Q: I do not seem to be aware at all in deep sleep. If awareness never goes then where does my awareness go in deep sleep?
A: When you say, “my” awareness you are referring to the reflected/personal awareness. A stone may have no reflected/personal awareness at all but stone is within the impersonal/pure awareness which never goes. Stone is an expression of pure awareness. When we say awareness never goes, we refer to the pure awareness, not the reflected one. Incidentally, even “your” awareness does exist in dormant form in deep sleep. Had it not been the case then nobody would get up from the deep sleep after hearing a loud noise or nobody would get up from deep sleep due to mosquito bite. Also, consider the following verse:
[Panchadasi, Chapter 11, Verse 39]
Implied Meaning: If there is no comfort in deep sleep then why great effort is made to set up soft bedding and other conveniences?
[Panchadasi, Chapter 9, Dhyandeep Prakraran, Verse 37]
Meaning: Just like cultivation and pregnancy etc. obviously don’t get ready immediately, but it does take some time for them in ripening; likewise self inquiry too gradually matures with time.
The verse below compares sleep with maya:
[Panchadasi, Chapter 8, Kootasthadeep Prakraran, Verse 63]
Meaning: We see that our sleep too (which can be called as our maya) does create the conscious Jiva and Ishvar of the dream. Then, why should you be surprised if the grand maya creates conscious Jivas and Ishvar?
During Self Inquiry one can try to figure out how vrittis (mental modifications, thought waves) originate or how thoughts pop up every now and then making us do things like puppets are made to do things. This eventually leads us to know that we are programmed and are not really the doers. Loss of doership is the key in the final stages of Self Realisation where the one who was doing the Self Inquiry surrenders knowing that it is not the doer.
[Panchadasi Chapter 8, Kootasthadeep Prakraran, Verse 20]
Meaning: All the vrittis are born sequentially after gaps. When one vritti is destroyed, another one is born. One should understand the origin of third, fourth etc. vrittis. All vrittis disappear during deep sleep, unconscious state, samadhi and not even one remains out of those.
It is said that while tomorrow you can forget what you hear today but you seldom forget cycling or swimming. Self-Realisation/Aparokshanubhooti is the direct knowledge of the Self. It is not a bookish knowledge, epiphany without true realisation, belief or faith.
[Panchadasi, Chapter 7, Triptideep Prakraran, Verse 62]
The above implies that once the intellect develops to recognise the truth of the Atman then any behaviour/false-identification involving/caused-due-to body, mind, energy, intellect, bliss does not cause the loss of this intellect. To live in the apparent reality, false identification has to be done. The enlightened person does respond when called by a name. He/she still signs cheques and does all the routine jobs involving false identifications. But, just like an actor does not remain character of the play after the act, the enlightened person can get rid of these false identifications. Aparokshanubooti (direct knowledge) is generally irreversible in the long run.
[Panchadasi, 7 Triptideep Prakraran, 269-270]
Meaning: Whether my body worships the Gods, takes bath, goes to the toilet or goes begging, whether my voice does AUM japa or chants Vedantashastra, whether my intellect wishes to remember Vishnu or disappears in bliss, I am neither the doer nor the owner of all these acts. I am the witness to all these.
Comments: Consciousness that is surrounded by physical and subtle bodies is called Kootastha (anvil like) because just like the Koot (anvil, see fig. below) of blacksmith which remains unaffected even when iron is beaten keeping on top of it, consciousness remains unaffected. While changes take place in physical and subtle bodies, consciousness remains unchanged. One way to seek the truth is to find out that which remains unchanged in you.