Verse 69 of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, says, “That which is night to the ordinary human being is day to the wise, and that in which the ordinary human being remains awake is night to the wise one who sees.” (Swami Rama, Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Pp. 114)
So, does this mean that, to be wise, one just needs to stay awake all night and sleep in the day? Well, it is true that that my preceptor, Swami Veda Bharati, who was definitely wise, did this. Many years ago, I spent time assisting him at Sadhana Mandir Ashram in Rishikesh, India. One thing I observed during that time was that Swami Veda didn’t sleep at night. Instead, he remained awake. Actually, that’s when he got most of his creative work done. Then, he’d sleep briefly (about 4 hours) in the morning and he practiced yoga nidra (conscious sleep) much of that time. After that, during the rest of the day, he interacted with and served his students all over the world.
I can imagine good reasons why Swami Veda arranged his schedule in this way. During the day, there were messages—from hundreds of students around the world— to respond to, travel arrangements to be made, visitors to meet, blessings to be given, and thousands of other obligations to attend to. It was only at night, while the world slept, that Swami Veda could find solitude and do his writing and other creative work.
This, perhaps, is one of the meanings—the shallow meaning— of the verse. But the verse also means something much more. “The sadhakas who have experienced the higher dimensions of life, who are able to have a glimpse of the Eternal, and who have touched the infinite, are awakened to truth. But others remain sleeping, unaware of truth.” (Swami Rama, Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Pp. 114.)
In other words, what the common persons thinks of as being awake, is just awake to the senses, to the lower mind, but not to the Source, not to the Light. While the Yogi is awake to the Infinite.
This was also the understanding expressed regarding this verse by another great yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, who said: “The metaphysical correlation is that while most people are spiritually somnolent, immersed in the delusive dreams of life, the man of realization is spiritually awake, his alert divine vision ever intent on the luminous Reality behind the dark “night” of maya” (Yogananda, God Talks with Arjuna, The Bhagavad Gita, Pp. 317 of the first volume of the two-volume set).
This awakening to the luminous truth is the whole goal of Yoga.
Anyone can stay up all night, but only the Wise are truly awake.