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Dreamer, Deep Sleep and Memory
Raphael: I wish to ask for a basic explanation of what happens to mind, body and awareness in the dream state, and especially in deep sleep.
Sundari: Nothing “happens” to awareness, ever. Awareness is the non-experiencing witness of the experiencing entity, called the jiva, or doer.
In the dream state the subtle body is turned inward facing the causal body, the vasanas. Jiva is not present in the dream state in the same way that it is present in the waking state, so the experiences the dreamer has are just experiences of the vasanas. In the waking state jiva identifies with the doer, so the doer is not seen as an object. It is thought to be the subject. In the dream state there is also identification, but the doer/ego can also appear as an object illumined by taijasa, awareness reflected on the subtle body. In the waking state the sense organs are the organs of knowledge and structure reality according to the vasanas. In the dream state only the subtle organs of perception (the ability to hear, see, feel, etc.) are working, not the gross organs (ears, eyes, etc.). As a result, reality has no structure, therefore the vasanas are chaotic. Very often we cannot make any sense of dream content for this reason. The doer/ego is a dream doer/ego, similar in some respects to viswa but with unique powers, like flying, for instance.
In the dream state, you can see the waker going about its business, walking, talking, eating, etc. But you cannot build more vasanas, because it is not an actual doer, only a dream doer. Not that either doer is real; both are objects known to you, awareness. These powers are inherent in the dream state and do not belong to taijasa although in normal dreams it identifies with them. Some dreams are different in that we know we are observing the doer – and these dreams usually have symbolic meaning for us. The doer/ego and the events appearing in the dream are just waking-state events that have become vasanas outpicturing as dream events.
The dream state has two aspects: waking, dream and sleep dream. It is called the pratibasika state, the subjective state of reality. It is jiva’s creation (sristi). It is an individual jiva’s interpretation of reality. In the dream state (whether the jiva is awake or asleep) vasanas influence how reality is interpreted by the jiva. Isvara provides the raw material for the interpretation, but not the interpretation itself. Ultimately it is all Isvara, but to get to that understanding (which is tantamount to moksa) the jiva must understand its oneness with Isvara and its difference from Isvara so that it can be free of both itself and Isvara.
The sleeper in the deep sleep state is consciousness identified with the causal body (prajna – consciousness operating as the jiva); it is awareness experiencing its own nature or bliss. We cannot experience without a thought, so there is a subtle thought, a vritti (called prajna) in deep sleep that makes the bliss experienced possible. This bliss comes from the absence of objects, including and especially the vasanas. The mind is one with undifferentiated consciousness because all vasanas are dormant in deep sleep. Deep sleep is defined by the absence of mental activity. The gross body is also not present for the deep sleeper, although it is visible to others. Deep sleep replenishes and enlivens the subtle body, which is why it is so refreshing and vital for psychological and physical health.
The only objects present in deep sleep are ignorance and nothing (no objects), which are experienced and known through inference when the deep sleeper wakes up and the bliss ends, which is why prajna means “almost enlightened” – because it experiences the limitlessness and bliss of awareness; but because the intellect is not present, it lacks knowledge of what it is experiencing. The subtle body disappears in deep sleep state as does the microcosmic causal body (personal subconscious, or subtle body). It is the same for everyone. The macrocosmic causal body is another name for Isvara. The subtle body seems to belong to the jiva (although it actually belongs to Isvara) and produces the jiva’s karma.
Dreamless sleep is known also known as the bliss sheath, ananda-maya-kosha. In moments where there seems to be no doer/experiencer, there must have been a witness who knows the joy/bliss. If not, how would the jiva or deep sleeper know joy/bliss was there in the first place? How can the jiva say that it did not know anything while it was asleep unless awareness was there to witness the absence of knowledge? Therefore the deep sleeper cannot be the lack of knowledge or ignorance, the experiencing entity.
Many inquirers get confused, reasoning that because the subtle and gross bodies are not present and you cannot remember what you don’t experience, this means there is no experience taking place in deep sleep. But the causal body is present, so experience is taking place there. If the causal body were not present, the body would die. But there has to be awareness present to know that you don’t remember. Memory, like ignorance or knowledge, is an object known to you.
The bliss we are after if we are seeking moksa is the bliss of self-knowledge, which never ends (anantum), because it is our true nature.
~ Love, Sundari