Chapter 9: Man’s Absence Is His Freedom
When you are young you will need eight hours sleep. When you become old you will need four hours sleep, three hours sleep, and that will be enough. When you were a child you needed ten hours of sleep. In the mother’s womb the child needs twenty-four hours of sleep; after the birth, twenty-two hours, then twenty hours, then eighteen hours, and slowly, slowly.by the end, when a person comes to die, he needs only two hours sleep and that’s enough.
In the mother’s womb the child is growing; those nine months one grows so much that one will not be growing as much in ninety years’ time. Leaps and bounds! The pace is so quick and so fast that the child needs absolute rest. But the old man, he has stopped growing long ago. Now the body does not need so much rest. The body no longer revives itself; it is getting ready to die, the process of revival has stopped. Now whatsoever cells are dying are dying; they are not being reproduced again. Hence, less and less sleep is needed. You can’t fix it forever.
There are fools who fix it, who say, “I have taken a vow to sleep for only five hours a night.” They will suffer when they are young, they will suffer when they are old; their suffering will never end. When they are young they will suffer because the body may need ten hours sleep, nine hours sleep, at least eight hours sleep - and they have decided to sleep only five hours. They will be continuously missing those three hours. They will look a little sad, tired, their faces lusterless, their eyes always sleepy. They will not show intelligence, because body and mind both need deep rest. They will simply move through life like a somnambulist, half asleep.
And their scriptures say that if you feel sleepy in the daytime it means you are a sinner, tamasik, that you are suffering from lethargy. And the only thing that you are really suffering from is foolishness! You have decided that you will sleep only five hours when the need is for eight hours. And in old age you will try to sleep five hours and you will not be able to sleep, then you will suffer because you can sleep only three hours. Then the whole night you are tossing and turning and cursing the whole world, and you can’t conceive why you can’t sleep at least five hours. And trying to sleep five hours when you can sleep only three hours will be a disturbance; it will keep you in despair. You will continuously think that something is being missed.
Never decide like that. Buddha says: Let your life be dynamic. It has to correspond to the reality, to the situation in which you are. Don’t follow dead rules; respond to reality, to that which is. In that responsibility you grow, you become mature. To be responsible is to be right.
And he says this rightness has to be applied in all aspects of life. Even about awareness, meditation, he says “right mindfulness” is needed - because one can become too obsessed with meditation. One can become so fascinated by meditation that one may start escaping from life.