Before going into a consideration of Deep Sleep, once again a small detour.
Dennis raised in an e-mail the question of Sleepwalking. Where would it fit in the Model?
Some people amble around in sleep and even hurt themselves. A few persons could commit heinous crimes in the state of somnambulism. A well-known case is that of Kenneth Park in 1987 when he strangulated his father-in-law and killed his mother-in-law. However, he was let out by the court on the ground that he was sleepwalking when he harmed and killed people. A similar case of acquittal also occurred in 1846. Apparently the body of the sleepwalkers is active but the mind seems to be asleep.
Neuroscientifically speaking, in the case of sleepwalking, the motor cortex of the brain is functional whereas the frontal lobe vested with executive functions is at rest. This means that a part of the mind (that propels the body to act) is active while the part responsible for reasoning and self-control is asleep.
We may note that the English word “mind” is a lumped up term used to denote the four distinct functions identified in Vedanta as
manas (mentation or thoughts and counter thoughts),
chitta (memory or stored knowledge),
buddhi (intellect or discretion and decision making) and
ahankara (ego or a sense of a separate ‘self’).
Taking the case of Mr. Park, we can see that the faculties of mentation (he was thinking of action), memory (he remembered the driving directions etc.) and ego (he knew his relationship with the in-laws) are active but the intellect for discrimination was dysfunctional or non-functional. Three of the four faculties of the mind were in “active” mode and so also was the body during sleepwalking. Therefore, it falls in the top left hand box of the Model, but not in the IV Block.
The above analysis shows that there is ample scope to expand “The Model for Nirvana” suggested here into a more detailed matrix in order to map different mental states. Instead of taking ‘mind’ as a single unit, we may consider a combination of one or more of the four functional divisions of the mind and body. We will then have a total of five entities unlike the two only in the Model. We will get distinct and well defined pigeonholes for situations like: People acting under amnesia (body active but no memory), people working with extreme focus like sportsmen in “zone” (body in action but no sense of a separate ‘self’ (ego)).
Ah, now let us get into Deep Sleep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !
Every person has an ID (a unique name, an identity, for functioning in the world). The ID comprises the autobiographical info plus the current sensations received through the five senses. The autobiographical memories tell me that I am so and so, my name is such and such, I am a human being, I am a professional, I am trained in a specialty, I aspire for some particular goal etc. The current sensations are interpreted by mental processes to give me a feel of the presence of a body for me ‘here’ (embodiment) and a world ‘out there’ for transactions by ‘my’ body.
The mind is actively interpreting the sensations received by the five senses when we think we are “awake” and see a world. We often equate our ‘being aware’ to the presence of such an active mind.
However, there are times when we do not feel the worldly sensations, though the mind continues to be active. It is the state of “dreaming.” During dreaming (it can be daydreaming or night dreaming – makes no difference), we are not aware of the normal wakeful world external to us and we are lost in our own imaginary or dream world.
There is also a state that all of us go through when the sensory organs as well as the mental processes are not active. This is the “deep sleep” state. This state comes on its own without any of our effort. I cannot pre-decide that I will be in ‘deep sleep’ right now or at a specified place or time later. I do not have to spend energy or practice any technique to get into ‘deep sleep state.’ In this ‘deep sleep state’, my “mind” (= autobiographical memories + mental processes) is not present.
Because the mind is absent, I have no perception of any “object” or a memory of perceiving any object during the deep sleep state. The time factor we refer to when we make statements like “I had deep sleep from so and so time to so and so time” is a later ‘thought’ occurring after the deep sleep is over.
In other words, the thought about time duration (how long) concerning ’deep sleep’ arises now in the current moment of making that statement in a wakeful state. The actual time lapse is not experienced during the deep sleep. We are also not aware of the couch or location where our body was lying during our sleep. Hence both time and space are absent during deep sleep. Though the mind is absent, something is alive and continuing all through deep sleep because after I get up from sleep I say I am happy, I slept soundly.
Please note that the statement about happiness and having slept soundly has not come from a memory of the experience we had during the deep sleep state. Who is it then making this statement?
The “i” which we normally assume we are, is the symbol or shorthand for our ID – the summation of our autobiographical memories and body sensations. So this “i”, which is not the true “I”, usurps the property of the ever-existing Awareness and makes an ownership claim for the “happiness” of the deep sleep. So the little “i” says : “i had a good sleep.”
The fact is that the true “I” and “Happiness” are not two different things. It is one and the same. (See: http://compassionworks.com/blog/posts/the-true-i/)
But the “i” thinks it is different from “I” and feels it has experienced ‘happiness’.
“i” imagines itself to be a distinct entity and considers happiness to be something sitting separately ‘out there’. “i” could as well have said that “i” experienced “I” (“I” is another name for Happiness, as said above). But it cannot say so because “i” (a thought) is not outside “I” (= Happiness)!
In other words, when “i” is absent what remains is Happiness alone.
Another name for “i” is ego. “i” gets generated the moment a thought of a ”me” being separate entity arises. (“I” is called Brahman and “i” is chidabhaasa in the Vednata lingo).
Expressing it differently, mind is absent during deep sleep. Therefore, there is no world (because a world arises only when there is a thought (= mind)). As mind is absent, the small “i” (which is also a thought) is also absent and whatever is there in deep sleep is merely nameless natural state. Hence we can say that during deep sleep a distinct experiencer, the act of experiencing and a separate object to be experienced do not exist. That is to say that there are no multiple things and whatever is present is “I” which is the same thing as Happiness, the atmaswarupa.
