Được dạy bởi Sư Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu
Dịch Việt: Việt Hùng
Lời người dịch: Trong các bài Hỏi & Đáp như vậy, tôi sẽ chủ yếu dịch thoát ý, chứ không chặt chữ. Một mặt đây là việc tôi làm để có thể nghiền ngẫm phần trả lời của Sư Yuttadhammo. Một mặt, tôi chia sẻ lại đây, và hy vọng nó hữu ích cho các thiền sinh Vipassana tham khảo.
Bài pháp ngắn này được đăng tải trên Youtube vào ngày 24/02/2011. Phần English transcript ở cuối bài. Link Youtube của bài nói ở đây: https://youtu.be/4jhrqD9kPPY
Mặc dù đã cố gắng tốt nhất trong khả năng của mình, tôi chắc chắn không thể ghi xuống được một cách chính xác 100% tất cả các từ ngữ, đặc biệt là các từ Pali mà Sư đề cập trong bài pháp. Tôi sẽ tiếp tục cập nhật bản ghi, bất cứ khi nào tôi thấy được những điểm còn thiếu sót.
Con xin thành kính đảnh lễ tạ ơn Sư Yuttadhammo về bài pháp thoại ngắn quí báu này. Con nguyện cho Sư được mọi thuận lợi và sức khoẻ trong hành trình tâm linh của Sư.
Các bạn có thể tìm hiểu thêm thông tin của Sư Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu và các lời dạy của Sư tại trang web: https://www.sirimangalo.org/.
English Transcript (quickly jotting down)
Hello and welcome back to Ask the Monk. Today’s question is about drowsiness. So I was asked, ‘how to deal with falling asleep when meditating?’. Someone said they would like to be able to meditate and they’ve tried, but they find themselves falling asleep every time.
I think I’ve addressed this before, but not comprehensively. So I’d like to do that now, sort of referring back to the Buddhist teaching. The person who asked the question this time, said that he or she would like to use the meditation for the purpose of feeling rested. So they want to be able to find rest, but still be alert. And I’d like to caution that may be the reason why you’re falling asleep when you meditate. Because you’ve got the wrong understanding of what meditation should be. If your intention is to simply rest, then falling asleep is probably the best way to do it. To an extent, I mean, I guess the point is if that’s the only intention that you go into the meditation with and that’s the direction that your mind is going to go, if you sit down and meditate and say, OK, I want to feel rested, your mind is not going to develop energy. It’s not going to be be awake and alert. It’s going to start to tend towards the only way that it knows how to rest, and that is to fall asleep.
There are better ways in meditation, I think certainly does lead to much more of a rested mind state. But the mind won’t go in that direction unless your intention going into the meditation is to use it for the purpose of meditating. And that is to understand reality and to be able to deal with the difficulties and the problems and to understand the difficulties and the problems that you have in your mind and in your life. If you go into the meditation with this mindset, this sort of mind set, then your mind is more likely to be alert and to be interested, and you’re more likely to be able to pay attention, less likely to fall asleep. So that’s the first bit of advice I would give is to try to re-evaluate what you expect to get out of meditation. Resting is certainly not in the purpose of practicing meditation, not the best aim. And at its core, if that’s the aim going into it, it’s, as I said, going to have these sorts of repercussions causing you to sleep. Nonetheless, for those meditators who have made up their mind and come to understand what it is that meditation is for and are using it for the purpose of coming to understand reality as it is, there are times, especially when doing intensive meditation, that you find yourself feeling drowsy and even falling asleep. So how do you deal with this?
Well, the Buddha gave seven specific techniques that one can use to overcome drowsiness. And they’re actually seven different sort of types. They deal with seven different types of drowsiness or at least a few different types of drowsiness. Each one is unique in its approach. And so I’d like to, in this case, refer directly back to this. It’s [in Pali], in the Book of Seven. So we have seven ways of dealing with drowsiness.
