EBT sources about sitting cross-legged in meditation?

A recent topic about sitting in Burmese position made me think about exactly why meditation in full-lotus or half-lotus postures is practiced in Buddhism. I’ve heard many popular explanations for these practices, ranging from simple physical stability, to all sorts of physical or esoteric explanations related to subtle channels, etc. But what do the EBT’s actually say about this?

The main place in the SA / SN where I have seen materials related to meditation cross-legged, is the Anapana Samyutta. In this section, it is included in instructions for the meditator to go off into the wilderness or to some other empty place (e.g. SN 54.1). Aside from the Anapana Samyutta, it also appears commonly in the Iddhipada Samyutta in the context of the meditator flying into the air cross-legged (e.g. SN 51.11).

Does anyone have clear sources in the EBT’s that give a direct explanation for this practice? And if not, what are the best early or contemporaneous materials from Indian religious traditions that do clearly indicate its purpose?

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This thread may be of use :slightly_smiling_face::pray:t2::sunflower:


Thanks, this thread has some examples of where sitting cross-legged appears in the EBT’s, but I’m not seeing anything that clearly explains why these sitting positions were used.

We see that Kapphina is used as an example of someone sitting cross-legged and upright, without moving his body (SN 54.7). That may be a useful clue, at least. In those early accounts of non-Buddhist forest ascetics, they aimed for total physical stillness and motionlessness.

In Bronkhorst’s Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India, he has a few examples of Buddhist texts that were influenced from outside ascetic traditions. One is something in the Ekottarika Agama, in which the Buddha declares that he is able to sit cross-legged from seven days and nights without stirring his body. The other is in the Udana, in which a monk is sitting cross-legged without movement, bearing terrible pains that are the result of past deeds. These seem like common practices of pre-Buddhist sramanas.

But as for whether Buddhist cross-legged sitting is so directly related to pre-Buddhist ascetic practices of motionlessness and enduring physical pain, it’s hard to say without more evidence.