Recently, I found a very interesting meditation student in Korea. In fact, I have not met him in person yet, but he is one of the hardest working students I have. He is in his 20s and is currently working in the public health industry. Just like many others, he had a similar question regarding the full lotus practice. He asked which leg goes first in his sitting posture, and he was wondering how deeply he should put his feet in the lotus posture.
It is very common that people switch the legs when the legs start to feel uncomfortable in the full lotus posture. In fact, the proper way to sit is to put your left foot on the right thigh first and then put the right foot over the left thigh. If you sit long enough in full lotus, your Qi will flow very well naturally. In other words, your Qi doesn’t have to flow in the opposite direction. Although you are sitting in one direction (your leg order), your posture will naturally adjust itself, your hip will become more symmetrical and balanced, and your back will straighten itself. Mr. Choi was sitting for only 20 minutes at a time in the full lotus posture when I first started to talk to him. I advised him to sit longer instead of dividing into shorter times.
Most people will have difficulty sitting longer than one hour to break through the pain barrier. In order to break through the first pain barrier, you have to endure intense pain and discomfort. For this reason, I started to contact Mr. Choi once in a while to check on how he was doing. I thought I could help him even better if I understood his background. I also wanted to check on his sitting posture so I asked for some photos from him. When he first sent his photo to me, I was really shocked because it showed him sitting in the full lotus in a hospital room, and one of his legs had an orthopedic cast.
He sent this photo without explaining anything to me. Instantly I was surprised and thought, “I am pretty sure that I never wrote or said that people should practice full lotus posture with an injury. What is happening? I hope that I didn’t make a mistake telling people to do so!” I asked him what happened.
In fact, Mr. Choi has a strong affinity with Buddhism. He was a troublemaker when he was in middle school and disobeyed the grown-ups. Even though he was causing trouble, he himself didn’t like it either. His mother asked him to go and see a Buddhist monk at a temple. Afterward he started meeting more monks and continued to be interested in Buddhism. Because of the Sunims (monks), he turned his life around and started to study harder.
He learned to practice recitation, mantras, bowing and copying sutras from the Sunims (monks) when he was in middle school. He also learned that it’s good to recite Buddha’s name whenever and wherever, so he started to recite sitting, lying down, and while he was doing something else as well. However, when he tried to recite Buddha’s name, he faced difficulties. He couldn’t concentrate. He often fell asleep or had false thinking. In fact, he often stopped doing Buddha’s name recitation when the situation got better. So he started to look into sitting meditation. At first, he tried to kneel and recite. Around that time, he read something about full lotus and got interested.
Two years ago, he searched the full lotus posture photos and sat in the posture. He was able to sit for 30 minutes. The posture was too hard so he couldn’t really recite the Buddha’s name, but he had a sensation as if electricity was going through his body. He sweated a lot, but his mind calmed down. He had a great experience but couldn't sustain this sitting practice. He had too many questions, “Do I put my left foot first or do I put my right foot first?” or “Do I continue to sit like this even though it’s so uncomfortable? I am not sure.” Because of the doubts, eventually he looked for easier ways to cultivate and ended up quitting the full lotus practice.
Last year, Mr. Choi accidentally happened to read my article about the full lotus sitting practice. Although he was already doing Buddha’s name recitation, mantras, copying sutras and bowing, he did not know that sitting meditation was just another form of practice. He posted a question on Naver Cafe about which leg goes first when sitting. He continued to practice kneeling down. One day he made a wrong step and fell. As a result, he had a leg injury. He experienced spinal anesthesia, and the lower half of his body was numb. He pinched his legs but didn’t feel anything. He wanted to move, but the lower body didn’t move. This gave him a strange feeling. He was lying down in his hospital bed after the surgery and silently reciting the Buddha’s name. He remembered what a Sunim had told him in the past: “Who are you? If there were no legs, then who are you? If there were no arms, then who are you? Contemplate on this.” This thought made him decide to restart the full lotus posture.
Strangely, the more he sat in full lotus, the more the leg pain from the surgery diminished. The doctors told him that his recovery was very fast, and the surgery and recovery both were very smooth. At the same time, I started to contact him and encouraged him to sit longer and explained the benefits of sitting in full lotus. He started to practice in this posture longer and longer, and he also felt calmer and more peaceful. Hospital life was not comfortable, but it didn’t make him unhappy.
After sitting in full lotus regularly, his life underwent many changes. He suddenly understood some of the Dharma talk that he couldn’t understand before. Without realizing it, he was giving help to others. He was able to listen to other people’s problems much better. In the past, his own problems and emotions were more important than anything. Since these problems and emotions were going away, he was able to see his surroundings better than before.
There was a bigger change too. In his mind, the distance between being pleasant and unpleasant had become much smaller. In the past, he had to get what he liked, and he didn’t even glance at something he didn’t like. Now he didn’t notice the difference between liking or disliking very much. His mind wasn’t as affected by external factors. He always liked to be around people. He still liked to spend time with his friends, but all the fun activities didn’t resolve his fundamental problems. He saw how his mind always fluctuated inside while he was having a good time with others. He strongly believed that this could be resolved only through cultivation. He learned that he would be able to be a good influence by having a purer mind through cultivation.
