The Three states (Waking, Dream and Deep Sleep) and Turiya fully explained | Ajata | Self-realisation | Advaita Vedanta
The following is taken from the wonderful text Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Spiritual Practice) written by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Sri Ramana’s. This text not only gives us the essence of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching, but also directs us to the true Vedanta teachings. The notes are written by Sri Sadhu Om himself. The sub-headings have been added by myself to aid readability. You can download the full text as a PDF using the above link.
- If we did not have the good fortune of having attained a human body, which enables us to experience daily the three states of waking, dream and sleep, how could we have the fitness to do Selfinquiry? Therefore, this human birth is indeed superior to all other births.
- Except in this human body, all these three states are not experienced in one lifetime by any soul, whether deva (divine), animal or plant. Therefore, a very great boon indeed is the boon God has bestowed upon us in the form of this human birth, which is such a good opportunity enabling us to inquire and know the Self.
Note: Celestial beings (devas) experience only the waking state; animals experience only sleep and a dream-like waking state; plants experience only sleep**; and insentient objects like stones are always in a state like swoon. Only in the human birth, does one experience all the three states of waking, dream and sleep. Hence, even devas must take birth as human beings if they wish to attain Selfknowledge, the state of liberation.
**Note: Compare Talks, no. 617, p. 580.
- The three states of waking, dream and dreamless deep sleep are experienced daily by all human beings, are they not? If we keenly scrutinize the nature of these three states, knowledge of the state of liberation, which is the reality of these three states, will be attained by us as a direct experience.
The I AM
- In the waking state we exist as “I am”; but in this state, beside us, so many second and third person objects of various kinds are also known by the mind. How have all these come here?
- In dream also we exist as “I am”, having become the one who sees everything there; but in that state also so many second and third person objects of various kinds are again known by the mind. How did all those come there?
- In sleep also we exist as “I am”; however, in that state we do not see anything appearing as other than us. Therefore, our state of existing as “I am” alone shines always without ever slackening or being obstructed, whereas our state of knowing objects other than us undergoes change. Hence, our state of existing as “I am” is alone the one unchanging state.
- The state of our existing as “I am”, which shines in all the three states continuously and without ever coming to an end, is our exalted state of real knowledge; it is the state of purna (the Whole). Objects other than “I” do not exist in all the three states. Hence our own nature, the Self-existence “I am,” alone is the reality which ever exists.
- Since objects other than “I,” such as the body and world, do not exist unceasingly in all the three states, but rise and appear to exist only in between in the waking and dream states, they cannot be the reality, which exists always and without being obstructed. This conclusion arrived at by scrutinizing our experience in these three states, is the foundation for the practice of Self-inquiry.
- These objects other than “I,” which exist at one time and do not exist at another time, are truly non-existent even at the time when they appear to exist. When scrutinized, waking and dream are both found to be only one in nature, because the objects, which appear to exist in each of these states, unfailingly cease to exist in any other state.
- That state, in which any object seen is not experienced as other than the one who sees, is alone the state of reality. If the seer, who is an unreal ego, rises, then only will all the unreal objects other than “I” rise, and seem to exist.
The waking dream
- The dream-world – and the one who, living there identifying a dream-body as “I,” and sees that dream-world – both together constitute the dream. The waking state is also like that; that is, not only this seemingly vast world that is perceived in front of us, as if existing as other than us, and also we, the jiva who sees this waking world, both together constitute the appearance of this dream, which is called the waking state.
- In practice, waking and dream are only one and the same. Just as in waking the mind thinks, “I am this body,” so in dream also the mind projects a body by its creative power of imagination and functions there, feeling “I am this body.”
Ending the dream
- Until the root-tendency (mula-vasana) to identify a body as “I” ceases to exist, the appearances of the waking and dream states that arise due to delusion (maya) will not come to an end. If you, with a one-pointed mind keenly and incessantly attend to the consciousness of your existence, which shines as pure “I am,” the root-tendency “I am the body,” and all its products and other tendencies, will cease to exist.
Ignorance and deep sleep
- To remain inactive forgetting the feeling “I am the body,” is sleep. In the dense ignorance of this sleep, arises a creative imagination of the mind (mana-kalpana), and this alone is the cause for the appearance of dream. Therefore, it is the mind alone that projects a dream.