Hence, Rupert Spira says:
“From the perspective of the waking state, deep sleep appears as a vague memory of a blank nothingness, which apparently lasts for an undetermined period of time. This memory, like all memories, comes in the form of a thought, which, like all thoughts, irrespective of whether they are about the past, present or future, take place ‘now.’
The ‘deep sleep,’ to which the ‘memorising-thought’ refers, is utterly non-existent at the time of the occurrence of the memorising thought. In other words, the only evidence, in the waking state, for the existence of an experience called ‘deep sleep’ comes in the form of a thought.
Thought first imagines deep sleep and, in order to conceive of it in its own language of apparent objectivity, it superimposes onto it the qualities of blankness and duration.
What is known as deep sleep, is simply the presence of Consciousness without the appearance of mind (taking mind here to include all thinking, imagining, sensing and perceiving).
From the point of view of experience, which means from the point of view of Consciousness, there is no experience of a dark, blank nothingness. Rather, there is only the ‘experience’ of itself, which means only the presence or being of itself. This is neither deep, dark, blank or asleep. It is dimensionless, present, luminous, alive and awake.”
“Deep sleep is not in time. It is timeless.
In other words, deep sleep is not a state that lasts for a period of time between two states of waking (or dreaming) but rather the waking and dreaming states appear ‘from time to time’ within the ever-present and timeless reality of deep sleep.
Another way of saying this is that the content of deep sleep cannot and will never, by definition, appear within the mind. Do not look for it there.
So, once again, I would say that in order to explore the experience of deep sleep we have to go to that place in ourselves that is prior to the mind. That place from which we derive the certainty of our knowledge ‘I am,’ is prior to the mind. It knows itself prior to the arising of mind. It is ever-present.
Of course we cannot ‘go there’ because the one that would go there, that is, our Self, is already That.
Therefore to know deep sleep, simply take your stand knowingly as the Presence of Awareness that you are.”
[Note: The unexplained implication of this understanding is that a new world is created historylessly from moment to moment with every new thought. However, we seem to think that “i” comes back into the same world in which “i” went to sleep. This happens because of “recognition” (pratyabhijna). In order to accommodate “recognition”, it is sometimes proposed that the mind lies dormant during deep sleep and becomes active again. In this formulation, 'deep sleep' is thought to be one of the transitory states like the dream and wakeful states and an unbroken abidance in Consciousness (Brahman) is beyond the deep sleep state.
The implication of this would be that we continue to non-apprehend Brahman in the deep sleep state. In the wakeful and dream states we not only non-apprehend Brahman (i.e. do not realize what It Truly Is) but also mis-apprehend (i.e. understand It to be something other than what It really is). Hence, one component (of taking Brahman to be something other than what It is) stops during deep sleep but our inability to know the Truth (non-apprehension) continues.
Such an understanding will be in conformity with the formulation that the mind is not annihilated in deep sleep but remains dormant and it rises again when we wake up. Some others say that mind sees ‘darkness’ (= ignorance) in deep sleep and therefore, a perceiver continues to exist with ‘ignorance’ being the separate 'object' that is perceived. Instead of various ‘objects’ veiling the truth as it happens during wakeful state, it is ‘ignorance’ that veils the Truth during deep sleep.
We may appreciate that there is no fundamental difference in these expressions and they say the same thing from different viewpoints about "veiling" the Truth.
Traditional Advaita says that the three states of awake, dream and deep sleep occur as passing phases over an ever existent unchanging background of Consciousness (Reality = Truth) and is called as Turiya. Advaita urges the seeker to understand this Turiya and meld into It the imaginary "ego." To abide in Turiya unceasingly is Liberation.]
Let us go back to the formualtion that Consciousness (Brahman) has taken the shape of deep sleep and the little “i” (the ego) has dissolved in deep sleep. Effectively, in a sense, that means the death of “i”.
“i” being merely a fallacious, imaginary entity, how can one speak of its death? So death has also to be an imagination only. Therefore, as Rupert puts it, “Deep sleep is, death is not.”
Death and Love:
Let us look at death in another way.
The ending of the imaginary “me”, the little “i”, is the end of the ego, or in other words, the end of what I describe as my “Personality”, the person in me.
So what dies in the ending of the ego is actually the imagined personality which is nothing but a bunch of ‘floating’ descriptors imagined for ‘myself’ to delimit and give an ID to a “me.”
In other words, the chosen set of descriptors of my ID draw an imaginary boundary around that set separating a ‘me’ from the rest. The boundary of separation creates a distance between me and the other.
The distance shows up sometimes as a ‘lack’ of close intimacy between ‘me’ and the ‘other.’ “i” desire to tightly hug and meld into the other. This desire to close the gap is usually called “to fall in love” in common parlance. In that love, “i” would strive to lose the sense of me, as a separate ‘person’ that “i” think “i” am and look for identity with the object (divine, human or other) of my love. In the fulfillent of that love is the death of the sense of my separate ‘personality.’
So end of the imaginary separate ‘me’, the death of my person, is the fulfillment of Love.
The ending of the artificially drawn boundary giving a separation as an ‘ego’ while the body-mind is still alive resulting in total integration of what Is All is True surrender. That is Liberation.
(To continue: Anesthesia, Deep Sleep, Death And Consciousness – Part 3/3)