Meditation Posture
The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Excerpted from the transcript of "Tranquility And Insight Meditation" (Texas 1992)
Part 3 of 5 | 1, 2, 3 , 4, 5

The Seven Dharmas of Vairochana

The next step is to train in the correct physical posture for meditation. The most common name for this is "The Seven Dharmas of Vairochana," which simply is a name for the sevenfold (seven points of) physical posture.  Sometimes it is enumerated as eight or other numbers, but it is the same posture in any case; it can just be divided in different ways.  The reason for emphasis on posture is that the position of one's body has a very direct and powerful effect on the state of one's mind.  It is said that if the body is straight or erect, the channels are straight; and if the channels are straight, then the mind is upright.  What this means is that assuming a correct and upright posture causes one's mind naturally to come to rest in a state of tranquillity or peace. 

With regard to the posture, the first thing that one has to prepare is a comfortable seat.  The seat should consist of a mat (or a cushion of some kind) that is soft enough.  One needs in addition a small cushion to go under one's backside.  The actual size of these two cushions, the materials and so forth, and the design is not definite.  The deciding factor is what is comfortable for your particular body; in any case, it is of extreme importance. 

1. Following that is the actual delineation of the eight point posture (otherwise known as the seven point posture, and so forth, but in this case we will be dividing it into eight).  The first thing discussed is the position of the legs.  Preferred are either one of two postures.  The more stringent is the vajra posture, often referred to as the lotus posture in the west, where the feet are placed on the opposite thigh.  If that is uncomfortable, then an alternate posture is sitting with one foot just in front of the other, in what is called a semi-posture, or sometimes referred to as a bodhisattva's posture.  It is like Tara; the vajra posture is lake Vajradhara, or like the Buddha.  So the first point is the legs. 

2. The second point in this description is the gaze or the eyes.  The eyes are neither made to gape open, nor are they closed.  Their lids are half-lowered, and the gaze is slightly downward in the direction of the tip of one's nose.  The reason for this is that if one's eyes are gaping wide open, and one is looking outward, then one's mind will tend to follow visual perception.  On the other hand, if one's eyes are closed, one tends to become torpid.  This is a happy medium between the two extremes of gaze. 

3. The third point is the back or spine.  It is straight, and one sits upright. 

4. The fourth point is that the shoulders are even and relaxed.  This means that one is not sitting with one shoulder higher than the other, but that they are at the same height. 

5. The fifth point is that the throat is slightly hooked or bent, which actually straightens it out in the back.  Not to an excessive degree, but the chin is brought in slightly. 

6. The sixth point is that there is a slight space between one's lips, and between one's upper and lower sets of teeth--enough that, if one had to, one could breath through the mouth.  The mouth is not clamped shut. 

7. The seventh point is that the tongue is touching the palate.  This refers not to the entire tongue, but the tip or front of the tongue.

8. The eighth and final point is that the breathing is even and relaxed.  There is no exertion or exertive control of the breathing.

You will notice that in this description there is no mention made of what to do with the hands.  There are a few alternatives.  There is what is called the "gesture of meditation," where one hand is placed palm upright in the other one, which is also palm upright.  Then an alternative is the hands being placed palm downward on the thighs, just behind the knees.  There is also the posture which is called that "of a vulture's wings."  It is recommended in cases where it is comfortable or possible, where the elbows are straightened completely with the hands in vajra fists (this consists of bringing the thumb inward) and placed at the root of the thighs.  It is difficult, and it really wakes you up!

Part 3 of 5 | 1, 2, 3, 4 , 5 | Talk Index

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