Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
robbie77
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Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by robbie77 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:44 pm

Dear Dhamma friends

I am interested in becoming a monk in the Thai Forest Tradition in Thailand. I would like to know if monks there are required to sit in the Polite Posture or are they free to sit cross-legged? I heard in a recent talk by Ajahn Jayasaro that when he ordained, in the time of the late 1970s, he was required to sit in the Polite Posture. I am concerned about sitting like this and would much prefer to sit cross legged for meditation, as do some of the monks I have spoken to at Amaravati in the UK. Are there strict guidelines?

With metta

Robbie

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Dhammanando
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:59 pm

robbie77 wrote:I am interested in becoming a monk in the Thai Forest Tradition in Thailand. I would like to know if monks there are required to sit in the Polite Posture or are they free to sit cross-legged? I heard in a recent talk by Ajahn Jayasaro that when he ordained, in the time of the late 1970s, he was required to sit in the Polite Posture. I am concerned about sitting like this and would much prefer to sit cross legged for meditation, as do some of the monks I have spoken to at Amaravati in the UK.
The usual practice in Thailand is for monks to sit cross-legged in meditation, while eating and when sitting casually with one's peers.

The so-called polite posture is used when listening to a Dhamma talk or Pātimokkha recital, giving a blessing or chanting parittas, and waiting upon one's teacher or some other senior monk.
robbie77 wrote:Are there strict guidelines?
It varies. The typical pattern regarding the enforcement of what I've described above would be:

Ajahn Chah's wats in Thailand: very strict. If you can't conform, then you're not welcome.

Dhammayutt forest wats in Thailand and Ajahn Chah's wats in the West: some leeway given to monks with physical handicaps.

Thai town and village wats, Mahanikaya forest wats other than Ajahn Chah's: no insistence upon sitting in these ways (though it is preferred).

Coyote
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by Coyote » Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:02 pm

What is the polite posture?
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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waterchan
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by waterchan » Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:04 pm

What is the background historical context behind this so-called Polite Posture?

And does one get shunned if they don't listen to a Dhamma talk in the Polite Posture in Thailand?
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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waterchan
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by waterchan » Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:08 pm

Coyote wrote:What is the polite posture?
Look at the dude in the blue jeans sitting in near the middle. I'm sure a lot of the others are sitting in the polite posture as well, but his is the most obvious one in this photo.

Image
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:35 pm

waterchan wrote:Look at the dude in the blue jeans sitting in near the middle.
He has both legs folded back, which is how women do it. Thai males might sit this way in the presence of the king or (in the case of schoolboys) on Honouring Teachers Day. But in Thai temples, the polite posture for men usually looks like this:
nang phab-phiab.jpg
nang phab-phiab.jpg (80.93 KiB) Viewed 1801 times

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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by Coyote » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:51 pm

I see, thank you both. Looks pretty comfortable
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Dhammanando
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:52 pm

waterchan wrote:What is the background historical context behind this so-called Polite Posture?
I would guess that it's probably rooted in Thai notions about the feet being low and dirty and therefore to be kept out of sight when in the presence of those to whom respect is due.
And does one get shunned if they don't listen to a Dhamma talk in the Polite Posture in Thailand?
Very unlikely, unless you assumed a positively impolite posture, such as sitting with your legs stretched out in front and the soles of your feet pointing in the direction of the Buddha statue or the speaker.

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waterchan
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by waterchan » Sun Jun 07, 2015 10:01 pm

Coyote wrote:I see, thank you both. Looks pretty comfortable
Ugh, no it's not, even if you're just a bit chubby. When I go to Dhamma long talks I see most borderline overweight men transition to sitting cross-legged due to the discomfort.
Dhammanando wrote:
waterchan wrote:What is the background historical context behind this so-called Polite Posture?
I would guess that it's probably rooted in Thai notions about the feet being low and dirty and therefore to be kept out of sight when in the presence of those to whom respect is due.
Hmm, but surely sitting cross-legged better hides your feet than the polite posture which makes the soles of your feet clearly visible to the respectable people sitting behind you.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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Dhammanando
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Jun 07, 2015 10:07 pm

waterchan wrote:Hmm, but surely sitting cross-legged better hides your feet than the polite posture which makes the soles of your feet clearly visible to the respectable people sitting behind you.
The people sitting behind you don't count. It's keeping your feet out of sight of what's in front of you — the King, a Buddha statue, a Dhamma teacher, etc. — that makes the posture "polite".

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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by SarathW » Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:26 pm

Where do you find this "polite" posture in the Sutta?
I try to sit in all sorts of posture due to my physical discomfort.
Any person who make a judgment on posture of someone else is a very unkind person.
:shrug:
This sound like clinging to rights and rituals.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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waterchan
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by waterchan » Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:03 am

SarathW wrote:This sound like clinging to rights and rituals.
Well, much of traditional Buddhism is clinging to rights and rituals. The best we can do is try to discern the original Dhamma as accurately as possible.

