Hakuin Ekaku (1686 – 1768) was one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism. In his book, Idle Talk on a Night Boat, first published in 1757, he quotes the advice of another Zen teacher of the 11th century:
Su Nei-shan gave the following advice: ‘If you are hungry, eat some food, but stop eating before you are full. Take a long leisurely stroll. When you feel your appetite return, enter a quiet room and seat yourself in an upright posture. Begin exhaling and inhaling, counting your breaths from ten to a hundred, from a hundred to a thousand. By the time you have counted a thousand breaths, your body should be as firm and steady as a rock, your heart as tranquil as the empty sky.
If you continue to sit like this for a long period, in time your breath will hang suspended. You will no longer inhale or exhale. Your breath will exude in clouds and rise up like mist from the eighty-four thousand pores of your skin. You will realize with perfect clarity that all the illnesses you have suffered from, each of the countless disorders you have experienced from the beginningless beginning, have vanished of themselves. You will be like a blind man suddenly regaining his sight and no longer having any need to ask others for guidance on his way.
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