In my Talk on “Inquiry in Science and Vedanta “, the slides numbered 50 and 51 are about the three states of consciousness — Awake, Dream and Deep Sleep. (The full PowerPoint Presentation can be viewed at : http://beyond-advaita.blogspot.in/ ). The three worlds are represented by the three distinct circles I, II and III and a ‘Me’ is shown by the circle IV in the Slide 50 (Fig. 1 below). In our normal understanding, we think that “I am a separate ‘self’ (individual) and I pass through three distinct worlds viz. the Wakeful world, the Dream world and the Deep Sleep world.” We also take that the worlds to be external to ‘me.’
Such a worldview is obviously beset with the problems and concerns regarding ‘my’ security and safety, my protection and perpetuation etc. as against a world out there. The positing of a ‘me’ here and a ‘world’ out there is an ideal situation to breed unending competition for resources and unresolvable conflicts of interests with no guarantees of success. Obviously not a happy position to be in.
Some great thinkers and Seers found on deep inquiry that this division of a contracted ‘me’ confined to a limiting body-mind here and a world out there to be merely an imagination. They could realize that the entirety of the world including ‘me’ is just one unfragmented Whole (true not only in the wakeful world but also in the dream and deep sleep worlds). Suddenly, on experientially understanding this, there is no “other out there” from which I have to run away or save myself from. “I” am myself the eternal everlasting Whole irrespective of any form I may appear to take from moment to moment. At one stroke myself being that Oneness, I conquered not only fear but also death, disease and decay!
But how does one convey this message? In fact, if all ‘there is’ is taken to be ONE, can a ‘message’ exist separate from that ONE? And to whom the message needs to be imparted when there is no ‘other’ than myself? Pretty awkward situation here.
To the indignation of many of my friends, I may stick my neck out and say that many of the so called traditional teaching methods steeped in rigorous restrictive eligibility conditions and secretiveness, designed and developed in the distant past specifically addressed to certain strata of society, are not of much help to the present cosmopolitan clientele or to the modern analytical mindset. Luckily, courageous changes were affected from time to time in imparting this valuable message of Oneness for the redemption of misery in the world. The so called Direct Path is perhaps one of the most contemporary approaches suited to a questioning mind trained in introspective thinking and is capable of logical deduction.
But I hold no brief for nor am I wedded to this or any other method, for I am not trained in any of these systems!
In fact it is only after I read Dennis’s comment of Oct 21, 2012 at the Post On Q: 324, I explored a bit more to know about the Direct Path, for I know he does not say things lightly and there must have been a strong reason for what he said. I found a large treasure of writings on Direct Path at Dennis’s site. There were intense discussions led by Dr. Ananda Wood, Dr. Greg Goode, Dr. K. Sadananda and many other stalwarts in their own right ably edited and presented by Dennis. They go back to 2002 – 2004. Some of the Links are:
I came to know that Shri Atmananda Krishna Menon who spearheaded the Direct Path did not refer to the other path as “traditional.” He gave a name to it too. He called it the “Cosmological path.” Dr. Wood clarifies that “In the ‘cosmological’ approach, an ‘individual person’ or ‘jiva’ is considered as an incomplete part of an encompassing universe. Hence that approach is described as one ‘of bringing the individual under the universal’. It requires an expansion of consideration to a universal functioning — which is ruled by an all-powerful ‘God’ called ‘Ishvara’, or which expresses an all-comprehensive reality called ‘Brahman’. In contrast, the Direct Path is an “an approach which brings ‘the universal under the individual’.”
Dennis said in his comment of Oct 21, 2012: “The ‘Direct Path’ explanation of deep sleep did not tally with that of traditional Advaita. As KR pointed out, the ‘experiencer’ of the deep sleep state cannot be brahman. Apart from the fact that brahman cannot experience (since there are not two things from the pAramArthika standpoint), the praj~nA or causal body of each person has to be different. If it weren’t, we could not guarantee to wake up as the same person who went to sleep.”
What Dennis points out to can be boiled down to two questions:
1. Does traditional Upanishadic teaching conform to the understanding of Deep Sleep as explained by Direct Path approach?, and
2. How does one wake up as the same person that went to sleep?
Before taking up these two questions specifically, I would like to first explain my understanding of Advaitic position on deep sleep state.
