Chapter 16: Consciousness, Mind and Sleep

1. When Parasurama had heard the story, he marveled greatly and requested his Master to continue.

2-5. "Lord, this ancient legend is marvellous. Please tell me what Ashtavakra asked the king next, and the instructions he received. I had not hitherto heard this story full of sublime truths. Please continue the story. Master, I am anxious to hear it in full."

Being so requested, Dattatreya, the great sage and Master, continued the holy narrative. "Listen, O Bhargava, to the discourse with Janaka.

6-7. "On the departure of the holy ascetic from vision, Ashtavakra, the son of a sage, asked Janaka who was surrounded by a whole group of pandits, the full explanation of the ascetic's brief but recondite speech. I shall now tell you Janaka's reply, to which listen attentively.

8-9. "Ashtavakra asked, 'O King of Videha, I have not clearly understood the teaching of the ascetic because of its brevity. Please explain to me then, Lord of mercy, how I shall know the unknowable'.

Being thus asked, Janaka, as if surprised, replied:

10-13. "O thou son of a sage, listen to me! It is neither unknowable nor remains unknown at any moment. Tell me how even the ablest of Masters can guide one to something which always remains unknown. If a Guru can teach, it means that he knows what he says. This transcendental state is quite easy or may be well-nigh impossible according as one's mind is inward bent in peace or out-moving in restlessness. It cannot be taught if it always remains unknown.

14. "The fact that the Vedas point to it only indirectly as 'not this - not this' shows that the knowledge can be imparted to others.

"Whatever you see becomes known by the very abstract intelligence.

15-19. "Now carefully analyse the underlying consciousness which, though abstract and apart from material objects, yet illumines them all the same. Know it to be the truth. O sage! What is not self-luminous can only fall within the orbit of intelligence and cannot be Intelligence itself. Intelligence is that by which objects are known; it cannot be what it is if it becomes the object of knowledge. What is intelligible must always be different from intelligence itself, or else it could not be made known by it. Intelligence in the abstract cannot admit of parts, which is the characteristic of objects. Therefore objects take on shapes. Carefully watch absolute Intelligence after eliminating all else from it.

20. "Just as a mirror takes on the hues of the images, so also the abstract Intelligence assumes the different shapes of objects by virtue of its holding them within itself.

21. "Abstract Intelligence can thus be made manifest by eliminating from it all that can be known. It cannot be known as such and such, for it is the supporter of one and all.

22. "This, being the Self of the seeker, is not cognisable. Investigate your true Self in the aforesaid manner.

Note. - There is no other agent to know the Self nor light by which to know it.

23. "You are not the body, nor the senses, nor the mind, because they are all transient. The body is composed of food, so how can you be the body?

24. "For the sense of 'I' (ego) surpasses the body, the senses and the mind, at the time of the cognition of objects.

Commentary. - The Self always flashes as 'I' due to its self-luminosity. The body and such things do not. The 'I' surpasses the body, etc., simultaneously with the perception of objects, for the bodily conception does not exist with the perception of objects. Otherwise the two perceptions must be coeval.

"The contention may be set out that the eternal flash of the Self as 'I' is not apparent at the time of the perception of objects. If 'I' did not shine forth at the time, the objects would not be perceived just as they are invisible in the absence of light. Why is not the flash apparent? Perceptibility is always associated with insentient matter. Who else could see the self-luminosity of the Self? It cannot shine in absolute singleness and purity. However it is there as 'I'.

"Moreover everyone feels 'I see the objects'. If it were not for the eternal being of 'I', there would always arise the doubt 'if I am' or 'if I am not' - which is absurd.

"Nor should it be supposed that 'I' is of the body, at the time of perception of objects. For, perception implies the assumption of that shape by the intellect, as is evident when identifying the body with the Self?

"Nor again should it be said that at the time of perception 'I am so and so, Chaitra,' - the Chaitra sense over-reaches the 'I' sense, but the 'I' sense is never lost by the Chaitra sense.

