I believe that you should place a great deal of importance into the examination and study of the three Avasthas (or conditions of life), called waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep, before you start the practice of meditation.
A thorough understanding of these states of consciousness will help set the foundation of our experience and allow us to better understand God.
What are the States of Consciousness?
State 1 – Waking (Jagrat)
- This state corresponds to the “A” in Om (A-U-M).
- The state in which we are aware of our daily world, where time and space prevail and we identify with our sense of “I” (ahamkara).
- This is an outwardly directed state, based around an external world. This is the state where we are entrenched in the veil of maya.
- In the waking state, the mind occupies the brain.
- The individual soul (Jiva) is called awake as long as it is connected with the various external objects by means of the modifications of the mind.
State 2 – Dreaming (Svapna)
- This state corresponds to the “U” in Om (A-U-M).
- Time and space also prevail here, but often in a warped sense not possible in the waking state.
- This is an inwardly directed state, but also based around impressions from the external world experienced during Jagrat.
- In dream state, the senses are quiet and absorbed in the mind. Mind alone plays during dream. The mind alone operates in a free and unfettered manner. There is no land, no sea, no horse, no elephant in dream; but mind creates everything out of its own body, out of the materials supplied from waking consciousness. The mind itself assumes the various forms of bee, flower, mountain, elephant, horse, river, etc. It is the subject. It is the object as well. The seer and the seen are one.
State 3 – Deep Sleep (Susupti)
There is no separateness, but the sleeper is not conscious of this. Let him become conscious in this state and it will open the door to that state of abiding joy.
– Mandukya Upanishad
- This state corresponds to the “M” in Om (A-U-M).
- There is no time or space.
- We are unconscious, and can only be aware of having been in this state by the results afterward of feeling refreshed and nourished. Accessing this state is essential for physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
- And when you are absolutely unaware, unable to differentiate your being–not being present where you are–this ignorance, this negation, is the state of deep sleep.
- This state is one with maya. It makes you absolutely deluded about your nature.
State 4 – Transcendental (Turya)
As time goes by, we realize that it isn’t enough to experience peace or joy or the taste of our own pure Consciousness in meditation. We want that state to seep out into our days, to fill our awareness even in the midst of the comings and goings of life. In other words, we want to know, from our own direct experience, what the sages meant when they said that the Self is always present, that is the turya state, the state of samadhi, pervades our waking and dream life, and even our deep sleep. So in order to do this, we begin to pay attention to the first moments after meditation and to the ways we can carry that awareness into the day.
You may suddenly find yourself in the state called “flow,” acting unerringly without any apparent effort and with a quiet mind.
- This state corresponds to the silence that follows Om (A-U-M).
- It is the experience of pure Consciousness when the individual merges with the Absolute. There is no time or space. There is no duality.
- It is the background that underlies and transcends the three states of consciousness. The hero yogi who experiences God consciousness finds that there is an ever present reality behind the three normal states of consciousness.
- Sri Ramana Maharshi, one of Mother India’s enlightened masters, would awaken the Turya state of higher consciousness of any seeker who sought his blessings simply through silent presence. His simple gaze would awaken a seeker to realization.
The first time I experienced this state was during a 10-day Vipassana Course. On the sixth day I entered a deep samadhi and felt a pulsation in my forehead grow stronger and stronger. After that experience I felt a continual, throbbing pressure on my forehead for the next three days.
Additional Sub States
Up to this point, we have explained the three states of consciousness, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. You must now understand that each of these states contains three additional states. Thus in the waking state there are three states, in the dreaming state there are three states, and in the state of deep sleep there are three states. And these three additional states are waking, dreaming and deep sleep. So there is waking in wakefulness, dreaming in wakefulness and deep sleep in wakefulness.
Waking Sub States
In the waking state, whenever you find that there is external organic knowledge, that is wakefulness in the waking state. When there are only thoughts in the waking state, that is dreaming in the waking state and when there is unawareness (moha), the negation of your self, in the waking state that is deep sleep in the waking state.
Dreaming Sub States
These three states also exist in the dreaming state. When, while dreaming, there is some subjective knowledge and you are conscious of dreaming, feeling that you are dreaming a dream, that dreaming state is called wakefulness in the dreaming state. When, while dreaming, you are given completely to perception without any awareness of that subjective consciousness, that is the dream state within a dream. And when these dreams are not remembered at all, that is the deep sleep state within a dream.
Deep Sleep Sub States
Now, take the state of deep sleep. Where can wakefulness be found in the deep sleep state? Where can wakefulness exist when there is the absolute negation of thoughts and awareness? Although thought does not exist in the state of deep sleep, there is a point before entering the state of deep sleep where one feels that he is going to get complete rest. This is wakefulness in the deep sleep state. When the impressions of the deep sleep state remain, causing one to think upon waking that he was sleeping and does not know anything, this is dreaming in the state of deep sleep. In the dreaming state of deep sleep, there are impressions and there are thoughts of these impressions, but these are not gross thoughts. Rather, these are thoughts held in a subtle way. They are thoughts in the state of impressions. The completely thoughtless state is deep sleep in the state of deep sleep.
Now we will analyze these three states: waking, dreaming and deep sleep from the meditation point of view.
When a yogi is completely one-pointed in meditation (dharana), that is the waking state. Here the yogi is aware at the beginning of meditation that he is meditating and he is one-pointed about meditating. This is active, not passive meditation. For yogis, the state of meditation is called wakefulness because here the yogi is given to one-pointedness.
When one-pointedness is breaklessly maintained as the continuity of one thought, that, for the yogi, is the dreaming state. For the yogi, this state of dreaming is higher than wakefulness.
Deep Sleep Meditation
And, for yogis, higher still is the state known as deep sleep. This state exists when both the state of objectivity and the state of subjectivity instantly vanish. This is samadhi, the thoughtless state of consciousness, and it is deep sleep for yogis.