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Thread: Sieza or lotus?

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Sieza or lotus?

    Hello all

    I have a question.

    I have been an aikido practitioner for almost 10 years and a Buddhist for almost 15 years, but totally new to zen and Treeleaf.

    I've seen on the videos and zen pictures that almost always we meditate on full lotus, but I am pretty used to meditate on seiza using a bench because of aikido and my old Buddhist centre in Mexico City.

    So the question is, which posture is better? To me both are pretty comfortable, so which one should I use?

    Thanks!

    gassho,

    Choco

  2. #2
    disastermouse
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    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    Quote Originally Posted by chocobuda
    Hello all

    I have a question.

    I have been an aikido practitioner for almost 10 years and a Buddhist for almost 15 years, but totally new to zen and Treeleaf.

    I've seen on the videos and zen pictures that almost always we meditate on full lotus, but I am pretty used to meditate on seiza using a bench because of aikido and my old Buddhist centre in Mexico City.

    So the question is, which posture is better? To me both are pretty comfortable, so which one should I use?

    Thanks!

    gassho,

    Choco
    I've used both seiza on a bench and half-lotus with a prop under one knee. I now sit only in half-lotus - and it's a more 'stable' position. I can sit for a longer time on the bench, though.

    Chet

  3. #3

    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    I'm a 20 year aikido veteran, so I sympathize with your comfort in seiza; that said, I think lotus, half-lotus, or Burmese are more stable. They also put your spine at a slightly different angle. Of course, some people sit in a chair to do Zazen, or lie in a hospital bed--so I'd say you should do what you can. But, if it is just a matter of seiza being slightly more comfortable, then I'd say keep working at it. No need to get to full lotus, but eventually the knees will find the floor and you'll feel like the tip of an iceberg (and by that I don't mean cold and wet.)

  4. #4

    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    Yes, I like Seiza too, from Ju-jutsu, Judo and a little Karate practice.
    But from my limited experience and reading the advice of experienced sitters, I'd say for meditation a cross-legged position is preferable, if you don't have any knee injuries or back problems making them impossible. A stable position means a stable mind. If you can let go of your body and trust in your position, you can more easily let go of your mind. So I'd say go for Burmese or half-lotus and start stretching for the full lotus, since it's more stable than all the other positions. If full lotus is impossible, no big deal, just sit Burmese or half-lotus. The stretching will still be useful in preventing back problems, knee problems and making the other positions more comfortable.

    Gassho,
    /Pontus

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    I sat half-lotus for a while but hurt my knee and have used a seiza bench for the last few years. I never really could settle very well when I did half lotus. It just wasn't very comfortable for me. I find the bench rock-solid and comfortable. If you do a search, there are several threads on the subject. The general consensus seems to be, whatever position works best for you and that you can maintain for a period of time. But don't give up too soon if you're trying something new .

    Ron

  6. #6

    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    Hi Choco,
    Welcome to Treeleaf! Taigu recently did a series of teachings on zazen and they were very helpful to my own practice. I looked for them so I could provide the links but couldn't find them fou you. Perhaps a short note to Taigu could help locating them. Gassho, Zak

  7. #7

    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    I think you mean the talks for beginners?
    viewforum.php?f=20

    /Pontus

  8. #8

    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    Thanks Pontus. That series of sit-a longs by Jundo and Taigu is what I was talking about. Gassho, Zak

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    I honestly prefer seiza without a zafu or bench. Im used to sitting long periods of time in seiza during the Tea Ceremony. The posture feels best and gives a nice place(the lap) for cradling the Mudra. The only problem i had when first learning at Green Gulch was that in the zendo it isn't an option. Every spot is set up with a Zafu/Zabuton combo. Now i just leave seiza for tea and sit half lotus for zazen. During our weekly Zazenkai i switch leg postion between the first sitting and the 2nd.

    Gassho,
    John

  10. #10

    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    I sit half lotus or seiza with a bench, depending how my back feels on any given day.

  11. #11

    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    Hi,

    We've had several threads on posture (including Seiza), and some talks in the "We're All Beginners" Series ...

    viewforum.php?f=20

    Here are some of those threads, and they touch on various aspects of posture ...

    viewtopic.php?p=46793#p46793

    viewtopic.php?p=41977#p41977

    viewtopic.php?p=34437#p34437

    viewtopic.php?p=32374#p32374

    viewtopic.php?p=21506#p21506

    The basic rule of thumb is that the posture, whichever it is, should be balanced and comfortable enough to sit for longer periods of time while "letting the body drift from mind." That means, for example, that the neck, back or knees etc. are not parts of the body we are "thinking about and focusing on" until they may start to hurt (or I just mention them) and suddenly our attention is there. Otherwise, we go through most of life not giving them any notice. Also, a balanced posture facilitates a balanced mind (mind and body are not two in our Practice). In other words, find a balanced, stable posture where the body is comfortable, then ... FOGETA 'BOUT IT!

