This is the first of three excerpts from a discourse by Osho about right diet, right labor and right sleep:
The third point is right sleep. Food has become disorganized, labor has become disorganized – and sleep has been totally murdered! The thing which has been harmed the most in the development of human civilization is sleep. From the day man discovered artificial light, his sleep has become very troubled. And as more and more gadgets started falling into man’s hands, he started feeling that sleep is an unnecessary thing, too much time is wasted in it. The time when we are asleep is a complete waste. So the less sleep we can do with the better. It does not occur to people that sleep has any kind of contribution to the deeper processes of life. They think that the time spent sleeping is time gone to waste, so the less they sleep the better; the more quickly they reduce the amount of sleep, the better.
This was one group of people who wanted to reduce the amount of sleep needed and another group were the monks and the hermits who felt as if this sleep, this unconsciousness in the form of sleep, was the opposite state of self-realization or self-awakening. So, according to them, it wasn’t good to sleep and the less you slept the better.
There was one more problem for the monks: they had collected too many suppressions in their unconscious and in sleep all those suppressions started surfacing and entering their dreams! So a kind of fear about sleep arose, because all the things that they had ignored during the day started surfacing in their sleep at night. The women they had left and run away from into the forest started arriving in their sleep. The monks started seeing them in their dreams. The money, the fame that the monks had run away from started following them in their dreams. So they felt that sleep was a very dangerous thing – out of their control – so the less they slept the better. These monks created a kind of feeling in the whole world that sleep is something unspiritual. This is an extremely foolish notion.
So the first group of people opposed sleep and felt that it was a waste of time, that there was no need to sleep for so long. The more time a person remained awake the better. People who calculate everything, make statistics about everything, are really strange. They have calculated that a person sleeps for eight hours. One third of his day goes into sleeping. If a person lives for sixty years then twenty years have gone to waste. Out of a life-span of sixty years, only forty years are available for use. And then they have calculated even more. They have calculated how much time a man takes to eat food, to wear clothes, to shave, to bathe, and so on. After calculating everything they said that almost our whole life goes to waste. And when they started subtracting all that time, they realized that it just seems as if a person lives for sixty years – in reality, twenty years go in sleep, some years go in eating, some years go in bathing, some years go in reading a newspaper. Everything goes to waste and nothing remains in life. These people created a panic. Their advice was to cut down on all these things if you want to have some time to live. Sleep takes up the maximum time in a man’s life, so reduce it. So, while this group were advising a reduction in sleep and creating a wave of opposition against sleep, the second group, the monks and hermits, were calling sleep unspiritual and telling people to sleep as little as possible. The less a person slept the more of a holy person he was; and if he did not sleep at all, then he was a totally holy person.
These two groups and their ideas killed man’s ability to sleep, and with the murder of sleep all the deep centers of man’s life got shaken, disturbed and became uprooted. We have not even noticed that the cause behind all the illnesses, all the disorders that have entered man’s life is lack of sleep. The person who cannot sleep rightly cannot live rightly. Sleep is not a waste of time. The eight hours of sleep are not being wasted; rather, because of those eight hours, you are able to stay awake for sixteen hours. Otherwise you would not be able to stay awake all that time. During those eight hours life-energy is accumulated, your life gets revitalized, the centers of your brain and heart calm down and your life functions from your navel center. For those eight hours of sleep you have again become one with nature and with existence – that is why you become revitalized.
If you want to torture somebody then the best method – invented thousands of years ago – is to prevent him from going to sleep. It has not been possible to improve upon this method so far. During the last war in Germany, and even now in Russia, the most popular method of torturing prisoners was prevention of sleep. You simply don’t allow the person to sleep. This is torture beyond all limits for the person. So guards were put next to the prisoners to disturb their sleep.
The Chinese first discovered this method some two thousand years ago. Simply not allowing a person to sleep was a very cheap method of torture. They would make the man stand in a cell which was so small that he could not move at all, could neither sit nor lie down. Then they used to drip water from above which used to fall on his head, drop by drop. He could not move at all, could neither sit nor lie down, so after a maximum of twelve or sixteen or eighteen hours the man would start shouting and screaming – “I will die! Save me! Get me out of here!” Then they would ask the man to tell them the things he was concealing. After three days even the most courageous person would give up.
Hitler in Germany and Stalin in Russia did the same thing with hundreds of thousands of people. They kept them awake, would not let them sleep. One cannot experience a worse torture than this. Even if you kill a person, he does not suffer as much as when you do not let him sleep – because it is only in sleeping that he regains what he has lost. If he is unable to sleep, then he goes on losing and losing his life-energy and does not get anything back. He becomes totally dried out. We are dried-out people because our doors for attaining something are closed, and our doors for losing everything have got more and more open.
Sleep needs to come back into man’s life. Really, there is no alternative, no other step, for the psychological health of humanity than that sleep should be made compulsory by law for the next one or two hundred years.
It is very important for a meditator to see to it that he sleeps properly and enough. And one more thing needs to be understood – right sleep will be different for everybody. It will not be equal because the body has needs which are different for everyone – according to age and to many other elements.
For example, when a child is in the mother’s womb, he sleeps for twenty-four hours because all his tissues are developing. He needs complete sleep; his body will develop only if he keeps on sleeping for twenty-four hours. It is possible that children who are born lame or crippled or blind woke up during the nine months in their mother’s womb. Perhaps some day science may be able to understand that the children who somehow wake up in the mother’s womb are born crippled, or with part of their body undeveloped.