"There is the continuity of 'I' in deep slumber and in Samadhi. Otherwise after sleep a man would get up as somebody else.

"The concentration is possible that in deep sleep and Samadhi, the Self remains unqualified and therefore is not identical with the limited consciousness of the ego, 'I'. in the wakeful state. The answer is as follows: 'I', is of two kinds - qualified and unqualified. Qualification implies limitations whereas its absence implies its unlimited nature.

"'I' is associated with limitations in dream and wakeful states, and it is free from them in deep slumber and Samadhi states.

"In that case is the 'I' in Samadhi or sleep associated with trifold division of subject, object and their relation? No! Being pure and single, it is unblemished and persists as 'I-I', and nothing else. The same is Perfection.

25. "Whereas Her Majesty the Absolute Intelligence is ever resplendent as 'I', therefore She is all and ever-knowing. You are She, in the abstract.

26. "Realise it yourself by turning your sight inward. You are only pure abstract Consciousness. Realise it this instant, for procrastination is not worthy of a good disciple. He should realise the Self at the moment of instruction.

27. "Your eyes are not meant by the aforesaid word sight. The mental eye is meant, for it is the eye of the eye, as is clear in dreams.

28. "To say that the sight is turned inward is appropriate because perception is possible only when the sight is turned towards the object.

29-31. "The sight must be turned away from other objects and fixed on a particular object in order to see it. Otherwise that object will not be perceived in entirety. The fact that the sight is not fixed on it is the same as not seeing it. Similarly is it with hearing, touch, etc.

32. "The same applies to the mind in its sensations of pain and pleasure, which are not felt if the mind is otherwise engaged.

33. "The other perceptions require the two conditions, namely, elimination of others and concentration on the one. But Self-Realisation differs from them in that it requires only one condition: elimination of all perceptions.

34. "I shall tell you the reason for this. Although consciousness is unknowable, it is still realisable by pure mind.

35-45. "Even the learned are perplexed on this point. External perceptions of the mind are dependent on two conditions.

"The first is elimination of other perceptions and the second is fixation on the particular item of perception. If the mind is simply turned away from other perceptions, the mind is in an indifferent state, where there is absence of any kind of perception. Therefore concentration on a particular item is necessary for the perception of external things. But since consciousness is the Self and not apart from the mind, concentration on it is not necessary for its realisation. It is enough that other perceptions (namely, thoughts) should be eliminated from the mind and then the Self will be realised.

"If a man wants to pick out one particular image among a series of images passing in front of him as reflections on a mirror, he must turn his attention away from the rest of the pictures and fix it on that particular one.

"If on the other hand, he wants to see the space reflected it is enough that he turns away his attention from the pictures and the space manifests without any attention on his part, for, space is immanent everywhere and is already reflected there. However it has remained unnoticed because the interspatial images dominated the scene.

"Space being the supporter of all and immanent in all, becomes manifest if only the attention is diverted from the panorama. In the same way, consciousness is the supporter of all and is immanent in all and always remains perfect like space pervading the mind also. Diversion of attention from other items is all that is necessary for Self-Realisation. Or do you say that the Self-illuminant can ever be absent from any nook or corner?

46. "There can indeed be no moment or spot from which consciousness is absent. Its absence means their absence also. Therefore consciousness of the Self becomes manifest by mere diversion of attention from things or thoughts.

47. "Realisation of Self requires absolute purity only and no concentration of mind. For this reason, the Self is said to be unknowable (meaning not objectively knowable).

48. "Therefore it was also said that the sole necessity for Self-Realisation is purity of mind. The only impurity of the mind is thought. To make it thought-free is to keep it pure.

49. "It must now be clear to you why purity of mind is insisted upon for Realisation of Self. How can the Self be realised in its absence?

50-51. "Or, how is it possible for the Self not to be found gleaming in the pure mind? All the injunctions in the scriptures are directed towards this end alone. For instance, unselfish action, devotion, and dispassion have no other purpose in view.

