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Sleep patterns and eating habits of Buddhist monks

edited January 2010 in Buddhism Basics
Hello there,

I heard that Buddhist monks wake up everyday around 3:30 - 3:45 am, and go to sleep around 11 pm - and they sleep upright. Doing the math, it is less than 5 hours of sleep per day. How can they achieve that without feeling prostrated during the day?

I know this has something to do with the eating habits, which I ask you for more accurate information - do they eat only once a day, and fast after the midday? Doesn't the body lack energy because of that?

Maybe the point here is slowing down metabolism, so less food and sleep is needed. Less physical exercising is a crucial point here I think. I feel curious about it, since I want to manage my daily buddhist practices, but I don't feel very well waking up that early - seems like my energy get drained when I do that.

Does anyone have advices on how to schedule your daily practices for fitting in a western living?



  • specialkaymespecialkayme Veteran
    edited January 2010
    I don't have an answer for you as to why, although I am interested in it myself.

    I can tell you that it isn't NECESSARY to wake up at 3:30 every morning in order to practice. You do what you can.
  • ManiMani Veteran
    edited January 2010
    Hi vfargenta.

    Well, to help with your last question...

    Most people living in the west have pretty busy lifestyles, and must juggle other things around work, family and other things that are first priority. So just like most things, we have to juggle our spare time activities around these. Everybody is different, but you just have to prioritize the spare time that you have to do what it is you want to do with it.

    I suppose each tradition may be different. But from my first hand experience, the monastics woke at about 4- 4:30am, I suppose depending on what time the morning puja was to start at. I'm not sure what time they went to bed, and I'm pretty sure they slept lying down, just as we do. :p

    As far as the more advance practitioners, I think that the more one practices, furthers their meditation, the less sleep they need to rely on. This is much more of a factor than the amount of food eaten, I think. You can see just how much more "energetic" monastics are.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited January 2010
    For what it's worth, because of a chronic ailment, I have to sleep sitting up. I generally sleep around midnight, and get up around 5. I often eat only one meal. Unlike the monks, this regimen is largely forced on me. Sometimes, I have done this for a couple of months at a stretch. It is quite doable. Mostly it is reactivity which keeps people from adopting such a lifestyle. In my case, pain burned the obstructive reactivity out of me, but Buddhist practice serves the same purpose.
  • DeshyDeshy Veteran
    edited January 2010
    I don’t think we, as laypersons, can follow most of the disciplines that monks follow. There are a lot of disciplines in a monk's life. Here are some of them the monks of the Thai forest tradition follow which are said to have followed by the Buddha and his disciples way back

    1) They live from the arms food. They go for an arms round down to the village only once a day and after they have eaten it they do not have any other solid foods so it is like one meal a day

    2) Wake up around 4 AM and they sleep around 9 PM or so I heard. As far as I know they sleep about 6 or 7 hours a day

    3) Monks do not speak to a woman alone for more than 8 words. If they do there should be a third party present.

    4) I think they do a lot of walking and do the walking meditations for exercises. Also they build their own monasteries and stuff which is heavy work

    5) They do not use money or keep any other goods in their kuti.

    6) They meditate for about 10 hours a day year after year and there are monks in the Thai forest tradition who are said to gave reaped some of the fruits of Buddhist meditation

    And it goes on …

    But I think we can take what is practicable for us and simplify our lifetyles as much as possible? Here are few things I do and I plan to do going forward:

    1) I am currently celibate. Lot of unnecessary distractions out of the way

    2) I plan to cut down on unnecessary stuff that I eat like cakes :D , ice cream, chocolates etc. I plan to try and have only three meals a day to begin with

    3) I over sleep on weekends. This got to end.

    4) Over spend on stuff like clothes, shoes, accessories. I have already gotten away from buying accessories. I don't need them to live so I plan to continue this way

    5) Plan to do some charity work regularly

    6) Plan to attend sil in the nearby temple once a month or do some meditation retreats. When you attend sil you can practice having only 1 meal a day and some of the other stuff the monks do

    7) Most importantly try to attend and maintain the five basic sils. I hope you know what they are

    The point here is to reduce on your five sensory attachments as much as possible and practicable as a lay person and invest that time and energy on your practice and charity. I don't think this is an absolute necessity for your meditation but it sure helps.<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited January 2010
    The only reason I get up early is because I have to go in to work early. Not all the monks in the world are like the monks you are talking about. Some of us have to live with one foot in the secular world and the other in the spiritual. It actually makes for a stronger practice, imho.

  • DeshyDeshy Veteran
    edited January 2010
    Palzang wrote: »
    The only reason I get up early is because I have to go in to work early.

    Me too :)

    But i think life in the solitude of the forest is harder unquestionably. Point is by simplifying their lifestyles to the bare necessities they utilize most of the time to meditation
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  • edited January 2010
    Yes, I agree with Deshy -- we must do what we can yet be aware of our western reality.
    We really should try to reduce the five percepts disturbance and focus on our pratices whereas we must manage our daily works and duties.

    Still, the topic of sleep makes me fascinated: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=7,8303,0,0,1,0
    I think that meditation really reduces the need for sleep. And I can say it for myself - before my practices, I needed around 8 and a half hours of sleep - now I need one hour less.

    Best regards!
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