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 chidAbhAsa 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, takes 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 the imaginary “ego” into It (TurIya). 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 fulfillment of that love is the death of the sense of my separate ‘personality.’
So the ‘end’ of the imaginary separate ‘me’, i.e. the death of my person (personality), is the fulfillment of Love.
The ending of the artificially drawn boundary (that is the cause to give raise to an island of separate ‘ego’ while the body-mind is still alive) resulting in total integration with what Is All is True surrender. That is Liberation.
(To continue: Anesthesia, Deep Sleep, Death And Consciousness – Part 3/3)
Let us go back to one of the statements you make equating Consciousness with Brahman. I wonder why you do this? Is this the conclusion of Advaita? Since I don’t hold myself up as a scholar and realize that many words seem to have different definitions attached to them, I will bring in the words of a man many consider to be a great example of someone who had understood the equation you have laid out, Nisargadatta Maharaj.
He said ‘consciousness cannot exist without the body which is a result of procreation. So ultimately, is this consciousness itself not based on impurity?’
To continue; ‘eventually, you have to give up this association with the consciousness. You are the paramatman, the Brahman. Consciousness is a time-bound state.’
So returning to your analysis of the deep sleep state, you somehow equate the big ‘I’ with consciousness. Clearly, what Maharaj is pointing to is neither the big nor the small ‘I’, but the end of ‘I’. Apprehension of the Absolute is not possible within the confines of Consciousness. According to what Maharaj says (I’m not saying he is correct, only that this is in direct opposition to what you are putting forth), consciousness is time-bound and related only to the 3 states of waking, dreaming, deep sleep, which are all bodily functions and will disappear when the body dies. Anything that comes and goes cannot be Absolute. So where does that leave us?
Thank you for the query.
Yes, when you said “many words seem to have different definitions attached to them”, it is so very true!
Maurice Frydman, who translated Maharaj’s dialogs adopted a different meaning than what is used here. He used “consciousness” for what we refer to as mind and distinguished it from Awareness which is Brahman in his usage.
It is common nowadays to use Consciousness, Awareness, Brahman as synonyms. This site and the works of Dennis and many other authors follow this convention. Further, when a word is used to convey Brahman, it is capitalized (upper case) to indicate that it is “Universal” and the same word with lower case letter refers to personal or individual. So ‘consciousness’ (with lower case ‘c’) connotes the individual’s awareness; Consciousness (upper case ‘C’) is Brahman.
When you read “I Am That”, you can replace ‘consciousness’ with mind.
I hope this makes the position clear.
[P.S: I felt the present post would have touched upon the issues raised by you in your last question (at the Post on Moksha) and hence I did not respond to it there.]
I knew Maurice Frydman but I did not quote anything from his book ‘I Am That’. All the quotes I referred to were from Robert Powell’s book ‘The Ultimate Medicine’. Jean Dunn’s books also use this terminology.
I’m not sure if this is a case of mistaken identity, so to speak. You are saying that Awareness is synonymous with Brahman?
Thanks again, Unknower.
If my memory serves me right, “The Ultimate Medicine” also follows the same terminology of Frydman.
I am not clear which case is being referred to by you as mistaken identity. What is being pointed to by the word “Awareness” in the Maharaj’s dialogs is the same ‘thing’ as the word Brahman points out.
You quoted Maharaj as saying: ‘eventually, you have to give up this association with the consciousness. You are the paramatman, the Brahman. Consciousness is a time-bound state.’
What Nisargadatta Maharaj indicated in the above quote was not to identify yourself with the mind. The True ‘You’ (the second person singular will be ‘I’ in the first person singular) is Brahman. Hence the identity he gives is I = Brahman.
So the association with mind has to end; ‘I’ will remain when all false identifications end. Maharaj was not asking to end ‘I’. ‘I’ = Brahman is eternal.
Sorry to ask what may seem basic questions about all this terminology, but, I’m trying to understand what you are talking about when you say ‘mind’. Putting a designation like small ‘i’ on mind does not quite explain what mind is. Is mind confined to our thinking and feelings, including all perceptions, knowledge, all possible experience? Is it synonymous with Self? Isn’t that what Consciousness is? I am conscious with or without thoughts. It implies some sort of being however nameless it might be. Does not this Consciousness itself disappear into the Absolute, the Brahman? Can there be anything left over to be aware, even of oneself, in this state? Isn’t this why it is claimed NOT to be an experience. A ‘you’ no matter if it is capitalized or small, cannot survive this equation.
