Q. 388 – Fear of Deep Sleep

Q: I am reading Dennis’ book ‘The Book of One’, and I am on the chapter about deep sleep.

From the age of around seven ( I am now 51), I have had a morbid terror of sleep. Not dreaming sleep which I enjoy (I am one of those rare people that has quite regular lucid dreams), but deep sleep, and equate it with “unconsciousness or non-consciousness” or death which leads to death anxiety. I understand that this fear is a result of constructs that I have devised, and am my own torturer. But the enquiry in this book and other books on Hinduism I have read seems to be returning me to the same cul-de-sac that is the dead end of my search.

Just reading the chapter now left me cold with fear and even worse complete dissappointment, as it doesn’t feel intuitive to me that this is our natural state? I really don’t want to return here at all, is this a normal reaction people feel when they are introduced to this concept?

I am not an intellectual. I have persevered with the book and it’s concepts, even though at times it is quite clearly beyond my comprehension. But is that it? Is that all there is? A kind of acceptance of annihilation of this ego-mind… forever?

I have some recollection of the Indra story where they ask the same question of Prajāpati and wasn’t quite satisfied?

Will this fear pass?

A (Dennis): You should take up meditation with the determination to practice fully. The nature of this would depend upon which method you chose. I took up mantra-based meditation similar to TM, which required 30 mins practice twice per day. This sounds impossible to begin with I know but, after a few months, it becomes part of your routine. And you benefit in so many ways, both mentally and physically. But the point is that, eventually (the time varies from one individual to another), you reach the point where you begin to experience periods of samAdhi. At these times, your mind becomes totally still. You are still aware of external and internal events but you remain entirely detached from both. You know that you are neither the body nor the mind but the observer of these. There is no ego at these times because you recognize this independence. Ego IS identification with one or other.

In deep sleep, you do not experience anything. But this is because there is nothing to experience, not because ‘you’ have disappeared. You see neither external world (because the senses are inactive) nor internal thoughts (because the mind is inactive). But the Self that is the witnessing Consciousness in deep meditation is still present in deep sleep. It never ‘sleeps’ (or dies) because it is the only thing that really exists. It is who you really are.

Hope this helps!


The ‘Real I’ verses the ‘Presumed I’ – An Examination of chidAbhAsa

Ramana Maharshi’s instruction to seekers to ask themselves ‘Who am I?’ is lauded by many modern Western teachers as sufficient, on its own, to lead to enlightenment.  I suggest that this is not strictly true; that what it can do is rather to give us insight into what we are not and thereby point us in the direction of traditional teachings to learn about our real nature. It is inciting us to conduct Self-inquiry in the proven manner, i.e. by listening to a qualified teacher interpret the scriptures, rather than merely providing a mantra or formula to provide an answer directly.
An explanation of how traditional teaching can lead us to an understanding of who I am might begin with an analysis of our three states of consciousness – this is the so-called avasthA traya prakriyA of traditional advaita.
We almost certainly begin with the belief that who-I-really-am is only fully present in the waking state. In the dream state, I am not in command of my mental faculties so that the mind free-wheels outside of my control even though I am not actually unconscious. And we no doubt accept the deep sleep state as one in which mind and body rest and recuperate in order to be ready for the trials that the next day may bring. According to this interpretation, consciousness in deep sleep is in a resting state, as indicated by the lowered activity shown by EEG displays. (This view, also supported by many Western philosophers, claims that consciousness is a by-product or ‘epiphenomenon’ of the brain; an evolutionary advantageous development to enable an animal to find food and mate more efficiently than before. This is also the view of the chArvAka-s or materialists of thousands of years ago – it is certainly not new!) Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 13


Part 13 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 13 concludes the exmaination of the states of experience with the deep-sleep state and begins to look at the metaphor of the five sheaths, from the Taittiriya Upanishad. This part explores the sheath made of food.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

Vedanta the Solution – Part 25


VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 25 continues to look at who we are, in relation to experience and consciousness. There is an especially useful analysis of the logical device of anvAya-vyatireka and an examination of the concept of witness-consciousness.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Vedanta the Solution – Part 23

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 23 begins the chapter on ‘Analysis of the subject in its three states of experience’. This first part looks at the three aspects of the body-mind-sense complex – the causal, subtle and gross bodies.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Q. 368 – vAsanA-s

Q: Do vAsanA-s belong to the causal body or the subtle body?  