It is necessary to remain asleep in the womb for twenty-four hours because the whole body is getting created, the whole body is developing. A very deep sleep is necessary, only then can all the activities of the body take place.
When a child is born, he sleeps for twenty hours. His body is still growing. Then he sleeps for eighteen hours, then fourteen hours…. Slowly, slowly, as his body starts becoming mature, his sleep also gets less and less. In the end it settles at a time between six to eight hours. The sleep of an old man gets less, it becomes five hours, four hours, even three hours – because the growth of the body of an old man has stopped. He has no need of much sleep every day because now his death is coming close. If an old man sleeps as much as a child sleeps, then he cannot die, death will be difficult. For death it is necessary that sleep becomes less and less. For life it is necessary that sleep is deep. That is why an old man by and by starts sleeping less and less but a child sleeps more.
If old people start expecting the same behavior from children as they do from themselves, it becomes dangerous.
Old people often do this. Old people treat children as if they are also old. They wake them up too early in the morning – “It is three o’clock, it is four o’clock! Get up!” They are not aware that because they are old it is alright if they wake up at four o’clock. But children cannot wake up at four o’clock. To wake them up is wrong. It is harming the body functions of the child, it is very harmful for him.
A child once said to me, “My mother is very strange. When I am not feeling sleepy at all at night, she forces me to sleep and when I feel sleepy in the morning, she forces me to wake up. I do not understand why I am forced to sleep when I am not sleepy and I am forced to wake up when I am sleepy. You explain things to many people, can’t you explain this to my mother?” He wanted me to help his mother understand that what she was doing was very contradictory.
We are not aware that children are often treated like old people and then, as they grow older, they have to start living according to many fixed rules written in many books.
Perhaps you may not be aware that the latest research says that there cannot be one fixed time for everyone to wake up. It is always said that to wake up at five o’clock in the morning is good for everyone. This is absolutely wrong and unscientific. It is not good for everyone – it may be good for some people but it may be harmful for other people. Within twenty-four hours, for about three hours, the body temperature of each person goes down. And those three hours are the hours of deepest sleep. If the person is woken up during those three hours, his whole day will be spoiled and his whole energy will be disturbed.
Generally these three hours are between two to five in the morning. For most people these three hours are between two to five in the morning, but it is not the case with everyone. For some people their body temperature is low until six o’clock, for some it is low until seven. For some their temperature starts becoming normal at four in the morning. So if someone wakes up within these hours of low temperature, all twenty-four hours of his day will be spoiled and there will be harmful effects. Only when a person’s temperature starts rising to a normal level is it time for him to wake up.
Normally it is alright for everybody to wake up with the rising sun, because as the sun rises everyone’s temperature starts rising. But this is not a rule, there are some exceptions. For some people it may be necessary to sleep a little later than sunrise, because each individual’s body temperature rises at a different time, at a different pace. So each person should find out how many hours of sleep he needs and what is a healthy time for him to get up, and that is the rule for him – whatever the scriptures may say, whatever the gurus may say. There is no need to listen to them at all.
For right sleep, the deeper and the longer you are able to sleep, the better. But I am telling you to sleep, not to keep on lying on the bed! Lying down on your bed is not sleep!
To wake up when you feel it is healthy for you to wake up should be the rule for you. Usually it happens along with the sunrise but it is possible that this does not happen to you. There is no need to be afraid or worried or to think that you are a sinner and to be afraid of going to hell. Many people who get up early in the morning go to hell and many people who get up late are living in heaven. None of this has any relation whatsoever to being spiritual or unspiritual. But right sleep certainly does have a relationship with it.
So each person should discover what is the best arrangement for him. For three months each person should experiment with his work, with his sleep and with his diet, and should find out what are the most healthy, most peaceful and most blissful rules for him.
And everyone should make his own rules. No two persons are alike, so no common rule is ever applicable to anybody. Whenever someone tries to apply a common rule, it has a bad effect. Each person is an individual. Each person is unique and incomparable. Only he is like himself, there is no other person like him anywhere on the earth. So no rule can be a rule for him until he finds out what the rules for his own life-processes are.
Books, scriptures and gurus are dangerous because they have ready-made formulas. They tell you that you should wake up at a certain time, you should eat this, you should not eat that, you should sleep like this, you should do things in this way…. These ready-made formulas are dangerous. They are good to understand, but each person has to make his own arrangements for his life. Each person has to find his own path of meditation. Each person has to walk by himself and create a path for his spiritual journey. There is no ready-made highway for you to go and start walking on. There is no such highway anywhere. The path of the spiritual journey is like a small footpath – but a footpath that isn’t even there! You create it as you walk along it and it continues for howsoever long you walk on it. And the more you walk, the more your understanding of the journey that is yet to come develops.
So these three points have to be kept in mind: right diet, right labor and right sleep. If life proceeds rightly on these three points then there is more possibility of opening what I call the navel center – which is the door to spiritual life. If it opens, if we get close to that door, then a very unique thing happens – something of which we have had no experience in our ordinary life.
Osho, The Inner Journey, Ch 3 (Excerpt, translated from Hindi)
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