Insights of the Rishis and Scholars on Sleep and Dreams

Mind and Prana

Our mind and prana change radically in the four states. In the waking state, both mind and prana are active outwardly. The mind is caught up in dualistic currents of attraction and repulsion, like and dislike, pleasure and pain, love and hate. The prana is caught up in dualistic currents of inhalation and exhalation, sensation and action, and the movement of energy on the right and left sides of the body.

In the dream state, the mind is withdrawn inwardly and our prana also turns within. Our inner mind comes forth with its luminous dreams and powers to radically alter our time-space experiences. We also experience a subtler non-physical prana that projects a changeable dream body according to the thoughts of the mind. While dreaming, we function in the astral body—consisting of the pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya koshas. Pranamaya dreams are largely energetic and instinctual in nature. Manomaya dreams are sensory and emotional. Vijnanamaya dreams connect to deeper insight and cross over into deep-sleep type meditations.

In deep sleep the mind merges into a state of latency. The body is upheld by prana, which sustains it from its seed state. (This is discussed in detail in the Prashna Upanishad.) We experience a natural deep pratyahara, sensory withdrawal, in which all our faculties return to their core energy.

In the fourth state, turiya—for those who are able to experience it through meditation—prana and mind are merged within a deeper consciousness. The mind ceases to make any movements of its own, functioning only as an instrument of unitary consciousness, no longer able to generate false ego activity. To reach that fourth state, we must give up our identification with the body, and remove the knot of prana that connects us to it.

It is said that in the waking state our consciousness dwells in the eyes, specifically the right eye. In the dream state it dwells in the throat. In deep sleep it dwells in the heart—meaning the deeper spiritual heart, not the physical or emotional heart. In the fourth state it is also centered in the heart but consciously, not unconsciously as it is in deep sleep.



Drawing our prana, or vital energy, within us is the essence of all deeper healing. In this regard, the prana of deep sleep has the special power to heal all the other pranas, as well as the mind. In deep sleep, the brain is able to remove negative patterns and energies and reset its equilibrium. This is vitally important in all psychological healing.

Yet, the deepest healing of the body also comes from the awareness and prana behind deep sleep. A yogi can access this inner power of prana and direct it through his hands or through his eyes, using it to both guide and heal his disciples.


Sleep and the Home

Most of us define our homes as where we sleep, reflecting sleep’s importance. Our bedroom is the most intimate room in the house. We all look forward to going home and having a good night’s rest, particularly after a hectic day or after having traveled away for some time. Having no home or place to sleep of our own is a great trauma. Establishing our home or place of rest is the foundation of our sense of well-being. Sleeping in the same place affords us a certain inner contentment.

Yet, it is not just a question of a house, room or physical home. Sleep takes us back to our spiritual home, the divine energy and consciousness through which deep sleep renews us. We all sense that benefic power. When we have difficulties in life, we all wish to return to the quiet and rest of our homes, in which we can shut the outer world off, be ourselves, relax and let go—and have a good sleep.

We are all happy to go to sleep because we recognize that sleep brings us to a natural state of peace and well-being in which we can release the cares of the world. Beggar or king—sleep is the same for both. This peace of deep sleep can help us understand the peace inherent in our deeper consciousness. Yet, it is not enough to rest in our outer home, we must learn to rest in our inner home, which is the core awareness within our own hearts.

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