(105) REGULATING SLEEP, DIET AND MOVEMENTS
6th April, 1947
Yesterday, a devotee asked Bhagavan, “Swamiji! One has to meditate in order to enquire about his self. When I sit for meditation, I go to sleep. What can I do? Is there any way out?”
Bhagavan replied, “First learn to be awake when you are in the wakeful state. Then we can think of the sleeping state. We dream of many things even when we are awake.
We must learn to guard ourselves against them in our waking state. All that we see about us is a dream. We should wake up from this dream world.” The questioner said, “Sadhana is required to acquire that carefulness. Whenever I decide upon some method and try to do sadhana, I get sleepy. Will Bhagavan kindly tell me how to overcome this sleepiness?”
Bhagavan replied: “Of the avarana-vikshepas (obstructions and disturbances), the first avarana is sleep. We must try as far as possible not to succumb to it. We must enquire why we get sleep and regulate our food, movements, etc. and see that we do not feel sleepy, but it is no use trying to stop it when once we are sleepy. Don’t we get sleep if we eat heartily? Then the head begins to nod as we sit for meditation. It seems some tie their hair to a nail in the wall to keep them awake. Except that they wake up when their head nods, what use is it for dhyana? My boyhood experience of sleep is well known. While the school lessons were being taught, lest I should fall asleep, I used to tie a thread to the nail on the wall, and tie my hair to it. When the head nods, the thread is pulled tight and that used to wake me up. Otherwise, the teacher used to twist my ears and wake me up.” So saying, Bhagavan began to laugh.
“Is it possible Bhagavan is concocting all these stories and telling us?” asked Muruganar.
“No, no! It is true! I used to do all that because I was afraid the teacher would punish me for not listening to his lessons. That was the state in those days. In the early days after my coming here, when I closed my eyes, deeply absorbed in meditation I hardly knew whether it was day or night. If at any time I opened my eyes I used to wonder whether it was night or day. I had no food and no sleep.
When there is movement of the body, you need food. If you have food, you need sleep. If there is no movement, you do not need sleep. Very little food is enough to sustain life. That used to be my experience. Somebody or other used to offer me a tumblerful of some liquid diet whenever I opened my eyes. That was all. But one thing: except when one is in absorbed motionless concentration of mind, it is not possible to give up sleep or food altogether. When the body and mind are engaged in the ordinary pursuits of life, the body reels if you give up food and sleep.
Therefore it must be said that limitation of food and movement is very necessary for the elevation of the soul.
Great people restrict their sleep to the barest minimum so that they may not waste their time but use it for the performance of selfless good deeds. Some say that it is healthy to go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 2 a.m.
That means that four hours’ sleep is enough. Some say that four hours’ sleep is not enough, but that it should be six hours. It amounts to this, that sleep and food should not be taken in excess. If you want to cut off either of them completely, your mind will always be directed towards it. Therefore the sadhaka should do everything in moderation,” said Bhagavan.
This is what is stated in the Bhagavad Gita: (VI:16, 17) Yoga is not for him who eats too much, nor who abstains to excess, nor who is too much addicted to sleep nor even to wakefulness. Yoga kills out all pain for him who is regulated in eating and amusement, regulated in performing actions, and regulated in sleeping and waking.