The Supplementary Papers
The Mystery of Sleep (1)
We see in our daily life that the greatest friend of the child is the one who helps him to go to sleep. However many toys we may give, however many dolls and candy, when the child is helped to sleep, it is then that he is the most grateful. When the mother with her blessed hands puts him to sleep, it is the greatest benefit. It is then that he is happiest. Those who are sick and in pain, if they can sleep, are happy. Then all their pain is gone. If they can only sleep, they say they can endure all else. They say to the doctor, give us something, anything to make us sleep. If you were offered a king's palace and every enjoyment, every luxury, the best surroundings, the best dishes, on the condition that you should not sleep, you would say: "I do not want it, I prefer sleep."
The unhappy – what is the difference between the happy and the unhappy? Only this. The unhappy cannot sleep. The sorrow, care, anxiety, the worry that he has, at once take sleep from him. Why do people take to alcoholic drinks, and drugs of all sorts? Only for this. When a man has drunk alcohol because of the intensity of the stimulant, a light sleep comes upon him. His feet, his hands are asleep, his tongue is asleep. He cannot speak plainly. He cannot walk straight, and falls down. The joy of this sleep is so great that when he has drunk once, he wants to drink again. A thousand times he decides that he will not drink, but he does.
There is a poem of our great poet Rumi where he says: O sleep, every night thou freest the prisoner from his bonds. The prisoner, when he is asleep, does not know that he is in prison. He is free. The wretched is not wretched, is contented. The sufferer is not in pain and misery. This shows us that the soul is not in pain nor in misery. If it were, it would be so also when the body is asleep. The soul does not feel the misery of the body and the mind. When a person awakes, then the soul thinks that it is in pain and wretched. All this shows us the great bliss of sleep.
And this great bliss is given to us without a price, like all that is best. We do not pay to sleep. We pay thousands of pounds for jewels, gems, that are of no use to our life. Bread we can buy for pennies. Man does not know how great the value of sleep is because the benefit it gives cannot be seen and touched. If he is very busy, if he has some business that brings him money, he will rather be busy in that and take from his sleep, because he sees: "I have gained so many pounds, so many shillings." He does not see what he gains by sleep.
During the fast sleep ordinarily a person is conscious of nothing. When he wakes up, he feels refreshed and renewed. What are we doing while we are fast asleep? The soul then is released from the hold of the body and the mind. It is free, it goes to its own element, to the highest spheres, and it enjoys there. It is happy. All the happiness, all the wisdom of those spheres it experiences. It enjoys all the bliss, happiness and peace.
Besides the dream and the fast sleep, there are the visions. These are seen when in sleep the soul is active in the higher spheres. What it sees there the mind interprets in allegorical pictures. The soul sees plainly the actual thing, and the mind takes from the impressions, whatever is rather like that which the soul sees. Therefore the thing is seen as a picture, an allegory, a parable which the wise can interpret, because he knows the language of those spheres. If he sees himself walking up a mountain, he knows what it means, if he sees himself in rags, or very richly dressed, or in a ship, or in the desert, he knows what it means. The ignorant does not know. He thinks it is merely a dream, nothing. A person sees in a vision either what concerns himself, or what concerns others in whom he is interested; if he is interested in his nation, or in the whole humanity, he will see what has to do with the nation or with the whole humanity.
In a dream a voice may be heard, or a message given in letters. This is the higher vision. The sages and saints see in the vision exactly what will happen, or what the present condition is, because their mind is controlled by their will. It does not for one moment think, even in sleep, that it can act independently of their will. And so whatever their soul sees, it shows exactly as it is seen. They see visions even while awake, because their consciousness is not bound to this earthly plane. It is awake upon the higher planes.
Besides the dream, vision, and fast sleep, the mystics experience two other conditions, the self-produced dream and the self-produced fast sleep. To accomplish this is the aim of mysticism. It is so easy that I can explain it to you in these few words, and it is so difficult that I should like to bow my head before him who has achieved it. They accomplish this by concentration and meditation.
Can you hold one thought in your mind, keeping all other thoughts away? Can you keep your mind free from all thoughts, from all pictures? We cannot. A thousand thoughts, a thousand pictures come and go. By mastering this, they master all. Then he is awake upon this plane and upon that plane. Then this becomes sleep, and the other the wakeful state. People may say, the mystics, the Sufis are great occultists, very psychic people. That is not their aim. Their aim is the true consciousness, the life, which lies beyond. Allah. When this is open to them, then all wisdom is open to the soul, and all the books, all the learning in the world becomes intellect before them. You may say: "Then the very lazy people who are always sleeping are all saints. " "No." The soul must experience on the earth also. It must learn what virtue is, it must learn to be virtuous.