Isavasa, Brihadaranyaka, Chandogya and Mandukya tell us that “what is now, as is, all is Brahman only” by their statements IsA vAsyam idagum sarvam, nehanAnAsti kincana, sarvam khalvidam brahma, sarvaM hyetad brahma.
These statements of the Upanishads are obviously made and are valid in our wakeful world. But they have to be equally valid in the dream and deep sleep states too. That means, obviously, the dream world as well as the deep sleep world have got to be Brahman. In other words, just as Brahman has the freedom to appear as the wakeful world, Brahman has also the freedom to appear as the dream world and as well as the deep sleep world. That is what I tried to present in the next slide of the PPt I referred to at the beginning of this essay.
Fig,2 shows that (i) the model of an individuated “me” passing through the three states is incorrect, and (ii) the three states are manifestations of the Turiya, the True “I”.
The easiest way to conceptualize it is through the example of the computer screen, as Rupert, Peter and a few others are so fond of giving this analogy. The computer screen is ever there whether something appears on it or not. Even if a document appears at some pixel positions, the screen has not disappeared at those pixels. The screen itself has taken the shape of the document at those pixel positions. Moreover, the screen exists pervading the picture, in the gaps of the picture and surrounding the picture. If we focus our attention on the picture, we miss to see the screen in that position. In such a case, it can be described that the picture veils the screen at that place.
Just as the computer screen is always there irrespective of and in spite of the picture, “I” am eternally there appearing as the wakeful world or deep sleep world or dream world from time to time.
But how does the traditional approach explain this?
I am unable to realize the Oneness in the wakeful state because I mistake myself by my identification with a limited body. So there is a ‘me’ with a physical body and a jagRit world separate from me.
The usual teaching reinforces the separation of a ‘me’ and the world by extending the mis-identification that happens in the wakeful world to the dream and deep sleep states too. So it postulates the existence of a subtle body for ‘me’ in the dream state and a subtle world separate from me, all made up of mindstuff. Correspondingly, it postulates a causal body for ‘me’ in the deep sleep state and a causal world separate from me. It builds a whole structure of conceptual worlds and forms at both individual level and at the composite level and even comes up with fascinating names for all these things.
In my short note of 26th Oct 2012, I referred to the work of Swami Iswarananda and said there: “The Swami’s book quotes many references from Chandogya, Taittiriya, Parsna, Brihadaranyaka Upanishads and Sankara’s commentary there on and also from Brahma Sutra Bhashya in support to say that we “attain to pure existence in deep sleep.” The prajnya and Turiya as expounded in Mandukya are explained to be the same.” The Swami Ji does not use the name of “Direct Path.” He calls it to be rational Vedanta. I gave a short review with extensive extracts from Part I of his book at:
“Significance of Deep Sleep in JnAnayOga.”
The above Post provides a summary of his thesis.
I give below some of the references from Chandogya and others that Swami Iswarananda cites in Part II. I hope to continue with more Upanishadic references in a continuation Post.
PART II opens with the declaration of the Argument thus:
sushuptikAle ca pareNa brahmaNA jIva ekatAm gacchati, parasmAt ca brahmaNah prANAdikam jagaj-jAyata iti vedAnta maryAdA.
tasmAd yatrA ‘ sya jIvasya nihsambodhatAsvacchatArUpah svApa upAdhijanita viseshavijnAna rahitam svarUpam, yatas tadbrahmsarUpam Agamanam, so ‘ tra paramAtmA veditavyatayA srAvita iti gamyate.
It is the general Vedanta doctrine that at the time of deep sleep the jIva becomes one with the highest Brahman, and that from the highest Brahman the whole world proceeds, inclusive of prAna and so on. When the scripture, therefore, represents as the object of knowledge that in which there takes place the deep sleep of the jIva characterized by the absence of empirical consciousness and utter tranquility, that is, a state devoid of all those specific cognitions which are produced by the limiting adjuncts of the jIva, and from which the jIva returns when the sleep is broken, we understand that the highest Self is meant — BSB, I.iv.18
In order that the [reader] may feel assured that the position taken up herein though a bit out of the beaten track is the orthodox position as propounded by the Upanishads and Sankara’s commentaries thereon, the following references are appended with short observations thereon.
