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Concept of Svapna (Dream Sleep) And Susupti (Deep Sleep) According To Principal Upanishads

A Dissertation submitted by Dr. B. Srinivas
under the guidance of Dr. Ram Chandra Bhatt
Co-guides Dr. H. R. Nagendra, Dr. R. Nagarathna
towards the partial fulfillment of The Master's Degree in Yogic Sciences (M.Sc.)
Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana
(Deemed University, Recognized by UGC, Govt. of India through HRD)
Eknath Bhavan, 19, Gavipuram Circle, K.G. Nagar,
Bangalore - 560 019, INDIA


Abstract: In the scientific methodology reasoning which we are apt to pursue in philosophy, unearthing the fundamentals of life must necessarily constitute a priority comprehending life as a whole. Life is one continuous string of experience of wakeful state, dream state and deep sleep state. Life in its totality must include the experiences of the wakefulness (awareness), of the dream and of the deep sleep. Vedanta is perhaps the only philosophical treatise through which one can contemplate wherein they take a deep and consistent scientific approach in observing, analyzing, and codifying these experiences into postulations or theories to understand the core of existentialism, which should eventually be truth behind the individual and the cosmos.

Though the objective and approach of each and every Upanishad is different, the central idea of Upanishads remains the same. All Upanishads speaking in unison when they proclaim that the susupti avastha is nothing but the ( temporary) attainment of state of bliss and pure consciousness. It is attained by the involution of human consciousness within the supreme consciousness, whereas the dream state is a mental projection of previous experiences and internal desires.

Uniqueness of Prasnopanisad is in the proclamation of awakening of prana even in deep sleep. It is evidenced through the pranic activities like breathing and blood circulation that are normally working in the body even in deep sleep. Uniqueness of Mandukya Upanishad relates 3 states i.e., jagrta, svapna, susupti to Omkara and knowing the fruits of 3 states. Chandogya Upanishad presented in a poetic way of 3 states which induces beautiful simile and metaphor. Uniqueness of Patanjali yoga sutras is to consider deep sleep as a cognitive modification.

According to modern science, sleep is slowing down of electrical activity of brain divided into REM and NREM sleep. Physiologically sleep is meant to rejuvenate and relieve the physical and mental stress. Ayurveda describes indication and contra indications of sleep (when ,who, how much to sleep) and also describes remedies for sleep disturbances.

This paper is an attempt to review the concepts of svapna and Susupti according to ancient texts.


Summary & Conclusion: The vedantic insight in to sleep, dream and waking states can therefore be summarized as follows. The objective world is a dream but this does not mean that is a non-entity, an expanse of nothing, a void. The world, even if it is a dream, is there to the wise as well as to the ignorant, but the wise knows it's illusory nature and perceives its true nature (Brahman). The world is real from our empirical standpoint. From the Absolute stand point it is a dream. What is real to the ignorant is unreal to the wise. To the dreamer the dream world is real, but to the waker, it is unreal. Similarly to the empirical self (visva) the phenomenal world is real, but to the Atman, the witness of the three states, it is unreal.

Dreamless sleep is characterized by the suspension of the awareness that we think persists right throughout the wakeful state. It seems in the stage of deep sleep there is a break in an individual's awareness. It is very clear when an individual is not aware of something, he expresses, 'I don't know, I was sleeping'. However, 'dreamless sleep' should also be an experience that is experienced by the individual, otherwise the person in his post-sleep condition would not utter sincerely, and 'I was asleep'. Though there is undeniable difference between deep sleep and waking, there is some thing common which connects these two, the awareness of waking and sleep. In both, the subject who possesses the knowledge is same. Therefore, 'the experience of sleep seems to be lacking in this self-awareness'. For instance, in my waking experience 'I' am the subject who is aware of different experiences. Even in my dream 'I' am the one who experiences the objects of the dream. But that particular experience of 'sleep' is not mine in my sleep, only after I am awake I understand this truth.

The Advaita explanation is that the 'undifferentiated, distinction-less nature of sleep experience demonstrates the true non-dual nature of the consciousness that persists throughout, and remains unaffected by, all three phenomenal states' of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. The experience of the continuity of the individuality from waking, dreaming, deep sleep and back to the waking is because of the active mind that recalls memory of the individual. Sankaracarya declares that the experience of the state of deep-sleep is a glimpse of the self's real nature, where there exists no 'I', the subject of experience.

Owing to subjective nature of sleep, vedantic approaches to sleep tend to meet only at infinity. Only further exploration and newer insights will help us to discover a closer relationship between these two approaches.

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Summary & Conclusion

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