The Mystery of Sleep (2)
By the word 'sleep' we understand 'covering of ourselves from the world of which we are conscious.' But we do not realize that when we are awake we are covering ourselves from another world, which is in fact more real. The difference between the sleeping and waking state is that when we cover ourselves from what is real we say, "I am awake," and when we cover ourselves from what is unreal, and illusion, we say we are asleep. It is the self that is covered.
The reason of this is that in the state during which we are conscious of all things we are able to point to this or that, to things we have no doubt about. That is why we say at that time that we are awake: We recognize the objects around us. But during the time of sleep we think we are dreaming; we do not know where we are, or what we are doing. In reality that is the very time when we are experiencing our real life.
What does our real life consist of? Our real life consists of natural happiness, peace, and purity. By purity I mean that our heart, mind, intelligence is pure from all worries, and anxieties, pains and tortures of mind, bitterness or sweetness, such as we experience in the world. Our heart is otherwise reflecting on these things all the time, and brings us suffering accordingly. How valuable is the peace we obtain in sleep! One cannot realize it until one longs for sleep which will not come. At such a time, a person will realize that everything one can possess in the world is worth sacrificing for the peace which sleep brings, and the happiness we experience there.
All the pleasures in the world afford only a glimpse of that happiness which is within us, in our inmost being. In our everyday external life that happiness is buried as it were. If there comes a time when happiness is experienced by the soul, it is the time during which we are asleep. The little happiness which we experience in this world is not real, but only a shadow, which we call 'pleasure,' whereas the true happiness which we experience by our natural light, we don't call happiness, for we do not know what it is. Only its after-effects remain with us, and a person feels happy when he comes to the wakeful state after having had a good sleep.
The peace we experience during sleep cannot be compared with the peace we experience under the form of 'rest' in a comfortable chair or couch, or material 'comfort' in the house or elsewhere. The life we experience during sleep is outside a wall, a prison wall, the pains and diseases of this world are during the time in prison. In the waking state we are in prison, our life is unhappy; when fast asleep we are free. The moment sleep comes to a person who is in pain and suffering, all his disease is left behind; at that moment he is above all suffering and pain. This shows that during sleep man experiences a life which is above this mortal existence.
Though man experiences sleep every day, yet he never realizes it as the greatest blessing of his existence until he suffers from lack of it. Man disregards all natural blessings. Not regarding them as blessings, he remains discontented. A person who can see the blessing there is in life itself, would be so thankful that whatever may be lacking in the outward life would seem insignificant. The inner blessing is so much greater compared with what is lacking in the outer world. There is indeed no comparison between them.
All this shows that the development which helps a person to advance along the spiritual path is to seek no further than along the natural lines of the mystery of sleep. Once this mystery solved, and the deeper question of the inner cult is solved also. The explanation of things is so near to us all the time, and yet at the same time it is so far from our reach.
In Sufi terms, there are five stages of consciousness: Nasut, Malakut, Jabarut, Lahut, Hahut.
1. Nasut. This is the consciousness dependent on our senses. Whatever we see by means of the eye, or hear by means of the ear, whatever we smell and taste, all these experiences which we gain by the help of the material body prove to us that this is a particular plane of consciousness, or a particular kind of experience of consciousness. We call it "nasut."
2. Malakut. This is a further stage of consciousness, working through our mental plane. By means of this higher consciousness we experience thought and imagination, which are beyond our senses. Very often it happens that a person does not notice a passer-by, so deeply is he thinking upon some object. You may speak to him and yet he will not listen, so deeply is he absorbed in his subject. Though his ears are open he cannot hear; though his eyes are open, he cannot see. What does that mean? It means that at that moment his consciousness is experiencing life in a different plane. Though he is sitting before you with open eyes and ears, his consciousness is on another plane, working through a different body. This, in Sufi terms is called "malakut."
