What is Bliss?

Even writing an entire book about bliss didn’t make it any easier to describe it. What is bliss? It’s a hard question. That isn’t because bliss is vague, inchoate, or unreal, but rather because surpasses the capacity of language. Bliss is so vast, boundless, and immeasurable that it encompasses every possible word or definition ever invented—and then some. This is, of course, why we continue to stress that bliss must be personally experienced, not just discussed. Like so many aspects of life, bliss is not readily apparent to our senses. Because bliss is not an object or a thing, our faculties of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are not designed to detect it.

Still, let’s try.

When most people think of happiness, they think of everyday happiness. This is what we experience in our day-to-day reality. But bliss exists on an entirely different octave.

My spiritual teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, explained that bliss is, “a transcendental state of superior calm including within itself the consciousness of a great expansion and that of ‘all in One and One in all.’” When that sense of ego, of separation, melts away, a feeling of total connectedness, of no sense of a “me” separate from all of creation descends, that is bliss consciousness.

To break that down:

Bliss is an innate state of inner joy. It is constant, undisturbed by outward gain or loss. We all have the capacity for it, no matter our age, background, physical or mental disabilities, ethnicity, gender, or religion. External circumstances, whether positive or negative, happy or sad, do not affect it.

It is a state of unity, transcendence, completeness, knowingness, wholeness, and uplifted consciousness; it is a feeling of oneness and connection with all of creation. Bliss is never boring; it feels ever new, expansive, and infinite. When bliss appears, one instantly recognizes it as the most central of all truths. Bliss is the eternal, forever unchanging reality which permeates the universe.

Bliss is where happiness, meaning, and truth converge. everything—and I do mean everything—boils down to our (sometimes subconscious) pursuit of bliss. We pursue money or relationships because we think they’ll make us happy. We pursue our vocation, our hobbies, and our life’s passions because we feel they are deeply meaningful to us. We explore science, religion, and philosophical inquiry because we want to know the truth of our existence. Bliss is the universal place that these intersect, where all questions are answered, where every fulfillment is attained.

Bliss is found in every religion but does not require a specific religion in order to know it. Bliss is the ultimate state of consciousness that every religion holds as its highest goal and achievement, though each uses different terminology to explain it. Whether we are Christian or Hindu, Jewish or Muslim, Buddhist or atheist, Wiccan or animist, Taoist or Native American, we all strive for bliss.

Bliss is like white light. Just as pure light is the totality of all color, bliss is the conglomeration of all positive qualities. When seen through the prism of spiritual awareness, the subcomponents of bliss are joy, unconditional love, inner peace, power, connectedness, awe, and wisdom. Bliss cannot even be attained, really. The soul simply realizes that bliss simply is. It is what remains after everything external and fleeting disappears.

Bliss is hard to describe in the same way that poetry is. Poetry bypasses our intellectual system and hits on it through imagery, rhythm, musicality, intuition and direct feeling, so perhaps the best way to describe bliss is through a poem.

In 1929, Paramhansa Yogananda wrote a poem called “Samadhi”that captures the experience of pure bliss. This poem is special because Yogananda wrote it while in a state of bliss. This isn’t an “after report” or distant memory. It’s an attempt to communicate bliss as it’s unfolding. The poem, which is fairly long, concludes with this, which I think helps capture the feeling of it better than an intellectual explanation could:

Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays

Of all-pervading bliss.

From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.

Ocean of mind, I drink all creation’s waves.

Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,

Lift aright.

Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.

Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.

Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.

Eternity and I, one united ray.

A tiny bubble of laughter, I

Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

How do you describe bliss? Let us know on Facebook or on Twitter using #BlissIs.

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