Medard Boss, A Psychiatrist Discovers India

(translated from German into English by Henry A. Frey)

"Let us now meditate on the fundamental outlook which from time immemorial has induced Indian thinkers to experience all beings not as something made from the outside, but as something appearing, emerging, growing from within as beings released out of Brahman into existence. They have not seen beings as things to be represented in the consciousness of an ego-centred human subject in the forms of inner-psychic pictures, but as things revealing themselves directly to the human existence. This approach can not be a mere astonishment and amazement at the fact that something is-and how it is. Nor can it be a doubting of the reality of the world. Only a human being who is deeply moved by awe and who remains in a state of reverence does not fall prey to the will-to-explore-and-dominate that which shows itself to him, but remains all ears and eyes for the summons of the awe-inspiring phenomena. The awe-inspired person does not want to get hold of or to possess what he reveres, with the aid of his intellectual concepts. He seeks only to get himself into the frame of mind appropriate to the revered object--one which renders him open to its summons and makes his vision clear for its beckonings. He knows: if he manages to comply with the phenomenon that is worthy of his awe so perfectly that he catches sight of its entire truth, he has succeeded also in releasing himself from the chaos of all delusions.

"My dear friend, never succumb to the temptation of wanting to take conceptual possession of this 'brahman' or 'sat', to concretize and stratify it, to conceive of it as an 'Id' or as the 'collective unconscious' and to give it a structure by means of abstractions of pictorial images and ordering powers. All these are definitions from the restricted viewpoint of an intellect that fragments reality, calculates it and objectives it. Only for such an intellect is the ultimate reality of man something assembled from disparate individuals or psyches, something collective and something of which it, the intellect, can know nothing and can not be conscious. It is, however, more in accord with the facts to speak, not of a 'collective unconscious' but, rather, of an undivided, all-inclusive knowledge. But let us drop all this pinning of labels, and let us follow the far greater and wiser course exemplified so often by India's best spirits. Let us master ourselves to the point of, for once, not wanting to take possession of anything. Let us, rather, allow 'brahman' simply to occur, in the pristineness of its mystery, and let us adopt the course of enduring it as such and of keeping ourselves open to it. The whole game is lost from the outset if we seek to manipulate 'brahman' by means of our concepts. To be sure, something has to happen, not with it, however, but with us. We have to open up our selves and allow our being to become clear-visioned. We must do this to such an extent that our spiritual constitution becomes truly worthy of the 'brahman' nature and is in accord with it. Then it is 'brahman' or 'sat, for its part, that addresses and grants us the truth of its entire reality, without our having to do anything further about it. For this reason the Indian thinkers have never tried to work out qualitative definitions of 'brahman' or 'sat'. They have always stressed that at the very most our thoughts should circle about it on the 'neti-neti path', i.e. by the negation of its substantiality and qualitativeness, by saying: 'It is not that, not this and not that other thing.' The utmost they ventured to say on this subject was the mere demonstrative pronoun 'tat', which means 'that'. However, the really fitting human approach is just the noble silence that is prepared to 'hear'. Buddha two and a half millennia ago most impressively exemplified this noble silence for us as the only behaviour worthy of the real truth. Yet even today, every spiritual teacher in India will from the start subdue the loquacity of his pupil, lest from the outset the pupil dissipate 'brahman', with mere talk.

"'Brahman' or 'sat' permits the mysterious arising of being out of not-being. It always originally occurs as an illumination. To this India gives the name 'chit'. Judge for yourself now how disastrous for an understanding of the Indian science of man is its translation by the modern term 'consciousness'? If modern psychology says 'conscious', it is always, by that very fact, inquiring as to the 'whom', as to a subject, which has a 'consciousness', to which a 'consciousness' belongs as a property. Or, of course, psychologists may think of 'consciousness' as a kind of intellectual receptacle in which a human subject stores the ideas it forms of itself and of the mental representations of the objects of an external world. The basic Indian term 'chit', however, has nothing to do either with a subject or with a 'mind' and their psychological functions. It does not depend, either, on a representational content nor on a thing at all. According to the Indian insight, 'chit' is the non-objectifiable occurrence of the primordial, emergent, opening-up illumination, which can happen per se, without necessarily requiring the agency of the least thing. Can not the sunlight shine, even when there is nothing at all in space? Of course, there was in India also a preliminary stage leading to this insight, to the effect that the primordial illumination could be represented only as the perception of something in the light of the being of man. This doctrine was also fond of using the old simile: being and thinking belong together like two bundles of reeds leaning on each other. If one bundle is taken away, the other one too falls down says the relevant Upanishad. More advanced Indian thought, however, regards this view as still undeveloped and crude. It always experiences the ultimate truth about reality as a primarily 'contentless' lighting-up.

"At the same time, this emergent illumination is a 'free' and redemptive' opening-up. Therefore, it is also said of it that it is 'ananda', or bliss. 'Sat-chit-ananda' is thus the threefold ancient Indian term which points in the direction of the truly disclosed, ultimate reality. I trust I no longer have to fear that you will misunderstand this 'sat-chit-ananda' as having some kind of substantive existence. Nor is it meant in any attributive sense, as a designation of properties intended to define a thing qualitatively."