mANDUkya upaniShad Part 6

Mantra 5

*** Read Part 5 ***

यत्र सुप्तो न कञ्चन कामं कामयते न कञ्चन स्वप्नं पश्य्ति तत् सुषुप्तम्।
सुषुप्तस्थान एकिभूतः प्रज्ञानघन एवानन्दमयो ह्यानन्दभुक् चेतोमुखः प्राज्ञस्तृतीयः पादः॥ ५॥

yatra supto na ka~nchana kAmaM kAmayate na ka~nchana svapnaM pashyati tat suShuptam |
suShuptasthAna ekibhUtaH praj~nAnaghana evAnandamayo hyAnandabhuk chetomukhaH prAj~nastRRitIyaH pAdaH || 5 ||

tat suShuptam – That (is called) the deep-sleep state
yatra supto – in which the sleeper
kAmyate na ka~nchana kAmaM – desires nothing (not any desired objects)
na pashyati ka~nchana svapnaM – nor sees any dreams.
tRRiitIyaH pAdaH – The third aspect
prAj~naH  – (is called) ‘the one who knows or understands’,
suShuptasthAna – the state of deep sleep.
ekibhUtaH – (In this state), everything is undifferentiated (literally ‘one element’),
praj~nAnaghana eva –  just a homogenous mass of Consciousness
AnandamayaH – full of bliss,
hi Ananda bhuk – indeed the ‘enjoyer’ of bliss.
chetomukhaH – (Literally) it is the one whose mouth is intelligence.

The third aspect of the Self is prAj~na. This is the deep-sleep state in which one neither desires anything nor sees any dream. Everything is undifferentiated; simply blissful Consciousness alone, gateway to the other two cognitive states.

Mantras 5 and 6 are about the third state of consciousness – deep sleep. Mantra 5 deals with the individual, vyaShTi aspect, known as prAj~na, while Mantra 6 addresses the universal, samaShTi aspect, called antaryAmin.

 ‘Sleep’ in general is supta in Sanskrit but we could be in deep sleep or dreaming and still be ‘asleep’. The prefix su indicates ‘good, excellent, well’ and, of course, the most restful sleep is deep sleep – suShupta – when there are no dreams to disturb the peace! When I am functioning (or rather resting!) in this state, I am called prAj~naH.

The deep-sleep state is one in which we are not aware of anything. But this is not because there is no awareness present, rather because there is nothing there of which we could be aware. The senses are not functioning and the mind itself is effectively ‘switched off’. There are no reasoning faculties and no memory – no manas, buddhi or chitta. This is analogous to looking into deep space with the sun behind us. Everything would appear black because there is nothing there to reflect the sun’s light. The world and the mind are said to be ‘resolved’, i.e. in an unmanifest form. Experiences are ‘unified’, as the Upanishad puts it (ekibhUtaH); condensed, as it were, into an ‘undifferentiated mass’ of Consciousness (prAj~naHnaghana). There is no duality. Whereas both waking and dream states are characterized by a subject and an object, whether it be external or internal, in the deep sleep state there is awareness of neither. Whilst there is a ‘concealing’, AvaraNa, of reality in all three states, there is projection of an appearance, vikShepa, only in the waking and dream states.

Shankara uses the metaphor of the darkness of night time obscuring the objects around us. Phenomenal objects are ‘covered over’, as it were, when darkness falls. They are still there but can no longer be seen. Similarly, the imagined world of dream, and the objects of the waking world (which are also nothing other than name and form – effectively thoughts arising in Ishvara) become undifferentiated in deep sleep. But they are all still there, waiting to become manifest again when the sun of the waking state or the moon of the dream state illumines them (my images, not Shankara’s)! All conscious experiences, then, become a ‘mass of Consciousness’, because there is nothing to differentiate experience. There is effectively nothing but Consciousness (eva, literally ‘verily’).

