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Thread: Seiza Bench

  1. #1

    Seiza Bench

    I am in the process of buying a seiza bench from The Monastery Store. I am thinking of buying this one:

    But!.....before I plunk in my hard earned dinero, I wanted to know if folks had any experience with the Peace bench from the Carolina Morning Store. Here it is:

    Looks good for travel, but it seems a bit weak for usage in meditation.
    Anyone used it? Good? Bad?

    BTW...I am a bit tired after finishing our one-day seminar with AnShin Thomas and Wiebke KenShin from the Zaltho Foundation. Flor de Nopal Sangha helped organized this so we are very happy it went well.

  2. #2

    Re: Seiza Bench

    I would advise against a bench with rounded 'legs' until you try one first.

    Of course, if you already have, you can disregard my advice.

    I use a bench like the first one in your post, but without the rounded bottoms on the 'legs'.

  3. #3

    Re: Seiza Bench

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I would advise against a bench with rounded 'legs' until you try one first.

    Of course, if you already have, you can disregard my advice.

    I use a bench like the first one in your post, but without the rounded bottoms on the 'legs'.
    I don't have one and the ones I have tried are "flat" legs in the bottom. I'm assuming your advise reg. roung legs is the possibility of rocking back and forth? :?:

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Redding California USA

    Re: Seiza Bench

    I found instructions on how to make my own. It's not pretty but it works fine. Most of the time I just flip my zafu on it's side and use that. It's probably a zen faux-pas but it works for me.


  5. #5

    Re: Seiza Bench

    Quote Originally Posted by rculver
    Most of the time I just flip my zafu on it's side and use that. It's probably a zen faux-pas but it works for me.
    Actually, I don't remember the web site, I remember reading a zen web page where it recommended that if you wanted to do the kneeling position and needed more flip the zafu on its side. I sometimes do.

  6. #6

    Re: Seiza Bench

    I use the second bench that you mention (I believe it was the Carolina worded one). I like the flat feet and I really like the slope of the bench. It is very ergonomic and helps my bad back. I'm sure someone would say that posture is part of the practice. But, sometimes you can't beat physiology.

    I purchased one directly from a fellow on Ebay. I got the bench, seat pad, and carrying bag at a fair price. Mine has folding legs so that I can pack it in my suitcase.

    Jeff Legg

  7. #7

    Re: Seiza Bench

    I wouldn't buy the one with rounded feet either, you want to be stable not rocking.

    I made mine with one leg in the middle, like a big 'T' . It means that my legs aren't restricted to being between the two legs. with legs like mine it's a bit of a squash and uncomfortable on most I've tried.

    Mine is 22cm high at the front and 25cm high at the back and give what seems a good angle for my but/back, made from an off cut of 7 x 3/4 inch soft wood, cost about 1.50 2 screws and some glue, jobs a good 'un, even stenciled a lotus leaf on the top :lol:

    The collapsable one looks good though other thn the leg/knee restriction.

    _/_ Kev

  8. #8

    Re: Seiza Bench


    For new folks who have not read it before, here is Jundo's "official position" on "position". Sorry that it is a little long (remember, I exempted myself from the verbosity restrictions around here) ops:

    Posture is vital. But I think we have to keep a couple of things in mind about the history of the Lotus Position itself, its real benefits and purposes, monastery life, the Japanese tendency to fetishize the "correct" way (yarikata) to do things, and the Buddha's and Dogen's central philosophical perspectives on Practice.

    Yes, the Lotus Position has been the traditional yogic position for meditation for thousands of years, even before the time of the Buddha. And certainly the Buddha sat that way (as every statue of a sitting Buddha demonstrates). And certainly there are tremendous benefits to the posture in providing balance and stability conducive to 'dropping body and mind' and engaging in balanced, stable Zazen. In that posture, we literally can give no thought to the body. The comfort and balance of the body is directly connected, and conducive to, comfort and balance of mind.

    But I would hesitate to go much further in attributing any special power or physical effect to the position itself.

    First off, I believe the Buddha himself sat that way because, well, he needed to sit some way for hours on end -- and the "lotus position" was then the custom in India for how people sat on the ground and very good for marathon sitting. It is a good way to sit on a rock or under a tree, which is what folks did back then (in fact, he may have sat with his posterior flat on the ground, by the way, without a cushion or 'Zafu' ... which is very different from how we sit). As I said, it is very balanced and stable. But there is no evidence in the early Sutras and Shastras that he himself ever focused on the position itself as having some special power, always emphasizing the philosophical and psychological aspects of Buddhist philosophy far over the purely physical. Certainly, he did not encourage engaging in any other yoga positions as were common in India at the time (e.g., we do not stand on our heads as a normal part of practice), so I do not think he was a great proponent of the positional type of yoga itself.