52. "Because, transcendental consciousness, viz., the Self, is manifest only in the stain-free mind."

After Janaka had spoken thus, Ashtavakra continued to ask:

53-54. "O King, if it is as you say that the mind made passive by elimination of thoughts is quite pure and capable of manifesting Supreme Consciousness, then sleep will do it by itself, since it satisfies your condition and there is no need for any kind of effort."

55. Thus questioned by the Brahmin youth, the King replied, "I will satisfy you on this point. Listen carefully.

56-63. "The mind is truly abstracted in sleep. But then its light is screened by darkness, so how can it manifest its true nature? A mirror covered with tar does not reflect images but can it reflect space either? Is it enough, in that case, that images are eliminated in order to reveal the space reflected in the mirror? In the same manner, the mind is veiled by the darkness of sleep and rendered unfit for illumining thoughts. Would such eclipse of the mind reveal the glimmer of consciousness?

"Would a chip of wood held in front of a single object to the exclusion of all others reflect the object simply because all others are excluded? Reflection can only be on a reflecting surface and not on all surfaces. Similarly also, realisation of the Self can only be with an alert mind and not with a stupefied one. New-born babes have no realisation of the Self for want of alertness.

"Moreover pursue the analogy of a tarred mirror. The tar may prevent the images from being seen, but the quality of the mirror is not affected, for the outer coating of tar must be reflected in the interior of the mirror. So also the mind, though diverted from dreams and wakefulness, is still in the grip of dark sleep and not free from qualities. This is evident by the recollection of the dark ignorance of sleep when one wakes.

64. "I will now tell you the distinction between sleep and Samadhi. Listen attentively:

"There are two states of mind:

(1) Illumination and (2) Consideration.

65. "The first of them is association of the mind with external objects and the second is deliberation on the object seen.

66. "Illumination is unqualified by the limitations of objects: deliberation is qualified by the limitations pertaining to the objects seen, and it is the forerunner of their clear definition.

Note. - The mind first notes a thing in its extended vision. The impression is received only after noting the thing in its non-extensive nature, and becomes deeper on musing over the first impression.

67. "There is no distinction noted in the preliminary stage of simple illumination. The thing itself is not yet defined, so illumination is said to be unqualified.

68. "The thing becomes defined later on and is said to be such and such, and so and so. That is the perception of the thing after deliberation.

69-70. "Deliberation is again of two kinds: the one is the actual experience and is said to be fresh, whereas the other is cogitation over the former and is called memory. The mind always functions in these two ways."

71-72. "Dreamless slumber is characterised by the illumination of sleep alone, and the experience continues unbroken for a time, whereas the wakeful state is characterised by deliberation repeatedly broken up by thoughts and therefore it is said not to be ignorance.

"Sleep is a state of nescience though it consists of illumination alone yet it is said to be ignorance for the same reason as a light though luminous is said to be insentient.

Commentary. - Pure intelligence is made up of luminosity, but is not insentient like a flame. It is gleaming with consciousness, thus differing from the flame. For intellect is evidence as thinking principle. Therefore it is called Absolute Consciousness, active principle, vibratory movement, all-embracing Self, or God. Because of these potentialities it creates the universe.

"Sri Sankara has said in Soundarya Lahari 'Siva owes his prowess to Sakti; He cannot even stir in Her absence.' Siva should not therefore be considered to be mere inexpressible entity depending for His movements upon Maya (like a man on his car). Sri Sankara continues, 'Siva is yoked by Thee, Oh Sakti, to His true being. Therefore a blessed few worship Thee as the endless series of waves of bliss, as the underlying basis of all that is, as the Supreme Force, maintaining the Universe, and as the Consort of Transcendence.' Thus the identity of Siva and Sakti with each other or with Transcendence is evident.