There's a sutta where the Buddha says that real Dhamma should lead to dispassion, contentment and lack of burden. I find that sitting in the polite posture for any length of time leads me to anger, misery and burdensomeness, so it's not for me.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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mikenz66
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:44 am

SarathW wrote:Where do you find this "polite" posture in the Sutta?
It's a very old idea. In MN89, Monuments to the Dhamma, there is this passage (Bhikkhu Bodhi translation):
18. “Again, venerable sir, Isidatta and Purāṇa, my two inspectors, eat my food and use my carriages; I provide them with a livelihood and bring them fame. Yet despite this, they do not do such honour to me as they do to the Blessed One. Once when I had gone out leading an army and was testing these inspectors, Isidatta and Purāṇa, I happened to put up in very cramped quarters. Then these two inspectors, Isidatta and Purāṇa, after spending much of the night in talk on the Dhamma, lay down with their heads in the direction where they had heard that the Blessed One was staying and with their feet towards me. I thought: ‘It is wonderful, it is marvellous! These two inspectors, Isidatta and Purāṇa, eat my food and use my carriages; I provide them with a livelihood and bring them fame. Yet in spite of this, they are less respectful towards me than they are towards the Blessed One. Surely these good people perceive successive states of lofty distinction in the Blessed One’s Dispensation.’ This too, venerable sir, is why I infer according to Dhamma about the Blessed One: ‘The Blessed One is fully enlightened, the Dhamma is well proclaimed by the Blessed One, the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is practising the good way.’
:anjali:
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by SarathW » Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:50 am

Thanks mike.
I think we should not take this passage literally.
What it means to me is Dhamma is higher than anything else. (Kings etc.)
It does not mean to say I am going to break the generally accepted behaviour.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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mikenz66
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:00 am

I'm not sure what you mean by "literally". That, other sutta passages, and various non-Buddhist sources, indicates that the convention of the politeness of not pointing feet goes back to ancient times.

Whether one thinks that it is important is another issue. However, if one is in a space where certain behaviour is expected, such as taking off shoes, I think it is best to respect the local conventions.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by SarathW » Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:46 am

This pointing feet is sounds to me like the Muslims Praying towards Mecca.
However I agree that we should adhere to conventions.
I think these conventions are Sankhara.
:thinking:
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by pilgrim » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:21 am

As an Asian, I could advise that this matter of not pointing feet at someone (esp if he is seated facing you) is to be taken seriously. It s not a rite but a cultural taboo. It transcends Buddhist cultures and is equally practised in Muslim, Christian and even secular communities. A westerner traveling in Asia should bear this is mind and never put his feet up on a table. To try to understand this taboo, imagine someone in your midst farting or clearing his throat and spitting on the floor.

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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by waterchan » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:34 am

pilgrim wrote:As an Asian, I could advise that this matter of not pointing feet at someone (esp if he is seated facing you) is to be taken seriously. It s not a rite but a cultural taboo.
To clarify, it's much less of a taboo if the person you point your feet at is clearly younger than you.
pilgrim wrote:It transcends Buddhist cultures and is equally practised in Muslim, Christian and even secular communities.
Consciously refraining from pointing feet at others is equally practiced in secular communities as it is in Buddhist communities? Highly unlikely.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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Dhammanando
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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:49 am

SarathW wrote:Where do you find this "polite" posture in the Sutta?
Mike gave an example from the Suttas. Here's another from the Vinaya's background story to the rule on intoxicants:
Then the venerable Sagata, having drunk the spirituous liquor, white spirits, in house after house, as he was departing from the town fell down at the town-gate. Then the lord, departing from the town with a great company of monks, saw the venerable Sāgata fallen down at the town-gate; seeing him, he addressed the monks, saying:

“Monks, take up Sāgata.”

“Yes, lord,” and these monks having answered the lord, having led the venerable Sāgata to the monastery, made him lie down with his head towards the lord. Then the venerable Sāgata, having turned round, went to sleep with his feet towards the lord. Then the lord addressed the monks, saying:

“Monks, formerly was not Sāgata respectful, deferential towards the Tathāgata?”

“Yes, lord.”

“But monks, is Sāgata respectful, deferential towards the Tathāgata now?”

“No, lord.”

(tr. I.B. Horner, Book of the Discipline)

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Re: Which posture should ordained monks sit in?

Post by SarathW » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:57 am

According to the Body Language interpretation of Westerners the pointing your foot at someone means that you are interested about that person.
Please read Body Language by Alan Peace.
So what I am trying to say is these rituals to be not taken too seriously.
If someone point his feet towards me I should remind myself "Anicca, Dukkaha, Anatta"
:shrug:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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