Acharya Sadaji, Friday, September 11, 2015 9:29 am

Part 2 – Who Slept Very Well?

Experiencer of the Deep-Sleep-State

The question remains – If the mind is not there, then who experiences these above three in the deep-sleep state and who recollects these experiences when one is awake, 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 pramaana, or means of knowledge, since mind that uses logic cannot provide the answers, and whatever answers it provides can only be speculation at best. No objective tools can be used or valid to analyze the deep sleep state since all objective entities are absent in that state, other than ignorance. Hence objective scientists also have no tools available for investigation. These aspects have to be clear even when we are studying opinions of other philosophers such as Shree Atamandaji , unless these opinions are shRiti based.

Who experiences the waking and dream states?

Before we address the question of the deep sleeper, it is important to question first who is the experiencer in the waking and dream states. Pure sat chit ananda is all pervading and being infinite cannot experience anything. Satyam jnaanam and anantam are its swaruupa lakshaNas of Brahman. Shankara says in Tai. Up. bashya that they are swaruupa lakshaNas because  – as he puts it – anantatvaat, because Brahman is infinite. Existence is infinite as Ch. Up sadvidya echos, and consciousness is infinite as the mahavAkya prajnaanam brahma indicates, and limit less alone is happiness as any limitation causes suffering. There cannot be many infinities, as Bhagavan Ramana puts it, sat eva chit and chit eva aham, that I am. Hence pure Self or Brahman cannot be an experiencer. Witnessing consciousness also cannot be 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 involves subtle or gross matter cannot be an experiencer either because they are inert – jaDatvAt and only a conscious entity alone can experience.  Then, who is the experiencer during the waking and dream states? A short answer is –  I, the Brahman, identifying myself with the local upAdhi or the mind, say I am the knower and this is known, using the mind as 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 for 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, just as a mirror is capable of reflecting the light, or moon is capable of reflecting the sunlight. The degree or quality of the reflection depends on the purity of the mind. The all-pervading consciousness that I am reflected by a mind is called chidAbhAsa, in contrast to the original consciousness.  It is like moon-light is nothing but reflected sunlight. In 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 by reflecting the sunlight, even though moon by itself is 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 lokas. Naturally, the quality of the reflection depends on the quality of the reflecting medium considering the original consciousness is pure, ever present, and eternal sat chit ananda swaruupam, without a second.

The next aspect involves the mind with the reflecting consciousness. It acts as though it is the independent conscious entity.  It is like moon while reflecting the sunlight thinking that I am a luminous entity, not knowing or forgetting that the luminosity that it has in principle nothing but 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 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. Statement – my consciousness- is a wrong way to express, since it indicate that I am possessor of consciousness and thus different from consciousness.  In fact Bhagavan Ramanuja interprets this way that jiiva has two fold knowledge or awareness a) self-knowledge or reflective knowledge where I am the subject knower and I am the object known or dharmi-jnanaam and b) knowledge or awareness of objects or objective knowledge that arises only when objects arise or exists. He calls this as dharma-bhUta jnaanam.  From the advaita point, I am pure sat chit ananda only being expressed as reflections first by the mind as chidaabhaasa and next by the objects when they form thoughts  or vRittis 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 same as having knowledge of that object. It is similar to my seeing the moon and also seeing objects on the earth due to moon-light falling on the objects and getting reflected by the objects. Thus, mind is known because of chiddabhaasa 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 I am the knower and knowing 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, I, the reflected consciousness, the chidaabhaasa identifying with the mind as I am the mind, and further claim that I am the knower and the vRitties or thoughts that arise in the mind are objects that are known via perceptual processes.  Thus knower and known duality arise in the mind both as subject and object because of reflection of consciousness first by the mind as chidaabhaasa and next as object as vRittis form. Hence the knower is neither the pure sat chit ananda, nor the mind per sec but a fictitious entity that arise due to the combination (which Swami Chinmayanandaji calls as unholy marriage of the two) of the two due to reflective processes.