Quoting Sankrara from Ch Up. bhAshya, VI.viii.1:
na hy anyatra sushuptAt svam apItim jIvasya icchanti brahmavidah.
Tatra ……. mana-Ady uparame caitanya pratibimba rUpenNa jIvenA ‘ tmanA manasi pravishTa nAmarUpavyAkaraNAya parA devatA sA svam evA ‘ tmAnam pratipadyate jIvarUpatAm mana AkhyAm hitva.
Meaning: [In discussing the meaning of svapnAntam and determining it as dreamless sleep], in no other state than deep sleep do the Knowers of Brahman find the attainment of one’s own Self……. Because there in the self gives up its reflector mind and jIvatva (embodiedness) and attains its own form as the Supreme Deity.
sushuptau eva svam devatArUpam jIvatvavinirmuktam darsayisyAmI ‘ thAha.
Meaning: [Sankara says that UddAlaka tells his son that] in deep sleep itself he would show his divinity which is free from individuality.
satA sampanno bhavati = ekIbhUto bhavati
Meaning: In deep sleep one is said to have become one with Absolute Existence —
manasi prvishTam mana-Adi-samsrgakRtam jIvarUpam, parityajya svam sadrUpam yat paramArthasatyam apIto apigato bhavati
Meaning: Embodiedness is given up in deep sleep and the self is said to attain the Absolute Reality.
From BSB I.iii.8:
paramAtmai ‘ ve ‘ ha bhUmA bhavitum arhati, na prAnah – kasmAt? samprasAdAd adhyupadesAt-samprasAda iti sushuptam sthAnam ucyate; samyak prasIdati asmin iti nirvacanAt.
Meaning: It is the paramAtman that is to be known by bhUman, not prANa, because it has reference to samprasAda, samprasAda is the Self of dreamless sleep, because in this state is attained the greatest serenity.
In UpadesasAhasrI, Part I-93, the disciple asks:
na hi kadacid bhagavan, sushupte mayA caitanyam anyad vA kincid dRShTam?
To this Sankara gives a long reply. The gist of it is: The Consciousness owing to whose presence you deny (the existence of things in deep sleep) by saying “I was conscious of nothing” is the Knowledge, the Consciousness which is your Self……
tarhi sarvatra avyabhicArAt kUTasthanityatvam siddham svata eva, na pramANApeksham. svatah siddhasya hi pramAtuh anyasya prameyasya paricchittim prati pramANApekshA.
Its eternal existence is self-evident. Only an object of knowledge different from the self-evident Knower depends on an evidence in order to be known.
Sankara in his commentary on mantra VIII.iii.3 (DaharavidyA) says:
yathA jAnan ajAnamsca sarvo jantuh sadbrahmaiva tathA ‘ pi tat tvam asI ‘ ti pratibhodhito vidvAn avisvAmsca sushupte yadyapi sat sampadyate tathA api evamvideva svargam lokam etI ‘tyucyate.
Meaning: Even though all beings attain to Brahman during sleep, the one who knows this fact even during the waking state can alone said to have attained to It.
In the commentary on mantra 4, Sankara explains:
sushuptakAle svenA ‘ tmanA satA smapannah san samyak prasIdatI ‘ ti jAgrat svapnayor vishayendriyasamyogajAtam kAlushyam jahAtI ‘ ti samprasAdasabdo yadyapi sarvajantUnAm sAdhAraNastathA ‘ pye ‘ vamvit svargam lokam etI ‘ ti.
The meaning of the word samprasAda is the Self free from the impurities and worries of the waking and dream states, which is attained in deep sleep when all beings attain to Pure Existence.
Further, VIII.vi.3 teaches that:
tad, yatrai ‘ tat suptah samastah samprasannah svapnam na vijAnAtyAsu tadA nADIshu sRpto bhavati tam na kascana pApmA spRsati tejasA hi tadA smapannobhavati.
When asleep, the Atman, having become completely serene, does not see any dream. In that state no sin touches it, because in that state it has become one with its own effulgence.
The reason for not being touched by sin is said to be that the Atman remains in its own nature.
