Ramana Maharshi: the method of wakeful sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) to attain liberation

The the following talks, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi outlines a very simple but powerful teaching, that of wakeful-sleep or Jagrat-Sushupti (Jagrat means the waking state, Sushupti means deep dreamless sleep). This teaching in essence is no different to the other teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and is also no different to the great Vedanta teachings, but is just another way of expressing the same principle.

The method consists of noting that in deep dreamless sleep the mind is still and there is no suffering, but there is also no awareness of this fact at the time. In the waking state we are presently aware, but thoughts and suffering also exist.

Therefore the method is that of remaining awake but with the thoughts stilled. Ramana says this is the state of Jagrat-Sushupti, which is also the state of the Jnani (the knower of truth or the enlightened sage). Ramana states this jagrat-susupti is also called Samadhi (talks 286, 313) and that it is also Mukti (liberation, talk 311) and bliss (talks 609, 372).

I will start with an excerpt from Talk 609 as this goes into the most detail, and the opening paragraphs alone contain many gems that should be carefully contemplated on. Thereafter the talks are chronological, with bold added by myself for emphasis.

Wishing you the eternal peace that is already ever-present



From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 609:

The incentive to realise can arise only in the waking state and efforts can also be made only when one is awake. We learn that the thoughts in the waking state form the obstacle to gaining the stillness of sleep.

“Be still and know that I AM God”.

So stillness is the aim of the seeker. Even a single effort to still at least a single thought even for a trice goes a long way to reach the state of quiescence. Effort is required and it is possible in the waking state only. There is the effort here: there is awareness also; the thoughts are stilled; so there is the peace of sleep gained. That is the state of the Jnani. It is neither sleep nor waking but intermediate between the two. There is the awareness of the waking state and the stillness of sleep. It is called jagrat-sushupti.

Call it wakeful sleep or sleeping wakefulness or sleepless waking or wakeless sleep. It is not the same as sleep or waking separately. It is atijagrat (beyond wakefulness) or atisushupti (beyond sleep).

It is the state of perfect awareness and of perfect stillness combined. It lies between sleep and waking; it is also the interval between two successive thoughts. It is the source from which thoughts spring; we see that when we wake up from sleep. In other words thoughts have their origin in the stillness of sleep. The thoughts make all the difference between the stillness of sleep and the turmoil of waking.

Go to the root of the thoughts and you reach the stillness of sleep. But you reach it in the full vigour of search, that is, with perfect awareness. That is again jagrat-sushupti spoken of before. It is not dullness; but it is Bliss. It is not transitory but it is eternal. From that the thoughts proceed. What are all our experiences but thoughts? Pleasure and pain are mere thoughts. They are within ourselves. If you are free from thoughts and yet aware, you are That Perfect Being.

From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 286:

Sushupti continues in this state also. We are ever in sushupti. That should be consciously gone into and realised in this very state. There is no real going into or coming from it. Becoming aware of that is samadhi.

From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 290:

Bring sleep into the waking state (jagrat sushupti) and you will be all right.

From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 311:

The Self who was undifferentiated in sleep is differentiated in the present state, and sees the diversity. The Real Existence is the only One devoid of objective knowledge. That is absolute consciousness. That is the state of happiness, as admitted by all of us. That state must be brought about even in this waking state. It is called jagrat sushupti. That is mukti.

From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 313:

Take another example: A passenger in a cart has fallen asleep. The bulls move or stand still or are unyoked on the journey. He does not know these occurrences, but finds himself in a different place after he wakes up. He has been blissfully ignorant of the occurrences on the way, but his journey has been finished.

Similarly with the Self of the person. He is asleep in the body. His waking state is the movement of the bulls, his samadhi is their standing still (because samadhi = jagrat sushupti) i.e., to say, he is aware of but not attached to actions. So the bulls are in harness but do not move. His sleep is the unyoking of the bulls, for there is complete suspension of activities corresponding to the release of the bulls from the yoke.

From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 372:

D.: Sleep state is said to be the experience of Bliss, yet, on recollecting it the hairs do not stand on end. Why should they do so, if the samadhi state is recollected?

