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.

 Who experiences the waking and dream states?

Before we address the question of the deep sleeper, it is important to ask first ‘who is the experiencer in the waking and dream states?’ Pure sat-chit-Ananda is all pervading and, being infinite, cannot experience anything (because there is nothing else). Satyam, j~nAnam and anantam are the svarUpa lakShaNa-s of Brahman. Shankara says in Tai. Up. bhAShya that they are svarUpa lakShaNa-s because, as he puts it, anantatvAt – because Brahman is infinite. Existence is infinite, as Ch. Up sadvidyA echoes; consciousness is infinite, as the mahAvAkya praj~nAnaM brahma indicates; and limit-less alone is happiness, as any limitation causes suffering.

There cannot be many infinities, as Bhagavan Ramana puts it. Hence, pure Self or Brahman cannot be an experiencer. Witnessing consciousness also cannot be an experiencer by definition, since it is a witness of the experiences.  Actually, witnessing consciousness is Brahman only. The mind or BMI (or any aspects that involve subtle or gross matter) cannot be an experiencer either because they are inert, and only a conscious entity can experience.  Then, who is the experiencer during the waking and dream states? A short answer is that I, Brahman, identifying myself with the local upAdhi or the mind, say that ‘I am the knower’ and ‘this is known’, using the mind as the instrument for knowledge. Brahman, being infinite, cannot really identify with anything, since there is nothing other than Brahman to experience. Hence, the following explanation is given for an intellect who is seeking an answer to the question: who is the experiencer in the waking or dream states?

The all-pervading consciousness gets reflected wherever there is a subtle body, since the subtle body is capable of reflecting consciousness, just as a mirror or the moon are capable of reflecting sunlight. The degree or quality of the reflection depends on the purity of the mind. The all-pervading consciousness that I am, when reflected by a mind, is called chidAbhAsa, in contrast to the original consciousness.  It is like moon-light is nothing but reflected sunlight. When reflecting the all-pervading consciousness, the mind acts as though it is a conscious entity.  It is similar to the moon acting as though it is a luminous entity in the sky when it reflects sunlight, even though moon by itself is a non-luminous entity.  Thus reflection involves two aspects: the all-pervading, eternally present consciousness that I am, and the reflecting media, the subtle bodies that are there in the universe in various loka-s. Naturally, the quality of the reflection depends on the quality of the reflecting medium, since the original consciousness is pure, ever present, and eternal sat chit Ananda svarUpa, without a second.

The next aspect involves the mind with the reflecting consciousness. It acts as though it is an independent conscious entity.  It is like the moon, while reflecting the sunlight, thinking ‘I am a luminous entity’, not knowing or forgetting that its luminosity really belongs to the sunlight only.  When we look at the moon, what we are really seeing is not the moon but the sunlight reflected by the moon. The same situation occurs with the mind. I am conscious of my mind and also conscious of the thoughts in the mind. When I say ‘I know my mind’ or ‘I am observing my mind’, it implies that I am conscious of my mind. Thus, the mind is the object of my consciousness, we say.

Similarly, when I say ‘I know my thoughts’ or ‘I know my body’, etc, I am the knower, and these are objects in my consciousness. Saying ‘my’ consciousness is the wrong way to express this, since it suggests that I am the possessor of consciousness and thus different from consciousness.  In fact, Bhagavan Ramanuja interprets it this way, saying that the jIva has two-fold knowledge or awareness:

a) self-knowledge or reflective knowledge, where I am the subject knower and I am the object known
b) knowledge or awareness of objects, or the objective knowledge that arises only when objects arise or exists.

From the advaita point of view, I am pure sat-chit-Ananda only being expressed as reflections, first by the mind as chidAbhAsa and next by the objects when they form thoughts or vRRitti-s in the mind. Hence, the consciousness that I am is not due to mind but due to the original all-pervading consciousness. Similarly, being conscious of any object is the same as having knowledge of that object. It is similar to my seeing the moon and also seeing objects on the earth due to the moonlight falling on the objects and being reflected.

