There’s nothing glorious about it, of course, it’s time spend in the mode of ignorance, pleasure for lazy and inert. Yet it’s pleasure and it also an absolute necessity for any body to function so there must be more to it than just ignorance. Maybe we could say that human life is governed by three modes of nature so ignorance takes its third in the form of sleep while waking time is shared by goodness and passion. Never heard of this before, it’s pure speculation.
With ever increasing life expectancy people now spend around thirty years just sleeping, just plain sleep, fully unconscious. Thirty years of doing absolutely nothing. Isn’t it a giant waste of time?
Lab rats subjected to sleep deprivation die in a matter of days, interestingly, from losing weight. No matter how much they are fed, without sleep they exhaust themselves to death. Well, actually it’s people who exhaust rats to death, no rat would do it to himself, but the point still stands.
Sleep is also a great puzzle for evolutionists – conquering sleep or reducing it to a minimum would give great advantage to any species that figures it out but it doesn’t seem to be happening. They go about it in roundabout ways, like cats hunting at night, but come daytime they are the laziest creatures around. Lions sleep up to twenty hours a day, but they don’t have to be alert for any predators so they can afford it. The rest of us need sleep like we need food, water, and air. Why? No one knows.
Vedic literature is also quiet about it, at least literature revealed to us as followers of Srila Prabhupada. We know we need to cut sleep to the minimum because we need our bodies awake to be engaged in Krishna’s service but we also don’t force it because unrested bodies are rather useless. Pure devotees like Six Goswamis and Srila Prabhupada managed to live on only one or two hours of sleep, which is impossible for us, so that could be one criteria to measure spiritual progress. Not forgetting that sleeping less does not cause advancement, only the other way around.
My personal fondness for sleep equals that of a lion, or maybe a hibernating bear, which is very appropriate in the middle of the winter. My sleep needs are clearly seasonal, and maybe that’s why I like winter so much.
Having said that, it all depends on external factors. When there’s a clear rise of the mode of passion I sleep a lot less, like when I live on a temple schedule and need to keep appearances for the young brahmacharies. Fully engaged like this my body can go fine with only six hours of sleep, or at least it used to. Left to myself I need minimum eight hours, and afternoon naps would be welcome, too. Anything less than that and I get cranky and, unlike rats, gain weight instead of losing it.
So, with sleep being unavoidable I’ve been trying to figure out excuses for it and I like the latest one. I prefer sleep to wakefulness because when I sleep my consciousness is at its purest, almost completely free from the influence of the modes of nature. I take inspiration from the fact that deep sleep, sushupti, is only one step away from the level of vasudeva, which is a pure spiritual consciousness.
There’s nothing devotional about this attachment, what I like about deep sleep is cessation of material hankerings, ie liberation. I love the state of not being torn apart and being tossed around by the modes of nature, sue me.
To remedy this attachment I try, during sleep, to focus on my perception of the Absolute Truth, which, however infinitesimal, always exists in the core of my heart. Jivera svarupa haya and all that. We don’t have to be devotees to be servants of Krishna. In fact, we can’t stop being servants of Krishna even if we tried our hardest because it’s our svarupa. It’s similar to being humans – we can try to behave in inhumane ways for a short while but in the end it’s impossible because our humanity would never ever disappear, we were born that way, it’s our svabhava.
Our problem is our perverted, exploitative relationship with the Supreme. That’s what stops us from becoming devotees. It doesn’t stop us from being Krishna’s servants, however, and this clear, original relationship is best observed when material mind is at total rest, in deep sleep, when there are no distractions and material world ceases to exist. That’s the point where, I believe, we can sense our spiritual connection with the Lord. It’s infinitesimal but it’s there. It’s present to the degree we realize ourselves as spirit souls rather than our bodies and minds.
Being so imperceptible I don’t expect to see much but I want to focus on what I do perceive. There’s no sign of Krishna anywhere, of course, but I’m happy if I sense a spot of difference between myself and my deep sleep. It’s like seeing bodily functions as separate from one’s existence, it’s like seeing mind and emotions as being separate form one’s existence. It’s a natural next step, I tell myself.
It takes a lot of practice to maintain “I’m not my physical body” consciousness for sustainable periods of time. It takes even more practice to observe workings of one’s mind as an observer rather than jumping in headfirst. Yet every little step on this path is a valuable experience. One moment here, two moments next time, there’s always hope. Maybe by the end of my life I’ll attain some level of self-realization, there’s still time.
I could leave all of it in the hands of Krishna, of course, but the fact is that self-realization is our service to Him, this service is the only point of trying to reach it. I can’t ask Him to do my job, even asking for help is somewhat inappropriate. We’ve been given knowledge, we’ve been given tools, how can we bother Him if we are not making full use of already provided facilities?
Anyway, after seeking self-awareness even in sleep, next step would be to find means to remember the Lord even when mind and intelligence are inactive. Nest, after fixing on that remembrance, I can start thinking of actual service, like chanting Hare Krishna, which would be performed by spiritual senses, I guess.
This will take time, thirty years of sleep might not be enough, so I better hurry up.