Waking and Sleep, Day and Night

During daytime, we see the sun, the atmosphere and the world around us, and our thoughts and activities, for the most part, are focused on the life of the world. At night, we see the vast ranges of space and the myriad of stars, and can thereby recognise that our world is a small part of a much larger and more complex universal creation. Similarly, our waking mind is preoccupied within the framework and limits of the life of the day, while our sleep state moves beyond these boundaries and can openly participate in the wider reality within which the human waking state is just a small element. During the day, and during the waking state, the larger reality is not withdrawn from us, but remains active and has its influence. This larger reality is, as Sri Aurobindo terms it, “behind the veil” that is thrown up by the waking consciousness to circumscribe our seeing and acting within the limits of that waking state.

The sleep state is therefore an interesting part of life, and for most people can occupy almost 1/3 of their entire time. Clearly sleep cannot be disregarded if we intend to truly understand our lives and purposes in life, just as we cannot ignore the significance of the solar system, the galaxies and the universes when we reflect on the deeper meaning of existence.

The experiences of the sleep state bring us into contact with other realms of consciousness and existence, and they do not follow the type of understanding and rules of knowledge that we use to frame our outward existence. For this reason, to the extent that these experiences are brought into our waking awareness, they frequently are partial or distorted transcriptions that try to bring them into the framework of our mental logic, while they follow other rules and communicate forces not bound within our logical framework.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “In sleep we leave the physical body, only a subconscient residue remaining, and enter all planes and all sorts of worlds. In each we see scenes, meet beings, share in happenings, come across formations, influences, suggestions which belong to these planes. Even when we are awake, part of us moves in these planes, but their activity goes on behind the veil; our waking minds are not aware of it. Dreams are often only incoherent constructions of our subconscient, but others are records (often much mixed and distorted) or transcripts of experiences in these supraphysical planes. When we do sadhana, this kind of dream becomes very common; then subconscious dreams cease to predominate.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Experiences in Dream, pp. 196-199

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