Thus, the mind is known because of chidAbhAsa or consciousness reflected by the mind. Similarly, I know the thoughts that arise in the mind when this reflected light from the mind falls on the thoughts and get reflected back to the mind. Identifying with the mind, I, the conscious entity, say that I am the knower and that I know the objective thoughts that arise in the mind. Now, to answer the question of who is the knower in the waking state, we can say that it is I, the reflected consciousness, the chidAbhAsa identifying with the mind, and claiming that I am the knower. And the vRRitti-s or thoughts that arise in the mind are objects that are known via perceptual processes.  Thus knower-known duality arises in the mind as subject and object because of reflection of consciousness first by the mind as chidAbhAsa and second as objects, following the formation of vRRitti-s. Hence, the knower is neither the pure sat-chit-Ananda nor the mind per se, but a fictitious entity that arises due to the combination (which Swami Chinmayanandaji calls an unholy marriage of the two) due to reflective processes.

In short, jIva-hood arises when the reflected consciousness, chidAbhAsa, identifying with the limited mind, develops notions that ‘I am this mind’ and, via the mind, identifies with other kosha- s and develops notions that ‘I am this body’ and ‘I am the perceiver, feeler, thinker and thus knower’, etc. Hence, ‘I am this’ and ‘this is mine’ (the ahaMkAra and mamakAra notions) arise in the apparently conscious mind. This is called upahita chaitanya, or consciousness as though enclosed in an upAdhi. When the mind perceives the objects via the senses or perceives internal objects via memory, the subject-object duality arises in the mind only. The mind, due to chidAbhAsa, becomes a knower, and the thoughts or vRRitti-s that arise in the mind when objectification occurs become known. The processes that bring these two together, the knower and the known, are the pramANa-s or means of knowledge. In essence, we have the mind (or more precisely the vij~nAnamaya kosha), with chidAbhAsa to start with. The manomaya, prANamaya and annamaya kosha-s arise in turn as I identify myself with each one of the upAdhis. A j~nAnI and aj~nAnI differ only in the sense that the j~nAnI knows that I am the all-pervading consciousness enlivening the upAdhi-s as upahita chaitanya starting from the vij~nAnamaya kosha or intellectual sheath, where the knower-known duality arises when perceptual knowledge takes place. The aj~nAnI, his mind not knowing the above facts, thinks that I am an independent conscious entity with limited BMI.

In summary, the following aspects need to be understood:

a) There is the all-pervading consciousness that I am, which is self-shining and ever present, which has nothing to do with any of the above processes. However, in its mere presence, all these processes are as though activated because of prakRRiti.  Using Swami Paramanandaji terminology, we can call this the OC or original consciousness.

b) Wherever there is a subtle body that involves the vij~nAnamaya kosha or intellectual sheath, there is  chidAbhAsa or reflected consciousness or RC. By the reflection of the OC the kosha gets enlivened.

c) Degeneration of this kosha further leads to other kosha-s – manomaya, prANamaya and annamaya – which in turn get enlivened. That life pulsates starting from vij~nAnamayakosha all the way to the annamaya kosha. This happens as long the first two items listed above are there. Thus, consciousness enlivened in the upAdhi-s is called upahita chaitanya. Up to this point, it is the same, whether a person is a j~nAnI or aj~nAnI.

d) Because of primordial ignorance, jIva-hood arises when chidAbhAsa or reflected consciousness identifies with the kosha-s as ‘I am this’. Hence, jIva-hood is a fictitious entity that arises with the identification of ‘I am = this’ where ‘this’ starts with the vij~nAnamayakosha and dribbles down to annamayakosha. This is essentially ahaMkAra as per Vedanta. This ahaMkAra will remain even for a j~nAnI but it becomes only an instrument needed for transactions in the world, since it is understood as as mithyA. It plays the role of ‘I am a knower’ and ‘this is known’. For an aj~nAnI, the RC is taken as the original and he operates identifying the kosha-s as ‘I am this’, ‘I am a knower’, ‘I am doer’, ‘I am an enjoyer’ etc, and he therefore suffers the consequence of that identification.  There is a jIva-hood also in the dream state, with the same components more or less operating. Hence, the Mandukya Up. defines the dream subject in a similar way to the subject in the waking state, both possessing nineteen gate-ways for operating in their respective worlds.

With this background we can now examine the deep-sleep state.