Sorry if this is getting tedious but if you want to intellectualize all of this and lay it out as a map of sorts, it is essential to have a definition of every term possible unless you are speaking to an association of like-minded people who have already agreed to speak in these terms. Even then, it seems that there are those in whom some kind of illumination has taken place, and their ‘take’ on the matter is expressed quite differently, some even dismissing your map as well as many or all others.
To further my inability to follow the logic you lay out, in the Editor’s Notes to The Ultimate Medicine, Maharaj says ‘therefore when Brahman is transcended only the Parabrahman is, in which there is not even a trace of the knowledge I am.’ And further, ‘This Parabrahman lies beyond both duality and non-duality……………for there is no longer anyone or anything-not even the consciousness-to experience it.’
So we now have Brahman and Parabrahman. whew! 2 more concepts to fit into the map along with every other sage’s modification of the terminology set up before them. It strikes me that even after we might sort through all these terms and construct the perfect map, we are right back where we started from, re-interpreting through our own experience, each term, each state, the whole thing all over again. Is there no end to this? 🙂 It seems to me that no logic whatsoever can really interpret what death, deep sleep, or consciousness is. That logic itself is the first thing that must stop trying to ‘understand’ or ‘interpret’ experience, as logic IS the accumulation of experience and can only look at itself, not the thing it is purporting to look at. Do I make any sense? And, if logic is suspended, not killed off as we need it for certain tasks, what takes place then? Are you with me?:-)
You do not have to feel sorry, Unknower. A seeker does have to persist until things are clear!
Here are quick replies to your questions. Hope it will be of some use.
Q: Sorry to ask what may seem basic questions about all this terminology, but, I’m trying to understand what you are talking about when you say ‘mind’. Putting a designation like small ‘i’ on mind does not quite explain what mind is.
Is mind confined to our thinking and feelings, including all perceptions, knowledge, all possible experience?
A: Please do not imagine mind as a sort of container in which various things arise. The current thought (whether it is a sensation, perception etc.) is mind. As all thoughts are transitory, you can easily see that mind is something that by its very nature is always in movement.
Q: Is it synonymous with Self?
A: No. As per the convention here, Self is that which is witnessing the changing thought, perception, sensation etc., Itself being unchanging.
For example, you may consider each squiggle in the letters here and the spaces in-between as mind. Self is like the background white screen.
Q: Isn’t that what Consciousness is?
A: Self (capitalized) is Consciousness. ‘self’ (lower case) is the I-thought.
Imagine a scenario like this: you observed a flower under moonlight. What has illuminated the flower? Or rephrasing, what has made you conscious of the flower?
At the first level you will say moonlight.
But is it correct? Can moon give any light at all? No. She derives the light from the Sun. Right?
Likewise, you may at the first level say that you became conscious of the flower because of the mind. But mind itself is inert. It cannot make you conscious. It gets its illumination from Brahman. Just like the Sun is self-illuminating, Brahman is self-effulgent.
Q: I am conscious with or without thoughts. It implies some sort of being however nameless it might be.
A: Please examine carefully who it is that is conscious. Is there a separate I that possesses the quality of being conscious? Is Consciousness separate from Beingness?
You have to exist to know that you are conscious.
You have to be conscious to know that you exist.
Actually Consciousness and Existence are not two separate things. It is one and the same thing.
Q: Does not this Consciousness itself disappear into the Absolute, the Brahman?
A: Consciousness is Brahman as per the convention here.
Q: Can there be anything left over to be aware, even of oneself, in this state?
A: If you abide as Consciousness, stand as Awareness, That alone is there.
Q: Isn’t this why it is claimed NOT to be an experience.
Q: A ‘you’ no matter if it is capitalized or small, cannot survive this equation.
A: “You” is Brahman then.
Q: Sorry if this is getting tedious but if you want to intellectualize all of this and lay it out as a map of sorts, it is essential to have a definition of every term possible unless you are speaking to an association of like-minded people who have already agreed to speak in these terms.
A: You are right. Blog posts may not be the best way to exchange this sort of communication.
Maybe you would prefer a private e-mail dialog?
Q: Even then, it seems that there are those in whom some kind of illumination has taken place, and their ‘take’ on the matter is expressed quite differently, some even dismissing your map as well as many or all others.
A: Quite possible. I may not be able to clarify why certain others expressed in a different way. But I can recast what I wrote to improve clarity, remove any internal inconsistency.
Q: To further my inability to follow the logic you lay out, in the Editor’s Notes to The Ultimate Medicine, Maharaj says ‘therefore when Brahman is transcended only the Parabrahman is, in which there is not even a trace of the knowledge I am.’ And further, ‘This Parabrahman lies beyond both duality and non-duality……………for there is no longer anyone or anything-not even the consciousness-to experience it.’
