The monk who overslept

February 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Asia, Children's Stories, Culture, Life Lessons, Moments from History, Reflections, Stories from China | Leave a comment

Source: Tales of Wisdom, SOH Radio Network
Posted by Grace Mann on Saturday, January 30th, 2010

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Buddha Shakyamuni teaching his disciples  Wikimedia Commons
Buddha Shakyamuni teaching his disciples  Wikimedia Commons

Welcome again to Ancient Tales of Wisdom brought to you by the SOH Radio Network. Hello, I’m Grace Mann. Today’s story dates back to over 2,500 years ago and tells how one of Buddha Shakyamuni’s disciples became known as “The Monk Who Overslept.”

But first, let’s listen to an update ‘quote of the day, from an audience member attending a Fort Lauderale,  Shen Yun Performing Arts performance during its 2010 Global Tour.     

And now, to our story “The monk who over slept.”

Buddha Shakyamuni repeatedly taught his disciples to study Buddhist doctrine attentively and wholeheartedly, and that they must not slack off or be lazy. Most of his disciples followed his teachings and cultivated diligently, and therefore obtained the Dao and reached their Attainment Status while eliminating a lot of worries and suffering.

However, there was one monk who simply was not diligent. Whenever others practiced meditation, he would just go to sleep. His fellow disciples tried to reason with him, but he would not change.

The monk’s greatest weakness was oversleeping.  Everyday he would to go sleep after he ate a meal. When he slept, he kept his door closed tightly and slept alone in his room. No one could wake him up, no matter how hard they tried.

One day at noon, after begging for food on the street, the monk came back carrying his alms bowl. He went straight to his room and again fell asleep. The snoring from his room could be heard till the next morning.

That  morning, it was time for Shakyamuni to teach the Buddha Fa to the public. Every disciple was present, except the monk who liked to sleep. Shakyamuni asked, “Why doesn’t the disciple who likes to sleep come?”

A disciple quickly stood up and replied, “Buddha, he has been sleeping since noon yesterday. We could not wake him no matter what we tried.”

Shakyamuni then said that the monk only had seven days to live. If he died while sleeping all the time, his death would bring him unhappiness. Shakyamuni had great pity for the monk. He instructed his disciples to recite a scripture and took Ananda with him to see the monk in his room.

They could hear the thunderous snoring before they reached the monk’s room. They opened the door only to hear even louder snoring. The monk was still in bed in a deep sleep.

Ananda called the monk’s name a few times, but the monk did not respond and continued sleeping. Then,  Buddha Shakyamuni walked to his bed and gently shook him. The monk immediately woke up.

Upon seeing Shakyamuni standing before him and gazing at him with compassion, the monk immediately got up and bowed to Shakyamuni, saying, “Revered Buddha, please forgive me for being disrespectful.”

Shakyamuni said to him, “You only have seven days to live. I cannot bear to see you die while sleeping so much and failing to reach an upright Attainment Status. I’m here to wake you up.”

The monk was shocked. It had never occurred to him that he might only have seven days to live. He was frightened and did not know what to do.

Shakyamuni comforted him and said, “It is predestined for you. Several lifetimes ago when you were a monk, you indulged in food and sleep and never pondered the meaning of the Fa. You did not follow the Buddhist’s precepts. You did not sow any blessings or virtue, therefore, you reincarnated many times into four different beings over many thousands of years.

“In your previous lives you liked to live in dark places without light, and you treasured your body and life very much. What’s more unusual is that all four different beings were fond of sleeping and could sleep for over 100 years once they fell asleep. You did not try at all to be diligent. However, after 200,000 years you were finally able to repay the sin you had committed. Then, you reincarnated as a human and became a monk.

“Now that you have become a monk you should cultivate and study diligently to make up for what you have previously lost. I did not expect that you would still be so attached to food and sleep like you were 200,000 years ago. Why do you always feel like you do not get enough sleep? Don’t forget the consequences you suffered 200,000 years ago.”

Shakyamuni stopped talking. The monk blushed with shame. He quickly repented to Shakyamuni. When he criticized himself deeply and repented, all his distracted thoughts disappeared and he was able to attain the status of Arhat by the end of his life.

It is said that time passes by in the blink of an eye. There are only twenty-four hours in a day and the average person sleeps eight hours of this day. People who oversleep may end up spending most of their time in sleep and dreams and therefore accomplish very few major tasks in a lifetime. Several decades pass by quickly in the human world. You’ll indeed regret it if you do not firmly seize all opportunities.

Sometimes you will feel that life is long and arduous.  You may ponder, have I done a good job completing the tasks I was supposed to do and the missions I was  supposed to fulfil.  Or even worse, do you acknowledge you may not have made the effort to do those things at all.  How regretful you feel? What about your next life? The monk who overslept finally realized that he needed to seize the time he had left in this life.   Can we all learn from ‘the monk who overslept.’

Cultivate diligently in *Buddha Law Cultivation.* How can a sleepy and drowsy person become as magnificent as a mighty lion? A cultivator should seize every minute, sleep less, and cultivate more to succeed in cultivation.

Before signing off for today,  just a quick update on our Premium ATW podcast membership offer.  Yes, the wheels are turning behind the scenes, and progress is being made. This great offer will be brought to you all, our valued listeners, as soon as possible.  Thank you for your patience.  SOH is proud to bring you this service, that will not only bring you our fabulous stories, but also, through paying the very low, Gold Pass membership, you will be supporting SOH’s continued growth in becoming a stable, major contributor to our world societies.

Thank you for being with us again on the SOH Radio Network for Ancient Tales of Wisdom.

Until it is again my privilege to be with you all, laugh lots be happy and make the best of every day of your life.

Story Source:
Chinese version available at


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