Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sitting posture of Buddha

Various people have advanced their own theories or those from the books in the internet on the correct posture for sitting meditation. I have read a number written in the net but few seemed to have hit the mark. Just because a million people have used the ‘lotus’ position before does not mean it is the right one for us. It really depends on what a meditator wants to achieve from the meditation and whether he or she can withstand the pain in contorting both legs. Do we really have to contort part of our bodies and limbs for the sake of meditation and thereafter suffer the consequences?

One has earlier recommended a simple sitting meditation posture suitable for the learner, the elderly, and for those who have to sit on wheel chairs. It is time to discuss a sitting posture for the more advanced student since a good sitting position recommended by a past Chan master (with some fine tuning required) has been taken down from the web.

It is important to know and understand that the Buddha is a great meditator and one who has actually reached enlightenment - Nirvana. It is not just talk. Therefore his posture for the sitting meditation must be correct.

Perhaps Chan/Zen Buddhist and/or Daoist masters down the ages may have thought that they know more than the Buddha on meditation and therefore introduced various variations to his simple sitting posture. The accompanying explanations that often go with the various postures depicted in the web, frankly looked like idiosyncratic legacies left behind by unenlightened masters. Zhuangzi may have occasion to add, ‘they chose to sit like this’, ‘they chose to sit like that’ that they simply forgot about the purpose of meditation and the natural state. A later Daoist may joke that ‘they sat until round’ (Chinese pun intended).

On a more serious note, if we want to practice neidan, the sitting position must first be simple and correct. We do not want to be distracted by thoughts and pains during the meditation, unless you prefer to suffer. I verily doubt the Buddha wants his disciples and others to suffer.

The sitting posture of a neidan practitioner is similar to the ‘horse riding’ stance of a martial arts exponent. When the posture is correct, it allows the Qi and light to circulate, with the body firmly planted to earth. How the legs are crossed and where to place the hands are also important – the earnest practitioner may understand why as he or she progresses in the practice.

Since Buddha is a great meditator according to Daoist immortal, Lu Dongbin, we cannot go far wrong to follow his sitting posture. If we ever walked into any Buddhist temple, we will see an image of Buddha in a sitting meditation in the main hall:

He will be sitting up straight on a terrace.*

His legs will be crossed – his right foot rests on his left thigh - his left leg is tucked below the right leg and thigh. The soles of his feet face (or slightly face) upwards. **

His opened right hand with palm facing upwards rests on (or is supported by) his opened left palm. ***

His hands are placed below the Dantien, with his wrists resting on the thighs.

His eyes will be slightly opened as if he is looking at the tip of his nose. *

His mouth is closed. The tip of his tongue would be touching the palate of his mouth. *

That would be the correct and simple sitting posture for a male neidan practitioner. (If your right leg hurts using this posture, it still works if you tuck the right foot below the left thigh. The soles of both feet must still face or slightly face upwards.) If what has been described above is unclear, double check my descriptions with an image of the Buddha in a sitting position.

What is difficult to understand is why many meditators chose much more difficult sitting postures when the image of this Great Master in a sitting meditation is easily available to the world. Unless you enjoy excruciating pain from using other recommended postures and/or think that such suffering is required in the quest for perfection, one recommends that neidan students follow Buddha’s simple posture for the sitting meditation. It works.

Now that you have a correct sitting posture for your meditation, the rest is up to you. If you happen to meet Buddha in the street, ‘follow him, not kill him!’

Just like what the Yi and the ancients recommended, if we really want to emulate heaven and earth, we have to make things easy and simple for everyone. That will surely include us?



* Refer to ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’.

** The female meditator being yin has to put her left foot on her right thigh and her right leg is tucked below the left leg and thigh. (That is the exact opposite of what her male counterpart would do.)

*** For the same reason, she has to rest her opened left hand with palm facing upwards on top of her opened right palm. (Also the opposite of what his male counterpart does.)

One has double checked this with a female Buddhist spiritual master, but if in doubt it would be advisable to clarify these two matters with a female neidan master.

No comments: