From Mandukya Upanishad V:

यत्र सुप्तो न कञ्चन कामं कामयते न कञ्चन स्वप्नं पश्यति तत् सुषुप्तम् । सुषुप्तस्थान एकीभूतः प्रज्ञानघन एवानन्दमयो ह्यानन्दभुक् चेतो मुखः प्राज्ञस्तृतीयः पादः ॥ ५॥

English translation:

5. Where the sleeper desires not a thing of enjoyment and sees not any dream, that state is deep sleep. (The Self) seated in the state of deep sleep and called Prajna, in whom everything is unified, who is dense with consciousness, who is full of bliss, who is certainly the enjoyer of bliss, and who is the door to the knowledge (of the preceding two states), is the third quarter.

Here Shushupti is called प्रज्ञानघन. Prajnan (प्रज्ञान) means knowledge, wisdom or intelligence and Prajnanghana means nothing but knowledge. It can be interpreted as full of knowledge/consciousness or dense with (or mass of) consciousness. The self in this state is called प्राज्ञ (Prajna) which means intellectual.

But for the state of deep sleep, we can say that actually there is no* consciousness or no any state like mass of consciousness, In other words, it seems the state is full of ignorance* instead of mass of consciousness!

* Read the following verse which clearly describe shushupti as unconscious or full of ignorance.

From Chhandogya Upanishad 8.11:

तद्यत्रैतत्सुप्तः समस्तः सम्प्रसन्नः स्वप्नं न विजानात्येष आत्मेति होवाचैतदमृतमभयमेतद्ब्रह्मेति स ह शान्तहृदयः प्रवव्राज स हाप्राप्यैव देवानेतद्भयं ददर्श नाह खल्वयमेवꣳ सम्प्रत्यात्मानं जानात्ययमहमस्मीति नो एवेमानि भूतानि विनाशमेवापीतो भवति नाहमत्र भोग्यं पश्यामीति ॥ ८.११.१॥

VIII-xi-1: Prajapati said, 'He who is fully asleep, composed, serene and knows no dream, he is the Atman. He is the immortal, the fearless. He is Brahman'. Indra went away satisfied in his heart. But even before reaching the gods he saw this difficulty: 'In truth this one does not know himself now as "I am he", nor indeed these beings. It seems as if he has gone to annihilation. I see no good in this'.

स समित्पाणिः पुनरेयाय तꣳ ह प्रजापतिरुवाच मघवन्यच्छान्तहृदयः प्राव्राजीः किमिच्छन्पुनरागम इति स होवाच नाह खल्वयं भगव एवꣳ सम्प्रत्यात्मानं जानात्ययमहमस्मीति नो एवेमानि भूतानि विनाशमेवापीतो भवति नाहमत्र भोग्यं पश्यामीति ॥ ८.११.२॥

VIII-xi-2: He came back again, fuel in hand. Prajapati asked him, 'Desiring what, O Indra, have you come back, since you went away satisfied in your heart?' He replied, 'Revered sir, in truth this one does not know himself as "I am he", nor indeed these beings. It seems as if he has gone to annihilation. I see no good in this'.

So, Help me to understand why Shushupti is called प्रज्ञानघन/Prajnanaghana (mass of conscious) and the self in this state is called प्राज्ञ/Prajna (intellectual) even there is no knowledge/realization of the self and ignorance of truth.

Note: Sanskrit verses are quoted from sanskritdocuments.org and English translation from celextel.org.

  • 5
    Good question! Here are the following observations about Shushupti. 1. In deep sleep, there is no world. i.e. there is neither the external organs nor the internal organs. The material world is in a dormant state, i.e. it is not perceivable. As the mind and its creation are in a dormant state, there is an abundance of bliss or happiness, thus it is called anandamaya. 2. However it is not the same as God, because the Mind lies in a dormant state, therefore awakening happens, when the dormancy expires. Thus we awaken. If there was no mind, then we would be absorbed in Samadhi. :)
    – Sai
    Jul 25, 2016 at 18:44
  • 5
    3. The question of whether it is unconsciousness or undifferentiated mass of consciousness. Upon waking up, you immediately remember that you awakened from sleep. This is because you immediately remember the last action that was done in waking state, viz, sleep. This implies that the consciousness continued as a steady stream, although the physical consciousness was lost. But what you have to understand is, the term unconsciousness. This is not possible. Consciousness cannot be removed. What westerners call as unconscious is actually loss of physical consciousness. Good luck
    – Sai
    Jul 25, 2016 at 18:50
  • 2
    Yes, yes, yes, this is the way I want each and every user to ask their questions.
    – Mr. Alien
    Jul 26, 2016 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


Why is Sushupti, the deep sleep state, called Prajnanaghana, a “mass of Consciousness”?

The answer ventured here is from the Vedantic perspective, which is relevant here because the quotation concerned is from Maandookya Upanishad, a Vedantic text.

The key to the answer lies in i) taking Sushupti as a simile; and ii) considering the words of the Chandogya Upanishad – sadeva soumya Idam agre aaseet, “before creation, O dear, only Sat or Pure Consciousness existed”. That time is termed cosmic dissolution (Pralaya) at the macrocosmic level or deep sleep at the microcosmic level. At this time, there is no creation at all; everything has dissolved. There is no gross world and no subtle world, and there are not even the subtle elements (Tanmatras). There is only one “mass of Consciousness”, the Brahman of Vedanta.

However, with Brahman is His power called Maya. The two are inseparable. When Maya is at equilibrium (Shuddha Sattwa), She may be said to be ‘sleeping’ in the lap of Brahman. But as soon as there is the slightest disequilibium (Malina Sattwa or Rajas/Tamas), the projection of the Tanmatras, followed by the subtle and then the gross creation begins. At the cosmic level Consciousness associated with Maya in disequilibrium is called Ishwara; at the individual level, the same Consciousness associatd with Maya (called Avidya in this sense) is called Prajna. In both cases it is now not just a ‘mass of consciousness’, but within that mass there is locked the full potential to produce this entire creation from Ishwara and the full human being from Prajna. This seed condition is called the Causal Body. It is a dormant state that is symbolised by Sushupti or deep sleep with respect to the individual level. As in actual deep sleep, there is no mind or intellect at this time, no thoughts, no concepts, no senses or body – just the potential to begin a fresh creation. In terms of a human being, this is called PRAJNANAGHANA – wherein there is not only just a “mass of Consciousness” but also the full potential for a human being to emerge from it; it is the causal level of creation of the human being.

The question of “being in ignorance” or “being full of knowledge” does not even arise when we take Sushupti as being a symbol and not literally. All such ideas arise “after creation”, when thoughts of oneself arise in the mind and intellect. The whole gamut if ignorance and its ramifications begins only “after creation”.

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    Aug 18, 2017 at 3:48

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