    In addition to Taigu's fine talks in the "Beginner's Series" ... here is a book that is highly recommended, and very much in keeping with Taigu's position on "positions". 8) It applies to Seiza too, any of the postures ...

    "THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION" (by Will Johnson)

    viewtopic.php?p=30208#p30208

    By the way, I once wrote this on a certain overemphasis on Lotus Posture in Japanese Zen ...

    Japanese culture can be a bit rigid and incessant on the one "right" way to do any action, be it to pour a cup of tea (this is a cultural aspect of the traditional arts) or crossing the street, and about pushing oneself to conform to that 'One Way or the Highway' ... called a 'Kata' (if anyone has martial arts experience). Such teachers may tend to emphasize that the one and only way to sit Zazen is in the "Lotus Position". Here is a little description of "Kata" (I cannot verify the source of the following, but I can verify the conclusion from 20 years living in Japan):

    .... an immovable set of rules that govern what is and what is not accepted as acceptable behavior or thinking in japan ... In reality, there are many “Ways” to do most things in Japan, although each group will have a tendency to claim that its pattern is “the Way.” As a medical researcher who has participated in procedures and experiments at many dozens of Japanese hospitals, universities and the like, I know that no two groups ever will follow exactly the same patterns. Each, however, will have a tendency to explain that its way is “the Way,” usually because the most senior person in the group will have come to that conclusion after having learned it to be the thinking of some other person ... that the senior person respects. (Also, one must be very careful in suggesting that a competing group might have a better way which contradicts the opinion of a senior member of group). Every group in every culture does this, but what is unusual in Japan is the inflexible, almost mechanical way the system operates. The emphasis on proper “Kata” (Boye de Menthe has a wonderful, hard to find little book on this) in Japanese society is reminiscent of any conservative, tradition based culture, though unique in the way is has developed to permit a functioning, industrial society.
    On the other hand, as with Oryoki eating (a wonderful example of "Kata"), there is a beauty in the fixed form that one literally can lose ones' 'self' in. So, "Kata" is also a very very good thing, don't misunderstand me on that point. Conforming to "classic" form has very many beneficial aspects. I am a big big fan of Oryoki and other Kata practices, and I teach them. In fact, Dogen seems to have only talked about the Lotus Position (no seiza benches for him in the 13th century), and my own teacher, Nishijima says that folks should sit in the Lotus Position (and he is not too open to alternatives ... he rightly says that some folks reject the Lotus position and such before really giving it a try). Uchiyama Roshi has said some things in his book that place him more or less in that category.

    But when this is carried too far, the "Lotus Position" itself can come to be thought of as having some "magic power", or fetishized as working some miraculous psycho-physiological effect on the body to lead to "Satori". But that is not the meaning, I believe, of "sitting in the Lotus Position is enlightenment itself".

    It is, rather, "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment'. The Lotus Position itself is not the point. It is "doing one pure act in one moment". (Although, truly, the Lotus Position does have many advantages in allowing us to forget the body, and balance the body, leading to balance in mind ... chair sitting, for example, is just not as good in that way)

    Well, in the fat thighed, bad back West, many folks just cannot manage the Lotus Position. So, the emphasis has changed slightly: As opposed to "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment' ... it has changed to 'sitting as a pure act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment'. In other words, "sitting in a chair is enlightenment itself' is true too if approached with that attitude. Do "chair sitting" as a Kata!

    By the way, while Dogen and others emphasized that sitting Zazen is "enlightenment itself", they also taught that everything is "Zazen" if approached that way. Dogen sometimes said that Zazen is only sitting (not walking, running, standing or lying down), but he also said that Zazen is walking, running, standing or lying down (that guy knew how to talk out of both sides of his mouth!) So, I teach that perspective too here at Treeleaf.

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Sieza or lotus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    In other words, find a balanced, stable posture where the body is comfortable, then ... FOGETA 'BOUT IT!
    Thanks for the reply, Jundo.

    For a moment I thought full lotus was required, but if that's not the case, I will stick to seiza and will combine it with half lotus until I develop more elasticity.

    And now to read and practice!

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