Waking State, Dreaming State and Deep Sleep

There are essentially three states in us – the waking state, dreaming state and deep sleep. These are three manifestations of consciousness within us. By understanding the working of consciousness through these three states, we start to appreciate a lot about ourselves and the way we have been created in this universe.

states of consciousness

(Image Credit: Tony Alter)

19 Mouths and 7 Limbs

Our Individual Self is considered to have 19 mouths and 7 limbs in a poetic expressive manner. The 19 mouths are our 5 sense organs (Eyes, Ears, Taste, Touch, Smell), 5 action organs (Hands, Legs, Excretory Organ, Mouth, Reproductory Organ), 5 Vital Breath (Pana, Apana,  Udana, Samana, Vyana), Mind Intellect, Ego and Chitta. All of our experiences happens through these 19 means. There is no experiencing outside of these means.

The Seven Limbs of the Self are Effluent Region (Head), Sun (Eyes), Air (Vital Breath), Space (Middle Part of the Body), Water (Kidney), Earth (Feet) and Fire (Mouth). These “Limbs” also help us in experiencing the world that is around us. The Mandukya Upanishad claims it is these 19 mouths and 7 limbs that help us understand who we are and what is around us. To someone who does not understand the principle behind these concepts, such ideas may look far fetched.

Waking State

In the waking state, we use our 19 mouths very effectively. We sense the world around us using the sense organs and we act in that world using our action organs. Our most material life happens in this state. We recognise our possessions and relationships in this state of the consciousness. All our ambitions and aspirations for material wealth and positions stem from this state. This is the most familiar conscious state in our experience. All of science and progress are concentrated on the waking state. Also, we are most familiar with  the waking state. We can predict and control what we experience in the waking state. Any sense of power and influence over ourselves or over others happen in this state.

Our field of experience in the waking state is limited to our sense organs only. We chase behind objects of enjoyment, which results from satisfaction of sense organs in this state. Compared to the totality of experiences available in the universe, the sensory experiences that we enjoy is quite limited in many aspects. Yet, we are not able to move beyond the triviality of these senses.

Dreaming State

During the waking state, we collect a lot of information through our sense organs, action organs and mind faculty. These information collected during the waking state starts working in the subtle plane of dream state. Unlike the waking state, we have very little control of what we may experience in the dream state. There are practices like Lucid Dreaming where people bring control over their dreams. Yet, total control over what we could experience in our dreams is rare.

In the Dream state, we exercise our inner most mental pictures. Our subtle body captures a lot of information about us from the waking state and works itself out during the dream state. We do not dream totally unrelated things or in languages that we do not understand at all. There is often a lot of familiarity in the settings and environment in which we dream, as it is a subtle extension of our waking state.

We do not experience total bliss and peace in our dreaming state as well. We are not completely at rest when we dream. There is often movement of the body and reaction to stimuli in our dreams. People talk during sleep and even sleepwalk during the dreaming state.

Deep Sleep State

The deepest state of consciousness is the state of deep sleep. It is a completely joyful experience. We move beyond the gross objects of waking state and mental images of the dreaming state in deep sleep. Entire consciousness crystallises into one mass of awareness. Deep Sleep is considered as the pathway to true knowledge. Meditation is an attempt to recreate the deep sleep state in the waking state – when we detach ourselves from the gross objects and mental imagery of dreaming state.

Deep Sleep is a state of immense possibility. It is the closest state to ultimate bliss. In deep sleep, we experience our truest bliss. All forms of life enjoy true sleep, no matter how many times we have gone to sleep. Imagine listening to the same song everyday for 4 hours on loop. We may start losing taste for that track with time. Same is the case with food as well. The same food over and over again for a long period of time is not enjoyable. But, from birth to death, living forms never get tired of Deep Sleep.

A closer identification of our states of consciousness opens up a lot of possibility in understanding ourselves.