The Three Planes of Human Life
Jagrata, Swapna, Sushupti: Waking, Dreaming, Dreamless Sleep
The Path, August, 1888
I speak of ordinary men. The Adept, the Master, the Yogi, the Mahatma, the Buddha, each lives in more than three states while incarnated upon this world, and they are fully conscious of them all, while the ordinary man is only conscious of the first—the waking-life, as the word conscious is now understood.
Every theosophist who is in earnest ought to know the importance of these three states, and especially how essential it is that one should not lose in Swapna the memory of experiences in Sushupti, nor in Jagrata those of Swapna, and vice versa.
Jagrata, our waking state, is the one in which we must be regenerated; where we must come to a full consciousness of the Self within, for in no other is salvation possible.
When a man dies he goes either to the Supreme Condition from which no return against his will is possible, or to the other states—heaven, hell, avitchi, devachan, what not—from which return to incarnation is inevitable. But he cannot go to the Supreme State unless he has perfected and regenerated himself; unless the wonderful and shining heights on which the Masters stand have been reached while he is in a body. This consummation, so devoutly desired, cannot be secured unless at some period in his evolution the being takes the steps that lead to the final attainment. These steps can and must be taken. In the very first is contained the possibility of the last, for causes once put in motion eternally produce their natural results.
Among those steps are an acquaintance with and understanding of the three states first spoken of.
Jagrata acts on Swapna, producing dreams and suggestions, and either disturbs the instructions that come down from the higher state or aids the person through waking calmness and concentration which tend to lessen the distortions of the mental experiences of dream life. Swapna again in its turn acts on the waking state (Jagrata) by the good or bad suggestions made to him in dreams. All experience and all religions are full of proofs of this. In the fabled Garden of Eden the wily serpent whispered in the ear of the sleeping mortal to the end that when awake he should violate the command. In Job it is said that God instructeth man in sleep, in dreams, and in visions of the night. And the common introspective and dream life of the most ordinary people needs no proof. Many cases are within my knowledge where the man was led to commit acts against which his better nature rebelled, the suggestion for the act coming to him in dream. It was because the unholy state of his waking thoughts infected his dreams, and laid him open to evil influences. By natural action and reaction he poisoned both Jagrata and Swapna.
It is therefore our duty to purify and keep clear these two planes.
The third state common to all is Sushupti, which has been translated “dreamless sleep.” The translation is inadequate, for, while it is dreamless, it is also a state in which even criminals commune through the higher nature with spiritual beings and enter into the spiritual plane. It is the great spiritual reservoir by means of which the tremendous momentum toward evil living is held in check. And because it is involuntary with them, it is constantly salutary in its effect.
In order to understand the subject better, it is well to consider a little in detail what happens when one falls asleep, has dreams, and then enters Sushupti. As his outer senses are dulled the brain begins to throw up images, the reproductions of waking acts and thoughts, and soon he is asleep. He has then entered a plane of experience which is as real as that just quitted, only that it is of a different sort. We may roughly divide this from the waking life by an imaginary partition on the one side, and from Sushupti by another partition on the other. In this region he wanders until he begins to rise beyond it into the higher. There no disturbances come from the brain action, and the being is a partaker to the extent his nature permits of the “banquet of the gods.” But he has to return to waking state, and he can get back by no other road than the one he came upon, for, as Sushupti extends in every direction and Swapna under it also in every direction, there is no possibility of emerging at once from Sushupti into Jagrata. And this is true even though on returning no memory of any dream is retained.
Now the ordinary non-concentrated man, by reason of the want of focus due to multitudinous and confused thought, has put his Swapna field or state into confusion, and in passing through it the useful and elevating experiences of Sushupti become mixed up and distorted, not resulting in the benefit to him as a waking person which is his right as well as his duty to have. Here again is seen the lasting effect, either prejudicial or the opposite, of the conduct and thoughts when awake.
So it appears, then, that what he should try to accomplish is such a clearing up and vivification of Swapna state as shall result in removing the confusion and distortion existing there, in order that upon emerging into waking life he may retain a wider and brighter memory of what occurred in Sushupti. This is done by an increase of concentration upon high thoughts, upon noble purposes, upon all that is best and most spiritual in him while awake. The best result cannot be accomplished in a week or a year, perhaps not in a life, but, once begun, it will lead to the perfection of spiritual cultivation in some incarnation hereafter.
By this course a centre of attraction is set up in him while awake, and to that all his energies flow, so that it may be figured to ourselves as a focus in the waking man. To this focal point-looking at it from that plane—converge the rays from the whole waking man toward Swapna, carrying him into dream—state with greater clearness. By reaction this creates another focus in Swapna, through which he can emerge into Sushupti in a collected condition. Returning he goes by means of these points through Swapna, and there, the confusion being lessened, he enters into his usual waking state the possessor, to some extent at least, of the benefits and knowledge of Sushupti. The difference between the man who is not concentrated and the one who is, consists in this, that the first passes from one state to the other through the imaginary partitions postulated above, just as sand does through a sieve, while the concentrated man passes from one to the other similarly to water through a pipe or the rays of the sun through a lens. In the first case each stream of sand is a different experience, a different set of confused and irregular thoughts, whereas the collected man goes and returns the owner of regular and clear experience.
These thoughts are not intended to be exhaustive, but so far as they go it is believed they are correct. The subject is one of enormous extent as well as great importance, and theosophists are urged to purify, elevate, and concentrate the thoughts and acts of their waking hours so that they shall not continually and aimlessly, night after night and day succeeding day, go into and return from these natural and wisely appointed states, no wiser, no better able to help their fellow men. For by this way, as by the spider’s small thread, we may gain the free space of spiritual life.