Friday, October 30, 2009

Full lotus position

The lotus position sometimes called the full lotus pose is much favored by practising masters of yoga. We often see these masters sitting in this pose in Yoga and/or meditation documentaries on TV. In these documentaries, the Yogis would also demonstrate various stretching exercises for health purposes.

According to what is posted in the Wikipedia,
“The lotus position is a cross-legged sitting posture originating in meditative practices of ancient India, in which the feet are placed on opposing thighs. It is an established posture of the Hindu Yoga tradition. The position is said to resemble a lotus, to encourage breathing proper to associated meditative practice, and to foster physical stability.”

Over the past year or so, a number of Tao Bum members have weighed in with their thoughts on whether the full lotus position is a must for advanced meditation (those related to breath control and/or inner alchemy). Some quote their masters or other masters that the pose is requisite, while some masters in their own right say the lotus position is unnecessary. A Daoist member from Hong Kong recently informed that some Daoist masters in China have made the full lotus pose mandatory for their students.

The issue is difficult to resolve since each individual practitioner or cultivator of Tao has their own practices or beliefs. Then there is the other ‘clouded’ issue of whether they are in fact practising inner alchemy like the ancient and the Neo Daoists or are taught some new age ‘qigong’ meditation or exercises by their Daoist or Buddhist ‘masters’.

If you are practising inner alchemy, it would be appropriate to research into the ancient Chinese classics and/or Buddhist sutras. Did the holy sages in the Book of Changes; and Laozi and/or Buddha ever mention in their writings/ teachings that the full lotus position is mandatory for meditation? Did the Zhen Ren (realized persons) and the renowned Neo Daoists who became celestial immortals write down for posterity that it was the pose for meditation? For the esoteric - whether you are a master or a student - did your ancestor master(s) (Daoist celestial immortals) or Buddhas ever told you that the pose was mandatory for the practice?

If they did, then the full lotus position would be appropriate for your inner alchemy practice. Not otherwise. Unless you believe that your master, his master or grandmasters know more than the ancients and the divinities about inner alchemy.

For example, Zhang Boduan wrote in his Wuzhen Pian (Awakening to the Real) that “laboring the body through massage and gymnastics are not the way; refining the qi and swallowing morning clouds are madness.”

Yet some New Age Daoist masters listed on the web are known to teach such things and have the audacity to claim that their various massages, exercises, ‘Daoist’ yoga, and meditation methods lead to immortality. Compared to them, the yogis are more straightforward. The full lotus position and their related stretching exercises, they explained, can lead to a healthier life.

So there you go, it is up to you what or who you want to believe or follow. Not much point in arguing with those attached to forms or bypaths until ‘the cows come home’.

Those who have had attained good aptitude in inner alchemy, according to Lu Dongbin, would know by now which pose(s) to use for their meditation.


nathalie said...

Hello Allan

Interesting thoughts if you don't mind me saying this, on a very pragmatic and often thought over issue.
The teaching attitudes vary indeed a great deal, althought I personally was never confronted to such drastic positions as those you mention. I've been a longtime vajrayana practitioner and as such undertook some physical training - lotus positions in some practices was requested to be mastered and the reasons for this were made explicit to the meditant practitioners.

At some time in my life I have attended month reatreats in theravada tradition, although the lotus (wether half or full) was recommended, it was was never made a mandatory prerequisite. What was then said is that many people cannot genuinely train in this and making lotus position mandatory bars the road to practice to many people when other positions can be fruitful, and sitting erect would then be the only mandatory piece. To add to this both my mother and my mother in law started meditation well after they had reached their 70s birthday and both benefitted in many ways (spiritually, physically) from this. In their case, if fotus was requested they would never be able to take part in meditation retreats as they do.

My personal view at present time is that when you sit for long hours in a day, sitting in half or full lotus is easier than sitting on a chair. I have hurt my hips years ago and cannot return to half lotus so far, which I feel is a shame. I miss the stability of the posture.
It could also be reminded that some traditions will have more practice positions such as walking and lying.
My two cents worth.

Allan said...

Exactly, Nathalie; meditators must feel natural and comfortable during meditation.

Sitting on a chair is for simple meditation, and can be used for breath control and more advanced meditation. This easy pose is suitable for everyone - the young, old, infirmed, and for those who have to sit on wheel chairs.

As mentioned in the entry, those who have had reached the good aptitude levels of Daoist inner alchemy would know what pose(s) to use.

One has heard that some who have attained very high levels did not use the full or half lotus positions for their meditation. But that would be considered, ‘hearsay’!


nathalie said...

Hello Allan,

There is something that intrigues me and I wonder if you can help me clarify this.
I've noticed that in quite a few of posts, you use "one" and not "I" or "me" as could be expected in most cases. English not being my mother tongue, it sometimes struck me more than it might have if this had not been the case. Can you tell me why you'd rather use "one" instead of "I"?
I've similarly received posts from taoists practitioners that would do the same (or similar) and skip their names (not for anonymity reasons).


Allan said...

Using too many ‘I’s to discuss topics, share experiences, or give opinions in Yijing / Daoist forums can make one sound arrogant or egoistic to some members. When using ‘one’s too often, some native English speakers would say it is wrong usage.

Since you cannot please everyone, you just try to please yourself!