So the first way that the Buddha said is to change your object or to examine the object of your attention, because one of the most obvious reasons why someone might become drowsy is because their mind has begun to wander. When you’re sitting in meditation, you begin by focusing on a specific object, but your mind starts to wander and slowly fall into a more trance, like state, that is bordering on sleep and eventually will lead one to fall asleep. Now, when that is the case, it’s important to think about what it was that you were considering when you were feeling drowsy and to change that, to go back to focusing on the original object and to be careful not to let yourself fall into the reflection on these on speculations, speculative thoughts that are going to lead your mind to wander. Often, it’s the case that we’ll start to remember things that we’re worried about or concerned about, and that will lead our minds to wander and speculate and eventually get tired and, you know, falling asleep. So the Buddha said, be careful not to give those sorts of thoughts, any ground, whatever thought it was that was causing you to feel tired, to avoid that thought and not develop that train of thought or state of mind. Of course, the best way to do this is to come back to your meditation technique and especially to deal with, as the Buddha said, the drowsiness itself, instead of allowing the thoughts to build the drowsiness, focus on the drowsiness and look at it. When you do that, you’re you’re letting go of the cause of the drowsiness and the drowsiness will disappear by itself. Also, the attention and the alert awareness of the drowsiness is the opposite. And you’ll find that the drowsiness as you watch it, because of the change in the mindset, the drowsiness itself goes away. So you can try to focus on the drowsiness itself, which it’s quite useful. But most important is to avoid the thoughts that were causing it to become drowsy.
The second way is … if this practical method doesn’t work, of reverting back to the practice and adjusting your practice, you can go back to the teachings that the Buddha taught or that your teacher gave us, so on. And to go over them in your mind, to think about, for instance, the four foundations of mindfulness, the body, the feelings, the mind and the various dhamma, of the hindrances, of the emotions or so on. Focus on what it was that the Buddha taught or what it is that your meditation teacher taught. And go over them. Also the body. How do we focus on the body? Think about maybe ways that you are lacking and things that you are missing in terms of awareness of the body. And are you actually able to watch the movements of the stomach or be aware of the sitting position? Or the breath or whatever is your object? Um, are you actually aware of the feelings when there’s a painful feeling or are you actually paying attention to it, for instance, saying to yourself, ‘pain, pain’? Or if you feel happy or calm, are you actually paying attention or are you letting it drag you down into a state of lethargy instead, state of fatigue and drowsiness and the same with the mind. So to refer back to the teachings and think about them in your mind, examine them and relate them back to your practice and compare your practice to the teachings. And that if you do that, first of all, just thinking about these good things will wake you up and remind you of what you should be doing. And second of all, it will allow you to adjust your practice.
The third way is if that doesn’t work, or another way to deal with drowsiness is to actually recite the teachings. And I know from experience that this is quite useful, for example, when you’re driving. I remember when I would be driving somewhere at night and trying to be mindful, watching the road and steering, turning, seeing and emotions that arise and so on, that I would find myself drifting because sometimes there would be excess concentration and not enough effort and I’d be falling asleep. When that happened, I would actually recite the Buddhist teachings. And we do this chant, chants that we have of the Buddhist teachings and we actually recite them. So it’s not really an intellectual exercise, but it’s something akin to, um, singing songs. When people turn on the radio and sing along when they’re driving late at night, it’s something that will wake you up. But also, of course, because it’s the Buddhist teachings, it’s something that will invigorate you and give you effort and give you, um, the encouragement that you might need, thinking about the Buddha, thinking about his teachings, thinking about, um, the meditation practice and so on.
If that still doesn’t work, the fourth method, the Buddha said, is to start to get physical. And the Buddha said, you pull your ears or the technique of waking you up, kind of stretching your cranium, rub your arms around your body, massage yourself and maybe stretch a little bit, um, to kind of wake you up, to get the blood flowing and to give yourself a little bit of physical energy. Because that might be the cause. Your body might be tired or so on. Your body might be stiff, for instance. Some people might even go so far as to practice yoga. I think it could be a very useful technique to waking you up. Because it’s a different technique and actually might lead in a different direction. I wouldn’t recommend extensive practice of yoga in combination with, um, insight meditation. But there’s certainly nothing harmful in practicing it. And certainly in moderation for the purposes of building the energy necessary to practice meditation. But at any rate, the Buddha said massaging and rubbing and pulling your ears and so on.
If that doesn’t work, another way to deal with drowsiness, the Buddha said, is to actually stand up and go get some water, pour water on your face, rub water into your eyes and look to all directions. The Buddha said, take a look around. This is a way of kind of waking you up and stimulating your mind to sort of get rid of this heavy state of concentration. Look in all directions. Look all around you. Go and look around, see what’s going on and look up at the stars, he said. Drowsiness comes at night, so go and look up at the sky. Look up at the stars. Look up at the constellations. It’s a way of breaking up this heavy concentration, giving yourself a more flexible state of mind, to break, to to throw off the lethargy, the drowsiness. He said if you do that and it’s possible that the drowsiness will well disappear and you’ll be able to continue with your practice.
