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January 27, 2023

What about Susupti, deep sleep awareness?

By Joe Perez

The term ‘susupti’ (Hindi), deep sleep awareness, is worth knowing. The 8th century spiritual master Sankara analyzed human sleep states, concluding that there is no real existence of the self. In contrast, Ramanuja’s analysis of sleep implies that there is a Supreme Self which is present even during deep sleep. The latter view is consistent, I would say, with the position of the American philosopher Ken Wilber, whose work is a touchstone of World Spirituality.

Why is this important? The short answer is that the essence of an integral approach to living is to know that supreme self-knowledge is only possible through development, and nothing helps us to grow better or faster than taking increasingly comprehensive and diverse perspectives. The more we see the world through eyes different than our own, the faster we dis-identify from our partial perceptions (a.k.a., what traditions have termed “illusions” or “the false self.”) Generally, the more awareness we bring to everything, the better from the standpoint of our growth. And the more awareness we bring specifically to our states of consciousness — and the more diversity we have in healthy alternative states of consciousness — the faster we can stabilize awareness of our Supreme Self by disidentifying from what we are not.

Perhaps the biggest illusion for so many of us is that who we are is who we are while we are awake. But the integral model shows the partiality of this view, insisting that we not foreclose our view of reality until we account for gross (waking), subtle (dream), and causal (susupti, or deep sleep). In my own experience, which is fairly common, awareness of the “I” during deep sleep is not an everyday experience. And yet to know from enough past experiences of “I” in deep sleep that this state of awareness is REAL is something. Because upon dreaming lucidly, the same “I” anchors us in something beyond the dream; and upon waking, the same “I” appears upon rising as the impulse or living essence which opens us to greater and greater wholeness. It isn’t true that who we are is who we are while conscious; we are also our semi-conscious, our unconscious, and the “I” beyond emphemeral states, the unmanifest True Self. Awareness of infinite uniqueness is a state not different from perception of unmanifest True Self, and it is through that uniqueness that we encounter the Universe.

Tonight instead of saying, “pleasant dreams!” to your loved ones, think of saying, “pleasant susupti!”

About Joe Perez

Joe Perez is a spiritual mentor, author, poet, and scholar. He is best known for his 2007 book Soulfully Gay. one of the first memoirs in the tradition of World Spirituality based on Integral principles. He serves as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Integral Wisdom. His work in progress includes Gay Spirituality and Kalen O'Tolán.


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