Ramana Maharshi on Obstacles on the Path
Question : When I try to be without all thoughts, I pass into sleep. What should I do about it?
Ramana Maharshi : Once you go to sleep you can do nothing in that state. But while you are awake, try to keep away all thoughts. Why think about sleep? Even that is a thought, is it not? If you are able to be without any thought while you are awake, that is enough. When you pass into sleep the state which you were in before falling asleep will continue when you wake up. You will continue from where you left off when you fell into slumber. So long as there are thoughts of activity there will also be sleep. Thought and sleep are counterparts of one and the same thing.
We should not sleep too much or go without it altogether, but sleep only moderately. To prevent too much sleep, we must try and have no thoughts or chalana [movement of the mind], we must eat only sattvic food and that only in moderate measure, and not indulge in too much physical activity. The more we control thought, activity and food the more we shall be able to control sleep.
But moderation ought to be the rule, as explained in the Gita, for the seeker on the path. Sleep is the first obstacle, as explained in the books, for all sadhaks. The second obstacle is said to be vikshepa or the sense objects of the world which divert one's attention. The third is said to be kashaya or thoughts in the mind about previous experiences with sense objects. The fourth, ananda [bliss], is also called an obstacle, because in that state a feeling of separation from the source of ananda, enabling the enjoyer to say `I am enjoying ananda', is present.
Even this has to be surmounted. The final stage of samadhi has to be reached in which one becomes ananda or one with reality. In this state the duality of enjoyer and enjoyment ceases in the ocean of sat-chit-ananda or the Self.
Question : So one should not try to perpetuate blissful or ecstatic states?
Ramana Maharshi : The final obstacle in meditation is ecstasy; you feel great bliss and happiness and want to stay in that ecstasy. Do not yield to it but pass on to the next stage which is great calm. The calm is higher than ecstasy and it merges into samadhi.
Successful samadhi causes a waking sleep state to supervene. In that state you know that you are always consciousness, for consciousness is your nature. Actually, one is always in samadhi but one does not know it. To know it all one has to do is to remove the obstacles.