The Yoga of Sleeping

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #350)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained the yoga of sleeping at the Twelfth Kopan Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 1979.

This teaching is an excerpt from Lecture 19 of the course. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche blessing two rabbits at Osel Labrang.

We can transform sleep into virtue by doing the yoga practice of sleeping. When we go to bed, lie down in the position of the lion sleeping. This is the same position that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha had when he passed away. Keep the right side perfectly on the bed, then put the right hand under the right cheek. Keep both of the legs straight, then stretch the left arm along the left leg. If there is an altar, the legs should not be stretched towards the altar. The head should be towards the altar. Usually it’s better not to have altars completely all around the bedroom in our house. That way it’s difficult to stretch the legs, because it prompts disrespect and we are committing negative karma. Wherever we stretch our legs, don’t put an altar on that side.

Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the teachings that in order to not have a deep sleep, to have a thin, light sleep, so we can get up easily in the morning, visualize light when we go to bed. With a vision of light, then go to bed. With a kind of white vision, then go to bed; that helps to have a lighter sleep.

Before going to bed remember that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha took this position before he passed away in order to show impermanence and death to sentient beings. Think, “I should take the attitude to work for sentient beings just as Guru Shakyamuni did, by taking this same position. So I’m going to do the yoga practice of sleeping.” Then, lie down in that position. Before going to bed, if we can visualize Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and make three prostrations, which is the practice of refuge, that is excellent. If we have taken refuge ordination before, this is one of the practices we can do. In the morning when we get up, make three prostrations, and before we go to bed at night, make three prostrations.

After we lie down, visualize Guru Shakyamuni Buddha at the pillow; our head is in front of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and we completely offer ourselves; we completely rely on Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. If we fall asleep with the thought of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, thinking that we have offered completely, that we are in the hands of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, we don’t get bad dreams at night, fearful dreams which make us scream in the middle of the night, which wake everybody up. Anyway, we don’t get fearful dreams or spirit harms.

If we are able to fall asleep with the thought of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha; if we completely offer, and we are completely in the hands of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, then we don’t get offended by spirits at night. Many diseases start in the night time or at the dawn time—fever, coughing and many other diseases. So, we don’t get offended by spirits, things like that, if we fall asleep with the thought of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. All our sleep becomes virtue for how long, how many hours we sleep—even if we sleep for one hundred hours. Fever, coughing and so many diseases start in the night time, but we don’t get offended by spirits if our sleep becomes virtue.

If we fall asleep with the thought of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, all our sleep becomes virtue, however long we sleep; even if we sleep for hundreds of hours or for one month. If we are able to fall asleep with the thought of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, all that sleep becomes virtue. After having visualized Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, we can visualize very strong beams coming from his heart. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s great compassion emits very strong white beams, which completely enter our body and mind, and completely purify all the delusions and negative karma. They completely disappear.

Practicing like this becomes purification. Visualize all the disturbing, unsubdued minds and the negative karma in the form of darkness. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha emits strong white beams from his great compassion, then immediately we are purified. As the beams are emitted and enter into our body and mind, immediately all the disturbing, unsubdued minds and the complete karma that has been accumulated from beginningless past lives completely disappears in one second. Relax with this white beam. The body is full of the white beams, which are coming from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s heart. Then, like that we can try to fall asleep.