In short jiiva-hood arises when the reflected conscious, chidAbhAsa, identifying with the limited mind develops notions that I am this mind and via the mind identify other koshas and develop 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 ahankaara and mamakaara notions arise in the apparently conscious mind. This is called upahita chaitanya or consciousness as though enclosed in upAdhi. When the mind perceives the objects via senses or perceives internal objects via memory, the subject-object duality arises in the mind only. The mind due to chidaabhaasa becomes a knower and the thoughts or vRitties that arise in the mind when objectification occurs becomes known. The processes that bring these two, the knower and the known, are the pramANas or means of knowledge. In essence, we have the mind or more precisely the vijnana maya kosha with chidaabhaasa to start with. The monomaya, the prANamaya and annamaya koshas arise in turn as I identify myself with each one of the upAdhis. Janaani and ajnaani differ only in the sense that jnaani knows that I am the all -pervading consciousness enlivening this upAdhis as upahita chaitanya starting from vijnaana maya kosha or intellectual sheath, where both knower-known duality that arises when perceptual knowledge takes place. For ajnaani, 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 process. However in its mere presence all these processes are as though activated because of prakRiti.  Using Swami Paramanandaji terminology we can call the OC or original consciousness. b) Wherever there is a subtle body that involves vijnana maya kosha or intellectual sheath, there is  chidaabhaasa or reflected consciousness or RC. By the reflection of the OC the kosha gets enlivened.  c) Degneration of this koshas further leads to other koshaa, manomaya, prANamaya and annamaya koshas which in turn get enlivened. That life pulsates starting from vijnanamaya koshas all the way to the annamaya kosha. These happens as long the first two items listed above are there. Thus consciousness enlivened in the upAdhis is called upahita chaitanya. Up to this is common whether a person is jnaani or ajnaani. d) Because of primordial ignorance, jiiva-hood arises when chidaabhaasa or reflected consciousness identifies with the koshas as I am this. Hence Jiiva-hood is a fictitious entity that arise with the identification of I am = this where this starts with vijnanamaya kosha and dripples down to annamaya kosha. This is essentially ahankaara as per Vedanta. (The normal ahankaara translated as arrogance is different from the Vedantic ahankaara. This arrogance – what Krishna sites as amaanitvam adambhitvam etc should be curtailed for knowledge). The Vedantic ahankaara will remain even for a jnaani but it becomes only an instrument needed for transactions in the world since it is understood as as mithyaa. It plays the role of I am a knower and this is known. For ajnaani the RC is taken as the original and he operates identifying the koshas as I am this, I am a knower, I am doer or karthaa, I am an enjoyer or bhokta, etc., and therefore suffer the consequence of that identification.  There is a jiiva-hood also in the dream state with the same components more or less operating. Hence, Mandukya Up. defines the dream subject similar to the subject in the waking state, both possessing nineteen gate-ways for operating in their respective worlds. With this background we can examine the deep-sleep state.

Deep-Sleep State:

When we go to deep sleep state, we start withdrawing each of the koshas, one by one, with the desire or thought of going to deep-sleep state. ‘I want to sleep’ thought forms contents of the vijnana maya kosha or the intellect, when it goes to sleep or when it goes into an unmanifested state.  In the process of sleeping, there is a withdrawal of each of the grosser koshas into the subtler one – that annamya kosha to pranamaya kosha, pranamaya to manomaya, manomaya to vijnaana maya.  At the time of sleep, the vijnaana maya or the intellectual sheath becomes unmanifested state with all the koshas as part of its ingredients, but in undifferentiated form. That unmanifested state of intellectual sheath with all its constituent koshas is now called anandamaya kosha, since there is absence of any discriminative thoughts, and associated relationships, other than the homogeneous thought of ignorance or avidya. This is referred to as avidya vRitti.  It is in a sense an experience involving the knowledge of the absence of anything and everything.  Hence Mandukya says – na kinchana kaamam kaamayata – there is absence of desire for any object since there is no perception or recognition of any particular object of any kind in that unmanifested state.

Along with the ignorance, there is an experience of happiness as the absence of any duality that involves all relationships. In essence, all human suffering comes from the notional relationships and ownerships that arise due to individual raaga and dweshaas or likes and dislikes. Hence it is happiness born out of absence of suffering.  It is still a reflected happiness or consciousness since reflection by the homogenous ignorance thought or avidyaa vRitti. Tai. Up classifies the degree of happiness in the anandamaya kosha in terms of moda, pramoda, etc. The very classification implies it is not an absolute happiness but only reflected happiness as in waking and dream states.

Hence it is ananda mayam, and it is kosha since there is inherent identification with the Vijnaanamaya now in potential or unmanifested form.  It is now in its pure existential form since there is no apparent duality or plurality.  Pure existence is nothing but Brahman. Hence, one can say that it is Brahman in the form of ananda maya kosha exists in the deep sleep state. Identification with the vijnana maya kosha is now shifted to the identification with anandamaya kosha.  The experience of ‘I slept well’ involves both the existence (sat aspect of Brahman) as well as the bliss or ananda aspect of Brahman.

In essence, this sequence of withdrawal of grosser koshas to the finer ones up to the anandamaya kosha is called going into deep sleep state. Since there are no two thoughts to differentiate from the other, and there is just an experience of a single homogenous thought of ignorance called avidya vRitti, there is no concept of space and time. Time arises as a gap between two sequential thoughts and movement in time is space; and both are absent in deep-sleep state.

What is there in deep sleep state is only an undifferentiable homogeneous thought that started originally a thought as ‘I want to sleep’. The knowledge also in aananda maya kosha, which is nothing but vijnanamaya kosha in potential form or unmanifested form, occurs also spontaneously as the all-pervading consciousness or sAkshI illumines this anandamaya kosha with the avidyaa vRitti. Although we can say that aanandamya kosha acts as a knower and the known is the absence of everything or avidya vRitti, it is unlike the knowledge in the waking state where the knower and known duality involves distinct pramANa or means of knowledge resulting in tripuTi or triad mentioned earlier. In the deep-sleep state the consciousness reflected in the anandamaya kosha as chidAbhAsa acts as the subject knower and the thought of ignorance as avidya vRitti forms the object of knowledge.  Since avidyaa vRitti involves homogenious undifferented ignorance of everything, the reflected consciousness only illumines this ignorance as object of knowledge. The knower is the enlivening ananda mayakosha which is nothing but vijnaanamaya kosha with all its components (other koshes) in undifferentiated potential form. Hence in deep sleep there are three factors, a) vijnaanamaya kosha in potential form as anandamaya kosha, b) the reflected consciousness, chidAbhAsa reflected in this anandamaya kosha c) undifferented homogenious ignorance as vRitti.

