Nangten Menlang - Buddhist Medical Center

Sleep Yoga

Tantrayana methods always use things that we already have. One of these things is sleep. Every night we need to sleep, so every night is a chance to practice.  The moment we go to sleep, our conceptual thought dissolves and we naturally enter the clear light state of mind. This is a powerful moment.

Normally, when we fall asleep, we do so without awareness. We aren’t conscious of the phases that our mind goes through or the experience of these states. This is really a lost opportunity because the way we fall asleep is exactly like the way that we will die. If we can learn to catch this moment, to recognize it, then we will be able to navigate the experience of our death. Sleep Yoga is a very important practice. We can even reach enlightenment through just this one method.

When we fall asleep, our mind automatically enters the clear light state. Usually, it is through mediation that we reach the clear light state of mind, which is the most pure part of the mind, but it is also possible to arrive here simply through the sleep process. We don’t need to create silence or meditate; it happens without doing anything from our side.

In the clear light state of mind, all thought disappears and only pure consciousness is left. Normal people experience this pure consciousness as darkness, as nothing, but for those who practice, it is possible to go to sleep with awareness.

When we fall asleep, first the earth element dissolves. The energy of the earth element dissolves and the part of consciousness based on earth also dissolves. Next, water element energy and consciousness dissolves, and then fire element energy and consciousness dissolves, and then wind element energy and consciousness dissolves.

There are always outer and inner signs that this is happening. There is what we call white light, red light, black light and clear light. These aren’t physical signs; they are inner signs. You only see white, then red, etc. You don’t have any other thought than white, red, black, and then clear light.

Up until the moment we reach the clear light state, we will have some thought, but it is really the last part of thought, which we can still call the non-conceptual mind. But as each element dissolves, the consciousness based on that energy also dissolves. And when the gross consciousness completely dissolves, then only the subtle, pure consciousness remains.

The moment you reach this awareness and enter the clear light state, you can create a special dream body. This special dream body is similar to the illusory body and goes beyond the physical.

In Sleep Yoga, we use sleep itself to reach the clear light state. After entering the clear light state, someone who has higher realizations can make the special dream body, and who doesn’t have these realizations makes normal dreams. Dream Yoga is what we do after we are asleep. In Dream Yoga we try to realize the dream as dream and then we can understand illusion. In Sleep Yoga we don’t try so much to understand illusion, we try to reach the clear light state of mind.