11 thoughts on “Who Slept Well – part 3

  1. I am quite ignorant, not having read much of the sastras, still less the commentaries about them, except for some by Shankara. I wonder if one could do without RC-chidabhasa and witness consciousness. Are these two concepts to be found in Shankara’s writings? The second part of this post seems verily complicated to me (items: 1) “Thus, the mind is known because of chidAbhAsa or consciousness reflected by the mind. Similarly, I know the thoughts that arise in the mind when this reflected light from the mind falls on the thoughts and get reflected back to the mind.” ??
    2) “Thus knower-known duality arises in the mind as subject and object because of reflection of consciousness first by the mind as chidAbhAsa and second as objects, following the formation of vRRitti-s. Hence, the knower is neither the pure sat-chit-Ananda nor the mind per se, but a fictitious entity that arises due to the combination.”)

    I wonder if ‘everything’ can be explained with just a few basic concepts: avidya-adhyasa, Pure Consciousness, and mind – plus ‘the three states’. In paramarthika there is no mind, only Atman-Brahman. In vyavaharika mind, due to avidya-adhyasa is taken to be the autonomous perceiver-enjoyer, ‘me’, even in the presence of Consciousness which remains unaffected. Once the veil of ignorance is removed there is no more jiva, world, multiplicity, binding, delivery, or suffering … or vyavaharika, ignorance, etc.(Gaudapada and Shankara).

  2. Martiin

    There seems to be a bit of erudite scholasticism in traditional vedantins. The reason why Bhagavan Ramana, Nisargadatta and K did not recommend scriptural study.

    Perhaps everything is even simpler. You are the world and the world is you. There has never been any separation. However a thought arises that claims ownership / control of the thoughts / perceptions that are happening here / now as opposed to there. If/when thought effortlessly / non-volitionally subsides then there is only the silence that thou art.

  3. Yes, but . . . what is Brahman? The unknown, unknowable. The tao that cannot be named. The danger is taking refuge in a comforting concept.

    So, as K used to say, mind needs understand that it is forever limited, conditioned by concepts (including god, Brahman). And by so seeing its limitations, to go further it must come to an end. And that ending, that death, is of all the accumulations, conditioning, ego that continually creates disorder.turmoil in thoughts. K’s views on this is concurrent with Bhagavan Ramana and Nisargadatta. All say to observe ‘yourself’, watch yourself, choicelessly (otherwise one fragment of thought is trying to control another) . . . And in that watching silence descends . . . and in that silence the eternal may come to you.

    I increasingly think that jnana, knowledge is one stage, in that it provides the basis for seeing the falsity of the self. But then this knowledge too has to be discarded to go beyond. All three pointed to this.



  4. Yes, but the mind does not end; nor does it need to. Part of the understanding is of its limitations. But since the problem is the ignorance IN the mind, it is only by removing that ignorance that you come to the realization. You cannot do it without the mind. But of course the so-called knowledge has to be discarded in the end, as you say.


    • Dennis

      Agreed, but ignorance is simply wrong thoughts . . . and there are no ‘right’ thoughts . . . so removing ignorance can only be the cessation of thoughts! But you cannot force thoughts to end – because there is a controller [thought] trying to control other thoughts.


      • If ignorance is thoughts, I’m surprised that we have time for anything else at all since we are ignorant about so much…


        • But Dennis, you know that ignorance here means false knowledge, and therefore thought – rather than “unknown unknowns” as you seem to be hinting at.

          Vivekachudamani v.137
          “Due to his ignorance, man IDENTIFIES [ie thinks of] the Self with the not-Self. This is the bondage of man and brings in its wake the miseries of birth and death. Through this he considers his perishable body as real . . . etc”


          • Gaudapada differentiates between ignorance and error. It is because we do not have knowledge of the rope that we make the error of thinking it to be a snake. The ‘thinking’ is associated with the error, not with the ignorance. Waking and dream states are associated with both ignorance and error. The deep-sleep state is associated with ignorance only and the mind is folded in deep sleep – hence no thoughts.


  5. Much appreciated the comments by venkat and Dennis. One understands what venkat means by “there are no ‘right thoughts'”: no right concepts, not even that of ‘Brahman’,simply if one stays with the concept, which is just a symbol. A work of deconstruction needs to be done, and that is precisely apavada. A first step would be to realize that mind is not ‘mind’, that it is not other than consciousness, and then that ‘consciousness’ is not ‘It’, ‘That’. Everything is sublatable except the experience (I dare say) of the inexpressible, unnameable, unfathomable.

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