Venerable Ya-un: Sleep as a hindrance

The Venerable Ya-un’s Admonitions to Beginners (continued)

Okay, I have to admit that this admonition doesn’t seem to apply to our modern societies. I don’t know if it’s the residue of the protestant work ethic or not, but these days it may be a lack of sleep that hinders people. Perhaps, the modern situation requires us to ask ourselves to what are devoting so much time that fatigue is actually taking years off our lives? Is this just busy-ness as a form of intoxication? Is this also a form of anesthetizing ourselves?
       About the cultural context of this admonition, I have noticed a monk or two from other asian countries who have been able to sleep at the drop of a hat, and who spent most of their free time napping. It seemed like this was  common in their home countries. It was probably habits like this that the Venerable Ya-un had in mind when he wrote this admonition.

Don’t sleep outside of the fixed hours for sleeping.

Ever since ancient times, sleep has been considered the greatest hindrance to spiritual cultivation. For the entire day, keep the hwadu with a clear mind and don’t allow yourself to become dull. Whether you are sitting, standing, lying, or moving, always return to the bright light within you and carefully examine your mind. If you pass your life idly, grief will follow you for a thousand kalpas. Time passes in an instant, everyday you should be alarmed at where the time went. Even though it is said that life is short, in fact nobody can guarantee whether they will be alive even an instant from now. If you still haven’t penetrated the great meaning of the Patriarchs, how can you sleep peacefully?

                           Worse than a poisonous snake,
                           sleepiness clouds the moon of mind
                          practitioners forget which way to go
                          when they reach this point.
                          If you hold up a sharp-edged sword,
                          the clouds vanish,
                         revealing the brightly shining moon.

2 thoughts on “Venerable Ya-un: Sleep as a hindrance”

  1. I wonder that the Buddha didn’t create a precept around sleep (perhaps in the bhikkhu precepts?).

    Of course, we can remain asleep while walking down the street or talking with a friend, lost in the dull glimmer.

  2. A timely post. 🙂

    I was considering following the Kwan Um kyol che sleep hours 9:45 pm – 4:30 am this year during the period of the retreat (roughly 90 days)

    I have always been jealous of people who can nap during the day. I can’t seem to do it. At the risk of sounding like an ugly American, when I was stationed in Korea, we used to joke that Korean soldiers attached to our units had a button in their rear ends that would turn them off when they sat down. I was always amazed at how quickly they could go to sleep! As soon as we got on the trucks, they were stone-cold out. lol!

    Anyway, thanks for the post. Sleep and it’s relation to practice is an interesting topic. 🙂

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