The sages repeatedly refer to the three states all humans know: being awake, dreaming sleep, and deep dreamless sleep.
I always wondered why these states were so commonly referred to. What was the significance of these states? What was being pointed out?
I awoke from deep sleep with this on my mind. "If enlightenment is the deep understanding that 'I am Awareness,' how does this relate to the three states?"
I began to ponder what would be another way to say, "I am Awareness." What came to mind was "Presence Being Aware." With this interpretation I took another look at the three states. I was looking to see what could stand behind the three states. I wrote down the definitions that came to mind.
1. Being awake = Presence Being conscious.
2. Dream Sleep = Presence Being subconsciously imaginative.
3. Deep sleep = Presence Being aware of nothing.
What I like about these definitions is that it is apparent that the One thing standing behind the three states is Awareness. I also like the fact that these definitions make a distinction between awareness and consciousness.
Needless to say, I have always felt that a distinction needed to be made between awareness and consciousness. It has always been an irritation to me that many use these words interchangeably. The distinction that I feel needs to be made, is that Awareness is attribute-less and consciousness is not.
This distinction removes the need to refer to awareness as pure consciousness. We can now say that Awareness is the attribute-less field in which anything can become conscious, and it is the objects that have attributes.
Now, back to the definitions of the three states as defined above, their significance seems to be clearer. The sages are pointing out that in deep dreamless sleep, you are not there. At least you are not there as a person. Presence is there as Awareness, ready to wake up, but no person is there.
If reality is changeless, and you as a person are not present in deep dreamless sleep, then the person you think you are is not real because it disappears every night. Presence is there, but a person is not.
In dreaming sleep, you as a person appears. Your subconscious which thinks in symbols, creates stories from the interaction of symbols. Since you are there, you may remember the dream when you awake. What was also there was Awareness.
In the waking state, you know yourself, and your dreams, and your restful sleep. The peaceful rest you report was while you were gone, during deep dreamless sleep. So the report can only come from Awareness which was there. That which was present during dreamless sleep is also present in the waking state, Awareness.
The importance of the three states for the sages has been to point out that during part of every day, you as a person are not there. Therefore, you appear and disappear. This makes you only an appearance in reality.
Only that which stands behind the three states and doesn't change, can be reality. That which you really are is Awareness. This establishes the fact that the definition of enlightenment as the deep understanding that "I am Awareness" is correct.