Sexual desire and sleep are instinctual habits that have matured over thousands and ten thousands of eons. To the extent that they are connected to to life, they are instinctual appetites that are difficult to remove. It is said that there are no sentient beings lacking sexual appetite and no sentient beings that do not sleep. Sexual desire and sleep naturally accompany sentient beings. How should one accept the instinctual appetites related to the opposite sex and sleep that have taken on attitudes and views as various and complex as the numerous cultural forms or the length of history?
Desire and liberation are in the same locations as the appearances of life. But that life differs as to whether it is the life of opposition and trouble that is centered on desire, or whether it is the peaceful and free life with its roots in the no-self. If the practitioner perfects study, he becomes free from all instinctual desire. This is because it has gotten rid of the life criteria of “I”. The love and compassion that are the perfection of the conditionally-produced life is the light of no-self mind, so leaves no place for the sexual appetite and its images. Therefore, according to the extent to which one has escaped from the bonds of such instinctual appetites, one can estimate this extent of practice by the practitioner.
Method of controlling sleep
Realistically the most difficult thing for practitioners to overcome is sleep. Can one name anything that is a greater hindrance to study than “sleep” or “sleepiness”? Anybody at all who sits on the cushion and calms down the spirit a little bit is immediately assaulted by sleepiness. Each time sleepiness comes, it is important that one gets rid of the impediment to meditation practice by disciplining the body well in the midst of everyday life so that one can go on to overcome it and to spur one on to taking up the hwadu. Sleepiness comes from false thoughts. That is definitely not an absolute thing. If one tries to continue practice well, the time for sleep diminishes bit by bit. Do not try to keep to the sleeping time, but rather, if one honestly sits in meditation, one can continue on the vigorous practice that brims over energetically with energy that does not trap one in sleep. Now let us talk about a number of methods of overcoming sleep.
First, it is easy for beginning meditators to close their eyes. But one must have one’s eyes open. The patriarchs of the past said that those who meditated with their eyes closed were like sitting in the cave of the demons in the gloomy mountains. If one closes one’s eyes, although it seems that the mind is concentrated and is still, it is easy to fall into dullness not knowing that. Especially, when sitting in meditation in the afternoon or at daybreak, shutting one’s eyes is the same as requesting sleep. Therefore, when sitting in meditation, one must keep one’s eyes about half open. In particular, unable to keep sleep in check, it is best to clench the molars hard together, open the two eyes clearly, breathe deeply and repeat that slowly. If one does so, generally the sleep disappears. During the sitting in meditation, one must try not to sleep. It is also best when sitting and not chasing away drowsiness, to stand up, and having concentrated on the body, to breathe as above. If one does so, the sleep that does not disappear will go away.
Second, regulate one’s food and drink. One must ingest food suitably. If one sits inmeditation when eating too much, in making them digest that food, the organs of the body will feel easily fatigued and immediately drowsiness will be thrust on you. It is very important to ingest suitably the food needed to help in the life of practice. Knowing the amount and eating, the practitioners must have a correct mental attitude, and in fostering a practice environment one cannot be negligent about important elements. One soup and one vegetable is said to be the menu of the Seon School. If one can, one must eat little, have little desire and be content with that. If one does not consume evenly, eventually the mind is not even, and the study cannot be consistent.
And so, in the Xiuxing daodijing it says, “People who practice must not relax the body so that it becomes heavy. If one eats suitably, the body will become light and drowsiness will lessen, and even when one sits, rises and walks, one will be at ease and not short of breathe, and seeing that evacuation and urination are lessened, even in one’s own polishing of practice, the carnal desire, anger and foolishness will become less.”
Third, one must go to bed early and rise early. It is not good to meditate at night and get up late. Even if the night study time is lessened, it is best to keep the morning study.
Fourth, sitting in meditation is like stretching out one’s waist and thinking that there is a thousand-fathoms deep precipice right in front of one’s nose, and that one is sitting on it. There are also practitioners who really do sit on top of a precipice in order to overcome sleep.
Fifth, one must give harsh admonishment. One must be cruel in the admonishment. The admonishing person and admonished person both must have minds that are frugal and thankful.
The method of controlling sexual appetite
Seon Master Seosan said the following about sexual appetite and behavior that violated the precepts:
Meditating while lustful is like trying to cook rice by steaming sand, and meditating while breaking the precepts is like carrying water in a leaking vessel. (Seon–ga gwi–gam).
Without distancing oneself from sexual desire, one cannot practice meditation properly. If one is inclined to sexual desire one’s mind is confused and cannot be calm because the mind is captured by a thirsty love that cannot be fulfilled. But it is not easy to cut off sexual desire.
As a method of distancing oneself from sexual desire a method that really observes the feeling of impermanence is recommended. That is, if one is clearly enlightened to the fact that sexual desire is false, it is possible to overcome it. Therefore, when sexual desire occurs it is hoped that one will try to see the rising of an appearance that disappears as soon as the object of that sexual desire is scattered into the four elements and changes into dust. This is to become distinctly aware of the falsity of sexual desire.
But for the person meditating with hwadu the correct path is that one should overcome that through hwadu study. Just when that sexual desire has arisen is when the hwadu is taken up. The Shuzhuang says in relation to this that when the habits of the past life, such as sexual desire, arise, combat it with the hwadu:
When suddenly the habituation accumulated in the past arises one should only looks at the hwadu that answered with “mu” upon the question “Does a dog have a Buddha-nature or not?”. At just that time your habituation will become a like a snow flake that has fallen into a red-hot brazier. (Shuzhuang, In reply to Controller-general Liu)
If one earnestly takes up the hwadu in this way when the sexual desire arises, the sexual desire disappears without a trace. And to the extent that sexual desire and sleep have prevented the realization of the Way over broad eons, one must make an effort, without rest in order to overcome them and be conscious that they are great enemies.