In the section VIII.xi.1. dealing with samprasAdavidyA, PrajApati imparts his final teaching to Indra in the following words:
tad yatrai ‘ tat suptah samastah samprasannah svapnam na vijAnAtyesha ‘ it ho ‘ vAcai ‘ tad amRtam abhayam etad brahme ‘ ti.
Here where the jIva goes into deep sleep, completely serene all round, and where no dream is seen, that is Atman, that is immortal, that is the fearless, that is Brahman.
Further on it is asserted:
yadyapi sushupte tad uktam muktasyApi sarvaikatavAt samAno dvitIyAbhAvah.
The absence of second entity by the side of the Atman in sleep is said to be equally applicable to the liberated jIva as well.
Thus throughout the ChAndogya Upanishad, brahmavidyA has been taught by pointing to the experience of deep sleep. smaprasAdavidya is verily brahmavidyA.
(To Continue – Part – II)
The subject of the ‘3 states and turiya “the 4th”, seems to be inexhaustible. It has given rise to considerable discussion and differing opinions within the areas of ontology, epistemology, psychology, and teaching methods. Some, or most, of the issues thereof can be viewed and studied from empirical science (e.g. sleep, dreaming) as well as from the perspective of traditional and non traditional advaita vedanta – and this from either rational or mystical (or intuitive) approaches or standings. I will only touch on a few points.
Concerning deep sleep, Nisargadatta Maharaj said that in it consciousness is suspended, but “I am aware that I am unconscious… awareness is absolute, consciousness is relative to its content.” (I AM THAT, pp. 28-29). I mentioned ‘ontology’ , and here Nisargadatta taught that there are two levels, lower and higher, corresponding to ‘dynamic consciousness’ and awareness (or ‘static consciousness’ – all in English translation) respectively. (“In Consciousness there is movement; awareness by itself is motionless and timeless, here and now”). The first would correspond to beingness or ‘I Am’ (or Saguna Brahman), and the second to the Absolute (Nirguna Brahman); we can say, perhaps, ‘Being’ and ‘Beyond Being’, respectively.
In respect of the Avasthas, there are differences in the various translations of the Upanishads, as is well known. The translation by Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester renders the former: “The first aspect of the Self is the universal person, the collective symbol of created beings… the second aspect is the universal person in his mental nature – Taijasa… , etc.”. It appears evident that this ‘person’ is Ishvara (level of ‘beingness’ of Nisargadatta), and not the attributeless Self. Finally, of course, these ‘two’ are one and only.
One more point: Is there not an analogy, or parallelism, between the 3 ‘plus’ states, in their usual order, and progressive degrees of deepening in understanding by a sadaka, the last degree (identity with turiya) being enlightenment? May be the operative word here should be ‘metaphor’; this is suggestive, given that in the 2nd state the body is “knocked off”, and in the 3rd state the mind is “knocked off”, both being the limiting adjuncts par excellence and real obstacles for the majority of seekers.
Thank you Alberto for many thought-provoking observations and interesting points made by you.
Keeping in mind the limitations of ‘space’ here, I shall quickly but briefly react to a few of the points made by you and hope we will get a chance to cover all the issues in future Posts as every one of them is not only quite important but very profound too.
I agree fully with you regarding the significance of the “3 states + Turiya” model in Advaita philosophy and it is undoubtedly a much discussed ‘prakriya‘ (process) from many angles. Though Science used to shy away in the past, researchers are now courageously taking up to tease out the nebulous “dreamworld” through actual observations of the goings on in the brain of the dreamer and even predict the content of the dreams (for example the recent work of Prof. Yukiyasu Kamitani of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan). We can look forward to more exciting scientific studies in the near future in understanding dreams instead of viewing them in some mystic interpretations.
2. Maybe, you have already deciphered the terminolog used by the translators Shri Nissargadatta Maharaj. They distinguished consciousness and states of consciousness from Awareness. Majority of Western wrtiers of Non-duality these days consider Consciousness and Awareness (both capitalized) as synonyms and as equivalent to Brahman. Mind and states of mind are the terms used now for what is indicated by ‘consciousness’ by Maharaj. So ‘mind’ is the dynamic entity and Consciousness (capital ‘C’) is the unmoving One.