The fact that both the waking and dream worlds are ‘ready’ in unmanifest form, to ‘spring out’ as soon as Consciousness goes through the gate, to ‘look’ outwards or inwards, is why the deep sleep state is also known as the ‘causal’ state, with the other two states its ‘effects’. (The word eva can apparently also be read as iva and translated as ‘as it were’, meaning that the ekibhUtaH nature is only temporary, since the unified Consciousness springs back into apparent multiplicity when we move into waking or dream. (Ref. 21)

Upon waking from deep sleep, we know that we did not know or experience anything; i.e. we acknowledge that there was Consciousness still there but with no object of which we could be aware – the sun shining into the void. It is a state in which we do not desire anything (na ka~nchana kAmaM) – equating to the waking state, in which awareness goes out to sense objects – nor do we have any dreams (ka~nchana svapnaM) – in which awareness is ‘turned inwards’ to manufacture an imaginary world based upon past impressions and thoughts.

Because Consciousness is now left to its own devices, with no seeming external element of world or thoughts to distract it, it is now as though in its elemental form of satyam j~nAnam anantam and, in so far as there could be said to be any experience, it is one of bliss (AnandamayaH, hi Anandabhuk). (Note that the word maya, here, means ‘consisting of’ and has nothing to do with the power of mAyA.) It is blissful because that is our real nature and we are taken away from it precisely by those perceived external objects and internal thoughts. The mistaken belief that I am a limited individual, which also clouds the natural bliss, is also absent. The deep sleep state is without distinctions or manifoldness – nirvikalpa.

We also know that we are not directly aware of the bliss at the time, unlike the bliss of samAdhi. The bliss is there because the mind is absent. It is registered by the kAraNa sharIra instead of the sUkShma sharIra or mind. With the latter, I am aware as it happens but with the former, it is only when we subsequently awake that we are able to appreciate, by comparison of our usual waking feelings with the ‘awareness of nothing’ that existed during deep sleep, that ‘I slept well’. There was nothing present to distract me from my natural state. The deep sleep state is also sometimes equated with the ‘sheath of bliss’ (Anandamayakosha) of the Taittiriya Upanishad and this is the reason why. The ‘experience’ is not bliss itself, precisely because it is an experience which, by definition, has a beginning and an end – we wake up and are back in the world of temporary happiness and pain. prAj~naH is conditioned by the causal upAdhi of ignorance. Nevertheless, it is an effortless experience of bliss so the deep sleeper is said to be Anandabhuk.

Deep sleep is said to be the mouth or ‘gateway’ between the waking and dream states. We cannot pass from one to the other without going through the intermediary state of deep sleep. (So says Advaita. I rather think that science says that most of us experience a dream state immediately prior to waking, and this is when we remember our dreams. And that is my own experience also.) Consciousness passes through the gateway, as it were, to re-enter the waking or dream world, prompted by ignorance, avidyA. So the bliss remains temporary until the ignorance is dispelled once and for all on enlightenment. Consciousness passes through the gate into the external waking world, where desire for objects takes us away from our natural state of bliss. And it passes through into the inner world to be carried off into the vAsanA-manufactured world of dream.

As regards the reason for the term ‘prAj~naH’, Shankara offers three reasons (Swami Nikhilananda translation, Ref. 4), although the logic for none of them is really explained:

  1. Because it is conscious of the past and future as well as of all objects. There is no further explanation for this surprising claim but it is assumed to refer to the fact that the ‘knowledge’ of both the other states, whether the earlier ones or the ones to come, is ‘contained’ (in an unmanifest state) within deep sleep.
  2. It is the ‘knower par excellence’ (or ‘best knower’, as Prof. Dave puts it in ref. 21) because of its having been so in the two previous states.
  3. Because of the undifferentiated feature, whereas the other two states experience variety.

In fact, the meaning of prAj~naH in this context – i.e. the ‘I’ sense identified with the deep sleep state – cannot be arrived at from the dhAtuj~nA’. The dictionary meaning, which is derived from the dhAtu is simply ‘one who is wise’.

*** To be continued ***