A: Ah, there is a problem here!
Parabrahman is only a poetic expression of Brahman. As Brahman is One, there is no second, Advaita does not admit grades in Brahman.
Brahman = Parabrahman = Turiya.
In that situation “I” = Brahman. [I does not refer to a person, a name, knower or unknower. Such an I is not conscious of having a separate body or anything. I just remains as what IS.]
Q: So we now have Brahman and Parabrahman. whew! 2 more concepts to fit into the map along with every other sage’s modification of the terminology set up before them.
A: The Ultimate Medicine was a compilation of Maharaj’s dialogs in his last days. Many times he was impatient in expression and often cryptic in his message. Repeatedly he used to caution the listener that he would not get into preliminary explanations. Hope you keep note of that.
This particular text may be more useful for a seeker in the third phase (see below).
Q: It strikes me that even after we might sort through all these terms and construct the perfect map, we are right back where we started from, re-interpreting through our own experience, each term, each state, the whole thing all over again. Is there no end to this? 🙂
A: Traditionally three phases of Advaita study are identified – in some cases these phases may run concurrently.
The first phase is “Learning the message.” The second is to ingest it fully such that there is no doubt left in your mind on what is Brahman.
The third phase is to abide in Brahman unceasingly. Even here the mind, out of its sheer habit, pulls the seeker away from constantly contemplating Brahman. One has to be necessarily very vigilant so that one does not fall back into the lures of the mind.
Q: It seems to me that no logic whatsoever can really interpret what death, deep sleep, or consciousness is. That logic itself is the first thing that must stop trying to ‘understand’ or ‘interpret’ experience, as logic IS the accumulation of experience and can only look at itself, not the thing it is purporting to look at.
A: The analysis of the Deep sleep, dream and awake states, understanding death etc. are only tools. One may choose a different approach. Advaita has quite a few processes developed and a student may adopt the best that he/she is comfortable with and not be iost in the peripherals.
Q: Do I make any sense? And, if logic is suspended, not killed off as we need it for certain tasks, what takes place then? Are you with me?:-)
A: Exactly. Drop all logic = mental activity. Just rest. Be. If you really understood.
Yes, but I wonder why you don’t rest. 🙂 I say this with all due respect and appreciate your lengthy response which is very clear and logical. It’s a lot of work to think up and write these essays which can only appeal to the intellect and don’t really address the real issue of what we just said, ‘drop all logic=mental activity’. I’ll leave this with the words of Maharaj:
All paths lead to unreality. Paths are creations within the scope of knowledge. Therefore, paths and movement cannot transport you into Reality, because their function is to enmesh you within the dimension of knowledge, while the Reality prevails prior to it.
The Unknower: “…..but I wonder why you don’t rest.”
A: Just to rest, to be is not stillness. It’s activity, it’s life.
In Bhagavad-Gita’s words: “inaction in action.”
“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.”
I never understood this reasoning. The fact we can say “I slept soundly” does not necessarily imply that something was alive during deep sleep (at least not from the aspect of some continuous ‘I’). We are merely comparing memory from before falling asleep (I was tired, moody, restless or whatever) to the feeling after waking up (I am refreshed, energetic etc.) and the improvement, as with any improvement the mind registers during the waking state, is then translated into a feeling of happiness.
[First a quick clarification about the word “alive.” I am sure you know, but I mention to make it explicit. I used ‘alive’ in the sense of ‘knowing’, being sentient, or Awareness and not, in the biological sense of eating, talking etc.]
1. If the logic in the argument is not convincing to you, I suggest to ditch it. Take a different route. You may like to watch a few Videos of Rupert. For example:
(i) The True Expereince of Deep Sleep (5:19 min): http://non-duality.rupertspira.com/watch/the-true-experience-of-deep-sleep
(ii) Are we aware in deep sleep (12:31 min): http://non-duality.rupertspira.com/watch/are-we-aware-in-deep-sleep
(iii) The Body, Mind and World Disappear in Deep Sleep, but not Awareness (13:03 min): http://non-duality.rupertspira.com/watch/the-body-mind-and-world-disappear-in-deep-sleep-but-not-awareness-
2. You may also like to read the Series of my Articles on “The Enigma of Deep Sleep” at : http://advaita-academy.org/Blogs/ramesam.ashx#
(The Series starts in Nov 2013)
3. Happiness: You seem to define ‘happiness’ in relative terms as the felt-improvement in the mind (a tired mind vs. refreshed mind). A deeper examination of Happiness reveals a different story. Please listen to “Happiness and Love from Advaita Perspective”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpH0xDd-RCQ