June 4, 1960
(The disciple complains of his bad nights)
If you wake up tired in the morning, it is due to tamas, nothing else – a dreadful mass of tamas. I became aware of this when I started doing the yoga of the body. And it's inevitable as long as the body is not transformed.
Myself, I go to bed very early, at eight o'clock. It's still quite noisy everywhere, but I don't mind; at least I'm sure of no longer being disturbed. First you must stretch out flat and relax all your muscles, all your nerves – you can learn this easily – become like a “dishrag” on the bed, as I call it; there should be nothing left. And if you can also do that with the mind, you get rid of a lot of idiotic dreams that make you more tired when you wake up than when you went to bed; they are the result of the cellular activity of the brain going on uncontrollably, which is very tiring. Therefore, relax fully, bring everything to a complete, tensionless calm in which everything has stopped. But this is only the beginning.
Once I'm relaxed, I have developed the habit of repeating my mantra. But it's very strange with these mantras – I don't know how it is for others; I'm speaking of my own mantra, the one I myself found – it came spontaneously. Depending on the occasion, the time, depending on what I might call the purpose for repeating it, it has quite different results. For example, I use it to establish the contact while walking back and forth in my room – my mantra is a mantra of evocation; I evoke the Supreme and establish the contact with the body.
This is the main reason for my japa. There's a power in the sound itself, and by forcing the body to repeat the sound, you force it to receive the vibration at the same time. But I've noticed that if something in the body's working gets disturbed (a pain or disorder, the onset of some illness) and I repeat my mantra in a certain way – still the same words, the same mantra, but said with a certain purpose and above all in a movement of surrender, surrender of the pain, the disorder, and a call, like an opening – it has a marvelous effect. The mantra acts in just the right way, in this way and in no other. And after a while everything is put back in order. And simultaneously, of course, the precise knowledge of what lies behind the disorder and what I must do to set it right comes to me. But quite apart from this, the mantra acts directly upon the pain itself.
I also use my mantra to go into trance. After relaxing on the bed and making as total a self-offering as possible of everything, from top to bottom, and after removing as fully as possible all resistance of the ego, I start repeating the mantra.1 After repeating it two or three times, I am in trance (at the beginning it took longer). And from this trance I pass into sleep; the trance lasts as long as necessary and, quite naturally, spontaneously, I pass into sleep. And when I come back, I remember everything. The sleep was like a continuation of the trance. And essentially, the only reason for sleep is to allow the body to assimilate the results of the trance, then to allow these results to be accepted throughout and to let the body do its natural night's work of eliminating toxins. My periods of sleep practically don't exist; sometimes they are as short as half an hour or 15 minutes. But in the beginning, I had long periods of sleep, one or even two hours in succession. And when I woke up, I did not feel this residue of heaviness which comes from sleep – the effects of the trance continued.
It is even good for people who've never been in trance to repeat a mantra (or a word, a prayer) before going to sleep. But the words must have a life of their own – by this I don't mean an intellectual meaning, nothing of the kind, but rather a vibration. And this has an extraordinary effect on the body; it starts vibrating, vibrating, vibrating... and so calm, you let yourself go, like falling off to sleep. And the body vibrates more and more, more and more, more and more, and you drift off.
Such is the cure for tamas.
It's tamas that gives you a bad sleep. There are two kinds of bad sleep – that which makes you heavy and leaden, as if the result of all your effort the day before were wasted; and that which exhausts you, as if you had spent the whole time fighting. And I've observed that if you cut your sleep up into sections (it becomes a habit), the nights get better. In other words, you must be able to come back to your normal consciousness and your normal aspiration at certain intervals, come back to the call of your consciousness... But you must not use an alarm clock. When in trance, it's not good to be jolted.
Just as you are drifting off, you can make a formation and say, “I shall wake up at such-and-such time” (children do it very easily).
You should count on at least three hours for the first part of your sleep; for the last part, one hour is enough. But the first should be a minimum of three hours. In fact, it is best to remain in bed for at least seven hours; with six, you don't have the time to do much (of course, I'm speaking from the standpoint of sadhana, to make the nights useful).
But for years together I only slept 2 ½ hours a night in all. I mean that my night consisted of 2 ½ hours. And I went straight to Sat-Chit-Ananda and then came back: 2 ½ hours were spent like that. But the body was tired. That lasted more than five or six years while Sri Aurobindo was still in his body. And during the day, I was all the time going into trance for the least thing (it was trance, not sleep – I was conscious). But I clearly saw that the body was affected, for it had no time to burn its toxins.2
...There would be many interesting things to tell about sleep, because it's one of the things I've studied the most – to speak of how I became conscious of my nights, for instance. (I learned this with Théon, and now that I know all these things of India, I realize that he knew a GREAT deal.) But it bothers me a lot to say “I” – I this, I that. I'd rather speak of these things in the form of a treatise or an essay on sleep, for example. Sri Aurobindo always spoke of his experiences but rarely did he say “I” – it always sounds like boasting.
Sri Aurobindo said that the true or yogic reason for sleep is to put the consciousness back into contact with Sat-Chit-Ananda (I used to do this without knowing it). For some people the contact is established immediately, while for others it takes eight, nine, ten hours to do it. But really, normally you should not wake up till the contact has been established, and that's why it's very bad to wake up in an artificial way (with an alarm clock, for example), because then the night is wasted.
As for me, my night is now organized. I go to bed at 8 o'clock and get up at 4, which makes for a very long night, and it's sliced into three parts. And I get up punctually at 4 in the morning. But I'm always awake ten or fifteen minutes beforehand, and I review all that has happened during the night, the dreams, the various activities, etc., so that when I get up, I am fully active.
To make use of your nights is an excellent thing, for it has a double effect: a negative effect, in that it keeps you from falling backwards, from losing what you've gained (that is really painful); and a positive effect, in that you progress, you continue progressing. You make use of your nights, so there's no more residue of fatigue.
There are two things to avoid: falling into a stupor of unconsciousness, with all those things coming up from the subconscious and the unconscious that invade and penetrate you; and a vital and mental hyperactivity in which you pass your time literally fighting – terrible battles. People come out of that black and blue, as if they had been beaten – and they have been, it is not “as if”! And I see only one way out – to change the nature of sleep.
1 Mother added: “Or any word that has a power for you, a word spontaneously springing from the heart, like a prayer which sums up your aspiration.”
2 Unfortunately, Mother had us cut many things from this text. We regret the fact.