satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma (sat chit Ananda)
These three words are oft repeated in vedAnta. We are used to the gross world and perceive objects using our sense organs. So, we tend to take the meaning of this sentence as “There is a Brahman as an object, which I will perceive, which has the qualities of satyam, jnA~nam and anantham”. This is not the case. They are not qualities of Brahman. Qualities are possible only for objects. Brahman is the very subject without any qualities.
These words are called lakshaNa, meaning the words that indicate the nature of brahman. A word, as such is a qualifier for an object. When we say table, we are giving a name to a form with 4 legs. The name qualifies the form; but here the words are doing a different job. They are bringing out the nature (svarUpa) of Brahman by implication.
First let us look into the meaning of the words:
satyam – existence
jnA~nam – knowledge
anantam – limitlessness
Brahman is anantam satyam and anantam jnA~nam; meaning, Brahman is itself, limitless existence and limitless knowledge.
Let us see the word ananta first. ananta is limitless or infinite. This can be seen in three fold ways.
1) Spatial limitlessness (desha parichCheda rahitam)
2) Temporal limitlessness (kAla parichCheda rahitam)
3) Attribute wise limitlessness (vastu parichCheda rahitam)
Brahman is free from these three limitations.
Spatial limitlessness : This means that there is no location for Brahman. It cannot be limited to a space and you can never perceive a locus for it. It is all pervading.
Temporal limitlessness: This means that Brahman is eternal. Never was it not and never will it not be. Any object enjoys temporary existence while Brahman being the subject, is there in all the three periods of time. It is eternal
Attribute wise limitlessness: Brahman is not limited by another object. Each object is limited by its own attributes. A computer, for e.g., enjoys the qualities of a computer. There is computer-ness in it. A book has book-ness. A pen has pen-ness. Each object enjoys a specific set of attributes. This is a limitation, since, a computer though enjoys computer-ness, it does not have pen-ness and book-ness. Similarly, a book does not have pen-ness and computer-ness and so on. So, each object is limited and separated from others on the basis of certain qualities.
Brahman being the only one, it cannot be separated from any other. There is no other. Brahman is advitIyam. Then what are all the objects? They are mithyA– seemingly existent. Brahman has no attributes of its own, since it is not an object in space and time. It is non dual.
Hence, Brahman is ananta implies, Brahman is all pervading, eternal and non dual. It is free from the above mentioned three limitations.