You can do walking meditation, the Buddha said. A part of this is to switch to doing walking meditation. That’s one of the reasons for walking meditation as well, and allows you to develop effort and energy. If you sit all the time and it’s easy to fall asleep. If you do walking as well, you’ll find that when you do the sitting, you feel charged afterwards. So this is the fifth method.
The sixth method is a specific meditation technique, and it’s probably not applicable for most beginner meditators. But if you’ve been practicing meditation for a while, and I suppose even as a beginner, you could attempted. The technique is to think of day as night, to resolve on the meditation or the awareness of light, even though it’s dark at night. Because, of course, night is the darkness is something that triggers a recollection of, oh, now it’s time to fall asleep and causes us to start to feel drowsy. Our mind triggers the drowsiness routine and based on the fact that it’s dark. So you trick yourself, you tell yourself that it’s light or you you envision, with your eyes closed, you can imagine light or become aware of light. I know there are monks who told me that you should do meditation with a bright light on and I suppose this could help as well. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t seem that useful, but I suppose it could be, at least to some extent. But here the point is to actually get it in your mind that it’s light, that there is light. Because that will trigger the energy in the mind. It’s a way of stimulating energy, he said, thinking of those at night to think of it as day and to get an idea in your mind. If you’re actually been practising meditation for a while, you can actually begin to envision bright lights. Some people even get very distracted by these lights or colors or pictures or so on. And we have to remind meditators not to get off track and to acknowledge them as ‘seeing, seeing’ to just remind yourself this is a visual stimulus. It’s not a magical sensation, magical experience, or certainly not the path that leads to enlightenment. It’s the wrong path. But in this case, it has a limited benefit of bringing about energy and effort. It has its use, even though it’s not the path. And that’s the sixth method.
If that doesn’t work, the Buddha said lie down. And the Buddhist way of lying down was to lie down on your side, not in your stomach, not on your back with lying down on one side. And I’m not sure you can prop your head up or you. I don’t think that’s mentioned. But the way I would often do it is to actually prop my head up on my elbow. And it’s a technique that I’ve seen other people use and monks use. And it seems to very much keep you awake. If you start to fall asleep, your head starts to fall off your arm and you wake up quite well. It’s also quite painful in the beginning. It’s something you have to develop. Um, it’s a physical technique. Then you have to develop, just like sitting cross-legged. But, um, at any rate, lie down on one side and perhaps not propping the head up, but, uh, at the very least resolving on getting up. The Buddha said you’re lying down and you’re kind of given up at this point. Because you’re feeling like you can’t overcome the drowsiness. So you’re going to accept that you might fall asleep. So you lie down and you say, I’m going to get up in so many minutes or so many hours, if it’s time to sleep. You say I’m going to sleep for four hours or however long you’re going to sleep and I’m going to get up at such and such a time. When you resolve, think about before you go to sleep. Think only about that, the fact that you’re going to get up so that when that time comes, you’ll find that if you resolve in this way, actually your mind is able to somehow wake you up at that time. It’s amazing how how advanced the mind really is that you find yourself waking up a few minutes before the hour that you were going to wake up or how many minutes you were going to sleep or so. And then the Buddha said, and then get up, he said, resolve in your mind, I will not give in to drowsiness and I will not become attached to the pleasure that comes from lying down. Because one of the things that we miss, um, one of the great addictions that we miss is the addiction to sleep. Many people like to lie down for many, many hours and sleep a lot, and it’s because of the physical pleasure that comes from it. But the problem with this physical pleasure is like all physical pleasures, it’s not permanent, it’s not lasting. And it’s not the case that the more you sleep, the more happy you feel. You, in fact, feel more depressed and more lethargic and less energetic, less bright and at peace with yourself, you feel more distracted and less awake and alert. So, the Buddha said this is the last one. You have to make it. Um, you can’t just lie down and say, I’m going to go to sleep, and fall sleep. You have to be strict about it, that I’m going to set myself how long I’m going to sleep. And then when I wake up, I’m going to get up and go on with my practice.
The Buddha said this is the way that a person should deal with drowsiness. So rather than give my own thoughts on it or something that’s vaguely based on the Buddhist teaching, there you have directly as best as I could translate and paraphrase and expand upon it the Buddhist teaching on how to deal with drowsiness. So thanks for the question. Hope that helps.