When one awakes from deep sleep state (due to pressure of vaasanaas) the unfolding of the koshas occur in reverse order with vijnaana maya kosha taking its manifested form, with unfolding of each of the koshas, first the manomaya and then praana maya  and then annamaya koshas. The knower –known dualily in the potential form is now unfolded where the knower is the vijnaana maya kosha and known is the homogeneous ignorance of everything. Hence when the mind (vijaanamyaka kosha) says I slept well implies that I was there in potential form and I did not know anything expressing both experiences one as my existence as I was there to sleep well, and the other is my ignorance while I was in that state. I being referred to here is again the unholy combination of the pure consciousness with the anandamaya kosha or unfolded vijnaanamaya kosha.  One can also say that ahankaara in the potential form slept very well since as we mentioned that ahankaara is identification of I am with this – this here being the anandamaya kosha. Thus, upahita chaitanya (RC or reflected consciousness) identifying with the upAdhi as ahankaara jiiva slept very well and did not know anything in the deep-sleep state.  As we mentioned before, the pure all-pervading consciousness has nothing to do with waking, dreaming or deep-sleeping states. It is the witnessing consciousness that is every shining principle without any duality whatsoever.  Hence even the deep-sleep state is also from vyavahaara point only, as declared by Mandukya in mantra 7 as turIyam as na prajnaana ghanam.  Since the experience in deep-sleep state involves absence of all dualities, it is an experience of non-duality but without any knowledge of the absolute truth of advaita.  Here I am differentiating non-duality from the advaita and the reason is advaita knowledge involves knowledge of non-duality, in spite of apparent duality, whereas the in the deep-sleep state there is only the absence of duality and knowledge of the ignorance.  Thus advaitic understanding differs from just the experience of non-duality. This aspect is very important since many want to experience non-duality as the goal of self-realization. What is required is the knowledge of the absoluteness of the self that is aham brahmaasmi or I am the infiniteness. That knowledge has to take place with the mind and in the mind only. Hence, the advice of the scriptures is to approach a teacher for this knowledge.

Analysis of our deep sleep experience should provide us many aspects for a keen Vedantic student.

  1. It is an advaitic experience without knowledge of the absolute truth – indicating that self-realization does not involve an experience of non-duality by shunning or shutting of the mind, since we are experiencing this all the time when we go to deep sleep state. No one gets up from deep-sleep with advaitic knowledge or with self-realization.
  2. Self-realization therefore involves clear understanding of my advaitic nature irrespective of the presence or absence of duality. That understanding comes only with the mind which is ready to learn via shravana, manana and nidhidhyaasana that scriptures prescribe. That is listening to the scriptures under a competent teacher who himself has learned this from his teacher, and reflecting on the teaching until there are no more doubts and contemplating on the teaching until one recognizes all the time I am that pure existent consciousness, one without a second.
  3. In the deep sleep state, jnaani sleeps as jnaani and ajnaani sleeps as ajnaani. This is because the mind that has the knowledge or ignorance of one’s true nature is folded with its knowledge to be in potential form. Hence jnaanam or ajnaanam of oneself is in potential form in the anandamaya kosha.
  4. The knowledge including the self-knowledge occurs in or with the upahita chaitanya or reflected consciousness, reflected in the vijnaamaya kosha. Hence viveka or discriminative intellect becomes important tool along with shraddhaa or faith in the teaching as emphasized by Lord Krishna as – shraddhaavan labhate jnaanam.
  5. There are several misconceptions about deep-sleep state in the literature. See for example the discussion between Shree Ananda wood and Shree Dennis relating to Shree Atmanandaji account of deep-sleep state. The discussion can be found at

It appears from the discussion deep-sleep is being described somewhat similar to turIyam while in fact in the description of turIyam the scripture negates the deep-sleep state as part of mithyaa only. The confusion can be due to the misunderstanding that pure consciousness involves objectless awareness as the description indicates. Even if one takes that operational definition, the deep sleep state is not objectless awareness. In deep sleep state we are aware of the homogeneous ignorance just as stated above with example of pitch dark room where we are aware of objectless-ness.  In both pitch dark room and in deep sleep state we have an object for awareness; darkness in the pitch dark room and ignorance in the deep-sleep state. For that reason only we can say – I do not see or know anything there in the pitch dark room or in the deep-sleep state. Absence of non-existence of an object or objects is knowledge stated as anupalabdi pramANa. As a final note again – self-realization does not necessarily involves objectless awareness but recognition that I am awareness with or without thoughts or vRittis or object-thoughts. Hence, advaitic knowledge involves recognition that I am pure existence-consciousness-limitless with or without the world of plurality present since the plurality that is present is only mithyaa and therefore cannot disturb my advaitic state.

Hari Om!


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