abhāva pratyaya ālambanā vṛttiḥ nidra
Nidra (deep or dreamless sleep) occurs in the absence (abhava) of other mental impressions and activities (vrtti-s) such as correct knowledge (pramana), misperception (viparyaya), imagination (vikalpa) or memory (smrtti).
PRACTICAL LIVING Deep sleep is the 4th mental activity and is based on the absence of the other mental activities. Unlike in a dream state where the mental activities such as memory and imagination play an important role, in nidra (deep/dreamless sleep), the only activity in the mind is nidra itself. When we wake up in the morning, we have a sensation of the quality of our sleep, which indicates that we have a memory of it, implying it is an activity in itself even though it’s devoid of the other four. In the nidra state, the mind is overcome by heaviness (tamas). Just like the other activities of the mind, nidra can be harmful (klishta) or not (aklishta) as mentioned in Sutra I.5. Deep sleep is a common activity for the mind and it is necessary for physical and psychological health (aklishta). But the heaviness can also occur due to boredom or exhaustion, resulting in inertia (klishta). Nidra is the only vrtti that works in the present state – there is no future or past during deep sleep. On some level, nidra provides some rest for the mind, allowing all of the energy to be directed towards ‘fixing’ what needs to be fixed in the body during the night.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Up until now we have mentioned three states of mind: (1) awake; (2) dreaming; and (3) deep/dreamless state. Further along in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras however, Patanjali refers to a 4th state of mind: caturthah – a state that is deeper that nidra. In this state there are no external influences – purusha (refer to the History page) comes to its own nature. The Upanishads (very important ancient texts following the Vedas), refer to human beings have 4 states as well:
- jagrat (wakeful) – jnanedriyas (sense organs: skin, tongue, nose, ears and eyes), karmendriyas (organs of action: speech, hands, legs, genitals, anus) and manas (the external mind) all work together. Vrttis (mental activities) are active: pramana (correct understanding), viparyaya (misperception), vikalpa (imagination) and smrtti (memory).
- svapna (dream state) – jnanedriyas (sense organs), karmendriyas (organs of action) become inactive and manas remains active. Vikalpa and smrtti may be experienced in a dream.
- sushupti (deep or dreamless sleep) – jnanedriyas (sense organs), karmendriyas (organs of action) and manas all become inactive. Pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa and smrtti are absent.
- turiya (super-consciousness) – all vrttis are transcended. The Self abides in itself.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON This week’s sutra is unrelated to the beautiful person I chose to write about here (though she does fall asleep in unusual places and at unique times). Millie and I have known each other since Kindergarten (well, my second attempt at Kindergarten). We grew up together and have been super close friends since then. Life has put us oceans apart for the last 13 years, yet just two days ago we were chatting on the phone as if there was no physical distance between us.
The feeling of being with someone who knows me so well, cares for me and makes me feel loved is priceless! Millie does not only give me lot’s of love, but she is an honest, reflective, extremely creative and fun-loving person to be with.
I love this woman so much! Millie, thank you for the decades of friendship, the lighthearted moments, the dark moments, and everything in between!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at deep smrtti/memory next week!