by Swami Krishnananda
We are slowly moving in the direction of coming to a conclusion as to the nature of an ultimate reality, which alone can attract us and compel us to seek our fulfilments in it. All this effort, this study, this analysis, is for this purpose.
Is there a thing called Ultimate Reality? It has to be there if our desires and aspirations are to have any meaning or sense. If our incessant search, day in and day out throughout our life, has any worthwhile meaning, it has to be fulfilled one day or the other in the attainment or the achievement of something finally and ultimately real – not temporarily or tentatively real, or real for the time being – a final quenching of every thirst and an appeasing of every type of hunger of the personality. This is possible only if there is such a thing called the ultimately real. Towards this is our effort in our studies.
Last time we discovered that we seem to be mysterious somethings which cannot be identified with the body. We cannot identify ourselves with the body, because in the state of dream we seem to be existing even without any relation to the body. We do not even seem to be minds thinking, because in sleep, the mind does not think. The mind is almost not there, and yet we are there. So, we can be there even if the body and the mind are not there. In some important sense, we did exist in sleep, minus our association with the body and the mind.
In our daily life we always refer to ourselves as bodies, sometimes as minds. We associate ourselves with the bodily personality only, for all practical purposes, in every business of life. There is nothing else in us which we can think of. Rarely do we refer to our intellect, our reason, our mind, our emotion, our psyche, but there is nothing else we can discover in ourselves. Yet, there seems to be something which is coming to the surface of our discovery when we analyse this enigmatic condition we call deep sleep.
This condition of sleep in which we did exist without any association with all these things we call meaningful in waking life – body and mind – is a gateway to a great knowledge about our own selves. If we are something, and we did exist as something different from the body and the mind, in what condition did we exist? We are unable to think properly here because the body alone is the object of our thinking; and to some extent, thought itself is the object of its own function. All our knowledge is psychological, mental. We have no other knowledge available in this world. But this knowledge is inadequate for the purpose of knowing what it was that existed in deep sleep. The mind cannot turn back on its own source; it cannot climb on its own shoulders or peel its own skin. The mind is turned back baffled when it tries to know what it was that existed in deep sleep. The mind can think only that which is in front of it; it cannot know what is behind it. In some way, just as we cannot see our own back, the mind too cannot see its own source. The area or jurisdiction of mental activities ceases when we cover the domain of waking and dreaming. The mind operates during waking and dreaming, but it cannot operate during sleep. Therefore, all our apparatus of knowledge fails and becomes valueless when we try to know our own selves.
Look at the wonder! We have no means of knowing our own selves. We have means to know other people, other things, but we cannot know our own selves. Why? It is because the mind cannot know its own source. The effect cannot go back to the cause, for an important reason which we have tried to touch upon previously – namely, the conditioning of the mind in space-time and causal categories. In deep sleep these categories do not work, and space-time does not operate either. There is nothing practicable – no space, no time, no causation, no objects, no associations of any kind – a nihil, a zero as it were. But were we a zero in deep sleep? Not at all! We were solidly existing, and not annihilated nothings.
We were not destroyed in deep sleep. We existed very substantially, wholly; yet, we cannot know in what condition we existed. How do we know that we existed in such a completely fulfilled manner in the state of deep sleep, when we have no means of knowing that we existed? When the means of knowledge are not there, how does one know that anything is there at all? Who is telling us that we existed in sleep? It cannot be the mind because it was not working, and it was not the body. Therefore, there is a peculiar way of ‘knowing’, that is other than mental knowledge.
The process of psychological knowledge is not the only kind of knowledge. There is another way of knowing, which is superior to perception and psychological cognition. We can perceive the objects of the world, we can cognise concepts, but we cannot perceive or conceive our selves because the perception process is the activity of the senses, and conception the work of the mind. The senses and the mind do not work in deep sleep; therefore, we cannot know what we are, through the process of perception and cognition.
What other way is there? There is direct apprehension. We sometimes call it intuition. Even now, at this moment, we know that we are, not because we open our eyes and look at ourselves. We can close our eyes, and yet know that we are. We apprehend ourselves in a total way, not in a sensory manner, and a conviction arises in us that we are – not by means of inductive or deductive reasoning, not by perception or cognition, but by a self-assertive, indubitable feeling which we can call realisation. We have a realisation of our own self – “I am” – and we do not require any proof from a textbook; no experiment is necessary here, and nobody need observe this fact of our being. We know that we are, for a reason which cannot be explained.
