Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on sleep

The following exerpts are taken from the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL) and Collected Works of the Mother (CWM).


by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
The Necessity of Sleep 
  ...Sleep is necessary  for the body just as  food is. Sufficient 
sleep must be taken, but no excessive sleep. What sufficient sleep is 
depends on the need of the body. (SABCL, vol. 24: p 1476) 

 It is a great mistake not  to take sufficient sleep. Seven hours is 
the minimum  needed. When one has a very  strong nervous system one can 
reduce it to six, sometimes even five - but it is rare and ought not to be 
attempted without necessity. (SABCL, vol. 24: p 1477) 

 It is  not a  right method to  try to keep  awake at  night; the 
suppression of the  needed sleep makes the body  tamasic and unfit for the 
necessary concentration during the waking hours. The right way is to 
transform the sleep and not to  suppress it, especially to learn how to 
become more and more conscious in sleep itself. If that is done, sleep 
changes into an inner mode of consciousness in which the sadhana can 
continue as much as in the waking state, and at  the same  time  one is 
able  to enter  into  other planes  of consciousness than  the physical and 
command an immense  range of informative and utilisable experience. 
(SABCL, vol. 24: p 1479) 

What Happens During Sleep 

Tccording to a recent medical theory one passes in sleep through many 
phases until  one  arrives  at a  state  in  which there  is absolute rest 
and silence -  it lasts  only for ten  minutes, the rest of the time is 
taken  up by traveling to that and traveling back again  to the waking 
state.  I suppose the ten  minutes sleep can be called susupti in the 
Brahman or Brahmaloka, the rest is svapna  or passage  through other 
worlds (planes  or states  of conscious existence).  It is  these ten 
minutes that  restore the energies of the being, and without it sleep is 
not refreshing. 

 According to the Mother's experience and knowledge one passes from 
waking through a succession of states of sleep consciousness which are in 
fact  an entry and passage into so  many worlds and arrives at pure 
Sachchidananda state of  complete rest, light and silence, - afterwards 
one retraces one's  way till one reaches  the waking physical state. It is 
this  Sachchidananda period that gives sleep all  its restorative  value. 
These two  accounts, the  scientific and  the occult-spiritual,  are 
practically  identical with  each other.  But the  former is  only a 
recent discovery  of what  the occult-spiritual knowledge knew long ago. 
People's ideas of sound sleep  are absolutely erroneous. What they call 
sound  sleep is  merely a plunge  of the  outer consciousness into a 
complete  subconscience. They call that  a dreamless sleep; but it  is only 
a state  in which the surface  sleep consciousness which is a  subtle 
prolongation of the outer still  left active in sleep itself is  unable to 
record the dreams and  transmit them to the physical mind. As a matter of 
fact the whole of sleep is full of dreams.  It is only  during the brief 
time  in which one  is in Brahmaloka that the dreams cease. 
(SABCL, vol: 24: p 1484) 

How to Sleep 

The  rule should  be  to  call the  Mother  before sleeping,  to 
concentrate on her and try  to feel the Mother's protection around and  go 
with  that into  sleep.  In the  dream itself  a habit  of calling the 
Mother  when in difficulty or peril  should be formed; many sadhaks do it. 
Not to allow the invasion, any invasion of any power or  being, whether  in 
dream, meditation  or otherwise  - no force except the  Divine Force, means 
to reject it,  never to give assent, whether through attention or through 
weakness... (SABCL, vol. 24: p 1501) 

Tf one is physically very tired, it is better not to go to sleep 
immediately, otherwise one  falls into the inconscient.  If one is 
very tired, one must stretch out on the bed, relax, loosen all the nerves 
one after  the another  until one  becomes like  a rumpled cloth in one's 
bed, as though one had neither  bones nor muscles. When one has done  that, 
the same thing must be  done in the mind. Relax, do not concentrate on any 
idea or try to solve a problem or ruminate on impressions, sensations or 
emotions you had during the day.  All that  must be  allowed to  drop off 
quietly: one  gives oneself up, one  is indeed like a rag. When  you have 
succeeded in doing this,  there is always  a little  flame, there -  that 
flame never  goes out  and  you become  conscious of  it  when you  have 
managed this  relaxation. And  all of a  sudden this  little flame rises 
slowly into an aspiration  for the divine life,  the truth, the 
consciousness of  the Divine, the union with  the inner being, it  goes 
higher  and  higher,  it rises,  rises,  like that,  very gently. Then 
everything  gathers there, and if at  that moment you fall asleep,  you 
have the best  sleep you could possibly  have. I guarantee that if you do 
this carefully, you are sure to sleep,and also sure that instead of falling 
into a dark hole you will sleep in light, and  when you get up  in the 
morning you  will be fresh, fit, content, happy and full of energy for the 
day. (CWM, vol. 04: pp 352-53) 

Even for  those who  have never  been in trance,  it is  good to repeat a 
mantra, a word,  a prayer  before going into  sleep. But there must be a 
life in the words; I do  not mean an intellectual significance,  nothing of 
that  kind, but  a  vibration. And  its effect  on  the  body  is 
extraordinary:  it  begins  to  vibrate, vibrate, vibrate... and quietly 
you let yourself go, as though you wanted to go  to sleep. The body 
vibrates more  and more, more and more, more and more, and away you go. 
That is the cure for tamas. 

It is  tamas which causes  bad sleep. There  are two kinds  of bad sleep: 
the sleep that makes you heavy, dull as if you lost all the 
effect of the effort you put  in during the preceding day; and the sleep 
that  exhausts you  as  if  you  had  passed your  time  in fighting. I 
have noticed if you  cut your sleep into slices (it is a habit one  can 
form), the nights become better.  That is to say, you must  be able to 
come back  to your normal  consciousness and normal aspiration  at fixed 
intervals -  come back at the  call of consciousness. But for that you must 
not use and alarm clock! When you are in trance, it is not good to be 
shaken out of it. 

When you are about to go to  sleep, you can make a formation; say: "I shall 
wake up at such an  hour" (you do that very well when you are a child). For 
the first  stretch of sleep count at least three hours; for  the last, one 
hour is  sufficient. But the  first one must be  three hours  at the 
minimum. On the  whole, you  have to remain in bed at  least seven hours; 
in six hours  you do not have time to do  much (naturally I am  looking at 
it from  the point of view of sadhana) to make the nights useful. 
Two  things  you  must  eliminate:  falling  into  the  stupor  of 
inconscience,  with  all  the   things  of  the  subconscient  and 
inconscient that rise  up, invade you, enter you; and  a vital and mental 
superactivity  where  you  pass  your  time  in  fighting, literally, 
terrible  battles.  People  come  out  of  that  state bruised, as if they 
had received  blows. And they did receive them - it  is not "as if"!  And I 
see the  only way out: TO  CHANGE THE NATURE OF SLEEP. 
(CWM, vol. 15: pp400-01) 

Collected Works.of the Mother 

Compilation by Arun Sundar 

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