In many Upanishads concerning liberation, it is said that an enlightened man (or jivanmukta) is beyond three states: Sleeping, Waking, and Dreaming states (e.g. Mandukya Upanishad). Some excerpts as such:

  • Being freed from the waking and the sleeping states, he attains to his true state.
  • When the (spiritual) sight becomes fixed without any object to be seen, when the vāyu (prāṇa) becomes still without any effort, and when the citta becomes firm without any support, he becomes of the form of the internal sound of Brahma-Praṇava.
  • Such is the Upaniṣad.

Source: Nada Bindu Upanishad

How can a human become free from a sleeping state? It is well known that one can avoid a sleeping state for a few days (5-10 days max demonstrated by Yogis like - Yogananda Paramhansa) but getting totally free from it seems a very impossible task to do.

Do Jivanmukta personalities (or enlightened ones) didn't sleep? like Buddha, Ramakrishna, Krishna, etc?

[Please prefer no Puranic literature, authentic practical information is appreciated).]

3 Answers 3


How can a human become free from a sleeping state?

The Upaniśad is not talking about a human becoming free from a sleeping state. It is talking about the mind of the Yogi who sees the truth becoming free from the notions of sleeping, dreaming, waking and all activities included in them.

You have strongly assumed that there's a world, in which there are humans and those humans sleep, eat, drink, sleep, walk, etc and you take it for granted. Vedanta questions your basic assumption, whether such a thing that we call jīva (an individual) exists which wakes, sleeps, eats, walks, etc. Vedanta questions the basic assumption of whether this world which you take for granted, does it exist? Remember it is the mind that assigns meaning to all phenomenon of this world. Without a mind, nothing whatsoever has any meaning.

You might say, but it is quite obvious that there are jīva various individuals such as humans, animals, etc. who are seen doing activities all day and hence it is correct to assume that the world exists, and it doesn't make sense to question it because it is so obvious.

Upaniśad here says that these same humans, animals you see during your dreams, but doesn't make them real. Therefore, just because you have the inclination to believe that there are individuals doing various activities and there's this world, it is not the reality, just as a dream is not the reality.

अज्ञानं चेति वेदान्तैस्तस्मिन्नष्टे क्व विश्वता।

यथा रज्जुं परित्यज्य सर्पं गृह्णाति वै भ्रमात्॥ (तेजबिन्दु. २६)

तद्वत्सत्यमविज्ञाय जगत्पश्यति मूढधीः।

रज्जुखण्डे परिज्ञाते सर्परूपं न तिष्ठति॥ (२७)

अधिष्ठाने तथा ज्ञाते प्रपञ्चे शून्यतां गते।

देहस्यापि प्रपञ्चत्वात्प्रारब्धावस्थितिः कुतः॥ (२८)

"All this is an illusion" Vedantins knows this. When this illusion is destroyed, where is the world?

(for example,) the rope is given up and (illusory) snake is taken (to be real) out of illusion.

In the same manner, not knowing the truth, the unwise sees the world.

Once, the rope is grasped, the snake cannot remain.

Likewise, knowing the adhișṭān (adobe) (i.e Ātman), the world gone to emptiness,

How can there be the existence of prarabdha, when this body too is part of the world (and hence non-existent)? (Hence even prarabha karma doesn't exist.)

  • This is a good answer, a good explanation. Thank You.
    – User 29449
    Oct 16, 2023 at 5:58

'Free from a sleeping state' is a metaphor and should not be read literally. What it means is that spiritual Knowledge separates man from animal. I read that you don't want any quote from the Puranas. Nevertheless I am giving a Garuda Purana quote which captures the point very succinctly.

Sleep, fear, sex and food are equal for all creatures. He who possesses knowledge is a man and he who is without knowledge is an animal.

Garuda Purana, Dharma Khanda, Chapter XLIX

  • This is a very good answer actually. But doesn't address the 4-state consciousness as in Upanishads (Mandukya Upanishad), rather in the form of daily-activity which is different imo.
    – User 29449
    Oct 16, 2023 at 5:58

Although I'm the OP asking the question and answers already are very accurate here, I'm adding one more answer - to present the perspective of Lord Krishna which deals with the question and is also very well articulated in my opinion and complements other answers given here more beautifully.

  1. Know by the twofold experience of conscious witnessing and unconscious ignorance that the atman which pervades the whole body is beyond the three states of consciousness – waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep.

Uttara Gita [Chapter - II.9]

It simply means that - atman is beyond three states of human consciousness - waking up state, sleeping state without a dream, and sleeping state with a dream. Atman is beyond known and unknown because thoughts, emotions, and memories are the attributes of the human body, but it is NOT part of the human body. But it can be acknowledged by the twofold experience of consciousness that witnesses everything.

Upanishads referring to free from the three states are referring to the real nature of Atman (and differentiating it from the physical body) and not asking the physical body of a yogi to prevent sleep. Sleep, being a physiological instrument of the physical body is allowed where atman operate (witness).

  1. Food, sleep, fear and sexual desire, man has in common with brutes; it is only the addition of knowledge that makes him a man; if, therefore, he is devoid of this he is but equal to a brute.
  2. In the morning a man performs the necessities of life, in the middle of the day he fills his stomach with food, in the evening he satisfies the cravings of his sexual desire and afterwards falls into the embraces of deep sleep – such is the case with beasts also.
  3. Hundred millions of jivas and thousands of nadabindus are constantly destroyed and absorbed in the All-Purity.
  4. Therefore, the conviction that “I am Brahman“ is known to be the sole cause of emancipation (moksha) for great souls (mahatmas).

Uttara Gita [Chapter - II.41-44]

This is just to differentiate animals (brute) from human beings (atman), is just the knowledge I am Brahman that differentiates the two despite similar physical bodily activities of food, sleep, fear, and desire in different durations of each day.

In summary, it is the knowledge of differentiating the body from atman (beyond the three states of consciousness of the human body using samadhi/void/turya) that differentiates humans from animals that undergo similar activities and behavior for sustenance and life as @Lokesh and @Pradip Gangopadhyay explained in their answers.

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