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

Who Slept Well – part 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the second of a four-part article by Acharya Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission Washington (edited by myself) clarifying the nature of the deep-sleep state and addressing a number of problems which frequently cause confusion in seekers.

When I enter into a pitch dark room I cannot see the presence of any object there as it is too dark. I need a light to illumine the objects. In a pitch dark room, the existence or non-existence of any object cannot be established; they may be there or they may not. In essence, their existence becomes indeterminate or anirvachanIyam. On the other hand, I can see that the room is pitch dark and understand that it is because of this that I do not see the presence or absence of any object. Darkness envelops both the known and the unknown.  However, I do not need a light to see the darkness.  In addition, I know that I am there even when the room is pitch dark.  I do not need a light to know that I am there. I am a self existent entity and therefore a self revealing entity, and hence I do not need any pramANa to know that I am present in the dark room. It is similar to saying that I do not need a light in order to see another light.  Being a conscious-existent entity, I am also a self-revealing entity or self-luminous entity or I am aprameyam, not an object of knowledge for which a pramANa is required. In addition, my presence as a self-luminous or self-conscious entity is required to illumine any other object – tasya bhAsA sarvam idam vibhUti; it is by that light of consciousness alone that all objects get revealed. Therefore, the light of consciousness that I am can illumine the darkness as well as the light that opposes the darkness.  Thus I am the light of lights, since I light the lights and darkness too – jyotir jyotiH. Therefore, I say that I see it is pitch dark which is covering the existence as well the absence of all objects. Continue reading

Who Slept Well?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the first of a four-part article by Acharya Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission Washington (edited by myself) clarifying the nature of the deep-sleep state and addressing a number of problems which frequently cause confusion in seekers.

I wish to express my appreciation to Pujya Sastriji and Shree Subbuji for directing me to the Panchadashi Ch.11, where the deep-sleep aspects are discussed extensively by Shree Vidyaranya.  This article is in response to a question posed by a sincere seeker in a private mail. His question focused on the following:  Who is the experiencer, knower, and the recollector of the deep-sleep state, when the mind is not there? In essence, who slept well and knows that he slept well and is now recollecting that information when he is awake.  This response to the question is based on my understanding of the 11th Chapter, together with a private communication from Shree Sastriji the post to Advaitin by Shree Subbuji.

In searching for answers, I came across the article by Shree Ananda Wood on the topic of Shree Atmananda Krishna Menon’s understanding of the deep sleep state. Given the fact that all descriptions of the deep-sleep state are necessarily from the vantage point of the waking state, we can only rely for analysis on 1) shaastra pramANa and 2) those experiences that are universally common.  The problems with Shree Atmanandaji’s interpretation of the deep–sleep state are noted at the end, since there are many people that I see on Facebook, as well as elsewhere, who follow Atmanandaji writings relating to deep sleep state. Continue reading

Logical enquiry into ‘Who I am’ (4/4)

who am I 4We started this enquiry into identity by employing a simple piece of logic: you cannot be what you observe. From this point of view, the things we normally take ourselves to be, starting with the body, were systematically discounted because they turn out to be objects of perception, as covered in the first three parts of this series. Despite this reasoning, the tendency to believe our identity with the amalgam of body, senses and mind tends to remains very powerful: we continue to believe that we are these individuals bound by skin, with an experiential history and an instinctive, habitual mindset through which ‘I’ filter the world.

Identity with the body is evidenced by the vast cosmetic surgery industry today. People feel better with fewer wrinkles, larger breasts, drug-induced libido, less fat, etc. That’s the extreme end, but coming closer to the average person, we think of ourselves as too tall, too short, too hot or cold. If the body is in pain, we say: I am in pain. We really do mean ‘I’ when we say: I am hot, cold, ugly, beautiful, too short, too fat, too old. By employing the incontrovertible logic of ‘I cannot be what I can observe’, it does not take long for us to realise that the body is an object of perception: ‘I’ can experience my body using my five senses. We then ask: Who is observing the body? Continue reading

Logical enquiry into ‘Who I am’ (3/4)

Who I am 3When we analysed the world of objects in the waking state we came to the understanding that our experience of the variety of objects is due to the variety of corresponding mental impressions (covered in Part 2 of this series). If there isn’t a mental impression ‘this is a pot’ then, despite fully-functioning senses, the pot will be as good as non-existent. The perception of ‘is-ness’ is the single, unchanging common thread in all our worldly experiences. This perception is given the name, ‘consciousness’.

