In the union with our higher self, we can come to see that Brahman and ananda live in all of us.
Some Hindus, based on the reading of the Bhagavad Gita, expound the term ananda as happiness that is derived through controlling the mind and having pure thoughts and actions. Ananda comes from:
Serenity of thought, gentleness, silence, self-control, and purity of purpose — all these are declared as austerity of the mind.Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 17, Verse 16
In the Gita, attachment to the material world and the senses are what causes suffering, the opposite of ananda.
Ananda in Buddhism
Ananda was the name of one of the Buddha’s ten disciples and his cousin.
As Buddha got older, he chose Ananda to be his personal attendant to accompany him to places and support him in as many ways as possible so he could continue teaching the Dharma and spreading the message of Buddhism.
As Buddha’s devoted companion, Ananda was known to have a great memory of his teachings which eventually formed the basis of the Sutra Pitaka, literally meaning ‘basket of teachings’.He was said to have recalled every sermon of the Buddha word for word, becoming known as the Guardian of the Dhamma. Ananda stayed as the attendant of Buddha for the rest of his life.
As well as being a concept in Hinduism and Buddhism, Ananda is also the name of the global spiritual movement founded by Swami Kriyananda, based on the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda.
You might recognize this name from his text, The Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda was a ‘pioneering father of Yoga in the West’.
He teaches how ananda greatly differs from the temporary happiness, joy, or even bliss we gain from worldly pleasure, such as eating good food, traveling to new places, or practicing new skills.
He says that ananda is the joy that:
changes and dances itself in many ways to enthrall your mind and keep your attention occupied and interested foreverFinding The Joy In Life – Paramhansa Yogananda
Ananda is the bliss that is independent of any external circumstances and emanates from within.
Ananda In your Life
1. Bhakti Yoga
Any of the yoga paths are a good place to start if you want to move towards a state of ananda, but Bhakti, for me, is a particularly powerful place to start.
Bhakti is about devotion and expressing your unconditional love and commitment to the divine and your higher self, or Atma, which can help you to find that unwavering joy that is, and always has been, an intrinsic part of your nature.
From joy we have come, in joy we live and have our being, and in that sacred joy we will one day melt again.Taittiriya Upanishads 3:6:1
2. Kriya Yoga
This is another path of yoga that Yogananda champions for rediscovering ananda. His teachings and movement state that it can only be found through committed, regular meditation practices.
They state that Kriya Yoga is a highly potent meditation practice that can help you realize God’s divinity within yourself.
Nothing belongs to us, no matter how badly we want it to or believe it is so. Ultimately, we can never fully own anything because everything is constantly in flux. Everything in our material reality is impermanent.
Because of this, we should turn our attention to the only permanence that exists – our true nature. Developing a practice of non-attachment will develop a sense of freedom within ourselves, a freedom that is conducive to the knowing of ananda.
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