I know that many saints sleep very little. I’ve been meditating for almost ten years. should I force myself to sleep less?

I wouldn’t recommend that. Let your body decide how much sleep it needs—unless you’re using sleep as an escape for emotional reasons. In that case, yes, overcome lethargy and inertia with activity (tamas with rajas).

Otherwise, each state of consciousness—waking, deep sleep, dreaming, and the fourth (turiya)—has its own value. We need sleep to rejuvenate the body and mind. Psychologists have shown that the dream state is vital to maintain our psychological health and mental balance. Similarly, the fourth state—turiya, samadhi—is also essential to our well-being. Without the experience of the fourth state, we cannot transcend relative existence and awaken to our true nature; we cannot realize the Self. So each state of consciousness plays an important role in our health and evolution. Therefore, we should give each state of consciousness its due, and experience each in an appropriate balance. This is why in the Bhagavad-Gita Lord Krishna says:

“Yoga is not possible for him who eats too much, nor for him who does not eat at all, nor for him who is addicted to too much sleep, nor for him who stays awake, O Arjuna.

For him whose food and recreation are moderate, whose exertion in actions is moderate, whose sleep and waking are moderate—for him is the Yoga that destroys sorrow.” (VI:16-17)

Here Krishna reveals a secret to realizing the Self, to achieving Yoga: moderation. Eating, sleeping, or acting too much or too little will dull the mind and make success in meditation impossible. Moderation is not only important to the path of Yoga, it will also help us sleep less. If we are overactive or eat a large meal at night, our sleep will be heavy, dull, and long. If our activity and eating are moderate, we usually find we need less sleep. In fact, in the second verse quoted above, Krishna hints at how meditation creates the need for less sleep. It is related to moderation, only in an unusual sense.

That is, in this verse, there is a hidden, deeper meaning to the word “moderate.” The obvious meaning of Krishna’s message of moderation—live a balanced life, giving due regard without excess, to sleep, recreation, activity, eating—applies to those who have no direct knowledge of the Self. Another level of moderation, however, applies to those in whom direct Self-knowledge has begun to dawn.

These people begin to feel, “I am not doing anything.” They begin to feel themselves to be an instrument. Though fully active to all external appearances, on the inside they are steeped in silence, witnessing the activity of nature, the three gunas, through themselves. In this witnessing state, the senses and mind are not so involved in activity. A person is therefore “moderate” in activity, for their mind remains a witness and is not lost to activity. Likewise, they are “moderate in sleep,” for though their body and senses are inactive, their mind remains a witness to sleep. In every respect, they are moderate, for their mind never becomes lost or overshadowed by anything. Thus the impact of experience on them is minimal, and because they are in constant contact with the Self, a source of unbounded energy, their need for recuperation from the faint impact of the waking state is much less. This is why a saint needs less sleep.

This, however, is only the dawning of Self-realization. For someone who has realized Brahman, who sees, “the Self in all beings, and all beings in the Self,” moderation takes on an even more profound meaning. For such a person, all is Brahman, pure silent Being. In essence, nothing happens, nothing changes, nothing has to be done; all is the eternal silence of one’s own infinite Self. “Experience” for such a person creates the very least possible impact, so a person in Brahman, fully enlightened needs very little sleep and yet feels fresh.

Actually, it is only in ignorance that each state of consciousness has its distinct value and must be given its proper due. Brahman encompasses all states of consciousness; realizing Brahman fulfills the purpose of all states of consciousness. Such a person need not do anything, nor need they even experience the relative states of consciousness if they do not wish to. Thus, some saints never sleep (that is, not even their body sleeps). So the real secret to sleeping less lies not just in meditating, but in realizing the Self.

Although I’ve heard people say that true meditation is without any sensations, I can’t stop thinking about an incredible experience I had last year while meditating. It felt as if my physical body dissolved into trillions of atoms, yet I could feel my own presence vividly. I was still me, but it was as if I had melted into the great oneness that so many people talk about. I have felt expansions before, and have reached wonderful blissful states, but nothing compares to this experience. Any thoughts on what may have taken place?

This is an experience of profound meditation. When a person first starts to meditate they ordinarily achieve a peaceful, relaxed, pleasant, and perhaps even blissful state of mind and body. Yet the mind remains intact. Though quieter and peaceful, it remains a mind. In the experience you had a year ago, this was not the case. Your mind dissolved.

The mind is nothing other than a conglomerate of subtle, conscious and subconscious thought waves. That is, the mind consists of so many levels of thought that are going on simultaneously: “I am so and so; I do this or that work; tomorrow I’ll be doing such and such; yesterday I did such and such; I have such and such personal history, such and such parents, such and such family; I live here in Australia; (which implies that beyond Australia there exists the rest of the world, which implies there is a world—all of time and space, which is “real”—and these are subtle thoughts too); I have these desires and ambitions…” and so on. All these varied subtle layers of awareness, of thought and desire, conscious and subconscious, comprise the ordinary mind, sustain the ego separated from the world, and define “reality” in the state of ignorance of our true nature. Again, in an ordinary meditation, though some of these levels of thought may become quiet, enough remain intact to sustain the existence of individual mind.

As subtle as all these layers of thought are, they are in fact reflections of the material plane of existence. They are the mental impressions of phenomenal experience and they mirror the concrete nature of the phenomenal world. The mind, in a sense, takes the shape of the world through our experience. This is the inner meaning in Christ’s words, “You may hear and hear, but you will never understand; you may look and look, but you will never see. For this people’s mind has become gross; their ears are dulled, and their eyes are closed. Otherwise, their eyes might see, their ears hear, and their mind understand…” (Matthew, 13:14-15)

Christ’s words implies there is more to be seen than the gross, phenomenal world. Even phenomenal existence has subtler levels to it: the desk in front of me on which I type is inert on the gross, but at a subtler level it consists of molecules shimmering with activity. At a subtler level yet, it consists of electrons whirling around their nucleus millions of times each billionth of a second. The desk contains tremendous power and vastness, but we don’t see it.

