Bhikkhunis banned from sitting with crossed legs?

I’ve read before in number of sources (that I cannot find anymore) that the Vinaya says that Bhikkhunis should not sit with crossed legs. At most, they can sit with partially crossed legs. Does anyone have a reference to that part of the Vinaya?


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In Pali, it is at KD 20.27.2 in Horner’s translation:

Now at that time nuns were sitting down cross-legged, consenting to the touch of heels. They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “Monks, nuns should not sit down cross-legged. Whoever should (so) sit down, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”
Now at that time a certain nun was ill. There was no comfort for her if she was not cross-legged. They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “I allow, monks, the half cross-legged (posture) for nuns.”

In other vinayas, the story is different. For example the Mahasanghika pn1 in Hirakawa’s translation:


Thanks for the reference! I noticed Horner’s translation reads “cross-legged” while Hirakawa’s reads “full-lotus.” Is that a difference in the wordings in the different vinayas (Pali vs. Mahasanghika), or just a difference in the English translation?

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That must be some profound dhyāna, that she wouldn’t notice a snake slip between her legs.

He said, with a touch of disbelief!


Pali: pallaṅka
Sanskrit: svastika-paryaṅka
Chinese: 加趺坐

Seems likely that it is the same word originally (pallaṅka = paryaṅka).
I think the different translations are required by the context, not by the wording. If you “consent to the touch of heels”, you can’t sit in full lotus, because your heels cannot touch any relevant parts. But if a snake crawls around, the only way to access your vagina without having to go over your legs first is that you sit in full lotus. Then the snake can squeeze through small gaps between the ground and your legs.

But the content of the rules is obviously contradictory. In Pali, the cause for the laying down of the rule is that the heel is touching the vagina. In the Mg, the Buddha asks the nuns to sit like this.

It does seem that the purpose of the rule is quite unclear. In the Pali version, the rule which is laid down does not address the original problem. Even in half cross-legged position, you can still “consent to the touch of heels”. In the Mg, the origin story is a little far-fetched, so it’s unclear why the rule was laid down in the first place.


It’s possible that people thought that a heel touching the crotch was sexually arousing in women. I guess if both legs are crossed, you have to tuck them in tighter? I dunno…it was probably some (pre-Buddhist?) Indian cultural etiquette thing thats meaning became lost with time. Did women traditionally not sit cross legged in India?

Could there be some instance, in which this rule could actually be relevant? :grin:

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In Hindu yoga tradition one of the asanas, the ultimate yoga pose, Padmasana or Lotus Pose is for both male and female. Padmasana is a full cross-legged position.