Does The Mind Exist During Our Sleep?

Annamalai Swami

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Every time you go to sleep you have the experience of being without a mind. You cannot deny that you exist while you are asleep and you cannot deny that your mind is not functioning while you are in dreamless sleep. This daily experience should convince you that it is possible to continue your existence without a mind. Of course, you do not have the experience of full consciousness while you are asleep, but if you think about what happens during this state you should come to understand that your existence, the continuity of your being, is in no way dependent on your mind or your identification with it. When the mind reappears every morning you instantly jump to the conclusion, ‘This is the real me.’ 

If you reflect on this proposition for some time you will see how absurd it is. If you really only exist when the mind is present, you have to accept that you didn’t exist while you were asleep. No one will accept such an absurd conclusion. If you analyze your alternating states you will discover that it is your direct experience that you exist whether you are awake or asleep. You will also discover that the mind only becomes active while you are waking or dreaming. 

From these simple daily experiences, it should be easy to understand that the mind is something that comes and goes. Your existence is not wiped out each time the mind ceases to function. I am not telling you some abstruse philosophical theory. I am telling you something that you can validate by direct experience in any twenty-four hour period of your life.

Take these facts, which you can discover by directly experiencing them, and investigate them a little more. When the mind appears every morning, don’t jump to the usual conclusion, ‘This is me. These thoughts are mine.’ Instead, watch these thoughts come and go without identifying with them in any way. If you can resist the impulse to claim each and every thought as your own, you will come to a startling conclusion: you will discover that you are the consciousness in which the thoughts appear and disappear. You will discover that this thing called ‘mind’ only exists when thoughts are allowed to run free. Like the snake which appears to be a rope, you will discover that the mind is only an illusion which appears through ignorance or misperception.

[Ramana Maharishi] sometimes told a story about a man who wanted to bury his shadow in a pit. He dug the pit and stood in such a position that his shadow was on the bottom of it. The man then tried to bury it by covering it with earth. Each time he threw some soil in the hole, the shadow appeared on top of it. Of course, he never succeeded in burying the shadow. Many people behave like this when they meditate. They take the mind to be real, try to fight it and kill it, and always fail. These fights against the mind are all mental activities which strengthen the mind instead of weakening it. If you want to go beyond the mind, all you have to do is understand that it is ‘not me’.

Clouds come and go in the sky, but the appearance and disappearance of the clouds don’t affect the sky. Your real nature is like the sky, like space. Just remain like the sky and let thought-clouds come and go. If you cultivate this attitude of indifference towards the mind, gradually you will detach yourself from your 'little self' and awaken to your real Self.

Annamalai Swami was a direct disciple of Ramana Maharshi. Excerpt above from these talks.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that fighting the mind does not weaken it, and instead strengthens it? Can you share an experience of a time you realized that you are the field in which thoughts appear and disappear? What helps you cultivate an attitude of indifference toward the mind?

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11 Previous Reflections:

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    On Aug 20, 2020 Raj Salecha wrote:
    Amazingly described.

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    On Aug 16, 2020 Satish Prabhu wrote:
    I think it is "Like a rope which appears to be a snake" rather than "Like a snake which appears to be a rope!"

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    On Aug 14, 2020 hanan ali ramy wrote:
    A moving company from Riyadh to Jordan Shipping from Riyadh to Jordan here in Anwar Al-Haramain We know that everyone as soon as thinking about moving furniture from Saudi Arabia to Jordan

