12Yoga Sutras 1.10: Sleep as one of five kinds of thoughts (nidra)
- Jul 7, 2005Yoga Sutras: Sutra 1.10:
Sleep as one of five kinds of thoughts (nidra)
YOGA SUTRA 1.10: Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought
pattern which has as its object an inertia, blankness, absence, or
negation of the other thought patterns (vrittis).
(abhava pratyaya alambana vritti nidra)
ABHAVA = absence, non-existence, non-occurrence, negation, voidness,
PRATYAYA = the cause, the feeling, causal or cognitive principle,
notion, content of mind, presented idea, cognition
ALAMBANA = support, substratum, leaning on, dependent on, having as a
base or foundation
VRITTI = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications,
changes, or various forms of the mind-field
NIDRA = deep sleep
MIND FOCUSES ON THE OBJECT CALLED SLEEP: It is as if sleep is a
process whereby the mind is focusing on absence itself, as if that
non-existence were an object itself. Metaphorically, it is as if the
mind is focused on a black, fuzzy object that is set against a black
field. There is something there for the mind to be focused on, yet,
in the sense of what we normally consider to be an object, there is
MIND TYPICALLY RESTS ON A SUPPORT: Normally the mind rests, or
focuses on some object. This is the meaning of the word alambana.
Thus, nidra, or sleep, is the state where attention is focused on, or
absorbed in that object of negation or voidness itself.
SLEEP IS THE ABSENCE OF THE OTHER FOUR: When any one of the other
types of thought patterns is present, the mind is usually engaged or
entangled in those images. When all four of them subside, or when the
mind is not involved in them, there comes the state of sleep.
Alternatively, when one is free from all five of them, and remains
conscious, that is samadhi.
SLEEP IS ACTUALLY AN OBJECT: This might, at first glance, seem to be
an insignificant point, but it is actually rather important. Remember
the principle in the first few sutras (1.2-1.4) that the reason we do
not experience the eternal Self, is that consciousness is entangled
with other objects. When we see that entering sleep is a process of
focusing on still one more object, it becomes clearer why we want to
remain in the waking state for meditation, while learning to let go
of the intervening objects, including sleep, which is like that
black, fuzzy object. In meditation, we focus on one object,
intentionally, so that at some point we can let go of all objects,
and experience the objectless state beyond all of the objects.
IN ANOTHER SENSE, SLEEP IS A LEVEL, NOT AN OBJECT: When we translate
these words of meditation science from Sanskrit to English, we can
unintentionally end up with some confusion. Here, nidra is translated
as sleep. However, in considering the levels of consciousness, the
domains of gross, subtle, and causal, that deeper level is called
prajna, which is a level of supreme (pra) knowledge (jna). This too
is considered to be the level of deep sleep. Thus, we are using the
word sleep in two compatible, though different ways. If you know
this, there is no confusion. The Yoga of the Yoga Sutras is very
practical, and here the emphasis is on contrasting the attention
getting wrapped around this vritti (thought pattern) of sleep, as in
contrast to the other five types of vrittis.
MASTERING FALSE IDENTITY WITH SLEEP: When we talk about mastering the
mental process in relation to entanglement with objects or fantasies,
it can make sense, even at a more surface level of understanding. In
relation to sleep, it is important to note that we want to move
towards disidentification even with that object, just like the
others. Then, again, the true Self comes shining through.
DO NOT MISTAKE SLEEP FOR SAMADHI: The higher samadhi is without any
object that has form, which has sometimes been described as void. It
is a big mistake to confuse that samadhi with the void of other
objects that comes with deep sleep. These two are very different