Sleep is natural, it is nature’s way of “recharging the batteries”. This is simplistic and appears to say little, but apply the converse:-

“Not sleeping shows there is something unnatural going on.”

It is this that is worth investigating if we are to understand sleep and why some people cannot sleep. There is something unnatural going on.

For a while I will consider whether we live naturally rather than what affects sleep. That means going back to basics, and for me that means Buddhadasa. To understand what could be unnatural we have in some way to understand nature. Ajaan Buddhadasa has a very interesting stance on this but because it is Buddhadasa the meaning is buried in language – in this case the Pali words he uses. He describes the Buddhist’s God as Idappaccayata, and he further “languagises” the issue by saying this one God is idappaccayatapaticcasamuppado, and he gives details of what is paticcasamuppada – dependent origination [Idappaccayata pdf p1]. God is a bit shorter, I could use the word nature but I prefer Gaia; let me explain why. At one stage I was calling this ONE planet. Buddhism amongst other religions talks of unity – ONE thing. We are not a collection of individuals, a collection of separate species etc., we are just one life that appears as separation yet we should consider as one – ONE. James Lovelock when he talks of gaia describes an ecology that is interweaved, separate life forms that connect. He describes this inter-connectedness as gaia, but as far as I understand it he sees man as separate. This is why I capitalise gaia, Gaia is the ONE life that comprises of all life on this planet. Because of this Unity Gaia is a more apt word than nature, and because of this Unity it is more applicable than a separate omnipotent God.

“The law of ‘conditionality’ is the highest of laws, the law that makes everything work, and this we call idappaccayata. …. Beasts, people, plants, trees, they’re all formed from atoms grouping together, and in every atom will dwell the law of idappaccayatā. …. the law of nature, idappaccayatā, pre-exists all things in the universe and is the reason for the existence of the universe itself” [Idappaccayata p3].

I think this law of nature is observable and I accept it, but if you like it is the only aspect of faith that I believe in. This faith consists of belief in the law of conditionality, that this law is in every atom, and that it pre-exists all things in the universe. I trust in Gaia – nature, but not what man has done to it.

Buddhadasa gave the law of idappaccayata as :-

“when there is this thing, then there is this thing too; because this arises, this can arise also; when this thing isn’t, then this thing isn’t either; when this quenches, then this quenches too. [p3].

Just a brief point on sleep, it follows this law. “when there is this thing, then there is this thing too”. When we are natural, sleep follows. And “when this thing isn’t, then this thing isn’t either”, when we aren’t natural, we don’t sleep.

It is also worth flagging that this law is causal and therefore fundamentally scientific. However science is based on defined axioms – axioms defined by science. Whereas idappaccayata is just based on causality and conditionality, a conditionality which I will look into later, yet a conditionality that is based on empirical observation. One such observation is that sleep is natural, a conditionality that is based on what we observe in a loose sense – everyday “wisdom”. A more contentious empirical observation is that TCM and acupuncture heals. This can be empirically observed by observing treatments and seeing patients recover but is rejected by some scientists who are given respect by some.

The Buddha took refuge in the Dhamma, saw the Dhamma as his God “In the end he made up his mind that he’d revere the Dhamma he’d awakened to: he’d ‘enter into and dwell within it,’ that is, he’d take it as his refuge.” [p1]. For this use of the word Dhamma you could replace Gaia as I have described it above, either way we are trying to understand “natural”. Buddhadasa describes 4 natural laws:-

“Dhamma (here with the meaning of the ultimate truth – the way things really are – hence it’s spelt with a capital ‘D’) has four meanings: nature itself; the law of nature [BZ – Idappaccayata]; the duty to be done according to the law of nature; and the fruit, or result arising from doing or not doing that duty” [p6].

In describing these laws Buddhadasa said “Essentially, it’s the duty of any human being to maintain life correctly. If they don’t then they must – in accordance with the law of idappaccayatā – experience the result, the punishment: suffering, ranging from being unable to sleep, to nervous disease, to deadly pain” [p11]. Subconsciously I might have remembered this but I was surprised at the relevance to sleep when I read this.

Now we come to the other half of the Buddhadasa “languagised” God – idappaccayatapaticcasamuppado. Paticcasamuppada, also known as dependent origination or dependent co-arising, is described by Buddhadasa as what the Buddha struggled with under the Bodhi tree “It was during the night of his awakening that he sought thus: What does suffering come from? Then he realized that it came from jāti, from birth. Jāti, ‘birth,’ what does birth come from? ‘Birth’ comes from bhava, from becoming. Becoming arises from upādāna, from clinging. Clinging comes from taņhā, from craving, from desire. Craving, comes from the vedanā, from feeling. Feeling comes from phassa, from contact. Contact comes from the āyatana, from the senses. The senses come from nāmarūpa, from name and form. Name and form comes from viññāna, from consciousness. Consciousness comes from sankhāra, from the power of concocting. The power of concocting comes from avijjā, from ignorance” [p1]. I have previously discussed this in relation to mindfulness meditation in education. This could be partly summarised as suffering arising from conditions that our desire allows and that we cling to. Through mindfulness at contact we are able to avoid suffering.

I also wish to consider this summary of Buddhadasa’s teaching that I call his meme:-

There are the 5 khandas that make up the body, psyche and consciousness. Under conditionality we attach to these khandas especially when young as we operate through instinct. As we get older we gain the maturity that enables us to be aware of conditionality and if mindful can avoid detachment. With increasing maturity we do not create new attachments and we detach from the selves that we have already made – through instinct. In the end ideally we are not attached to the khandas and have detached from all the selves that previous attachment has created leading to our being free of all conditioning. In this freedom there is just sunnata, unity functioning.

Somewhere within all our conditioning suffering through affected sleep occurs. Meditation can help as it can be used to remove detachments and avoid attachments.

I am not however offering this as an understanding as to how to deal with sleep issues but sleep is natural and the above discussion of nature, its laws and understanding of the development of suffering has some connection. In the next blog I will connect this conditioning to the path.

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