1.10 Sleepy Head
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 10 | COMMENTARY
Abhava pratyaya-lambana vritti nidra.
अभावप्रत्ययामम्बना वृत्तिर्नद्रा ॥१.१०॥
Abha̅va-pratyaya̅lambana̅ vṛittinidra̅ || 1.10 ||
The absence of any content upon which mind can support itself is the state of Sleep.
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All the three Vrittis earlier discussed processed some idea or information or idea in the mind. The mind was conscious. When the mind is not in of the previous three states, it can be in Sleep or Nidra. Maharishi Patanjali describes Sleep as a distinct mental state – one which is different from the meditative state he discusses later in the text. While Vikalpa or Viparyaya can be easily digested as a Vritti of the consciousness, it can be unexpected for many like it was for me to consider Sleep as a mental state that may be controlled and subdued.
When the mind is in the Sleep state, all the external inputs are switched off. We do not hear or see anything, neither the sense of touch is processed. Even the spatial awareness is not present. The intuitive ideas also become silent. The body is partially paralysed so that we may not hurt ourselves in sleep. We lose all sense of body, the surrounding and reality (as we know it) itself. The mind turns inwards and if it is a good night’s sleep, there is absolutely no perception of passing of time the next morning. In this state there is no content or idea to support the mind.
Sleep is a very powerful state and one that is necessary for survival. There is a reason this habit is exhibited by all living creatures. Good sleep is necessary for repair of wear and tear of the body and brain. There are some functions that can take place only in deep sleep – for example the removal of the waste that the brain produces in the waking state, making neural connections that help in creativity and memory, and dreaming which is physiologically and psychologically vital.
One must not misinterpret this sutra that sleep is unnecessary – it is very necessary and beneficial as research has proved again and again.
In our modern times, it has become “cool” to brag about sleeping less: there are many famous personalities who declare sleep to be a wastage of time which is not true in any sense. 7-8 hours of sleep is necessary for optimal function of the body-mind complex. Even in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says that one who sleeps too little or too much cannot achieve Yoga. Sleep should be regulated and should be under one’s control. You should be able to wake up at 4 AM if you wish to and you should also not be plagued by disorders of the sleep. Here Maharishi Patanjali says that we should not be lazy and dull.