Therefore, there are things which are real and convincingly existent, yet cannot be proved by logic. Science and logic are not the only way of knowing things, because in our own case, they fail, while we can apply these instruments in the case of other things and other persons. So we did exist in the state of deep sleep, and we were wholly real; we were not incomplete, we were not fractions. Can we say because our body was not there, and our mind was not there, that only a fraction of us was there? Were we only one third in deep sleep, because the body and mind were not active? No, we were not one third; we were entirely, a hundred percent. Then even minus the body and mind, we can be a hundred percent. How is it possible?
There is a very clearly observable phenomenon of amputation of the limbs of the body. If the arms and legs are surgically removed, we may say that fifty percent of the body has gone, but yet the person will not say he is fifty percent. He is still fully a hundred percent. Even if the bodily limbs are cut off, the person is a hundred percent. Therefore, the person is not the body; otherwise, if one finger goes, some percent of the person must be diminished.
By the other types of analysis we conducted, we felt that we were entirely present in sleep, minus even the thinking process. Not only that, we were immensely happy; we were not grieving or sorrowful going to sleep. We are tired of the joys of the world, and we go to a joy which is superior to all the joys of the world of senses because there is a fulfilment in sleep which exceeds the satisfaction of coming in contact with any object, including the whole Earth itself. Even a sick person is rejuvenated when he wakes up from sleep. Tired people come out with greater strength, and feel a new sense of life after awakening.
What was the satisfaction? From where did it arise? How is it that we feel a new sense of life coming to us when we wake up from sleep? We had nothing to eat, we were fasting the whole night, and yet we were happier in that condition of fasting than in the waking condition of eating. What could be the reason? When we had no friends, no associations, nothing to do, no contact whatsoever, and no joys of the world, we felt happier than all the joys acquired in the world. From where did it arise?
It arose for a simple reason. In the waking and dreaming conditions – or, for the matter of that, when we are in association with the body and the mind – we are not wholly ourselves. We become wholly ourselves only in sleep. We partially distract our being by associating it with something which it is not. We have already known that we are something entirely different from the body and the mind; and to be daily, persistently clinging to this body and the mental activities as if they are me, would be to run away from ourselves. There is an estrangement of personality – a psychological aberration, we may say – taking place in waking and dreaming conditions. Even now we are not wholly ourselves because we have turned away from ourselves to some extent in thinking that we are the body. We have wrongly associated ourselves with something with which we could not logicality identify by a convincing analysis and a satisfactory deduction. If we cannot, by any amount of understanding, identify the body as ourselves, how do we wholly depend only on it and ask for satisfactions through the limbs of the body?
Hence, we are living in a desert of what we call this life, where we search for a little water in the oasis of sense contact. This oasis is very small; we cannot find it everywhere in the vast desert. We are never satisfied. Let the whole world be given to us; we will be wretched still because this so-called world is an object of the senses which we come in contact with by a turning away from ourselves through the senses and the bodily instrument. All this should explain why waking life is not such a happy condition as sleep. But why do we come back to the waking state again and again, if sleep is the best thing? This is a subject of psychology, and we are not discussing psychology at present; we shall keep it aside for a further discussion. Why is it that we are forced to come back to waking life again and again, every day, in spite of the fact that it does not seem to be our real condition?
In the state of deep sleep, therefore, we existed entirely, wholly, completely, one hundred percent. What was the substance out of which we were made? What are we made of? The building is made of bricks, the book is made up of paper, the desk is made up of wood; of what are we made? Because that state in which we existed wholly and totally in the state of deep sleep was dissociated from what we call the body and the mind, we cannot say that we are made up of the body, or even that our substance is the mind. What was it, or what is it?
Here is something transcendent to our approach. We ourselves are transcendent to our own mental consciousness. We are more than what we are; we are greater than what we appear. Our jurisdiction is wider than the little bodily area we are occupying now. We existed, but not as any substance either physically, materially, socially, politically, economically, and not even psychologically. Minus all these things, freed from all these associations, we did exist as a hundred-percent being. We cannot say anything about that condition except that we were simply aware – a mere awareness. We can say nothing more. The truth cannot be accessible to us because, as I mentioned, it is no longer a content of the mental consciousness. We were, we are, and there the matter ends. We were not something as persons – as men, women, etc. We were not any of these things. We were unqualified existence, without any adjective – pure being which can be associated only with pure consciousness: “I am”. I was in sleep, but not as something, not as this or that – not as the son or daughter of somebody, as a boss, as a rich or a poor person. I simply was. I am.
This being of ours in the state of deep sleep has to be associated with consciousness because we cannot say that we are an unconscious, brick-like substance. Nobody would accept this condition, especially as we know that we can be aware of the fact of our having slept yesterday, a remembrance which is posterior to our existence as something in deep sleep. All memory proceeds from past experience, and experience is always associated with an awareness of being something. Therefore, with this very difficult logical conclusion, we realise that we have to be considered as pure being, consciousness, and nothing more, nothing less.