Suprabhatam and the Sounds of Waking
“Your whole life may be pretentious, but when you are asleep, you cannot pretend. That is the only fortune for a lot of people.”
“Ring, Ring, Ring!” Is the familiar sound of the alarm clock really the best way to begin your day? Sadhguru speaks about traditional suprabhatams and supportive sounds one can use for waking up.
Q: I have heard that waking up to the sound of a ringing alarm is not a good way to start your day. Is it better to wake up to a certain kind of music? Would that set up a better ambience within ourselves before we face the day?
Sadhguru: Waking up to an alarm is not just about the sound. If you are in deep sleep and a loud sound goes off, it is the suddenness of the sound. Fortunately, most people today are setting alarms on the phone where you can easily format it to the music that you like. In India, there is something called suprabhat. “Prabha” literally means a dawn or light. In English, we could say “suprabhat” means “good morning”. “Good morning”, said not in words but by a certain format of sounds.
These have been formatted for different deities in the country. It has mostly disappeared these days, but otherwise, at least in most of the villages and small towns in India, this would be the first thing you heard in the morning. Everyone woke up to this. Essentially, the idea is to wake up to the right kind of sounds.
Waking Up is a Rebirth
I don’t know if there is a machine that does this, but maybe with electrodes attached to you, we could measure the reverb created in deep sleep, in light sleep – which may happen early in the morning when there are certain dream states – and when you wake up naturally. If this could be measured, we could test the efficacy of these suprabhatams or different mantras – how they will wake you up and in what context they will wake you up.
In many ways, coming awake is like being reborn. In sleep, you are dead to the world, and now you are coming back again. When you are coming back, with what context you come out will determine many things about the nature of your day. In what direction your life will go today will be determined by the context in which you come out. I am sure most Indians of the older generation would have noticed this – when their grandmothers and mothers woke up in the morning, they always got up with “Shiva, Shiva” or “Shambho” or “Hara, Hari” – whatever their expressions were. But there is also a way of sleeping in this reverberation.
A Test of True Transformation
There is a beautiful incident that happened in the mid 1800’s. In the present state of Madhya Pradesh, there was a spiritual movement known as Mahima. Today, we have named our meditation hall in III in Tennessee as Mahima. The word “Mahima” literally means grace. At that time, it was a very large spiritual movement. I have visited some of their ashrams in that region. These ashrams could easily accommodate over three to four thousand people, but there are only about five or six sanyasis there now. But at that time, it was in full swing. These spiritual aspirants grew into a powerful sect. The movement was supported by the king of the local area because the spiritual pursuit was always considered the highest pursuit.
At the same time, when an administration – or anybody for that matter – sponsors something, they try to get some benefit out of it. For Isha, I have set a pitch where no one’s names are ever written on any of the consecrated spaces for whatever contributions they make. Similarly, the Mahima people did not yield to social pressures. They were focused on their spiritual process. And the yogis grew with a great sense of humility and pride. These are two strange combinations.
The king was supporting this, but a few people around him were disgruntled because these yogis were not doing anything for them. They did not come for the naming ceremony of these courtiers’ children, or their house warming, marriage ceremonies, death ceremonies – nothing!
So these courtiers raised the question, “Why are we supporting these people? What is the use? It is a waste of money because, if you look at them, they do not even look starved. They look well-fed, they look strong, and they do not bow down in front of the king – they walk with pride. When we give money to somebody, they must be subservient to us. But these guys are living their own life.”
They put this thought in the king’s mind and put pressure on him that the treasury was wasting money on these people. So the king called the guru who was heading the sect and said, “My ministers and others feel that we are wasting money on you. I have great respect for you, but there is pressure that we must stop support and sponsorship for you because you people do not look spiritual. Our idea of spirituality is you must be subservient to us, but you are not fulfilling that.”
The guru said, “Is that so? We will do one thing. You come with me one night, I will show you. Then you can make your own judgment.” So, a little late in the night, the guru and the king in disguise left the palace.
The guru first took him to the minister’s home – the minister who was heading this campaign against the spiritual movement. Being summer, the minister was sleeping in the open corridor of his home. The guru took a pail of water and, hiding behind a bush, threw the water on the minister. When the cold water hit him, the minister woke up with a shock, with obscenities pouring out of his mouth.
The guru and the king quietly left the place and went to the home of the commander-in-chief who was also against this spiritual movement. Because these monks looked like an army by themselves, he felt threatened. There, once again they did the same experiment and even greater obscenities poured out of him.
Then the guru took the king to the ashram where all the monks were sleeping. He threw some water on one of the monks. One got up, “Shiva!” Another got up, “Shambho!” The guru said, “This is it. This is the transformation they have achieved. Deep down, they have become this.” Your whole life may be pretentious, but when you are asleep, you cannot pretend. That is the only fortune for a lot of people. At least when they fall asleep, they cannot keep their act up. You can fool the whole world when you are awake, but when you are asleep, you are who you are.
What kind of sounds you come awake to will determine the context of the day and the future of your life in many ways. I have said this many times – in the night, when you are falling asleep, if you can transit in awareness from wakefulness to sleep, your whole life will be transformed. There is a tradition of chanting a mantra as people fall asleep, wanting to come to that place, but in the beginning you may see you are chanting the mantra and you fall asleep, but you never remember when you fall asleep. It will take a certain amount of awareness to come to this state.
Yogis sometimes go to extreme levels to maintain this awareness but this can be done in better ways – more sophisticated ways – which we have explored in many ways. Maybe most people have not made use of it.
But an easier thing to do is to maintain an awareness when coming awake. It does not have the same significance as when going to sleep, but coming awake is an easier thing to do because it happens in a gradual way.
The Best Way to Wake Up
Coming awake to an alarm bell with a sudden start is not the best way. The kind of food that you consume, the kind of thoughts and emotions that you process within yourself, and the level of vibrance that you have managed within your body will determine how much sleep you need. Whatever amount of sleep you need, you know how much you need, so you go to bed early enough so that you come awake naturally. Suppose you have a doubt whether you will come awake naturally or not, if you have a certain chant, if you have identified one of the Vairagya chants, you can use it.
Today you have all the gadgets to do this, but still I would say the body should have completed its natural requirement of sleep. Actually, to come awake to silence is the best thing to do, but if you have doubts whether you will come awake or not at the right time, then at least use the right sounds to wake you up – not a ringtone which will just shock you out of sleep. It must slowly bring you out of sleep.
Editor’s Note: “Vairagya – Bonding with Beyond” are a series of powerful chants that can be valuable supports to a spiritual seeker. Available in 10 minute and 1 hour versions, the album is available as mp3 downloads as well as free mobile app.
This blogpost explains in detail the significance of a mantra, and also gives a process for using the Vairagya chants.