3. Your ‘metaphor’ of the three states as indicators for progressive denudation of solidity in the understanding of a seeker on his travel along the Path is quite interesting. I do remember to have read about such a comparison somewhere but am unable to recollect where it was. But the real understanidng, as Maharaj used to say, lies in knowing that “The giving up is the first step. But the real giving up is in realizing that there is nothing to give up, for nothing is your own. It is like deep sleep – you do not give up your bed when you fall asleep, you just forget about it.”
So the crux of the Advaitic understanding lies in the fact that the seeker is already free, (s)he does not have to move at all!
Secondly, the terminology at the individual and composite levels as Virat, Taijasa, Isvara and the corresponding worlds etc. etc. is finally to be understood as loops of nested hierarchy of Hiranyagarbhas of ‘myself’. It is so because “I am the only One. The world is me and I am the world. There is no other anywhere.” Thus one can say that the seeker moves to know from the stage of considering that “a world pre-exists me to I am the creator to I, Alone.”
Ramesan: Thank you for your very helpful comments (to mine). Yesterday I read carefully all of Q. 324, with the many interesting comments and clarifications by yourself and the other debaters. In passing, you mentioned ‘dreaming’, etc. (I am looking forward to the 2nd part of ‘Traditional Teachings and Deep Sleep’). Last year I wrote a very short piece, on the spur of the moment, on ‘erratic dreams’, not wanting to deal with other, more interesting, types of dreams and their possible interpretations. Here is part of it, and I hope that it is not out of place or ‘out of time’:
“Are not erratic dreams (those chaotic ones, without any possible meaning), similarly to random, involuntary thoughts – also erratic – , something like the excreta of an organism which allow it to function normally? It would then be a question of mental hygiene, of auto-regulation or homoeostasis.”
Interestingly, you included this para. in your last writing (Part 1): “The meaning of the word samprasAda is the Self free from the impurities and worries of the waking and dream states, which is attained in deep sleep when all beings attain to Pure Existence.” This sentence is not directly related to what I wrote (which I do not consider to be profound in any way), except perhaps indirectly and in part, but I wondered what your reaction would be in that regard. Thank you again, and regards. Alberto.
Thank you for the continued dialogue. Your deeply insightful intervention raised a flood of thoughts in me that I was at a loss for a time to know where to begin my response !
You know the human brain inside out as a surgeon and I can never boast that I would know better than you.
As you are well aware, many self respecting Neuroscientists, except one, perhaps, in South Africa, do not give much of a value these days to the Freudian concept of analyzing the content of dreams. One really does not know much to interpret all that happens in the brain during the REM sleep, though the neuronal activity happens to be as much as it is in the awake state. However, lab experiments with mice (and also fruit flies?) did show that the animal retraces exactly the same steps of what it learnt during the day while it goes into its dream state (REM sleep).
The Evolutionary Psychologists compare the brain to a 24/7 active receiver of environmental information for processing the info in terms of the safety and security of the body-organism. Thoughts can be perhaps considered to be the code in which the ‘executive summary’ gets expressed for necessary action. Like in all natural processes, there is an excess of thoughts produced with a Darwinian mechanism of selection becoming operational for some thoughts being selected for implementation.
A few years ago, I had asked Sue Blackmore a similar question as yours: Can thoughts be considered to be ‘waste heat’ generated as a result of all the mental activity like the vehicle exhaust? Of course, she didn’t know.
Thanks to the work of G. Tononi and others we are coming to understand the deep sleep better in the recent times. He feels that the brain works in isolated pockets like disconnected islands during deep sleep with the global connectivity being lost. He developed an indicator ‘Phi’ based on integrated information exchanged by the neuronal pulses as a measure for consciousness. It is known that neurons get cleansed of the toxins during the deep sleep state and ready themselves for another day. But this waste removal process does not generate perceptible thoughts – being in the delta wave mode. There can also be a change in the overall chemistry of the brain during deep sleep as it happens from cholinergic to amenergic when it changes from wakeful to the dream state.
