Q. 371 – Deep-sleep state

Q: In advaita, we use the recall of a “good deep sleep” as a very important argument for proving continued presence of awareness… the question is, how does this recall happen? We have a process in advaita by which ‘the presence of a pot is known’. How is deep sleep known? Or – How is the fact that one slept well, recalled?

Responses from DhanyaRamesam, Martin, Ted and Dennis

A (Dhanya): When I was a child, there was a TV show I liked to watch.  It was called ‘You Are There.’  As I recall, the show depicted a famous scene from history, and then ‘you’ (meaning in this case the narrator), magically showed up in the scene and got to ask the historical figures all sorts of questions.  (I guess I should Google it to make sure I recall the details of the show correctly).  Anyway, I do remember that I enjoyed the show, and often these days recall the title, because one could ask oneself the question, ‘How is anything known?’ and the answer would be because ‘You are There!’  The whole point of deep sleep in the teachings of Vedanta is to is highlight ‘You are There’  Your nature is consciousness, i.e. that by which anything is known.  The absence of any thing is also known.  Thus one can recall the fact that one slept well.  Why?  Because You are There. Continue reading

Waking World is also Unreal

small_A-U-MDreams are a powerful metaphor in Advaita. The Yoga Vasishtha is perhaps the best known book to utilize them extensively but probably the earliest teacher to do so was Gaudapada in his kArikA-s on the mANDUkya upaniShad.

He effectively says that the waking state is unreal, like dreams, ‘because we experience it’. This is anvAya-vyatireka logic: we experience objects in dreams, and they turn out to be unreal; therefore the objects we experience in waking are also unreal.

This does not sound very convincing and there are various arguments that we can raise to object to the analogy. Gaudapada raises them for us, in case we can’t think of them all! Here is the third argument he puts forward. It is an extract from my forthcoming book, which will be published 25th September 2015.

Third objection to world being unreal

And this leads on to the third objection namely that, whereas the dream world is subjective, the waking world has objective reality. It is experienced as external to ourselves, whereas the dream takes place in our mind (K2.9 – 10). But this notion suffers from the same confusion as before. We only recognize that the dream world is ‘in our mind’ when we are awake; at the time of the dream, it is just as much ‘external’ as is the waking world when we are awake. We might as well say that the waking world is really non-existent since it disappears when we are in the dream or deep sleep states. At the time of the dream, I experience external objects and events in just the same manner. Their illogicality or even impossibility only becomes apparent on awakening. Continue reading

Topic of the Month – Appearance and Reality

dubrovnik_wallThe topic for June 2014 is Appearance and Reality.

Things are not necessarily how they initially seem to be!

Everything apart from Consciousness (brahman-Atman-turIya) is mithyA; only That is satyam. The metaphors of dreams and rope-snakes are highly relevant!

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

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

Enjoying Being Brahman – Q. 324

Q1: When I was in the constant of awareness that I was Brahman I used to enjoy the Thoughts that all indeed was Brahman. Since I progressed to the simply I AM I am not enjoying the earlier feelings of thinking everything as Brahman. Is it that the state of being in simply I AM is absolute absence of any thought whatsoever? 

 Q2: How to overcome the sleep state to be in constant awareness of Who am I? Please some practical hints!

 Regarding my second point I intended to know more about the Fourth State in which the Saints wait to consume all their Prarabdha. How is this state practised and what are the skills of it?

Please shed some light on how do the realised but unpractised people live in their day to life while all the time immersed in their truest identity. My readings tell me just to let things happen without least botheration how they happen. Is it this way?

A (Peter): These questions make a strong case for why seeking proper guidance in this work is vital. Vedānta isn’t something that anyone can just pick up from a book, any more than anyone can dive straight into advanced mathematics from a book. If one doesn’t have a basic concept of numbers and the ways they combine through addition, multiplication, subtraction and division then how could one cope with the more esoteric realms of the subject? And compared to the science of self-knowledge, which is subtler than the subtlest, higher maths is crude. Self-knowledge needs appropriate prep work before the books make sense. Continue reading


[Part 1/3      Part 3/3]

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. Continue reading