- Similarly, in the long sleep of ignorance (ajnana), which has engulfed us due to our forgetfulness of our true state of pure Self-consciousness, an imagination in mind (mana-kalpana) rises identifying a contemptible fleshy body as “I”, and this alone is the cause for the rising and appearance of this despicable waking state, which we are now experiencing.
Samsara (the cycle of birth and death)
- Just as sleep alone is the cause for the appearance of dream, so the sleep of forgetfulness of our true Self-Knowledge is alone the cause for the appearance of this waking state. In this long sleep of Self-forgetfulness, many dreams in the form of countless births come and go.
- Know that just like a person who without coming to the waking state, merges in deep sleep after the dream he was seeing has come to an end, if the dream of the present birth that this person has taken is brought to an end by death, before he attains the true waking state of Self-knowledge, he will merge again into the underlying ancient sleep of Self-forgetfulness.
- Just like a person who was seeing a dream and who then leaves that dream and falls into deep sleep without coming to the waking state, if the waking-body dies before we attain the state of Selfknowledge, we will fall into a state like deep sleep. Just as a dream appears as soon as the mind of a person immersed in sleep rises and begins to wander, so after the death of this waking-body, as soon as the mind rises and begins to wander on account of its former tendencies, a waking state will again arise in which a body will seemingly exist as if “I”.
- Taking birth again, having come out of the delusion-enfolded state of death, and living a life of whirling about in this waking state, and finally dying without attaining Self-knowledge, is just like a person rising as “I” from deep sleep, seeing a dream again, and finally once again merging in sleep. You will not take birth again only if you awaken into the true state of Self-knowledge. Awaken thus.
Awakening: Waking up from the dream & Turiya
- If a person who has fallen asleep and is seeing a dream suddenly wakes up, by his awakening he will attain a state in which sleep and dream have both been dispelled. Similarly, if a person awakens from the present so-called waking state by attaining the exalted state of Self-knowledge, the dream of birth and death and the underlying sleep of Self-forgetfulness will both be dispelled, and he will thereafter never again undergo either birth or death. The state of real awakening (turiya), which he thus attains, and which transcends the three ordinary states of waking, dream and sleep, is the state of liberation.
The method of Sadhana (spiritual practice) – Self-enquiry
- If the power of attention, which sees the second and third person objects existing in dream, turns to attend to itself, both the first person (who sees the dream) and the dream will disappear; the sleep that is the cause for the rising of that first person will be dispersed, and the worthy state of true awaking will be experienced.
- Similarly, if the power of attention, which knows the second person objects existing in the waking state, turns to attend to itself (the “I” who sees this waking state), the waking state will disappear; the long sleep of Self-forgetfulness which is the cause for the rising of the individual sense of “I” will be dispersed and the true waking state of Self-knowledge will be attained. Therefore, attend only to yourself, the first person consciousness “I.”
Karma and Self-Realisation
- Even before the experience of the current destiny (prarabdha karma) which caused the appearance of a dream has come to an end, if the mind is struck by intense fear, joy or suffering, its power of attention will be driven Selfwards and return to the heart, whereupon waking will result.
Note: Prarabdha is that part of one’s destiny (or karma) that has to be worked out in this life. Sanchita is one’s karma accumulated in former lives that has not yet taken effect.
- Similarly, even before all the accumulated sanchita karmas have been exhausted by being experienced in the form of prarabdha, if in this present life, which was started by prarabdha, the mind either gains firm dispassion (vairagya), being unable to bear the severe sufferings of life, or experiences intense fear of death, it will turn Selfwards and merge in the heart; whereupon the true awakening of Selfknowledge will result.
Fear, suffering and self-realisation
- When such intense fear or suffering are experienced, if the mind with mature discrimination (viveka) at once earnestly scrutinizes, “To whom does this fear or suffering arise?” then the extroverted power of attention, which was till then being dragged out towards objects other than itself, will turn inwards to face itself, whereupon the truly awakened life of Self-abidance will immediately be attained.
Self-knowledge: ending the dream
- Just as all that happens in dream is experienced as real so long as one is seeing that dream, so all that is now happening in this waking state is experienced as real. If the dream comes to an end, all that was seen there will be known to be unreal. Similarly, for those who have awakened from this so-called waking state by attaining Self-knowledge, all the happenings in this state are clearly known to be unreal.
