Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Lotus Posture

The lotus posture, padmasana, is the name traditionally given to a way of sitting in many Indian spiritual practices, particularly in meditation. The practitioner sits placing each foot on the thigh of the opposite leg. Thus the legs are interlocked and symmetrical aligned. The hands can be placed on the knees or in the lap or on the knees.

Although this posture imparts a degree of postural stability many people take time to get used to it and often report that it becomes uncomfortable to maintain for extended periods. Indian tradition ascribes a great deal of benefits to the  padmasana, that it harmonized “energy”, that it massages the nerves enhancing relaxation, etc, even that it is essential for meditational progress. Most of these claims would seem to be fanciful.
In traditional Buddhist art the Buddha is often depicted sitting in the padmasana. However, in the suttas the Buddha himself says nothing about posture in sitting meditation other than that one should sit “with the  body  straight” (ujum kayam) and the legs  pallankam abhujitva”. This term  could mean legs crossed (i.e. lotus posture) or simply folded and the term padmasana occurs nowhere in the Tipitaka. In this second posture the legs are folded and placed against the other rather than being interlocked. Many people report that this posture is more comfortable and is less likely to cause cramps and painful stiffness. Although the placement of the body may have some influence on the mind it is probably very slight. Ultimately, the more physically comfortable one is the easier one’s meditation will be. Meditation is, or should be, a simple and natural process.  Requiring numerous technical necessities and details only robs it of these qualities.


chang liang said...

Bhante, is it possible for some people to meditate with their eyes open? or eyes closed? Or is it just a preference?

Lonlysky said...

Dear Bhante, off topic question: do you know where in the Suttas the Buddha says that his Dhamma is good for people who wants to benefit themselves in their present live, or future lives or all the way up to Nibbana?

Thank you a lot!

Upasaka Shantideva (Shlomo S. Springer)

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Chang Liang, eyes closed or open, it’s a matter of personal preference. As in many things in meditation, what works best for you is the best way.
Dear Lonlysky, there are several places where this theme is dealt with, but I am away from home base now and do not have access to the Tipitaka. Ask me again some time after the 10th November.

Lonlysky said...

Dear Bhante,

Thank you for your reply, but.... Maybe you can only point where to look in the Tipitaka and I'll try to find the theme myself? It's for an article I am writing and the 10th of November is far far away.... :-(

Thank you Bhante either way and best wishes for you!

MBenson said...

Like many Westerners (males in particular) I've never been able to sit in a Full Lotus posture. I spent six weeks recovering from tendon problems the one time I briefly managed it. I can sit with a straight back in a Half Lotus for long periods of time with good results. As you say, I think it's a non-issue

Lonlysky, look at the Apannaka Sutta, MN 60 (A Safe Bet).

Lonlysky said...

Thank you very much MBenson! :-)

Dhammanando Bhikkhu said...

Shlomo, it's part of the commentarial methodology to classify the Buddha's teachings into those conducive to benefit in the present life (diṭṭhadhammikattha), in the future life (samparāyikattha), and the ultimate benefit (paramattha), i.e. Nibbāna. The earliest explicit source of this threefold scheme is the (presently untranslated) Niddesa of the Khuddaka Nikāya.

From Dhammapāla:
“The giving of the Dhamma is an unperverted discourse on the Dhamma given with an undefiled mind; that is, methodical instruction conducive to good in the present life, in the life to come, and to ultimate deliverance.”
(Commentary to the Cariyāpiṭaka, trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

paulmalone said...

For some years my father used do headstands (a yoga position, I suppose) for his meditation. For half an hour on end he would prop himself upside down, blocking the doorway between the living room and the rest of the house, turning bright red in the face, snorting and huffing. Later he admitted to achieving little more than accelerating his hair loss (it all ended up in the carpet). Since then he has learned to sit quietly and comfortably on a soft cushion.

Gui Do said...

Thanks for this! How often have I told esp. the Dogen zen fraction that it was quite the same at the beginning of zen (chan) in China - no ritualized sitting methods. That is why Bodhidharma is often shown with a bent back, and the Sixth Patriarch insisted on meditation as state of mind, not a certain posture, ideally to be upheld during one's daily doings.

Lonlysky said...

Thank you dear Bhante Dhammanando for your comment!