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    On Aug 13, 2020 DELPUECH wrote:
    beautiful subject.... what about people with weeks and months (years) living in a coma ... i believe than mind is limited of course we grow but what .. if we use only 10 15 20 30% of it as it is said... physic quantiqueis realizing there is a limite to our rationnal mind who incite me to say comes the moment where" words" are no more powerful enough closer we are with full consciousness who can not be discribed. neti. neti. neti how does it work when you encounter with a person you have never met and he reads you like an open book? i had too this experience where i was in a altered state of mind love beauty understanding everything was clear and understandable no limit at such a point i wanted a pen and a piece of paper to note when i got them it was all gone.... i remember this story. somebody asked boudha. why. we do not remember our past lives he replied. if so. there will not be enough room.( place) for the present moment s... [View Full Comment] beautiful subject....
    what about people with weeks and months (years) living in a coma ...
    i believe than mind is limited of course we grow but what .. if we use only 10 15 20 30% of it as it is said... physic quantiqueis realizing there is a limite to our rationnal mind who incite me to say comes the moment where" words" are no more powerful enough closer we are with full consciousness who can not be discribed. neti. neti. neti
    how does it work when you encounter with a person you have never met and he reads you like an open book?
    i had too this experience where i was in a altered state of mind love beauty understanding everything was clear and understandable no limit at such a point i wanted a pen and a piece of paper to note when i got them it was all gone....
    i remember this story. somebody asked boudha. why. we do not remember our past lives
    he replied. if so. there will not be enough room.( place) for the present moment
    so. body and mind need space to relax. forget and clean.
    thank you. ALEX. with. LOVE
    jm. jivan[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Aug 12, 2020 Gil wrote:
    How do you know which is the 'little mind' and which is the 'Real mind'? And if you know which mind is thinking that? How can you validate what you are saying or are you just making it up?one of these statements must be true?These conundrums just don't stand up to logic and the proposition of the Real mind/self does not stand up to scientific investigation.

    1 reply: David | Post Your Reply
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    On Aug 10, 2020 Sunil , Bangalore wrote:
    "Who am I"? is the question to be answered first. As one progresses in this internal search honestly, slowly one realises how body consciousness is different from soul consciousness. The more we experience this truth,the stronger we become.Mind is merely a function of this physical body and world full of thoughts.Soul is just full of love,peace n power only. This eternal knowledge and understanding helps to detach from body to experience the blissful soul.

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    On Aug 8, 2020 David Doane wrote:
    I think that fighting the mind is giving it attention, and the mind is fed by and grows stronger with attention. I believe the mind, like a muscle, grows stronger with use. Through reading, discussing, and reflecting I've come to believe that I am different than and more than my thoughts, and I am the field in which my thoughts appear and disappear. I don't have an attitude of indifference toward my mind. For me, I have a mind and I have an attitude of valuing and respecting my mind as a process that I use to think, which is an activity that I value. My understanding is that I the field am the master, and the mind is my servant to make use of.

    1 reply: A | Post Your Reply
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    On Aug 7, 2020 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Mind has its own mind. I let the mind run its own course. I do not follow it and do not fight it. When I do not identify myself with the the thoughts or feelings goingthrough the mind, I see them as clouds passing through the clear sky. I realize that I have a mind but I am not the mind. I have thoughts and feelings but I am not thoughts and feelings. I am witness consciousness-clear open sky- not bound by the clouds coming and going. When I resist and fight my thoughts or feelings, they get stronger. When I remain aware of what is happening in my body-mind complex, bodily sensations and thoughts and feelings, and do not identify myself with them, I am in the Zone of Being. Thoughts appear and disappear in the clear sky of awareness. This happens everyday when I sit quietly doing Mindfulness Meditation. Practicing Mindfulness Meditation regularly has a carry over effect in my daily living. It helps me to be free from the grip of ongoing thoughts in my mind. Remainingmindful in differe... [View Full Comment] Mind has its own mind. I let the mind run its own course. I do not follow it and do not fight it. When I do not identify myself with the the thoughts or feelings goingthrough the mind, I see them as clouds passing through the clear sky. I realize that I have a mind but I am not the mind. I have thoughts and feelings but I am not thoughts and feelings. I am witness consciousness-clear open sky- not bound by the clouds coming and going. When I resist and fight my thoughts or feelings, they get stronger.

    When I remain aware of what is happening in my body-mind
    complex, bodily sensations and thoughts and feelings, and do not identify myself with them, I am in the Zone of Being. Thoughts appear and disappear in the clear sky of awareness. This happens everyday when I sit quietly doing Mindfulness Meditation. Practicing Mindfulness Meditation regularly has a carry over effect in my daily living. It helps me to be free from the grip of ongoing thoughts in my mind. Remainingmindful in different contexts of my daily life makes me realize the I am consciousness and not my coming and going thoughts.

    As stated before, practicing Mindfulness Meditation regularly and practicing Mindfulness in everyday life helps me cultivate indifference toward the mind. As the author AnnamalaiSwamistates, " Cultivating this attitude of indifference toward the mind, you will detach yourself from your"little self" to your real Self."
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave'

    [Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: A | Post Your Reply

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