Now, we move on to question four of Prasnopanishad. This is an interesting question about the ultimate basis of things and also about sleep, which is such an important thing. Who is asking this question?
Atha Hainam Sauryayani Gargyah Papraccha.
Gargyah, the grandson of Saurya, asked Sage Pippalada: “Respected Sir, what are they that sleep in the person? What are they that remain awake in him? Which is the God that sees dreams? Whose is this bliss? In whom, pray tell us, are all these established? All these mystifying things, where do they come from?”
“What happens when we sleep? Everybody sleeps! The hardworking labourer and the chief of the company, both go to sleep; and when both sleep, both are not even aware of their own existence. Forget about the factory. And when they wake up, they are all back again to their old design. So, what happens when one sleeps? What happens when one wakes up? How is it all linked together?”
Sage Pippalada replies–O Gargyah! As all the rays of the setting sun become one in the circle of light and as they spread forth when he rises again and again, even so does all this become one in the Supreme God.
Now wait a minute, do you know what he calls the Supreme God here? What? The mind! He says, as they spread forth when he rises again and again, so does all this become one in the Supreme God, which is the mind. See, all this is written maybe 2,000 years ago at a conservative estimate.
Therefore, in that sleeping state when all the sensations have ceased and come back like the rays of the sun to the centre of the sun; in that state, the person hears not, sees not, smells not, tastes not, touches not, speaks not, takes not, rejoices not, emits not, moves not
It says everything is in the mind. Everything starts with the mind. Well, much before Freud said anything or Jung said anything. So,
Therefore, in that sleeping state when all the sensations have ceased and come back like the rays of the sun to the centre of the sun; in that state, the person hears not, sees not, smells not, tastes not, touches not, speaks not, takes not, rejoices not, emits not, moves not, then they say:
Then they say: “Oh, he sleeps, he sleeps, he sleeps.”
Then it says, the fires of Prana (life) alone remain awake in this city (the body). These fires are compared to sacrificial fires of different kinds. The fires are: The householder’s fire (Garhaptya) that is the out-breath (Apana); the southern sacrificial fire (Anvaharyapachana) that is the diffused breath (Vyana that keeps the circulation going); and the Avahaniya fire that is the Prana. Both Anvaharyapachana (Vyana) and the Avahaniya (Prana) fires are sourced from the Garhaptya fire (Apana) that is never put out and remains burning. Now, you see this? Here life is considered as a sacrifice, and the three breaths are symbolically identified with the fires used in the Vedic sacrifice. Garhapatyo– householder’s fire! It is the Apana, the sacred fire that is kept burning at home (in the sleeping body).
So, while the senses remain inactive in sleep, these fires, pranas, remain awake.