The Mandukya Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda


Section 5: Consciousness and Sleep

The waking world and the dream world, from the point of view of the Jiva, are two aspects of the function of the mind. The mind projects itself in perception, both in waking and dream. The mind is active, and it gets tired of activity. It ceases from activity when it is too much fatigued. The complete cessation of the activity of the mind, due to exhaustion, is sleep, known as Sushupti.

That is called Sushupti, or deep sleep, where – na kancana kamam kamayate – one desires nothing, because the mind has withdrawn itself from both the physical and subtle objects. Na kancana svapnam pasyati: It does not dream also, because even psychic activity has ceased. Tat sushuptam: This is complete absorption of the mind into itself. But this absorption is of an unconscious nature.

The mind, while it appears to be a little conscious in dream, and more conscious in waking, is not conscious at all in deep sleep. This has given rise to an erroneous school of philosophy which concludes that consciousness is possible only when there is contact of the mind with objects. The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika hold this view. Unless there is contact of the Atman, they say, with objects, there cannot be knowledge. The real nature of the Atman, while it is not in contact with things, is not knowledge, say the Nyaya and the Vaiseshika. They are not right because they cannot explain how this unconscious element creeps into the state of sleep. The reason is not merely that consciousness has no contact with objects but that it has some other obstruction to the revelation of knowledge in deep sleep.

The third foot of the Atman, the third phase of its analysis, is deep sleep, where all perceptions and cognitions converge into a single mode of the mind – Ekibhutah. It becomes a mass of consciousness, which is not projected outside; – Prajnana-ghanah. There is no modification of the mind, and so there is no external consciousness. We are not aware of the world outside in the state of sleep because of the absence of Vrittis, or psychoses, of the mind. Only when the mind becomes extrovert can it have consciousness of the outer world, whether in dream or in waking. But, there is no agitation of the mind, of that nature, in sleep. It is as if there is a homogeneous mass of all perceptions, where all the Samskaras, Vasanas, commingle into a single mode, or condition, instead of there being many cognitive psychoses. Anandamayo anandabhuk cetomukhah prajnah: It is all bliss. The happiness of deep sleep is greater than all other forms of happiness or pleasure born of sense-contact. It is filled with Ananda, bliss, delight, satisfaction. Even a king cannot be happy if he does not have sleep for a week. All the worlds may be given to you, but if you will not be allowed to sleep, you would rather say, "Let me sleep. I do not want any world. You take your kingdom back, all your empire. You allow me to sleep peacefully." An empire cannot give you that happiness, the power which you may seem to have over the world cannot give you that satisfaction, which you have while you are alone in deep sleep, unbefriended, unprotected, unseen, uncognised, unpossessed of anything. While you are possessed of so many things in the world, with all the retinue of a kingdom, with the power that you wield in society, you have a satisfaction; but it is no comparison with the happiness of sleep, where you have no empire, no retinue, no power conceivable, and nobody even to look at your face. In that condition, when you are alone, you are more happy than when you are in the midst of people in the waking state. Just imagine your condition. While you are alone, you are so happy, and while you are in the midst of many people, you are agitated, vexed, worried and complain about everything. You make no complaints in sleep, and you want nothing. Look at it! When you are fast asleep, you want nothing, you ask for nothing, you do not want anybody even to see you or speak to you, and, yet, you are more happy there than when you are an emperor. From where has this happiness come? From where has this Anandamayatva come to you? This subject is dealt with in the Mantra which describes the third phase of the Atman. Your real nature is aloneness, not sociability. Your real nature is Kevalata, not Indriya-Samyoga with Vishayas, objects. Your real nature is singularity, not multiplicity. Your real nature is a total transcendence of all sensory and mental phenomena, not contact with objects. Therefore you are Anandamaya, Anandabhuk: filled with bliss, enjoying bliss.