    When Buddhism spread to China, Japan and other countries, I believe that people continued to follow the custom. However, even then there has been a tremendous degree of small variations in the details of the Lotus Posture, e.g., hand position, back angle and such.

    Now, when Zazen came to Dogen, well, it came to a fellow who also left us with detailed instructions about how to carry our towels in the washroom, clean our nose, bow, place incense, use a pillow while sleeping and wipe ourselves in the toilet. Dogen, like many Japanese of ancient and modern times, was something of a control freak who emphasized that there is "one right way" to do things (the aforementioned (yarikata). I have seen Japanese get the same way about the proper way to wear socks and enter an elevator. Here is that wonderful short film that makes fun of it (I know that you have seen it 100 times): ... i5CQ&hl=en

    and here is another[/video]] ... re=related

    Now, that is not a bad thing, mind you, for Zen Practice. Don't get me wrong. It is the same mentality exactly as in "Oryoki" meal taking in a Zen monastery by which the simple act of eating requires dozens and dozens of set gestures that must be mastered in the body memory. It is conducive to many aspects of Practice, including focused mindfulness. Sitting in a set way such as the Lotus Posture has the same benefits of allowing the action itself to be forgotten as it is mastered by the body memory.

    Also, of course, in a monastery ... like in army boot camp ... you don't want folks just running around and flopping down any which way they feel, eating and sleeping whenever they wish. Quite the contrary. Discipline is required, so naturally, is the demand that everyone march around the monastery and sit in exactly the same way.

    If you look at Shobogenzo and other writings by Dogen, he actually spends very little time explaining the details of how to sit. In Fukanzazengi, for example, he explains the barebones act of sitting on a pillow, crossing the legs and such ... but for sentence after sentence after sentence he is focused on the "cosmic significance" of Zazen and the mental game. It is much the same when he describes how to carry a towel in the bath, wear our robes, bow or go to the toilet. He describes the procedure, but then is much more focused on the philosophical view of the act.

    Bouncing a ball or changing a tire --is-- Zazen itself. Dogen was clear on that. Of course, you do not have monks changing tires or bouncing balls too much in daily monastery life, so Dogen did not talk about those. But he did talk about the equivalent for monastery life, namely, cooking food as the Tenzo, washing the floors, etc. Dogen was crystal clear that the Lotus Position is the whole universe, the whole universe and all the Buddhas and Ancestors are sitting in the Lotus Position when you and I so sit ... but he was also clear that EVERYTHING is the Lotus Position. It is clear that Dogen, too, loved the perfection of the Lotus Posture ... but there is very little talk, if any, in his writing about the power of the position itself (do not confuse statements about the philosophical power of the position with his asserting that some energy or effect arises from the position itself ... you will not find much of that).

    In my view, Dogen's real message ... and the real message of Zen practice ... is not that there is only "one way" to do something in this vast universe. It is that "one thing" should be done with our whole heart-mind as the "one and only act in that one moment" in this vast universe. That is what Dogen was saying.

    My teacher, Nishijima, considers the Lotus Position a pure action, one pure thing. He recommends everyone to sit in the Lotus Position if at all possible. I do too (too many westerners get lazy or scared and don't really try, or give it sufficient time). But these days, in Zazen, Westerners have begun sitting other ways such as in seiza or on chairs (I only recommend this if there is a physical limitation whereby one cannot sit in the Lotus Posture). I believe that body-mind can be dropped away in those positions too if done with balance and stability.

    An overly fetishized focus on the miracles of the Lotus Position itself is misplaced and misunderstands Dogen's intent.

    Anyway, that is my position (pun intended). I won't budge.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9
    Member roky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    silver city, new mexico, usa

    Re: Seiza Bench

    i was trying to sit in burmese style, since finding treeleaf, but had to stop when i noticed the limp i was developing(after several long retreats, i've gotten too good at watching pain, so i was sitting right through it) -- maybe after years of sitting my sloppy way, on my zafu, with mucho cushioning, its too late too change? -- considering all the damn joint problems i've encountered as i age

    i know the way i sit, with my legs crossed, knees not touching the floor, is not what you recommend, jundo -- but consider that i was able to sit for 2 months this way, for sits sometimes of 2 hours, without pain, without changing position -- basically, i can get into it, and then forget it -

    i really like the way the burmese feels, initially, but then my left knee starts to kill me, just in a half hour, and then the limp -- i was hoping i would "stretch" into it, and will still try

    one thing i know, i don't like sitting in a chair

    and to make my form even worse, i injured my elbow pulling up an anchor, can't sit with it in a "cocked" position -- that injury was 2 months ago -- the body definitely does not repair itself as quickly any more

    gassho, bob

  10. #10

    Re: Seiza Bench


    I recomend a seiza bench that has a "slightly sloping" seat, much more comfortable and gives a "better posture" than one that is not sloping.

    May the force be with you

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