3. Jabarut. Here the experience is like that of a person in deep, dreamless sleep. He is said to be 'sound asleep.' The plane of malakut is experienced by every person not only when absorbed in thought, but also in dreams. At the time when the different sense-organs are resting, the mind is free to work, and it works with the aid of the same mechanism which it has collected during the experience of the nasut condition. In other words all the experience which man gathers during the day is collected during the night, and the mind works with that mechanism. Whatever has been collected during the day is at work during the night. Therefore, if a person has acquired an impression of fear, the fear will manifest in the dream in different forms. If a person has acquired an impression of love, love will appear in the dream in various forms. If of success, the dream will show success in different forms. So that every impression which the mind gets, it prepares a covering for, it prepares outward appearances for. That is what accounts for the meaning of dreams. For instance suppose a person went to a wise man saying, "I have seen flowers in my dream. What will be the result of this?" The wise man will answer, "Love, happiness, success." Why? Because the wise man knows that the mind disguises itself and its impression into something beautiful when something beautiful is going to happen, something ugly, when something bad is going to happen.
But it is not only that the mind adorns itself in a certain form in order to tell you that you are going to have a good or a bad experience, it is the natural outcome of things; it is an action and a reaction; what we take from the outer world is prepared in the mind and it reacts again in another form which gives us a sort of key by which to understand what the next step will be. In that form, it is a warning. There is no need to take it as a warning in a spiritualistic form, and claim that a spirit, or ghost, or angel came to tell you the future.
It is your own mind, and it disguises itself as spirit or ghost or angel or whatever form you wish it to come to you, or in whatever form you are accustomed to see it. It will never come under a form strange to you, such as you have never known; it will only come in the form to which you are accustomed. For instance, if you were to see a dog with wings, it is still the same form; you are familiar with a dog. It is only that the mixture of combination is curious. Though wings are attached to the dog, the form is not actually new; you are seeing something which you recognize.
Therefore, really speaking, the dream is the state of the mind.
There are two different aspects of the matter. On the one hand, when the mind is not expressive but responsive, it is acting not in a positive but in a negative rhythm, then that mind becomes visionary. Visionary mind is that which is apt to catch in itself the reflection of whatever mind falls upon it. Thus it may catch in itself the reflection of a living person's mind, or of a deceased person's mind, or of a spiritually advanced person, or of a very ordinary person. His mind lies open like a piece of uncultivated ground which a person may turn either into a farm or a garden. A person may sow seeds of flowers, or only seeds of thorns upon the soil. This accounts for people having different experiences in their dreams to what they have in waking life. People say, "I learn something from my dreams, I am inspired by them. I have received new ideas, new lessons, in my dreams." That is because the mind was exposed to the given impressions.
A mind open to impressions in this way may as well reflect a satanic as an angelic one, a wrong as easily as a right one. It is open to whatever comes into it. Such a person is as likely to be led astray as to be helped. The result is therefore only good as long as the impressions to which the mind responds are good ones. What then is the way in which one can be sure to have the mind focused upon good things and so receive only good impressions? There are three considerations:
a. One must be able to keep away all the ever-moving thoughts which come into one's mind. One must develop that mental strength, that will power, which will keep away all thoughts which come into one's mind during concentration, and take one's mind away from the object on which one focuses.
b. The mind will always focus itself upon the object which it loves. If one has not love for the divine Being, for God, if one has not that ideal, then it is certainly difficult. It cannot be done by the intellect. The intellectual person keeps asking, "Where shall I focus my mind, what object shall I focus, please picture it for me, and point out where it is." It is the lover of God whose mind cannot wander anywhere save always directly to God.
c. Purity of mind is necessary. The mind must be pure from all fear, worry, anxiety, and from every kind of falsehood. For all this covers the mind from the vision of God. The mind full of faith and love and purity and strength, once focused upon the ideal of God, will receive teaching and inspiration and advice directly, and in the case of everything he meets with in his life.
The simple teaching of all religions during every age, the essence of all religion and philosophy, is contained in this: go and stand before God in simple faith, as being a little child before God. For that moment you say, "I know not anything, I have not learned anything, I am only an empty cup waiting to be filled; I have only love to offer You, and because that too is insufficient, I only ask for more; I have only faith, and yet that is insufficient, and so I ask that it be strengthened and developed in order to have it strong enough to hold me before You; purity I need but have it not, or at least if I have it it is only Your own essence which is within my being, and I wish to keep it as clean as possible; with these three things I come, as a simple child, with no knowledge of my own, and leaving aside all doubt and questions or whatever can come between us..." Here is the essence of religion.
