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Thread: Which foot up and why?

  1. #1

    Which foot up and why?

    Hi,

    can anyone help to illuminate the differences between the g˘maza and kichij˘za postures in zazen. Physically I understand it is it is just the matter of which foot (or hand) is upper when sitting in half or full lotus but are there any more references on the different postures?

    I found one reference from Antaiji website http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/200807.shtml which is useful in discussing about energy flows yin and yang.

    Many thanks,

    Paul

  2. #2

    Re: Which foot up and why?

    Hi Paul,

    I saw the article yesterday by chance (it was mentioned elsewhere), and I read it. I also heard some other Zen teachers of many years experience commenting on it. Let me briefly quote from the article by the current abbot of Antaiji, Muho Noelke, for those who don't know ...

    In the "introduction to Zazen"... Sawaki Roshi [ states that] " ... . First you should know the difference between two ways of sitting: G˘maza, the "posture that subdues demons", and kichij˘za, the "auspicious posture". Even in old texts, there is quite some confusion about the two postures. In short, the right side represents the ascending, active (yang) aspect. The left side represents the descending, passive (yin) aspect. When the right foot rests on the left thigh, that represents the ascending activity that subdues the demons (g˘maza). When the left foot rests on the right thigh, that is a descending, passive activity which is auspicious (kichij˘za).
    You might think that this is only true for the half lotus. But that is not the case: In full lotus as well, if you first place your right foot on top of the left thigh, that is called g˘maza. G˘maza also means to place the right hand first on the left foot. When the right hand is covered next with the left hand, that settles down the mind. In kichij˘za on the other hand, the left foot is placed first on the right thigh (and then the right foot on the left thight) and the left hand is placed on top of the right foot, then the right hand on top of the left hand. That means that we speak of kichij˘za in the case of half lotus as Dogen Zenji describes it - left foot placed on right thigh - while we speak of g˘maza in the case of the full lotus (with right foot placed on left thigh first, then left foot placed on right thigh)."

    Although Sawaki Roshi tries to clear up the confusion with these words, I have doubts that he is successful. It seems strange that Dogen Zenji should recommend kichij˘za for half lotus and g˘maza for full lotus. Sawaki Roshi does not tell us why we should sit one way in half lotus and the other way in full lotus. It is interesting but even more confusing that Sawaki also speaks about the hands. In the case of the hands, we should have them in the g˘maza-posture regardless of half or full lotus - according to Dogen read in the way Sawaki does. I am afraid that Sawaki's way of reading Dogen though is not only confusing, but probably wrong altogether.
    Personally, I think the who thing is a bunch of hogwash, based upon bits of ancient Chinese medicine and ideas of Ki, Yin Yang, traditional "left side/right side" ideas and superstitions, and the prejudice of of "right" handed folks against the "sinister" left. It is a quaint idea, nothing more.

    Several respected older Western Zen teachers were discussing the article recently, and don't see the difference between left and right. I usually favor the right, as I am right handed. It feels strange for to place the hands, for example, with the left hand on the bottom. However, I do not see any magic property in sitting one way or the other. If something feels strange about one side or the other, it is the same strangeness of a left hander trying to play tennis with a right handed grip and visa versa.

    We once had another discussion on this, and Zazen for lefties ...

    viewtopic.php?p=984#p984

    Gassho (with both hands), Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Which foot up and why?

    Hi.

    We had an discussion about left/right hand on top awhile ago here.
    The consesus was more or less, lefties have left hand on top righties right, unless anyone told them otherwise (read different tradition/teacher asf).

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  4. #4

    Re: Which foot up and why?

    Hi,

    I just finished reading the other post. So, there doesn't seem to be any reason behind any particular way up. It feels different for me so I'll go with how I feel each sit and sometimes switch over half way through.

    cheers for the responses.

    Paul

  5. #5

    Re: Which foot up and why?

    Hi,

    I should have waited, the Antaiji site now has quite a good explanation of which leg (and hand) is up http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/200811.shtml.

    cheers,

    Paul

  6. #6

    Re: Which foot up and why?

    Quote Originally Posted by prg5001
    Hi,

    I should have waited, the Antaiji site now has quite a good explanation of which leg (and hand) is up http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/200811.shtml.

    cheers,

    Paul
    Hi Paul,

    I think he about sums it up here:

    The answer is of a historical and geographical nature. In India, the right hand is considered the "pure" hand. You eat with the right hand, while you wipe your arse with the left hand, which is "impure".
    As I said before, personally, I think the whole thing is a bunch of hogwash, based upon bits of ancient Chinese medicine and ideas of Ki, Yin Yang, traditional "left side/right side" ideas and superstitions, and the prejudice of of "right" handed folks against the "sinister" left. It is a quaint idea, nothing more. Do what feels right to you, switch back and forth. If one's body is feeling comfortable (and is not giving particular problems), one's sitting is fine.

    Some Japanese teachers and lineages can be a bit too focused on the sitting posture itself, as a fetish. As if the posture of the Lotus itself has some mystical power. Shikantaza has a wider meaning than that, that sweeps in all of reality. It is Shikantaza, even if one is sitting in a chair or standing on a train.

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7

    Re: Which foot up and why?

    It is of interest to note (ok, at least for me) that in other religions there are various reasons given to emphasize "right" over "left" and a whole slew of theology or religious text comes out of this. I still remember reading a muslim forum in which a muslim teacher went through a whole scholarly discussion on why a left-handed muslims should use their right hand to shake a hand.

  8. #8

    Re: Which foot up and why?

    ......and forgot to add. The article (http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/200811.shtml) finally answered a question I've had for a while.

    From what I've read, the cosmic mudra in Zen is done if "you're right-handed, your right hand is holding the left hand;" but I wondered why Chinese made statues were made vice-versa in regards to the hand posture. The articles states:
    "Chinese sculptors in most cases kept faithful to the Indian custom of having the right hand up in statues (this was explained by the fact that these were statues of buddhas who had transcended somehow from yin to yang), but there are a few exceptions with the left hand up, representing the Chinese thinking."
    D'oh! That answered it. :mrgreen:

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