"The argument that the universe is illusory, being a figment of imagination like a hare's born, is extended further by the statement that the creation leading up to it must be equally illusory. Then the co-existence of Siva and Sakti is useless; and Siva being incomprehensible without Sakti, the idea of God-head falls to pieces. But the scriptures point to God as the primal essence from which the world has sprung, in which it exists, and into which it resolves. That statement will then be meaningless. Why should the other scriptural statement 'There is no more than One' alone be true? Is it to lend support to the argument of illusion? The proper course will be to look for harmony in these statements in order to understand them aright.

"Their true significance lies in the fact that the universe exists, but not separately from the primal Reality - God. Wisdom lies in realising everything as Siva and not in treating it as void.

"The truth is that there is one Reality which is consciousness in the abstract and also transcendental, irradiating the whole universe in all its diversity from its own being, by virtue of its self-sufficiency, which we call Maya or Sakti or Energy. Ignorance lies in the feeling of differentiation of the creatures from the Creator. The individuals are only details in the same Reality.

"In sleep, the insentient phase of stupor overpowers the sentient phase of deliberation. But the factor of illumination is ever present and that alone cannot become apparent to men, in the absence of deliberation. Therefore, sleep is said to be the state of ignorance, as distinguished from wakefulness which is conceded to be knowledge.

73. "This conclusion is admitted by the wise also. Sleep is the first born from Transcendence (vide Ch. XIV, Sl. 59) also called the unmanifest, the exterior, or the great void.

74-76. "The state prevailing in sleep is the feeling 'There is naught'. This also prevails in wakefulness, although things are visible. But this ignorance is shattered by the repeated upspringing of thoughts. The wise say that the mind is submerged in sleep because it is illumining the unmanifest condition. The submersion of mind is not, however, peculiar to sleep for it happens also at the instant of cognition of things.

77. "I shall now talk to you from my own experience. This subject is perplexing for the most accomplished persons.

78. "All these three states, namely, Samadhi, sleep and the instant of cognition of objects, are characterised by absence of perturbation.

79. "Their difference lies in the later recapitulation of the respective states which illumine different perceptions.

80. "Absolute Reality is manifest in Samadhi; a void or unmanifest condition distinguishes sleep and diversity is the characteristic of cognition in wakefulness.

81. "The illuminant is however the same all through and is always unblemished. Therefore it is said to be abstract intelligence.

82. "Samadhi and sleep are obvious because their experience remains unbroken for some appreciable period and can be recapitulated after waking up.

83. "That of cognition remains unrecognised because of its fleeting nature. But samadhi and sleep cannot be recognised when they are only fleeting.

84. "The wakeful state is iridescent with fleeting Samadhi and sleep. Men when they are awake can detect fleeting sleep because they are already conversant with its nature.

85-86. "But fleeting Samadhi goes undetected because people are not so conversant with it. O Brahmin! fleeting Samadhi is indeed being experienced by all, even in their busy moments; but it passes unnoticed by them, for want of acquaintance with it. Every instant free from thoughts and musings in the wakeful state is the condition of Samadhi.

87. "Samadhi is simply absence of thoughts. Such a state prevails in sleep and at odd moments of wakefulness.

88. "Yet, it is not called Samadhi proper, because all the proclivities of the mind are still there latent, ready to manifest the next instant.

89. "The infinitesimal moment of seeing an object is not tainted by deliberation on its qualities and is exactly like Samadhi. I will tell you further, listen!

90-93. "The unmanifest state, the first-born of abstract Intelligence revealing 'There is not anything' - is the state of abstraction full of light; it is, however, called sleep because it is the insentient phase of consciousness. Nothing is revealed because there is nothing to be revealed. Sleep is therefore the manifestation of the insentient state.

"But in Samadhi, Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness, is continuously glowing. She is the engulfer of time and space, the destroyer of void, and the pure being - (Jehovah - I AM). How can She be the ignorance of sleep?

94. "Therefore sleep is not the end-all and the be-all."

Thus did Janaka teach Ashtavakra.

Thus ends the chapter on the discourse of Janaka to Ashtavakra in Tripura Rahasya.