I have always had difficulties in obtaining a satisfactory amount of sleep and as a consequence, I have only seldom obtained the experience of feeling well-rested. With 7 exams over the next two weeks, I have been losing more sleep than ever and my plans to write more articles were naturally frustrated. It is one of the defining characteristics of life here in Siṁhapurī where people are forced by the powerful adṛṣṭa hasta (As first envisioned by Adam Smith) to labour for five (Six or even seven for some) days a week. And no one wants to come home to sleep right away or that would be a day where nothing was done for one’s own sake. Many of my colleagues in my university circles, of Cīna ethnic origin, would take great pleasure in watching soccer on TV or better still, videos of beautiful, Korean Yuvatayaḥ singing and dancing or “reality” TV or game shows, till the brain is utterly exhausted and one is compelled to fall into the lap of Nidrā Devī (or what I would call “a temporary relief after a day of urban neurosis so as to recuperate for another day of the same” 🙂
For me, from time to time, I too have my fair share of cheap delights in the baser and more mundane sources of entertainment, for everyone has their poison. But for the most part, I love reading the subjects this blog is concerned with (Vedic religion, Indo-European Culture, Philosophical texts, Textual and Historical, criticism); and if possible, read texts in the original, which is a great privilege given the dearth of access to original texts in Siṁhapurī.
Nevertheless, despite this tiresome existence brought upon by an engineering education in one of the-proudly, of course-most stressful cities in the world, I thought I should endeavour to keep this cherished intellectual space of mine as alive as possible. Hence, a brief article about sleep itself. One might remember our discussion of the political arrangement by Rāma Dāśarathi, in our previous article. In the course of writing that article, to check certain references, I stumbled upon this gem of a verse by Kālidāsa in his peerless Raghuvamśa.
atithin nāma kākutsthātputran prāpa kumudvatī |
paścimādyāminīyāmātprasādamiva cetanā Raghuvamśa, 17:1. Or read here.
atithin nāma kākutsthātputran——A son, of Kākutstha, named Atithi (Rāghava, Kākutstha are titles given to the descendants of these kings from the Ikśvākava dynasty. In this context, Kākutstha refers to Kuśa, the son of Rāma Dāśarathi)
prāpa kumudvatī——Kumudvatī obtained (Kumudvatī was the wife of Kuśa. The first line thus effectively means:
“Kumudvatī obtained a son named Atithi from Kuśa, the descendant of Kakutstha”
paścimād yāminī yāmāt——From the last quarter of night
prasādamiva cetanā——Like the intellect receives clearness (The second line effectively means, “Like the intellect acquires clarity from the last quarter of the night)
The meaning of the whole verse is: “Kumudvatī received a son by the name of Atithi from Kuśa, the Kākutstha, as the intellect obtains clearness from the last quarter of the night.”
I was struck by the papers I had read before; that argued about the empirical correlation between REM sleep in the last quarter of the night and cognitive ability to perform certain tasks. Interested readers may want to read these papers from the American Physiological Society as well as the American Psychological Association.
Given the current workload, I am yet to do a thorough review of the extent to which the Hindus might have been aware of the psychological and physiological benefits of sleep. Sure, there is discussion of Svapna, Suṣupti and Turiya in the Upaniṣat texts. But that again, is another topic for another day. But this beauty from the master of metaphors (Or simile, in this specific instance) might be an interesting starting point to ponder about the Hindu understanding of sleep or for me personally, a reminder to manage my time better.