In the subtle body camp I got a response from one of Swami Dayananda’s senior students saying that the causal body is pure ignorance with no attributes and that vAsanA-s “definitely belong to the subtle body”.   In addition, from my own quick review of some of Shankara’s basic works I can find no passage that says the causal body is anything but “avidyA” and find no mention of the term “ vAsanA-s ” anywhere.

In the causal body camp I have James Schwartz and multiple pieces of Chinmayananda literature.   In fact I have seen them equate vAsanA-s to avidyA by pointing out that avidyA and vAsanA-s are both caused by the guNa-s.

Can you help with this one?   What is going on here?  Btw, as an interesting side note, in Swami Dayananda’s extensive Gita course-books the word “ vAsanA-s ” does not appear once.

Answers from Ramesam, Ted, Martin and Dennis. Continue reading

Science and Vedanta (Part 3)

P1030147_hdr_OnonePart 3 of a 3-part essay by Dr. K. Sadananda, AchArya at Chinmaya Mission, Washington.

(read part 2)

What is Absolute Reality?

Vedanta defines the absolute reality as that which can never be negated at any time, trikAla abhAditam satyam. As an example, let us analyze a chair made of wood. Is that chair really real (satyasya satyam) or only transactionally real? When I dismantle the chair or break it into pieces, it is no more a chair. What was there before and what is there now is only wood. Hence wood is more real than chair. Chair is only a name for a form of wood arranged in some fashion to serve some purpose, and gets negated when the form is destroyed. I can do this without breaking the chair into pieces. I can cognitively say that there is really no chair there but what is there is only wood currently in the form of a chair. Chair is only transactionally real but not really real; and what is more real than chair is wood, the material cause for the chair. Continue reading

Who Slept Well – Part 4

This is the final part of the series from AchArya Sadananda, (only edited by myself).

Deep-Sleep State

When we go into the deep sleep state, we start withdrawing each of the kosha-s, one by one, with the desire or thought of going to sleep. The ‘I want to sleep’ thought forms the contents of the vij~nAnamaya kosha or the intellect, when it goes to sleep or when it goes into an unmanifested state.  In the process of sleeping, there is a withdrawal of each of the grosser kosha-s into the subtler ones: annamayakosha to prANamayakosha, prANamaya to manomaya, manomaya to vij~nAnamaya.  At the time of sleep, the vij~nAnamaya or intellectual sheath becomes unmanifested with all the kosha-s as part of its ingredients, but in undifferentiated form. That unmanifested state of the intellectual sheath with all its constituent kosha-s is now called Anandamayakosha, since there is absence of any discriminative thoughts and associated relationships, other than the homogeneous thought of ignorance or avidya. This is referred to as avidya vRitti.  It is, in a sense, an experience involving the knowledge of the absence of anything and everything.  Hence the Mandukya (mantra 5) says – na ki~nchana kAmam kAmayate – there is absence of desire for any object, since there is no perception or recognition of any particular object of any kind in that unmanifested state. Continue reading

Who Slept Well – part 3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExperiencer of the Deep-Sleep-State

As noted in Part 2, we have three experiences in the deep-sleep state: 1. I exist, since I say I slept well; 2. I have the knowledge of homogeneous ignorance, since I say I did not know anything; 3. I was happy or I did not experience the pains of BMI, since I am not conscious of the BMI or any duality. The question remains: if the mind is not there, then who experiences these and who recollects these experiences on waking up, since the experiencer and the recollector have to be one and the same? These appear to be puzzling questions that need to be addressed. Who is going to provide the answer to this – a sleeper or a waker? For this, scripture alone becomes a pramAna, or means of knowledge, since the mind that uses logic cannot provide the answers. No objective tools can be used or would be valid to analyze the deep sleep state, since all objective entities (apart from ignorance) are absent in that state. Hence, objective scientists also have no tools available for investigation. These aspects have to be clear even when we are studying the opinions of other philosophers such as Shree Atmananda-ji , unless these opinions are shruti based. Continue reading