-Everybody sleeps, the ignorant sleep, Cartesians sleep, egoists sleep: why then do advaitins regard the state so highly? We are here talking of deep dreamless sleep. The doubt is expressed:
It has been said that the self does not see (in the state of profound sleep) on account of unity; as in the case of the couple, and that it is self-effulgent. Self-effulgence means being Pure Intelligence by nature. Now the question is, if this intelligence is the very nature of the Self, like the heat etc. of fire, how should it, in spite of the unity, give up its nature, and fail to know? And if it does not give up its nature, how is it that it does not see it in the state of profound sleep? It is contradictory to say that intelligence is the nature of the self, again, that it does not know. The answer is, it is not self-contradictory; both these are possible. How? -(commentary on Brh.Up. IV.iii.22)
That last sentence is to introduce Sankara’s response to the doubt - if there is self-effulgence how am I not aware? It seems more like pure blankness.
Sankara does not deny that there is a sort of absorption or what I have called ‘a dark samadhi’. This is just the point - we know we have been in that state when we awake. That innate self-luminous aspect of consciousness is never lost. This is what makes Deep Sleep (sushupti) a natural experiment that displays the true nature of consciousness in a state where there is no danger of falling into the normal pattern of seeming to have an awareness of a content of consciousness. The Bhamati of Vachaspati Misra regards Deep Sleep itself as a sort of half -realisation which seems to miss the point or even two points. One is that unless a state is accompanied by conscious awareness it can have no transforming effect because we have not made our own of it. Contrary to that is the valid demurral that the secret workings of enlightenment may be opaque to us. For Yeats of course working by the old rule (cf. below) awareness is from horizon to horizon and there is never any corner that is not lit. Yogis say that they never dream. Rest for them may be a pure physical quiescence.
The other point is that none of this matters because an experience cannot be the basis of realisation, half or full. Enlightenment comes from a grasp of the underlying form of any experience whatever.
Like the wild fowler said:
- I fired at him once and I missed him. I fired at him again and I hit him in the same place and knocked a hat-full of feathers out of him.