For example, if we were to put a person under anesthetic, and in his unconscious state bring him on a stretcher to a garden where flowers are in full bloom, where fragrance is in the air, where the sun is shining and the birds are singing, the man would be completely unaware of all this. After we brought him back and he was out of the anesthesia, if we asked him how he liked the garden, he would not be able to tell us anything. Then, if you were to take him to the same garden when he was fully conscious, he would experience everything present there when he had been brought in before. In both cases, although the man was brought to the same place, he was unaware of the beautiful surroundings in the first instance, while in the second instance he would be fully aware of the flowers, the fragrance, the song of the birds, the rising sun. So although you will undoubtedly reach as far in an unconscious state as you will reach in a conscious state, to reach some place in an unconscious state is as good as not reaching there at all.
In sleep we reach the same paradise we reach in meditation, but we are unaware of it. Each night we travel to this paradise, and then we come back – unaware. Although the fresh breeze and the lovely fragrance of the place touch us, and the songs of the birds ring in our ears, we are never aware of it. And yet, in spite of returning from this paradise totally unaware of it, one might say, “I feel very good this morning. I feel very peaceful. I slept well last night.”
What do you feel so good about? Having slept well, what good happened? It cannot be only because you slept – surely you must have been somewhere; something must have happened to you. But in the morning you have no knowledge of it, except for a vague idea of feeling good. One who has had a deep sleep at night gets up refreshed in the morning. This shows the person has reached a rejuvenating source in sleep – but in an unconscious state.
One who is unable to sleep well at night finds himself more tired in the morning than he was the previous evening. And if a person does not sleep well for a few days it becomes difficult for him to survive, because his connection with the source of life is broken. He is unable to reach the place it is essential he should.
The worst punishment in the world is not death – as a punishment death is easy; it occurs in a few moments. The worst punishment ever devised on earth is not letting a person go to sleep. Even to this day, there are countries like China and Russia where prisoners are made to go without sleep. The torture a prisoner goes through, if he is not allowed to sleep for fifteen days, is beyond our imagination – he almost goes mad. He begins to divulge all the information he otherwise would not have let the enemy know. He begins to blabber, totally unaware of its implications.
In China, systematic methods have been devised. For six months prisoners are not allowed to sleep. Consequently, they become totally insane. They completely forget who they are, what their names are, what their religion is, which town or city they come from, what their country is – they forget everything. Lack of sleep throws their consciousness into complete disorder, into chaos. In that condition they can be made to learn anything.
When the American soldiers captured in Korea returned from the prison camps of Russia and China, denial of sleep had left them in such terrible shape that when they came out they were openly antagonistic to America and in favor of communism. First these soldiers were not allowed to sleep, and when their consciousnesses became disordered, they were indoctrinated into communism. Once their identities were thrown into chaos, through repeated suggestions they were told they were communists. So before their release they were completely brainwashed. Looking at these soldiers, American psychologists were dumbfounded.