This 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.
Ignorance is similar to darkness. When I say I do not know gaagaabuubu, there is ignorance of gaabaabubu and also knowledge of that ignorance, since I know that I do not know. Hence, in the pitch dark room two things are known: one is my own presence or existence, and the second is the darkness that I can see and because of which I do not see the presence or absence of any object. Similarly, in the deep sleep states there are, in a sense, two things known: one is my own existence since I am a self-existent and self-luminous entity, and the second is the ignorance which covers objective knowledge. These are expressed as ‘I slept very well’ and ‘I did not know anything’. The objectifiable entities that are covered by ignorance include both internal and external perceptions. That is the objects outside, where sense input is involved, as well as objects from memory, where there is no sense input. Thus, in deep sleep, I have the knowledge of my own existence, and the knowledge of the ignorance of every objectifiable entity, that includes even the BMI.
However, it also appears that while in the deep-sleep state, I do not know that I exist. In the waking state and dream state, I have a BMI, whose instruments are needed even to express myself about my own existence. The BMI does not prove my existence but is needed to prove my existence. Ahankaara or ego involves ‘I’ identifying with the BMI as ‘I am this’, this and this, etc. Hence, in the apparent absence of BMI, there is no clear identification with the instruments for expression, and hence no expressible ahankaara in the deep sleep state. Thus, the notion that ‘I am this’ is also not there since any ‘this’ is not experienced due to apparent absence of all duality. Thus, there is no ahankaara (I am this) notion, nor the associated mamakaara (this is mine) notion, since the mind that sees the duality, as well as expressing that seen duality, is not in manifested form. Because of this, there is no suffering in the deep sleep state either.
Absence of suffering, due to the absence of perceived duality, is in a way the happiness or bliss which is experienced in the deep sleep state. ‘I am happy’ in the deep sleep state is not born out of object-oriented happiness (vishayAnanda) or born out of the understanding that I am full and complete and therefore happy (since limitlessness or anantatvam is happiness itself). It is born out of the knowledge of the absence of everything or knowledge of the ignorance of everything, including that of BMI. This aspect is very important to recognize. The deep sleep state is different from turIyam, as elaborately discussed in the Mandukya Up., since in this state there is only knowledge of the complete ignorance of all dualities and not the knowledge that I am full and complete by myself (aham brahmaasmi knowledge).
To gain the knowledge that I am full by myself or aham brahmAsmi, it is not deep-sleep that I need but Vedanta teaching when the mind is awake! Hence, the scriptures say that only with the mind can I know that I am the mind, and I am the totality that includes the mind also. manasai vedamAptavyam, says the kathopanishad. This point is important and differs from the teachings of Sri Atmanandaji, based on Sri Ananda Wood’s writings. The deep-sleep state differs from turIyam, which pervades all the three states including the deep-sleep state. Analysis of sleep experience is required using the mind, since it is an experience of nothingness and is not a state in which one can understand that one is full by himself or aham brahmaasmi. This also points to the fact that understanding differs from experience: one has to understand the experience of fullness using the discriminative mind that is fully available for a disciplined mind in the waking state but not available in the dream and deep-sleep states.
We may also note that, during the deep sleep state, there is no knowledge of space and time. During the dream state, spatial and temporal frame-works exist, even though these may differ from the space-time scales in the waking state. Since the mind is folded in the deep sleep state, it is obvious that space and time also arise with the mind, which is present in the waking and dream states but not in the deep-sleep state. Since I still exist in the deep sleep state, in spite of the absence of a time-space continuum, my existence is independent of the time-space continuum. Thus, nature points out that the advaitic or non-duality state is beyond time and space or cause-effect duality.
Time and space arise with movement. Even though I move from waking to dream and deep sleep states, these movements are not in a particular space-time coordinate system, since even the reference frame-works themselves change from waking to dream states with each state having its own space-time reference. However in the deep sleep state, since there are no changes or movements due to the absence any particular knowledge, the deep sleep state transcends time and space. In addition, I do not know when I enter into the dream and deep-sleep states, nor do I know how long I dreamt or slept when I emerge from them. The only reference point comes with the waking state and only from that standpoint can I say for how long I slept etc, measured with respect to the waking state. Absence of space-time, and thus all dualities, results in the absence of all suffering, and that is the happiness that I experience in the deep-sleep state. Ignorance is bliss in that sense, since it covers the knowledge of all dualities. Hence, everybody enjoys the deep-sleep state.
Thus 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 ‘existence’ aspect comes from the ‘sat’ aspect of Brahman or the Self; ‘knowledge’ comes from the ‘chit’ aspect of Brahman or the Self; and ‘happiness’ comes from the ‘Ananda’ aspect of Brahman or the Self.
In addition, since I am unaware of these three experiences whilst in the deep sleep state, there is an experience-experiencer yet the normal duality or triad that involves experiencer-experienced and experiencing is not there, since the mind is folded.
The fundamental question remains as to who is the experiencer I that is recollecting these three experiences once awake, since the mind that is making the statement was not there during the deep sleep state. From the standpoint of the waker’s mind, it appears to be a statement of inference since it was not there during the deep sleep state. On the other hand, my experience in deep-sleep is not of the inferential type; it is a solid experience but without the apparent experiencer-experienced duality. It is like the time that my wife left a plateful of laDDu in my room and, when she returned, she found that plate was empty. Since no one else was there or had entered the room, she inferred that I had eaten all the laDDu. This is what I call inferential eating due to circumstantial evidence. However, I must have eaten them, not because of inference, but because I am full of laDDu and therefore cannot eat anything else! The experience of the deep-sleep state is solid experience and the recollection of that experience in the waking state by the mind is not based on inference but on a fact. This is everybody’s experience.