What do you eat in deep sleep, which gives you so much satisfaction? Ananda alone is your food, not bread, dal, kheer, rasagulla, laddu. You get nothing of that kind in sleep, and yet you are more happy there than when you have a sumptuous dinner or a meal. All the luncheons of the world cannot give you that satisfaction which you have in sleep due to there being only the food of Ananda. You eat Ananda, swallow Ananda, consume Ananda and exist as Ananda. And, the Bliss of Pure Being is known as Ananda. This is what you enjoy in deep sleep. And when you get up from sleep, with what refreshment you come out! From where has that energy come to you? None was there to talk to you, nobody spoke to you, no one gave you anything, you possessed nothing, there was no property, you took no tonic; no nutritious food was there, and yet you came out of sleep with strength, well refreshed, and with a readiness to do more activity. From where did you get this power, this strength, this energy, this Ananda, this delight? Wonderful! You cannot answer this question. When you had nothing, when you possessed nothing, how did this Ananda come to you, and how did this power come to you? It came, no doubt, from another source altogether, which is not of this world.

Futile it is to run after the shadows of the world of objects. Foolishly you go to the things of the world which only tire your senses and drive you back to sleep, giving you nothing, giving you false promises, tantalising you, making you look foolish. This is the world; and yet, again and again, do you go to the world, forgetting what you saw in the state of sleep. We forget the sleep experience. This is the malady of all our waking toils. If you could remember what you had in sleep, you will never come back to this waking world of multiplicity. If consciousness were there in sleep, you would not like to return to this waking world. But you remain unconscious. So, you arc driven back by an impulse of work, once again, to the waking world. Consciousness of sleep is equal to Samadhi. If sleep is to be coupled with consciousness, it becomes Atma-Sakshatkara, the realisation of the Atman. This is what they call Supcrconsciousness. This is Nirvana, Moksha, Kevalata – Liberation. This is your real nature. This is why you are full of Ananda in sleep. You go to the blessedness of eternity and infinity in sleep, but you are not aware of it.

Anandamayo anandabhuk cetomukhah: What is the instrument through which you enjoy this Ananda? Not the senses, not the mind. While there were nineteen mouths for you in the waking and dreaming states, there are no such mouths in deep sleep. Here, the mouth is not the mind or the senses, but consciousness alone is the mouth – Cetvmukhah. Consciousness enjoys bliss. Who enjoys bliss? Consciousness alone, is the answer. It is 'Chit' that experiences 'Ananda', not the Indriyas or the Manas, the senses or the mind. In deep sleep there is only Ananda experienced by Chit. You experience Satchidananda, here, Consciousness-Being, as such. But something else happens there, a very intriguing factor starts working, which covers the consciousness, and makes you come back to the waking life with the same foolishness with which you entered the state of sleep.

This is Prajna, the consciousness which is in its own pristine nature, knowing everything and not being associated with anything external. This is the transcendent state in relation to waking and dreaming, the cause of all experiences in waking and dreaming, the Karana-Avastha, in relation to which waking and dreaming are effects, Karya-Avastha. In correspondence with this Prajna, or the causal condition of Anandamayatva of the Jiva, there is a Universal Causal Condition, known as Isvara. While the waking consciousness, individually, is called Visva, it is called Taijasa in dream, and Prajna in the deep sleep state. Correspondingly, from the cosmic level, we have Virat in waking, Hiranyagarbha in dreaming, and Isvara in deep sleep. While we, ordinarily, hold that the impressions of waking create dream and an adjournment of all the activities of these impressions is sleep, thus deducing dream from waking and sleep from both, in the cosmic level we cannot make such deductions, because a reverse process takes place there which seems to be a prior condition to the individual state. Isvara being the cause of Hiranyagarbha, and Hiranyagarbha being the cause of Virat. The relationship between the individual and the cosmic, between Visva and Virat, Taijasa and Hiranyagarbha, Prajna and Isvara is one of organic integrality, and a realisation of this organic connection of being will land the Jiva in Isvaratva and make it at once omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.