I am wondering if the Pali Canon contains any advice on sitting posture for meditation. Does it give any advice on the physical aspects of meditation, or how to prepare to assume such a posture? Is there a “Thevada” or “EBT” posture for sitting or walking meditation? If not, why were these practical details not included?
Of course, the theory of mind associated with meditation is described in detail.
I’m not aware of much detail in the EBTs, the instruction seems quite basic, eg as here in MN10: “It’s when a mendicant—gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut—sits down cross-legged, with their body straight, and focuses their mindfulness right there.”
The possible meditation postures are described as walking, standing, sitting or lying down. The focus is on the body, but from the perspective of mindfulness. For example MN 119 describes in detail how the six exercises concerned with the body under the first foundation of mindfulness are to be carried out.
Thanks, everyone. I’m asking for two reasons: 1) I’ll be working on strengthening my body so that I can do meditation in a lotus position (or at least in a position that doesn’t require a chair). Was hoping I could get some pointers from the source. 2) I recently visited a lovely zen center where they had very specific instructions on physical posture for sitting and walking meditation. They asked me about Theravada. I know that there are many meditation masters in my tradition, I said. And I know certain temples would give specific guidance on this topic. But I’m not aware of any standardized information on this aspect of practice.
Use postures which foster mindfulness. Pain and drowsiness hinder mindfulness. Zabutons are quite comfy in combination with the square cloth mats. The height chosen will depend on hip flexibility.
The above advice is fairly general and non-secular. From this beginning, questions do come up about “which foot on top?” or “how should the hands be arranged together?” Again, generally this won’t matter. However, what you will find is that certain postures impose certain stresses on the body. For example, meditating with hands on knees palms up is somewhat more effort than meditating with hands folded in lap. The EBTs are not so prescriptive even though schools of meditation often favor certain mudras (hand positions). Meditating mindfully brings about a certain sensitivity to body posture. You actually may find it interesting to explore different posture variations yourself before studying mudras. In this way, your study would be deeper since it would be informed by personal practice and experience.
There is a very good reason for that, it is not the emphasis of Theravada practice. As I’ve already pointed out, the focus is on mindfulness not meditation. A practitioner who doesn’t grasp that may spend years on the wrong foot.
I recently heard Ajahn Brahmali saying in one of his Dhamma talks that posture is not important but what is important is that you should not torture yourself by trying to sit cross legged etc. The reason is simple in that if you sit in an uncomfortable position you cannot practice meditation because of the pain. It might even drive you away from practicing meditation. According to the venerable, the Buddha spoke about sitting with legs crossed because that was the practice at that time in India. Therefore, as long as the posture is comfortable and you can carry out your meditation effectively any position is advisable.
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effectively any position is advisable.
It depends. I do not think a person can be in Nirodha Samaptri in any posture for seven days.
Agree that a new meditator may use any position. If you want to be a serious meditator you have to take some effort to be sit in cross legged.
I am trying meditation now for about five years.
I have so much pain that I never reached first Jhana. But now I am more confident I will get there one day.
In my opinion posture is very important.
I don’t understand the fixation on sitting cross-legged, particularly when it is causing pain and hindering progress. Isn’t some of this just cultural baggage, dating from a time when they didn’t have comfy chairs?
Yes, but I’m not supposed to talk about jhana in public. The point is that over the last 40 years ive moved from cross-legged to a stool, and then to a chair, it hasn’t made any significant difference to meditation quality. IMO being in a physically comfortable posture is quite important. There is no need to do yogic contortions and suffer in silence, its pointless and counterproductive. So there!
I have similar personal experiences. I have been meditating for over seven years and recently moved from a cross legged position to a chair. And I am happy to say that my practice has tremendously improved.
If I may add, the success of meditation depends more on understanding the core teaching which simultaneously strengthens one’s resolve to practice the path rather than the posture of meditation itself.