When we analysed our dream state experience we realised that the same observation holds true for the dream universe as for the universe we encounter when awake. This experience gives an added dimension to our understanding of consciousness: not only is it the one, unchanging basis of the varied, changing objects (gross and subtle), but now we see that it is also continuous through the changing states of experience. The ‘I’ that is awake is the same ‘I’ that dreamt: ‘I am awake, I had a dream’. Continue reading

Logical enquiry into ‘Who I am’ (2/4)

who am I 2In the first part of this enquiry we saw how, by discriminating between the seer and what’s seen, we arrive at the understanding that ‘I’, the seer, am not the body, not the sense powers, not the thinking faculty, not even a combination of all of them. They are all objects of my perception and I am the perceiving subject. And I, the subject, cannot be what I can perceive as an object. In this logical way we arrived, step-by-step, at a final ‘knower’, which is given the name ‘pure consciousness’. This pure consciousness is what remains after thoughts, (which are the subtlest objects of perception), have been dismissed as the ultimate ‘I’. We know there’s something there but it is still a bit hazy. We now need to test the robustness of our new working conclusion that this ‘pure consciousness’ is the ‘I’ we are searching for and sharpen the understanding.

For this we need to understand the nature of consciousness and its relationship, if any, with ‘I’. A question might arise at this point: If ‘I’ is the pure consciousness that remains in the absence of vtti-s (thoughts), and no cognition is possible without vtti-s, then how can I ever know what I am? How do we go further with this enquiry if there are no thoughts? Continue reading

Experiencing Non-Duality

the striped blouse Edouard Vuillard 1895

Edouard Vuillard, The striped blouse 1895

Spiritual seekers who aim to go beyond duality often fancy that, at the end of the journey, they are going to experience reality altogether differently. That’s right and wrong at the same time.

Even before, there are many situations that allow us to experience non-duality, which is in and through everything. Reality being non-dual, it would be quite surprising if non-duality was untraceable up to the time of enlightenment. So even unenlightened mortals experience non-duality plenty of times throughout their day. Indeed we interpret the experience wrongly. What happens with enlightenment or awakening, is that this wrong interpretation, based on ignorance, is dropped. This means that all those possible non-dual experiences are recognised for what they essentially are: non-duality itself. Continue reading

Traditional Teaching and Deep Sleep – III. mAyA & Creation

Part – I              Part – II              Part – III

[The latter part of the article requires a bit of mathematical (or at least arithmetic) orientation in the reader. If you know the addition, 1 + 1, that is enough. Otherwise, it could prove slightly boring!]

We shall tackle now the question of how we wake up to be what (we think) we were before we went to bed.

I said in my previous argument that our waking up to a new morning and into an awake state is comparable to another cycle of creation.  So I suggest we examine how creation itself takes place.

From a scientific perspective, creation seems to be happening from ‘nothingness’ and dissolving back into nothing.  Vedantins prefer to call nothingness as ‘Beingness’ simply because even ‘nothingness’ has to ‘Be.’

If we go by what Quantum Physics tells us, what we may refer to as ‘nothingness’ is not just emptiness.  There is an enormous amount of energy in ‘Emptiness.’ Physicists have been able to measure this energy of empty space.

The energy within the empty space of the nucleus of an atom is the main reason for the weight of the nucleus (and hence of the matter we are all).  The energy of the emptiness within the intergalactic space is the reason for the expanding universe causing the colossal and mighty galaxies to recede from one another at speeds exceeding the speed of light. This vast energy is the result of constant creation and annihilation of virtual particles smaller than sub-atomic particles. Thus creation-dissolution is an ongoing unstoppable roiling and boiling process from emptiness to emptiness within emptiness!

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Traditional Teaching and Deep Sleep – II. Dreams

[The topic of Dreams is something I have not originally planned to include here in this series which was primarily designed to address the issue of Upanishadic support for considering deep sleep itself as Liberation (moksha).]

Part I      Part – II            Part – III

Please allow me here to take a short digression to discuss dreams because of a few questions raised by our esteemed readers.

Secrets of Sleeping Brain - Architecture of Sleep - Prof. M Walker, 2009

Fig. 1. Sleep Hypnogram (After M. Walker, 2009) – Click on the figure for enlarged view.

First of all, I would like to correct the misconception that some of us have that the moment we hit the pillow and get lost in sleep, we just flow through one continuous phase of dreaming, then deep sleep and, lo  behold, we get up refreshed in the morning. So, to this extent, the sequence of Awake state (A), Dream state (U), and  Deep sleep (M) corresponding to AUM as presented by Mandukya  Upanishad is awfully way out. ***  The Upanishad says that these three states arise in an everlasting turIya which is compared to the ‘silence’ at the end of AUM. ***  Several experimental studies carried out over a period of more than half a century demonstrate that the architecture of our sleep pattern is vastly different as experienced by us every night. A typical hypnogram (the nightly sleep cycle) we go through each night is shown in Fig. 1. (Please click on the figure for an enlarged view).

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