1.10 अभावप्रत्ययालम्बना वृत्तिर्निद्रा
abhāva – absence (of the modifications already mentioned); pratyaya – cause, basis; ālambanā – resting upon, support; vṛtti – mental state, mental modification; nidrā – deep sleep:
Deep sleep is the mental state where there are neither thoughts (as in the three previously mentioned mental states) nor dreams and memories.
1.10 abhāva-pratyayālambanā vṛttir-nidrā
Deep sleep is the mental state where there are neither thoughts, as in the three previously mentioned mental states, nor dreams and memories.
So Vyāsa, in speaking about this particular sutra, says that since we are able to… or we can remember when we wake up that we have been sleeping – number one – and the sleep was perhaps a good sleep, or I didn’t sleep very well, or I did sleep well; the fact that we can recollect or think this, indicates that the state of sleep… any form of sleep… is actually a mental modification, or a vṛtti. There is also a state… and we’ll perhaps deal with that a little further on… of dreamless sleep. And if one is not having any dream, then the question is, “Well how do we know that anything has occurred at all?”
Vyasa… he has advised that sleep is actually regarded as a particular kind of mental state, and we should aim to shut out this mental state like other cognitions. And that is achieved through concentration and practice. So, this is quite an extraordinary idea; that if we are trying to shut out all the vṛttis, what does it mean to shut out sleep or the effects of sleep? This is something that is we should be careful not to speculate about. Don’t forget that throughout this study, and throughout our journey towards the goal of yoga, we are going to have a tendency to think of things; see things and understand things that have been altered by filters. The filters are the state or the nature of our consciousness, and as one makes progress spiritually – as these filters begin to thin out as it were, and eventually to become removed – then one sees with increasing clarity to the state of full enlightenment, or full self-realization.
Because of this condition, we can easily misunderstand things and I can recall when I was a brahmacari – began living as a monk – and one of my associates had made mention to me that our spiritual master had said at one point, that when a person progresses spiritually then they see people… they see persons, everywhere. And when I heard that I was kind of like, ‘What!” I was…it completely blew my mind, and then I began speculating, “What does that mean?”.. you know. Like I’m just going to suddenly turn, and in the doorway I’ll sort of see a person there, or I look down under the desk or something, and there’s going be a person there…And I was like in a state of great confusion, and because maybe the statement was not passed to me with enough accuracy or care, I failed to grasp what was actually being passed on. And that was, that all life… life is a symptom of the presence of a puruṣa or ātmā; that material energy has no life.
In this world in which we exist, there are only two fundamental types of energy: one is the material energy and in a myriad of forms and evolutes, and the other is a spiritual energy which is the ātmā, or the puruṣa – or ‘dṛṣṭa’ or seer. And the nature of the living being the nature of the source of life – for that which is emanating life – is that it is a puruṣa which can be stated as being the person. And therefore, as someone spiritually develops, we don’t just look upon other life forms and not see that there are living beings present within them; that they have taken on -because of their… as a result of karma and of desire, they have taken on different forms, and are occupying different types of bodies.
But even though we may look upon a tree or some grass, or a bird or a dog, as simply being a lower life-form, an actual yogi perceives the reality of the actual living being that is present, and so they see all living beings with an equal vision.
So, in relation to you know… the discussion here on sleep… I just wanted to share with you a couple of verses from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, that speaks about the nature of sleep and how it is a vrtti also, to perhaps enhance some understanding. So in this particular verse it says: ‘When the living entity is in deep sleep, when he faints, when there is some great shock on account of severe loss, at the time of death, or when the body temperature is very high, the movement of the life air is arrested. At that time the living entity loses knowledge of identifying the body with the self’.
So even when the living being experiences any of those kinds of conditions, and loses all awareness of the body and of their own self, it does not mean that either of these things have actually disappeared or ceased to exist. There is simply a moment of temporary loss of consciousness about them. And even in that condition, as it is also with deep sleep, where there is no dreaming, the ahankara – the false conception of ourself; that very first covering of the atma or the purusha; the one that is completely distorting everything in creating material consciousness – still remains. And when one comes out of that condition, then once again one will experience the reality that they are still completely covered, and in a state of material consciousness.
So there’s also a second verse in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa that states this – which is very interesting. And here it speaks about three different states of awareness that are often spoken of in the broader Vedas. And it says: ‘Waking, sleeping and deep sleep are the three functions of the intelligence (or buddhi) and are caused by the modes of material nature. The living entity within the body is ascertained to possess characteristics different from these three states, and thus remains as a witness to them.’
So if you just take a little time to perhaps read through that and consider it, it’s very… a profound thought, and it’s a very… it’s like what I mentioned with the previous verse. By understanding what is not spirit; what is not spiritual, and what is material – such as the vṛttis, then one can distinguish that if I am in a certain state; if I’m experiencing something…if my consciousness is in a certain way, this is material consciousness – it is not spiritual consciousness. And so there’s going to be something that we will deal with in more detail later and it’s been raised here, about the three modes of material nature – the three gunas. And the understanding that the material energy is functionally unconscious and inert, but due to the influence of these subtle energies, they are stimulating material nature; they are stimulating the coverings – both the gross and subtle bodies of the living beings – and produce a variety of different thoughts, desires, ideas and modes of acting. And when the living being is existing in a materially conditioned state, then it’s as if you are in a car and the car is on autopilot, and while nothing is literally happening to you since you are just sitting in a chair… on a seat in a car, because the car is sometimes driving wildly here and there, then we are experiencing that and reacting to it, and… you know… becoming a little bit overwhelmed. Almost like the same example that we’ve used in the movie house earlier.
So there is one other thing I’ll just make mention of here, but without any detail… and we will deal with later… that there is something akin to dreaming by a spiritualized mind, where the mind can become absorbed in a state of what may seem to be dreaming, where there’s a deep absorption in that which is spiritual. And this is not one of the vṛttis, but is something which is having a positive or an enlightening effect upon the living being or the puruṣa.