It is so simple that even a child can do it should he so wish; he does not need much learning to be able to do it. Once explained to him, he will understand it. We also need not have learning or great intellectual knowledge to be able to do it. A little further on beyond this plane of malakut brings us to the plane of consciousness which I have explained as being like the experience of deep sleep. The blessing here is greater still. In this higher experience there is God's own Being, by which we experience the life, peace and purity which are within us. Moreover whilst anyone may experience this blessing during sleep, the person who follows the path of spiritual development will experience it while awake. The Yogis therefore call it 'sushupti,' this joy of life and peace and purity which the mystic experiences with open eyes, while wide awake, though others can only touch it during deep sleep.
4. Lahut. This is a still further experience of consciousness. It raises a person from the material plane to the immaterial plane. In this plane the state of being fast asleep is not necessary. There is a greater peace and joy and nearness to the essence which is called divine. In Christian terms, this stage is called 'communion.' In the Vedantic terms it is called 'Turiyavastha.' The further step to this is called 'samadhi,' which may no doubt be described as 'merging into God.' In other words, in this stage we dive into our deepest self-hood, God is in our deepest self. Here there is the ability to dive so deeply as to touch our deepest being, which is the home of all intelligence, life, peace, and joy; and here worry, fear, disease or death do not enter.
5. Hahut. This is the experience which is the object of every mystic who follows the inner cult. In Vedantic terms, this stage is called 'manan.'The equivalent in Christian terminology is 'at-one-ment.' From these considerations it may be seen that the work of the Sufi Order is to aim at ennobling the soul. When initiated into the Order we take the path of ennobling the soul, not wonder-working, communicating with spirits, or performing miracles, or developing magnetic or psychic powers or clairvoyance or clairaudience or anything of that kind. The one single aim is to become humane, to live a healthy life, try and better the moral condition of one's life, ennoble one's character, and meet not only our own needs but also those of our neighbors and friends. The work is to try and develop that spark which is in every soul, whose only satisfaction lies in the love of God, and in approaching toward God with the intention some day of having a glimpse of that Truth which cannot be spoken of in words.
About the Five Planes
We exist on five planes. Of three of these planes everybody is conscious. Of the other two only those are conscious who have developed themselves. The lowest plane is Nasut; the material world, of which we are conscious by the sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In this plane we live in the physical body.
When we are asleep our body is lying in bed here, but our mind may be in Paris, in America, in Russia. It may go to the North Pole or to the South Pole. This shows us that our mind is independent of the physical body. Its attachment is only caused by our physical experience, which makes the mind dependent. When we awake we find ourselves in the same room in which we were before we went to sleep. We call this real and the dream unreal, because this remains, and the other comes and goes. When we shall be without our physical body, in what we call death, the dream will remain, and the physical world will go from us. That will be our reality. This is Malakut, the mental plane. In this your higher self is independent of the body. You see, hear, smell without the eyes, ears, nose.
When you are so fast asleep that you are not even dreaming, yet if someone calls you, you at once answer 'Yes,' this shows that though you are not conscious of any names or forms, you are conscious of being. This is Jabarut, the astral plane. The other two planes are Lahut, the spiritual plane, and Hahut, the plane of consciousness. Everyone experiences these planes also, but ordinarily a person experiences them for a very short time, so that he is not conscious of them. These states come and go so quickly that a person is not conscious of them. The mystic holds them.
A person may be sitting still, and for a few moments he falls asleep, and by a voice, or by a symbol or by actual sight, something is shown to him. A poem is revealed to a poet, music to a musician, or a message, or an object is revealed. It is not only the mystics who experience this, but musicians, poets, artists, inventors, the people who have made the great factories. The musicians, poets, artists, experience this, and the mystics after their development. This is sometimes called inspiration.
Sometimes, while you are sitting or standing with your eyes open, for one moment you do not see what is before your eyes, or someone speaks to you, and you have not heard. You may be sitting here, and a child or a dog may come and destroy something, and you have not seen. A person feels: I am blank, but before he has time to say, "I am blank" the state is gone. This is Hahut, the plane of consciousness, where there is consciousness alone, without form and without name. This is the highest state, in which the consciousness is free from the self. This is liberation, towards which you are going, for which you are trying. Everybody in the world in twenty-four hours experiences all those states. Our waking state lasts much longer than the dream. The dream lasts much longer than fast sleep. The fast sleep lasts much longer than the state of Lahut. The state Lahut lasts longer than Hahut.
The mystics take the contrary way. Ordinarily we like to be conscious physically longer than in the dream, and we like to be in the dream longer than in the fast, because there is a great joy in dreaming. The mystic holds fast the consciousness of the highest planes, and makes that last longer.
God bless you.