Zen Wisdom 147



What is Ch'an sickness? I have heard of people falling into bad states of mind after practicing hard for a long time. Are there different kinds of Ch'an sickness? If a person suffers from such sickness, does he or she have to give up meditation?


There are four kinds of Ch'an sicknesses. The first refers to physiological problems traceable to the brain or nervous system; the second to psychological problems; the third to problems caused by karmic obstructions; and the fourth to problems from outside sources, such as being disturbed by spirits. In the sutras, these external disturbances are known as demonic obstructions, or maras.

If the source is physiological, the problem should also be observable when the person is not meditating. In fact, it is likely that the problem existed before the person started to meditate. Meditation sometimes brings such problems to the fore.