Letter 137

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6th September, 1947
Last month, during my sister-in-law’s stay here, the proofs of the Telugu version of the ‘Vichara Mani Mala’ (Self-enquiry) were received. In the afternoon Bhagavan corrected them and passed them on to me. On reading them, my sister-in- law asked me the meaning of swapnatyanta nivritti. I tried to explain, but as I was not sure myself, I could not satisfy her fully. On noticing this, Bhagavan asked, “What is the matter? Is there a mistake?” I replied, “No. She is asking the meaning of swapnatyanta nivritti.”

Bhagavan said kindly, “It means absolute, dreamless sleep.”
I asked, “Would it be true to say that a Jnani has no dreams?”
Bhagavan: “He has no dream-state.”
My sister-in-law was still not satisfied, but as people began to talk about other things, we had to leave the matter there. Only at night she said, “In the Vasishtam [1] it is stated that a Realized Soul appears to perform actions, but they do not affect him at all. We ought to have asked Bhagavan the real meaning of this.”

On going to the Ashram next morning, it so happened that Bhagavan was just then explaining the very point to Sundaresa Iyer. Eagerly availing herself of the opportunity, my sister-in-law again asked, “Bhagavan has stated that Swapnatyanta nivritti means absolute, dreamless sleep. Does it mean that a Jnani does not have dreams at all?”

[1- Yoga Vasishtam is a book on yoga by Vasishta Maharshi.]

Bhagavan: “It is not only the dream-state, but all three states are unreal to the Jnani. The real state of the Jnani is where none of these three states exists.”
I asked, “Is not the waking state also equivalent to a dream?”
Bhagavan: “Yes, whereas a dream lasts for a short time, the waking state lasts longer. That is the only difference.”
I: “Then deep sleep is also a dream?”
Bhagavan: “No, deep sleep is an actuality. How can it be a dream when there is no mental activity? However, since it is a state of mental vacuity, it is nescience (avidya) and must therefore be rejected.” I persisted, “But is not deep sleep also said to be a dream state?”

Bhagavan: “Some may have said so for the sake of terminology, but really there is nothing separate. Short or long duration applies only to the dream and waking states.
Someone may say: ‘we have lived so long and these houses and belongings are so clearly evident to us that it surely can’t be all a dream’. But we have to remember that even dreams seem long while they last. It is only when you wake up that you realize that they only lasted a short time. In the same way, when one attains Realization (jnana), this life is seen to be momentary. Dreamless sleep means nescience; therefore it is to be rejected in favour of the state of pure Awareness.”

My sister-in-law then interposed, “It is said that the bliss that occurs in deep sleep is experienced in the state of samadhi [2] as well, but how is that to be reconciled with the statement that deep sleep is a state of nescience?”

[2- Samadhi means perfect absorption of thought in the one object of meditation, i.e., the Supreme Spirit (the 8th and last stage of yoga).]

Bhagavan: “That is why deep sleep has also to be rejected. It is true that there is bliss in deep sleep, but one is not aware of it. One only knows about it afterwards when one wakes up and says that one has slept well. Samadhi means experiencing this bliss while remaining awake.”
I: “So it means waking, or conscious sleep?”
Bhagavan: “Yes, that’s it.”

My sister-in-law then brought up the other cognate question that had worried her: “It is said by Vasishta that a Realized Soul seems to others to be engaged in various activities, but he is not affected by them at all. Is it because of their different outlook that it seems so to others, or is he really unaffected?”
Bhagavan: “He is really unaffected.”
My sister-in-law: “People speak of favourable visions, both in dream and while awake; what are they”?
Bhagavan: “To a Realized Soul they all seem the same.” However she persisted, “It is stated in Bhagavan’s biography that Ganapati Muni had a vision of Bhagavan when he was at Tiruvottiyur and Bhagavan was at Tiruvannamalai, and that, at the very same time, Bhagavan had a feeling of accepting homage. How can such things be explained?”
Bhagavan answered cryptically, “I have already stated that such things are what are known as divine visions.” He was then silent, indicating that he was not willing to continue the talk any further.

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