A normal human being spends an average of one third of his life sleeping. Most people find it a relaxing activity, they look peaceful while sleeping. If all is well in your body, you are sure to feel rested and rejuvenated when you get up. Ever wonder why? Let me share a little story with you:
A Sufi saint barged into a royal gathering and occupied a seat in the foremost row, closest to the king. The security chief approached him promptly.
“I’m sorry but this area is reserved for the elite,” he said, “May I ask if you are a VIP?”
“I’m higher than that.”
“Oh, are you a VVIP then?”
“No. Higher than that.”
“You don’t look like a royal minister, are you—”
“What’s a royal minister in front of me?” the saint interjected, “I’m higher than that.”
“So are you a relative of the king?”
“Way higher than that.”
The chief mocked, “Oh! I’m sorry your highness, you must be the king himself.”
“Higher than him.”
“That’s utter nonsense, nobody is higher than the king.”
“Exactly. I’m nobody!” said the saint.
Do you know what I am alluding to? Besides benefits to the body, you find sleep relaxing because it is not just your body that sleeps, it is the ego too. When you are sleeping, you are nobody, a master of the universe. Whether you are a king or a pauper, once you fall asleep, it is all the same. A king has no exclusive claim to royal dreams. There are no distinctions, your mind is not talking beyond the dreams you can remember. There is a certain quietude. In the absence of ego, you slip into a different world, a different consciousness. Dreams feel real while you experience them because your ego, a product of the conscious and conditioned mind, is not interfering with them. The conscious mind is not calculating at that time.
Even when you are awake no experience can hurt you if can drop your ego. The bigger the ego or sharper the brain, the harder it is to fall asleep. Upon careful examination, you will find that people with an active mental lifestyle cannot go to sleep easily, it takes them longer; the same applies to those with tall egos. The humble one or the lazy one can doze off with greater ease, almost effortlessly.
Soporific substances like alcohol, sleeping pills and the rest make you fall asleep because they let you forget who you are. They help you lose your clinging to the self, albeit temporarily and at the cost of your health. Regardless of the religion, race and gender etc, if you get a group of people drunk, they will behave like each other. Their egos are walls no more, their conscious mind has lost hold of its conditioning, they cannot pretend any longer.
So, is sleep synonymous to samadhi? Is it the same consciousness in sleep and trance? After all, in both you drop your ego. Not quite. In sleep you have dormant awareness. You know you are not dead, you are only sleeping. If someone pours cold water on you, you will wake up immediately. In samadhi, you have dominating awareness. Your super-awareness is the single most factor that allows you to maintain that transcendental meditative state. That is the primary difference: dormant versus dominating awareness. In sleep it is your subconscious mind that dictates, whereas, in samadhi, it is the super-conscious state that prevails.
You can consciously choose to be “nobody”, you can train yourself to go beyond labels. When others offer you negativity, criticism, you can remind yourself to not accept it.
Just like a drop that falls in the sea is a drop no more, it becomes the ocean. Similarly, while sleeping, there is no beginning no end to you, your existence, your dreams. You are no longer restricted by the labels you use while awake. You go into this infinite space, your original nature, you see impossible dreams and experience them as real. As soon as you get up, ego consciousness rises to the surface and poof! your world of peace and dreams disappears like it never existed.
Mulla Nasrudin violently shakes his wife in the middle of the night. “Wake up! Quick! Give me my glasses.”
She says gingerly, “What happened?”
“I was just seeing this dream of tomorrow’s winning lotto ticket but I couldn’t read the number without my glasses. I must go back to my dream.”
There is no meeting point of the world with ego and the one without it. Like the horizon, they may appear to meet but never actually do. Making it hard to fall asleep, ego fuels restive tendencies of the mind, it disconnects you from the source.
One who knows the art of being nobody, can become anybody he so wishes; the urge to be like somebody disappears, everybody looks identical thereafter anyway. For, if we look beyond the external, the labels, their conditioned behavior and so forth, is every person not like every other?