- As soon as the inwardly awakened state of Self-abidance is attained, all the adjuncts in the form of the wrong identification that the actions of the body are one’s own actions will become devoid of reality, being found to be mere superimpositions upon one’s nameless and formless nature, just like the blue color superimposed upon the colorless sky; and the truth, that one is only the adjunct-free Self, will clearly shine forth.
- Only in this real waking state of Self-abidance will true knowledge blossom in the form of the ajata experience, “No mundane dual activity such as birth and death has ever touched me; I am Self, the existence-consciousness which is ever devoid of the body and the senses.”
- The pure consciousness “I,” which exists in sleep devoid of all adjuncts, is the Supreme Reality (Brahman). If we do not slip down from that state of pure consciousness due to attachment to the body (dehabhimana), that itself is the Supreme Abode (parandhama). If we remain, without leaving Self, that itself is liberation.
Do you exist in deep sleep?
- Though we think sleep to be a state of darkness, because no other objects are known there, know that it is not possible for anyone to deny his own existence in sleep. When you are able to affirm your experience in sleep, “It was darkness,” “There were no thoughts” and “It was a happy state,” is it not clear that you existed in sleep? To be able to affirm thus, who was that “you” who existed in sleep? Tell me.
- Your ability to affirm all the three experiences mentioned above shows not only that you existed in sleep, but also that you knew these experiences there, does it not? This existence-knowledge, which existed and was known in sleep, is indeed the peerless existence-consciousness (sat-chit), your own state, and the real nature of self.
Deep sleep and bliss (ananda)
- In sleep, in which you existed solitarily as the mere existence-consciousness (sat-chit), you were the experiencer of sublime happiness devoid of even a single petty misery, even though you were separated from all the possessions and all the objects which you seek in the waking state for happiness, were you not? That happiness which you experienced in sleep is indeed bliss (ananda), your true nature.
- To become a hero who abides as Self, the infinite reality (paripurna Brahman) whose nature is existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), devoid of the experience of any body or any world, is the fruit to be gained by proper scrutiny of the three states of waking, dream, and sleep.
- The supreme Guru Sri Ramana has given the above clues so that, having thoroughly scrutinized the three states, we may finally abide blissfully forever as Self, our own true nature which transcends the three states.
Don’t try Don’t try to stop thoughts | Focus on the I AM | Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
I AM – a Guided Meditation
Q. Why does Advaita Vedanta more commonly refer to ‘Self’ rather than ‘no-self’?
Q. Why does Advaita Vedanta more commonly refer to ‘Self’ rather than ‘no-self’?
Tom: it is because the Non-Dual Reality that we Truly Are is only discovered when we turn towards the sense of ‘I’ or ‘I AM’, otherwise known as ‘Self’. This is the single factor that leads to realisation.
The language of the teaching is there to facilitate the method of discovery of the Self that we truly are, and this discovery is Total Liberation.
By stating that we are the Self, we are encouraged to discover this for our self in our own experience, and so turn our attention selfwards, ie. towards the Subject or ‘I AM’. When that Self that we are is discovered, only then do notions of Self or no-self themselves become obsolete (ie. in self-realisation there is no concept of self or true self or even of self-realisation).
For those who are interested this is explained in detail in the book The Path of Sri Ramana – Part 1, especially in Chapter 8
Here are 2 verses from Sri Ramana Maharshi (taken from the text Guru Vachaka Kovai):
393.One who has wisely chosen the straight path
Of self-enquiry can never go astray;
For like the bright, clear Sun, the Self
Reveals itself direct to whoso
Turns towards it.
391. Those who do not dive into the Heart
And there confront the Self in the five sheaths hid
Are only students answering out of books
Clever questions raised by books,
And not true seekers of the Self.
Many more verses like this can be found here.
Q. Why turn within? Nonduality as I have experienced it is the actual disappearance of what is considered within and without, one seamless blending
Only you exist
Nonduality means that only you exist.
And I am not speaking of the ‘body-mind’, but That which cannot be put into words, That which you truly are.
‘I-thought’ vs ‘I’ vs ‘I-I’ vs ‘I AM’ – What do all these mean? | Sri Ramana Maharshi teachings
The difference between the ‘I thought’ and the ‘I’ or ‘I AM’
Everybody knows ‘I AM’
Much gratitude to the volunteers who put this video together.