Sleep is the modification where the mind rests on the darkness that has no impressions.
abhava = lack of
pratyayaa = impressions
alambanaa = support, rest
tamo = void, inertia, darkness
vritti = modification of mind
nidraa = sleep
Nidraa is the modification of the mind where no impressions are found because the mind rests on the voidness or the darkness. Earlier we have seen that Yoga is defined as the stoppage the mind from making modifications. Here, No impressions are found. Then why we could not call sleep as yoga? It is not yoga, because the mind yet functions in the darkness. Only the absence of other Vritti-s.
Commentary by Maharishi Vyasha
Sleep is a function, the object of which is the concept of negation.
Sleep is also a function of the mind because in the waking state.it is recalled how we have slept. Consider the following. statements:
I have slept well, my happy mind brightens my intellect.
I have a bad sleep, my mind was wandering over and over.
I have slept like a log of wood, my limbs were heavy, my tired mind seems to be absent.
This type of recall is not possible when the mind did not function during the sleep. Hence sleep is a function of the mind and it should be stopped like other functions of the mind during Samadhi.
Commentary by Swami Vivekananda
Sleep is a Vrtti which embraces the feeling of voidness.
The next class of Vrttis is called sleep and dream. When we awake we know that we have been sleeping; we can only have the memory of perception. That which we do not perceive we can never have any memory of. Every reaction is a wave in the lake. Now, if, during sleep, the mind has no waves, it would have no perceptions, positive or negative, and, therefore, we would not remember them. The very reason for our remembering sleep is that during sleep there was a certain class of waves in the mind.
Commentary by Sri Osho
THE MODIFICATION OF THE MIND WHICH IS BASED ON THE ABSENCE OF ANY CONTENT IN IT IS SLEEP.
This is the definition of sleep, the fourth modification of the mind: when there is no content. The mind is always with content, except sleep. Something or the other is there. Some thought is moving, some passion is moving, some desire is moving, some memory, some future imagination, some word, something is moving. Something continues continuously. Only when you are fast asleep, deep asleep, contents stop. Mind disappears, and you are in yourself without any content.
This has to be remembered because this is going to be the state of samadhi also, with only one difference: you will be aware. In sleep, you are unaware, mind goes completely to non-existence. You are alone, left alone – no thought, just your being. But you are not aware. The mind is not there to disturb you, but you are not aware. Otherwise, sleep can become enlightenment. Contentless consciousness is there, but the consciousness is not alert. It is hidden – just in a seed. In samadhi, the seed is broken; the consciousness becomes alert. And when consciousness is alert and there is no content, this is the goal. Sleep with awareness is the goal.
This is the fourth modification of the mind-sleep. But that goal, sleep with awareness, is not a modification of the mind, it is beyond mind. Awareness is beyond mind. If you can join sleep and awareness together, you have become enlightened. But it is difficult because even when we are awake in the day we are not alert. Even when we are awake, we are not awake. The word is false. When we sleep how can we be awake? When we are awake we are not awake.
So one has to start from the day when you are awake. You have to be more awake, more and more intensely awake. And then you have to try with dreams: in the dream, you have to be alert. Only if you succeed with the waking state, then with the dreaming state, then you will be able to succeed with the third state of sleep.
Try first walking on the street. Try to be awake. Just don’t go on walking automatically, mechanically. Be alert of every movement, of every breath that you take. Exhale, inhale – be alert. Of every eye movement you are doing, of every person, you look at, be alert. What you are doing, be alert and do it with alertness.
And then in the night, while you are falling asleep, try to remain alert. The last phase of the day will be passing; memories will be floating. Remain alert, and try to fall asleep with alertness. It will be difficult, but if you try, within a few weeks, you will have a glimpse: you are asleep and alert. Even for a single moment, and it is so beautiful, it is so bliss-filled, that you will never be the same again.
And then you will not say that sleep is just wasting time. It can become the most precious sadhana because when the waking state goes and the sleeping starts there is a change, a change of gears inside. It is just like change of gears in a car. When you change gears from one gear to another, for a single moment, between these two, there is a neutral gear, there is no gear. That moment of neutrality is very significant.
The same happens in the mind. When from waking you move to the sleep, there is a moment when you are neither awake nor asleep. At that moment there is no gear, the mechanism is not functioning. Your automatic personality is nullified at that moment. At that moment your old habits will not force you in a certain pattern. In that moment you can escape and become alert.
This moment in India has been called Sandhya, the moment in between. There are two Sandhyas, two in-between moments: one in the night when you go from the waking to sleep, and another in the morning when you again move from sleep to waking. And these two Hindus have called the moments of prayer, Sandhyaka! – the period in between because then your personality is not there for a single moment. In that single moment, you are pure, innocent. If at that moment you can become alert, your whole life will have changed. You have put a base for transformation.
And then try, in the dream state, to be alert. There are methods on how to be alert in a dream state. Do one thing, if you want to try... First, try in the waking. When you succeed in the waking, then you will be able to succeed in the dreaming. Because dreaming is deeper, more effort will be needed. And difficult also, because what to do in a dream and how to do?
For the dreaming, Gurdjieff developed a beautiful method. It is one of the old Tibetan methods, and Tibetan seekers have worked very deeply into the dream world. The method is, just falling into sleep, you try to remember one thing, any one thing, just a rose flower. Just visualize a rose flower. And just go on thinking that you will see it in the dream. Visualize it and go on thinking that in the dream, whatsoever the dream, this rose flower must be there. Visualize its colour, its scent – everything. Feel it so it will become alive inside you. And with that rose flower, fall into sleep.
Within a few days, you will be able to bring that flower into your dream. This is a great success because now you have created at least a part of the dream. Now you are the master. At least one part of the dream, the flower, has come. And the moment you see the flower, you will immediately remember this is a dream.
There is no other need. The flower and ”This is a dream” have become associated because you have created the flower in the dream. And you were thinking continuously for this flower to appear in the dream, and the flower has appeared. Immediately you will recognize this is a dream, and the whole quality of the dream will change, the flower-dream and everything around the dream. You have become alert.
And then you can enjoy the dream in a new way, just like a film, and then if you want to stop the dream you can simply stop, put off. But that will take a little more time and more practice. And then you can create your own dreams. There is no need to be a victim of dreams. You can create your own dreams; you can live your own dreams. You can have a theme just before you fall into sleep; you can direct your dreams just like a film director. And you can create a theme out of it.
Tibetans have used dream creations because through dream creation you can change your total mind, the structure. And when you succeed in dreams, then you can succeed in sleep. But there is no technique for sleep because there is no content. A technique can work only with a content.
Because there is no content, no technique can help. But through the dream, you will learn to be aware, and that awareness can be carried on into the sleep.