“Why did you come here? To sleep?”

by on Apr 17, 2015Zen Master Bon Shim

Rather than resting the body, rest the mind.
If you completely attain mind, the body has no problems
If both mind and body become clear
For the God-man, a high class job is not necessary.1

Zen Master Seung Sahn said that sleep is the most powerful demon. I had been struggling with it on the cushion for a long time, until its power started to loosen. Every time when we are daydreaming on the cushion or any other place, we are dreaming; we are separated; we are losing connection. In that moment we don’t know what is going on and where we are. If that happens, no big deal, next moment we may be awakened and in tune with no-mind again.
Zen Master Seung Sahn told an interesting story about a monk who couldn’t help himself. Every time he sat on the cushion, he would fall asleep. It bothered him a lot, because he was a sincere practitioner, so one day he went to Zen Master Seung Sahn and asked him for advice. He was told to put a roll of toilet paper on his head while he was sitting, so every time he moved, the paper would fall down and wake him up. Not only would it wake the monk up, but the whole room would hear it and laugh at him. It continued for some time, but since he truly wanted to stay awake, he tried very hard and never gave up. Finally there was no noise from the side where the paper monk (as he was named) sat. Thanks to his determination he managed to develop strong concentration, and finally, he became a great monk.
Sleep is a close cousin of laziness. They belong to the same family. According to Buddha’s teaching, sleep and laziness are one of the five deeply rooted hindrances on our Path.
When I went to Korea to sit Kyol Che, it was very hard to get up at three in the morning. I had to motivate myself: “Why did you come here? To sleep?” I used this medicine each time when I started to fall asleep during the rest of the Kyol Che. This experience taught me how to work with my hindrances, gently and with patience.
We are very lucky: with the tools we have, we can truly do everything. The only question is if we can wake up from this self-centered dream.

1. Mu Mun Kwan, Case 9. Translation by Zen Master Seung Sahn.