IMHO, our ancient sages were not thoroughly knowledgeable of all the processes that go on in the brain at the cellular and molecular (protein) level. In fact, they identified what we now know to go on mostly in the brain to be happening within the heart because (again a guess of mine) the effect of the emotional surges can be felt in the heart through the changes in its rate of pumping but a brain or its states can never be experienced.
So all in all, perhaps, one need not read too much into the ‘avastha traya’ analysis beyond being a useful tool in order to lead the seeker towards that quality of Consciousness that is Primary to everything in the universe and this prakriya may not help us much to decipher the deep sleep state in relation to the brain activity from a neuroscientific point of view.
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Sorry I didn’t reply to this. My problem is that the number of things to do far exceeds the time available to do them. My priority is trying to find time to work on my next book and I am failing miserably – In the past couple of weeks, I have managed no more than about 3 or 4 hours! This is no consolation to you, of course, wishing to trigger some interesting conversation. But it is a source of frustration to me because I would like to respond on what is clearly an interesting topic. Perhaps I can just ask you to wait for 2-3 years because the book will certainly be covering such questions!
Maybe the following table will go some way to answering your question (the bottom line being that turIya and the deep-sleep state are not the same):
vishva associated with ignorance and error
taijasa associated with ignorance and error
prAj~na associated with ignorance only
turIya associated with neither
Sorry about that ‘time’ factor.
But which Advaitin ever admits that ‘time exists’?!! Lol.Lol.
The second part of this article is actually a prelude to discuss the Mandukya model of three states + turIya vis-a-vis the stand taken by Swami Iswarananda.
While responding to your comment of 17th Jan at Part II, I said, partly anticipating your position, as follows:
“More importantly coming to the matter of the specific issue under discussion here, Swami Iswarananda explains that “the three states + turIya” model given by the Mandukya Upanishad is more a upAsana-based teaching for a seeker with a belief in a personal God. Arguing purely on philosophical terms, ‘prAjna‘ is synonymous to turIya…..”
The explanation given by the Swami Ji is as follows (taking extracts from his book):
“turIya is defined by the seventh mantra [of Mandukya Up]. But the question is: Is there a single term in this definition of turIya, which is not applicable to the Self in deep sleep? We find there is not. Therefore, the so-called turIya is none other than samprasAda.
There is a key significant sentence in Sankara’s commentary on the GaudapAda kArikA, I.2, where the Self of deep sleep is sought to be identified with the turIya which is defined later.
tAm abIjAvasthAm tasyai ‘ va prAjna sabdavAcyasya turIyatvena dehAdisambhandarahitAm pRthag vakshyati.
That designated as prAjna (when it is viewed as the cause of the phenomenal world) will be described as turIya separately when it is not viewed as the cause and when it is free from all phenomenal relationship such as that of the body etc. in its absolutely real aspect.
The description of prAjna as a mass of sentiency (prajnAnaghana) is not a description of the experience of sushupti as such, but our view of it before sufficient analysis [is made to know what it is].”
Further, the Swami writes to highlight the fact that Mandukya Upanishad is upAsana-based rather than being an exposition on the philosophical thought: “The true explanation for thrusting the experience of Isvara into the metaphysics of avasthAtraya is that it is only a theological device to give a philosophical appearance to the concept of the personal God. But experience flatly refuses to certify the identification of the Self of deep sleep with a personal God.
With regard to the concept of prAjna as the state of bIja, or as the potential state of future creation, it is significant to remember that the concept of causality applied to it is only in the sense that there is no realization of Truth in that state.
prAjnastu bIjabhAvenai ‘ va baddhah tattvAprabodham eva hi bIjaprAjnatve nimittam.
This we have explained as due to the absence of antahkaraNa, the instrument with which the Truth has to be realized. There is not, therefore, a second positive entity other than the Atman, which exists potentially as the cause of the bondage. The absence of tattvAgrahaNa (realization of Truth) in sushupti, therefore does not justify our conception of turIya as different from the Self of the state of jnAna where tattvAgrhahaNa and anyathAgrahaNa are equally absent. The Atman of deep sleep is, therefore, not more or less related to the world of waking or dream than turIya.”
You may also note some texts talk even of turIyAtIta, carrying Self-Realization even beyond turIya. We have to take these as mere poetic liberties rather than as exegesis of the philosophy.