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Understanding Waking - Dream - Deep Sleep – Hinduism Teachings

In our waking state our five sense organs present to us five kinds of perceptions: sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. We are also aware of the functioning of the mind: cognition, emotion, feelings and volition. We pass through states of calmness, confusion, stress, strain, joy and misery. When we have pain in the heart, we know whether we need to visit a cardiologist or a psychiatrist: we are able to distinguish between physical and emotional pain. In short, we identify ourselves with the body and the mind during the waking state.

In the dream state the body is inactive. Though involuntary activities like circulation of blood and breathing continue, the dreamer is not conscious of them, or of his body. For our analysis, we can say that the body is dead from the dreamer’s point of view. He still experiences in dream the five kinds of perception. This proves two things: One, we have subtle sense organs corresponding to the gross organs (ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose), which are inactive in the dream. Two, in the dream the mind makes its presence felt in two ways: The dreamer experiences pleasure and pain in the dream; and the dream itself is the result of impressions stored in the mind. In our analysis of waking and dream states two important facts emerge: (1) It is the same ‘I’ that has experiences in both the states; (2) While in the waking state we are identified with the body and mind, in dream we are identified only with the mind, for the body then ceases to exist (for the dreamer).

In deep sleep, both the body and the mind cease to exist. The ‘I’ — which experienced objects in the previous two states — is also apparently non-existent, since there are no objects of perception in sleep. What happens in deep sleep is known only when the person says on waking up, ‘I slept happily; I didn’t know anything.’ During sleep, the ‘I’ was free from the bondage of the body and mind, but could not perceive any object. Only the Self exists in sleep as the blissful substratum that links the personality that went to sleep with the one that awoke. That is why we say we slept happily. But the happiness in sleep is of an unconscious variety.

SourceExcerpt from Prabuddha Bharata editorial May 2003 Issue