तद्यत्रैतत्सुप्तः समस्तः सम्प्रसन्नः स्वप्नं न विजानात्येष आत्मेति होवाचैतदमृतमभयमेतद्ब्रह्मेति स ह शान्तहृदयः प्रवव्राज स हाप्राप्यैव देवानेतद्भयं ददर्श नाह खल्वयमेवं सम्प्रत्यात्मानं जानात्ययमहमस्मीति नो एवेमानि भूतानि विनाशमेवापीतो भवति नाहमत्र भोग्यं पश्यामीति ॥ ८.११.१ ॥
tadyatraitatsuptaḥ samastaḥ samprasannaḥ svapnaṃ na vijānātyeṣa ātmeti hovācaitadamṛtamabhayametadbrahmeti sa ha śāntahṛdayaḥ pravavrāja sa hāprāpyaiva devānetadbhayaṃ dadarśa nāha khalvayamevaṃ sampratyātmānaṃ jānātyayamahamasmīti no evemāni bhūtāni vināśamevāpīto bhavati nāhamatra bhogyaṃ paśyāmīti || 8.11.1 ||
1. Prajāpati said: ‘When the self is sleeping, with all its organs inactive, it is free from worry and has no dreams. This is what the Self is like [i.e., it is spotless]. It is immortal and fearless. It is Brahman.’ Indra left happy in mind. But even before he got back to the gods, he was troubled by a doubt: ‘When the self is in deep sleep, it is not able to recognize itself as “I am so-and-so,” as it does when it is awake. Not only that, it does not even recognize beings around it. It is as if the self has been obliterated. I don’t see that anything good will come from this’.
Yatra tat etat, when this [self]; suptaḥ, is sleeping; samastaḥ, all organs inactive; samprasannaḥ, free from worry; svapnam na vijānāti, does not have any dreams; eṣaḥ ātmā, this is the Self [free from sin]; iti ha uvāca, [Prajāpati] said; etat amṛtam abhayam, it is immortal and fearless; etat brahma iti, it is Brahman; saḥ ha śāntahṛdayaḥ pravavrāja, he [Indra] left happy in mind; aprāpya eva devān, but even before getting back to the gods; saḥ etat bhayam dadarśa, he saw this fear [i.e., difficulty]; ayam, this [self]; nāha khalu samprati, does not while [in deep sleep]; evam, in this way [i.e., as when awake]; ātmānam jānāti, know itself; ayam aham asmi iti, I am so-and-so; na eva imāni bhūtāni, nor even all these beings; vināśam eva apītaḥ bhavati, as if he becomes obliterated; na aham atra bhogyam paśyāmi iti, I don’t see any good in this.
Next, Prajāpati told Indra about deep sleep. Normally when we are awake, our sense organs are outgoing, as if they are constantly searching for something. Then when we are dreaming, our body is at rest but our mind is not at rest. But if we have sound, dreamless sleep, our body, our organs, and our mind are all resting.
Prajāpati says: ‘This is the Self [Ātman]. This is Brahman.’ According to Vedanta, Ātman and Brahman are one and the same. When we use the word Ātman, we are referring to the Self within us. The word Brahman, means ‘the biggest,’ The greatest,’ ‘the ultimate.’ There is nothing higher, nothing greater. Really speaking, we don’t know what the ultimate is like. But we use the word Brahman to convey the idea of its uniqueness, that it is superior to everything.
What Prajāpati said seemed very convincing, and Indra left śāntahṛdaya—with his mind satisfied, with no more doubts. But as he was on his way back home, something began to trouble him. He thought: ‘When I have dreamless sleep, why is it that I am not conscious of anything—even of myself? It’s as if I have been annihilated and everything around me has disappeared. Why should this be?’
When Sri Ramakrishna used to have samādhi, he had no external consciousness and there was almost no sign of life in his body, but his face was beaming with joy. What is the difference between samādhi and deep sleep? In samādhi you have Self-knowledge. You know your real Self. And when your consciousness of the external world returns you are liberated. You have no more attachments or hankering after worldly pleasures. You are in a state of supreme bliss.
In suṣupti, deep sleep, all feelings, all experiences, all perceptions are temporarily wiped out. But when you wake up, you are the same person you were when you went to sleep. Your ignorance is still there, and there is no change in your outlook. You have the same attachments and fears, and you run after the same worldly pleasures that you did before you had deep sleep. Your bondage continues. That is the difference between the two.