Prasna Upanishad (Part-4)-Who in man sleeps, dreams, and keeps awake

To sum up, Mantras 6 to 8 tell us that when the activity of the mind  comes to a standstill on account of its being overpowered by the light of Atman  it begins to take rest in dreamless sound sleep and it enjoys great happiness  that arises in the body. Then everything such as desires, activities, the  consciousness of body and senses i.e., all the phenomenal world created by  Avidya as determined by cause and effect and consisting of names and forms are  merged in the one Atman only, just as birds fly to their nests on the trees at  the approach of the night. The enumerations of the features that go to rest during  the condition of deep sleep as given in the Mantra 8 are as follows 
•The gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and space. 
•The subtle elements or essences (Tanmatras) out of which they are produced namely, smell, flavor, form, touch and sound. 
•The senses of the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue and the skin and the objects that can be sensed and known as the visual, the auditory, the olfactory, the gustatory and the tactual. 
•The organs of actions namely the tongue, hands, feet, organs of generation and anus and their activities of speaking, holding, walking, enjoyment and eliminating waste. 
•The mind and its imagining, the intellect and the conceivable ideas, the egoism and all that  about which one can be egoistic 
•Attention and that can be attended to 
•Luster and that which can be seen or felt as lustrous 
•The pranas and whatever is supported and sustained by them.

Mantra 9

eshha hi drashhta sprashhtaa shrotaa ghraataa rasayitaa manta boddhaa kartaa vigyaanaatmaa purushhah | sa pare.akshara aatmani sampratishhthate || 9||

It is He, verily, who sees,  feels, hears, smells, tastes, thinks and knows. He is the doer, the intelligent  self, the purusha. He is established in the Highest, the imperishable Atman.

We may recapitulate here the questions raised by the student. They are: Who is it that enjoys the mystery of sleep with no dreams? Where do all these organs rest at the time of deep sleep? This question relates to the state of dreamless sleep, characterized by bliss resulting in the absence of any pain at all. This state is the result of absence of mind’s contact with any objects. When a man gets up from dreamless sleep he feels very happy. The point to be understood is who is the experiencer of this blissful state of mind? The experiencer of this bliss is attributed to the undifferentiated cosmic ignorance due to which the Atman remains covered at the time of deep sleep. This was explained in Mantra 6 by using the terms “the mind is overpowered by light” and telling us that at this state man is nearest to the Supreme Atman. In other words the experiencer of that state is jivatman.

The Supreme Atman or Pure Consciousness appears through avidya to be conditioned by various upadhis and becomes the jiva or embodied soul. It is the jiva because of its association with upadhis like mind, senses etc., becomes the seer, feeler, hearer etc. The jiva may be compared to the image of the sun reflected in the water of a dish. The reflection appears to move or to remain still according to the condition of water. When the water and the dish are removed the reflection of the sun also goes away but not the sun in the sky. Likewise what disappears during deep sleep is the apparent false knowledge of the whole external world as also that of the upadhis of the body, senses, mind, intellect and egoism (collectively called as maya) and not the real nature of the jivatman who is identical with the one blissful, imperishable support of all viz., the Atman. And that is why there is joy in sound sleep. This is to say that the embodied soul realizes his oneness with the Supreme Atman when maya is destroyed.

Mantra 10

paramevaaksharam pratipadyate sa yo ha vai tadachchhaayamashariiramlohitam shubhramaksharam vedayate yastu somya | sa sarvagyah sarvo bhavati | tadeshha shlokah || 10|| 

He who knows this imperishable  Being, bright, without shadow, without body, without color, which is pure and  indestructible becomes omniscient and becomes all; the Supreme, indestructible  Being he surly attains. For this there is a mantra.

The implication of the discussion  in the foregoing Mantras is who is it that is free from the three states of  waking, dream and deep sleep and is also the man’s final goal? The answer is  the imperishable Atman, known as Turiya. All the experiences of waking,  dreaming and deep sleep blend together indistinguishably in the imperishable  Atman as honey collected from different flowers blend in the honey found in a  bee-hive or as rivers blend in the ocean. They are non-different from Atman and  disappear in it.

All the same there being no  conscious enjoyment of the blissful Atman during deep sleep, but only a natural  forgetfulness of the joys and sorrows and of the perishable objects of the  world, Pippalada says that whoever becomes free from all desires and realizes  that the Atman is both immanent and transcendent, beyond mind and prana, bereft  of all qualities, names and forms and as being pure, resplendent and blissful,  becomes one with Him and is as omniscient and as all-pervading as the Atman. In  support of this concept a Vedic verse is quoted as under.

Mantra 11

vigyaanaatmaa saha devaishcha sarvaih

               praanaa bhutaani sampratishhthanti yatra

tadaksharam vedayate yastu somya

               sa sarvagyah sarvamevaavivesheti || 11||

He, O friend, who knows that  imperishable Being wherein rests the intelligent self, together with the gods,  the Pranas and the elements - he becomes all - knowing and enters into all.

The idea is that the body and the  mind, with all their projections, are rooted in the Self, the Consciousness.  The Self sustains all the aspects of the individual and It is the resting place  for all of them. The same Self is in each one of us. It is surrounded by the  body, the organs and the mind like an emperor by his courtiers. When our  identity with the Self is realized we become Sarvam, all. We become like  a drop of water falling in an ocean. The drop which was having a separate  identity loses that separateness and becomes one with ocean when it drops down  in it. What was finite becomes infinite. The individual self becomes the cosmic  Self.

iti prashnopanishhadi chaturthah prashnah ||


We shall take up the Fifth Question next time.


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