M.: Samadhi means sleep in waking state (jagrat sushupti). Bliss is overpowering and the experience is very clear, whereas it is different in sleep.

From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 601:

Someone: The limitation (upadhi) of being a man cannot be got rid of.

M.: How were you in deep sleep? There was no thought of being a man.

Another: So, the state of sleep must be brought about even when one is awake.

M.: Yes. It is jagrat-sushupti.


Be as you are

When you take yourself to be real, the world also seems real. Then problems too seem to exist, and with it suffering.

Please know this directly: all this is empty, all this is zero. Just like a dream, there is only You, so there is nothing to fear.

God, guru, and the apparent world – all these are You.

Your nature is peace, love and happiness. You need nothing. You are ever-whole, ever-complete, ever-undefiled.

Your nature is naturally unattached, without desire, unchanging and at peace.

So don’t take this body-mind-world to be real (they will take care of themselves). Instead be what you are: be at peace, be happy and rest naturally, ever-unchanging and unattached.



Ramana Maharshi – limitation is only in the mind

Conscious Immortality Ramana Maharshi

In sleep, in trance, in absent-mindedness there is no differentiation. What is that which was then but is absent now? The difference is due to mind.

The mind is sometimes present and at other times absent; there is no change in the Reality.

The same person who was in sleep is now too, in waking. The Self is the same all through.

Limitation is only in the mind.

The same Self is here and now, in the wakeful state, as in deep sleep when no limitation is felt. There was no mind in sleep whereas it is now active. The Self exists in the absence of mind also.

The above excerpt has been taken from Conscious Immortality, Chapter 13 (bold type added by me for emphasis).

Ramana Maharshi: Is the world an illusion?

Ramana smiling

In many spiritual traditions, such as some schools of of Buddhism, vedanta and yoga, seekers are advised to consider the world to be like a dream: ephemeral, transient and illusory. But is the world really an illusion, or is this merely a teaching method?

Many well-versed pandits and scholars have debated this very issue over the centuries, but for those that have glimpsed the reality that lies beyond mere verbal assertions, such debates are missing the essential point.

Here are two powerful quotes from Ramana Maharshi explaining how the teachings work:

Question: “Brahman (the Supreme Spirit) is real. The world is illusion” is the stock phrase of Sri Sankaracharya. Yet others say, “The world is reality.” Which is true?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Both statements are true. They refer to different stages of development and are spoken from different points of view. The (spiritual) aspirant starts with the definition, that which is real exists always. Then he eliminates the world as unreal because it is changing.
The seeker ultimately reaches the Self and there finds unity as the prevailing note. Then, that which was originally rejected as being unreal is found to be a part of the unity. Being absorbed in the reality, the world also is real. There is only being in Self-realisation, and nothing but being.
From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 33

We can clearly see Ramana says the teaching that the world is an illusion is itself a ‘thorn used to remove a thorn’. The teaching is a concept, and it is used to remove another concept, before they are both thrown away.

Here is another instructive quote:

Sri Ramana Maharshi: At the level of the spiritual seeker you have got to say that the world is an illusion. There is no other way. When a man forgets that he is Brahman, who is real, permanent and omnipresent, and deludes himself into thinking that he is a body in the universe which is filled with bodies that are transitory, and labours under that delusion, you have got to remind him that the world is unreal and a delusion.
Why? Because his vision which has forgotten its own Self is dwelling in the external, material universe. It will not turn inwards into introspection unless you impress on him that all this external material universe is unreal.
When once he realises his own Self he will know that there is nothing other than his own Self and he will come to look upon the whole universe as Brahman.
There is no universe without the Self. So long as a man does not see the Self which is the origin of all, but looks only at the external world as real and permanent, you have to tell him that all this external universe is an illusion. You cannot help it.
Take a paper. We see only the script, and nobody notices the paper on which the script is written. The paper is there whether the script on it is there or not. To those who look upon the script as real, you have to say that it is unreal, an illusion, since it rests upon the paper. The wise man looks upon both the paper and script as one. So also with Brahman and the universe.
From letters from Sri Ramanasramam