The Sword of Wisdom 111

"I've slept most of my life away. I sleep too much and don't practice enough."

The master asked, "Apart from eating and sleeping, is there any other method you would like?"

The student became worried. "Please don't joke around. I know how to eat and sleep. I want to know how to practice."

The master answered, "You really don't know how to eat or sleep." The student argued with the master, pointing out that he'd been eating and sleeping his entire life. The master continued, "When people eat, they really don't know what they're doing. They eat with confused minds; and when people sleep, they really aren't sleeping at all. Most of the time they're lost in dreams."

The master told the student that when he ate, he should do so with single-mindedness, with total attention and concentration, and no other thoughts. The same with sleep: When the student slept, he should just sleep, with a single mind ─ complete attention and no confusion. This itself is practice. As soon as the student heard these instructions, he was able to practice smoothly.

During retreat, you should be completely focused on whatever you are doing. There should be no other thoughts in your mind. Does that mean that when you are eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom, it is Ch'an? It depends on whether or not you have scattered thoughts. If your mind is not concentrated, it is not Ch'an. If your mind is not clear, it is not the proper practice. However, any of these things can be Ch'an for someone who is truly practicing.