We may never have the vision to see atoms, and Christ didn’t expect us to. He was suggesting we make the mind truly subtle, transcendent, for every mind can transcend into subtler layers of its own nature. Awareness can transcend the gross layers of thought that comprise ordinary mind, and experience the molecular and atomic nature of consciousness that lies hidden within. The rigid boundaries of the gross mind can melt into pure energy and then finally into pure, unbounded consciousness, into the Truth of our own Being, which is universal and infinite, as you experienced.

And just as there is immeasurably greater power to be experienced at atomic layers of physical existence, the same applies to these transcendental layers of thought. Immense, indescribable power lies within us—even greater than the power of the atom. Within lies the Truth of pure Existence from which all this has arisen—the infinite power that existed in the first moment of creation of the universe and within which all is taking place and into which all will dissolve.

Regarding your experience: There is a principle that “we know what we are,” or, “the world is as you are.” When the mind is restricted to the gross levels, the world appears concrete. The ego/mind identifies with the body, which is quite concrete and separate from the rest of the world. When one transcends into the “atomic” layers of consciousness, mind dissolves, ego dissolves, separateness dissolves, even the body dissolves, into vastness, infinitude, immeasurable energy, light, peace, love, and blissful union with all. When the mind becomes atomic, one’s vision and experience of reality becomes atomic. (“Atomic” is used here analogously; we are speaking of the vision of the Source, of Being, of God.)

So, how does this experience arise, and can we cultivate it to happen more frequently? This experience correlates with an awakening of Kundalini shakti—the spiritual power coiled at the base of the spine—and the consequent opening (temporary or permanent) of the various chakras. This is the subtle, physical correlate (at the level of the energetic or pranic body) that takes place when the mind melts into the immeasurably powerful transcendent layers.

The good news is that we needn’t leave it to chance to have such an experience. There are traditional, advanced practices that reliably awaken this so that it permeates every meditation; then even more until it begins to permeate daily life, until That is lived at all times. Then life is meditation. These practices will be either be meditative practices especially effective at “melting” the mind or psychophysiological practices designed to awaken the Kundalini and open the chakras and nadis. effortless mind™ combines both into a highly effective, balanced program of profound meditation.

Would you please expound on Sutra 96 of the Jnanasankalini Tantra: “The wise should reject mantra, puja, tapas, dhyana, homa, japa, animal sacrifice, nyasa, and all acts.”

The wise referred to here are those ripe in the direct experience of the Self. For them, to practice is to posit an ‘I’ that is unenlightened, still striving. This striving actually deprives them of the experience of simply resting in their own nature, which is fulfillment. Who is striving for what fulfillment? You are That. By resting in the Self, the ‘I’ dissolves and they become true jnanis for whom there is nothing left to do. Yet, some will continue with practices, either out of routine, to set an example for others, out of devotion or the natural blissfulness of samadhi, or for health and longevity of the body. Even while doing so, however, they know the Self to be entirely free from any action whatsoever. On the level of Being, they spontaneously live the sense of this sutra: complete renunciation from all activity. No activity can touch them, even though they seem to be acting, meditating, and so on.

Note that this principle applies only to the wise. Those who are not ripened in the direct realization of the Self require dedicated practice. It also serves no purpose to make a mood of detachment while acting. This only cripples one’s effectiveness.

Enlightenment is like the state of a satellite once it has attained orbit. A satellite floats effortlessly in its orbit, without need for fuel or for expending any energy whatsoever. Nothing could be simpler and easier than this graceful floating, which goes on and on spontaneously. How exquisite the silent ease of orbiting compared to the strain of acceleration, with all rockets blasting. The two modes are completely different and incompatible. Nevertheless, who can get into orbit without rockets, without acceleration? Tremendous power is required to achieve orbit. One-pointed, dedicated practice is necessary to enable us to live the state of effortless, natural Being.

i’m pretty sure i’m enlightened. what should i do now?

Continue to live in a natural way, and enjoy your inner experience without drawing any conclusion about it. Above all, stay humble.

The bliss, light, and love in states of higher consciousness can lead us to conclude we have arrived at the final goal. But if we have the feeling, “I am enlightened,” then we yet have a ways to go. So it would be a mistake to declare your enlightenment to yourself, much less to anyone else (both are dangerous traps). Your consciousness is your own business, in fact, not even your own. It is in God’s hands. Act naturally, and live without trying to adopt the role of spiritual advisor or enlightened teacher, for to do so is far more dangerous than you would suspect.

As long as one thinks, “this is it,” then this is not “It.” When we can point to a “this,” we are pointing to an object of experience from which we are subtly separate. The Self is the Self. It is not a this or a that or anything separate at all. Likewise, the feeling, “I am enlightened,” means we still have a thinking mind with which we are identified, and an “I,” and so we are not enlightened. The I has not dissolved. At best we experience a reflection of the Self on the buddhi, or the ocean of pure “I-sense” (asmita-matra). Though a step in the right direction, becoming enamored with even this high level of experience amounts to a tangent. Thus now is the time to really practice vairagya (detachment) towards such experiences. Enjoy it, but draw no conclusions. Innocence, simplicity, naturalness, and humility are the keys.