By Jeff Greenwald
It is a zone in between, neither here nor there.
Now, let us talk about one second later. The sixtieth second has already gone. Just now you spoke of ‘here’ and ‘there’. Where is ‘here’ and ‘there’ in that first instant of sleep? In that instant, you reject everything: all images, all things, all persons, all relationships. All ideas are gone in that instant when you jump into sleep. After that sixtieth second there is no time, no space, no country. We are speaking now about sleep. Now, after you have woken up, describe to me what happened while you were asleep.
There was dreaming.
Not dreaming, I am talking about sleep. Dreaming is the same state as you see here in front of you. In dreaming, if you see that a robber has robbed you or a tiger has pounced on you, you experience the same fear as when you are awake. What do you see when you sleep?
That is the right answer. Now, why do you reject all the things of the world, things you like so much, merely to offer yourself up to a state of nothingness.
I do it because I become tired.
To regain energy you go to the reservoir of energy, to that state of nothingness. If you don’t touch that reservoir, what will happen to you, where will you go?
Crazy, yes. Now I will tell you how to stay continuously in that state of sleep, of nothingness, even while you are awake. I will also tell you how to be awake while your body is asleep. That will be good, won’t it?
Let us talk about the end of that last second before you woke up from sleep. Waking has not yet come, and the sleep state is about to end. Now, what is your experience in the very first moment of the next waking state?
My senses call me back to the world.
OK. Now tell me what happened to the experience of happiness you had while you were sleeping? What have you brought from the hours of nothingness?
It is gone. I am relaxed, refreshed.
So, do you prefer the tension of the waking state to the relaxation of sleep?
I have a question about that later.
If you understand what I am trying to convey to you, you probably would not ask me this next question. Imagine that you have just come out of a cinema after seeing a show from ten till five. You go home and your friends ask, ‘How was it?’ What will you tell them?
‘It was a beautiful show.’
You can bring the memory of those images to them, but you brought nothing from your sleep. Who woke up? Who woke up from that state of happiness? You were happy while you were sleeping. If it were not a happy state, no one would be willing to say ‘Good night’ to their loved ones every evening before going to sleep. No matter how close you are to them, you still say, ‘Good night, let me sleep’.
There is something superior, something higher, something more beautiful about being alone. Ask yourself the question: when I wake up, who wakes up?
When you woke up, you did not bring the impression of the happiness that you enjoyed for six or seven hours of dreamless sleep. You can only bring with you impressions of the dances you saw in your dreams.
You have to create a new habit, a habit you can create only in satsang. You were taken to the theatre by your parents when you were a small boy. Through such trips you learned how to describe the impressions your senses received, and you also learned how to enjoy them. But your parents could not tell you or teach you about what goes on when you are free of the senses. This can only be known in satsang, and that is why you are here. So, I will ask you again: when you wake up, who wakes up?
It is the ‘I’ that wakes up.
OK. The ‘I’ has woken up. When the ‘I’ wakes up, the past, the present and the future also wake up. This means that time and space also wake up. Along with time and space the sun wakes up, the moon wakes up, the stars wake up, mountains wake up, rivers wake up, forests wake up, men, birds and animals all wake up. When the ‘I’ wakes up, everything else wakes up. While this ‘I’ was sleeping during the sleep state, everything was quiet. If you don’t touch the ‘I’ which woke up, you will experience the happiness of sleep while you are awake. Do it for one single second, half of a single second, a quarter of a single second. Don’t touch the ‘I’. The ‘I’ is something that we can well afford to be without. Don’t touch the ‘I’ and tell me if you are not sleeping.
That is right. In that instant, everything is like a dream.
This is called waking while sleeping and sleeping while awake. You are always in happiness, always awake. This awakening is called Knowledge, Freedom, Truth. Don’t touch the names, though. Get rid of all the words that you have so far heard from any quarter. And you will see who you really are.
Now, don’t sleep!
Papaji, I live next door to a car repair shop by your house. Sometimes I feel that my only impediment to spiritual progress is the racket of the mechanics banging on the cars. How can we remain quiet when the senses are continually drinking in the environment? After all, that’s their job.
When a child is learning how to walk, his parents give him walking aids. When he grows up and learns how to walk independently, he throws them away. So, in the beginning, if you find that you are disturbed when you are meditating, it will be better to change the environment. I will give you the following advice. When you choose a house or an environment to live in, you must first look at the neighbourhood. Is it full of garbage and pigs? Noisy people? A fish market? A supermarket? You must avoid all these things in the beginning. You can go to the forest to meditate. Then, when you have learned the art of meditation, you can sit in the middle of a fish market or on Shalimar Crossing or Hazrat Ganj. Once you have mastered the art of meditation, you will not hear noise. You will not hear anything. When you are truly meditating, you will be in the same state that you were while you were sleeping. But you will be awake at the same time. This is called sleeping while being awake. Until you have learned this, it is better to avoid uncongenial environments. See what your neighbourhood is like before you move in. The neighbourhood has to be good. The neighbourhood is even more important than your own apartment. Find people to live among who are following your own way of life. Teachers like to be with teachers, philosophers with philosophers, workers with fellow workers. They all very much like to be with each other. But once you have learned the art of true meditation, you can do whatever you like, wherever you like.
What is meditation to you? Many different kinds of meditation are practised. Many of them rely on looking at phenomena such as watching the breath, or seeing thoughts rise and fall.
Copyright © 1993 Avadhuta Foundation. This article is reprinted from Papaji Interviews. Used by permission.
H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji) was a popular Advaitin guru in the late 20th century. His students created
the modern satsang movement in the West.
Jeff Greenwald is the author of Shopping for Buddhas. Wikipedia has a page about him.
Edited by David Godman
As you’ve probably guessed from the book’s title, it consists mainly of interviews. Ten people sat down with Papaji and asked him questions, and the resulting conversations were transcribed. The questioners include Catherine Ingram, Wes Nisker, Shanti Devi, Chokyi Nyima Rimpoche, and Godman himself. The book also includes a 62-page biography of Papaji.
By David Godman
This massive three-volume biography of H.W.L. Poonja, widely known as Papaji, is one of the most comprehensive attempts ever made to document the life and teachings of a self-realized person. Papaji was a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi. He is largely responsible for the satsang movement in the West because he helped hundreds of Westerners attain glimpses of the Self and then sent them home to teach.
This page was published on October 24, 2001 and last revised on May 27, 2017.