When he first started to sit in full lotus, he sat for 30 minutes whenever he could find time. He saw the changes in himself; therefore, he didn’t stop and continued to cultivate. For the first few months, it was extremely hard to sit longer than 40 minutes in this posture. I constantly reminded him that he would be able to do it, and sitting longer would be much more beneficial. Now he puts much effort into sitting for one hour or longer every morning before going to work and before bed. Sometimes it hurts too much, and sometimes it makes him smile. Sometimes it makes him feel grateful. Although he wants to go and play and can’t complete the whole hour some days, he is very happy that he doesn't skip a day. If he had a desire to skip a day, strangely I would call or text to check on him, “How is your cultivation going? Are you doing okay?” Then he couldn’t skip the sitting practice!
His desire for food and sleep has been reduced since he practices Chan regularly. He can also see how his anger level has significantly decreased. He still feels that it’s difficult to get up early in the morning, but he knows that it’s much better to get up early and sleep less for sitting meditation. If so, then the rest of his day is much more peaceful and energized. The cultivation has given him strength to concentrate on his work much better. He can maintain his mind as more relaxed even when he is very busy.
The biggest change of all is that he is now very clear and certain why he needs to continue to cultivate. After he cultivated more regularly, he was able to see his suffering more than he had before and how deep the root of the suffering was. Therefore, whatever happens, he has become disciplined to cultivate daily.
He is very happy to be able to cultivate Buddhadharma this way and practice Chan meditation. Recently, people are becoming less and less interested in religions, including Buddhism. The Buddhist followers are drastically aging in Korea. Therefore, I hope that more and more young people experience life changes through Chan meditation and restore their mental and physical balance and stability like Mr. Choi has. If so, there is good potential that they will naturally be interested in Buddhadharma, and Buddhism will be revitalized.
Written by Venerable XianAn
Please consult your physician before doing the full lotus sitting if you have any injury, illness or health conditions.
수행자의일기: 이선미 Cultivator’s Diary: Seon-Mi Lee
11월30일달마톡을듣고 November 30, 2019. After listening to Master’s Dharma talk:
It was the last Dharma talk of the FoQi Buddha’s name recitation retreat. When Master said, “Please share your FoQi experience,” many people shared their gratitude. Someone said that it was just a lot of suffering, but there was one Korean cultivator who said that she received homework from Master back in April to sit for 3 1/2 hours. She came to FoQi so she could ask about what is next.
Wow, 3 1/2 hours.
I also want to work hard and get used to sitting for 3 1/2 hours. My vow to meet Master after being able to sit for 3 1/2 hours comfortably has become firmer. One day I want to take an airplane and go to the USA to meet Master so that I can ask what I need to do next.
12월1일 December 1
결가부좌수행1시간57분Full lotus sitting: 1 hour and 57 minutes
호흡관1시간Breathing: 1 hour
능엄신주만트라30분Shurangama Mantra: 30 minutes
아미타불염불12분Amitabha’s name recitation: 12 minutes
능엄신주독송10분Shurangama Mantra: 10 minutes
오늘은 어제의 아쉬움을 만회하고자1시간50분 알람을 맞춰놓고 시작했다. (어제3시좀전에식사를마쳤는데 이후부터 꽁깍지차만 두 컵정도 마시고 오후불식을 해보았다.)
1시간25분 즘 넘어가며 다리부터 떨리기 시작했다.
Today I wanted to do better than yesterday, so I set the alarm for 1 hour and 50 minutes. (Yesterday I finished my meal around 3:00 p.m. and drank two cups of tea only). My legs started to shake after 1 hour and 25 minutes.
My shoulders started to feel sore. I put my palms together, and my palms and shoulders started to shake a little. If I was holding the shaman’s bell, the bell would really shake and make sound. I felt a little scared.
Venerable XianAn already told me that there’s no need to feel afraid and that I should let the shaking happen. Master HsuanHua said that shaking helps shake off the stupidity. While I reminded myself what Venerable XianAn told me, I continued to concentrate on the Shurangama Mantra recitation. After 5 minutes, the shaking of my arms calmed down. Not long after, my hands and head also calmed down.
As the time passed, the pain in the right foot and hip went down, but my left foot was hurting a lot. Because I had fasted since yesterday and resolved to sit longer, I was able to bear this pain longer. Since my left foot has had many problems since childhood, when the pain started there, it was expected. The pain was increasing, but my head was more and more clear and my excessive thoughts were reduced. I felt that I could sit longer if I could bear the left foot pain. I was able to push 7 minutes longer than my original plan.
Today I thought of my parents. I prayed for them to be able to accrue more blessings for the rest of their lives because they have struggled to survive. Na Mo Amitabul Gwan Sae Um Bo Sal (This is Korean pronunciation of Na Mo Emitofou Guanyin Pu Sa)
Liz’s experience of Chan meditation since 2016. How it changed her life and people around her (overcoming depression)
My name is Lizbeth, I'm 38 years old, and I'm Native American from the Yaqui tribe. My mother was born in Sacramento and she's Yaqui and Norwegian and my father is a US citizen born in Mexico, he's descended from Spanish and Huichol (an Indigenous tribe native). He and my mom separated when I was a child. I have a 16 year old son named Takoda and he meditates too.
The difficulties I was trying to overcome, initially, was depression. At that time I was going through a divorce. My mom has bipolar depression and my little sister is handicapped and she was trying to fight us all the time and I take care of both of them. My son is a kind and understanding person but even he was being affected by all that was going on and he was getting lower grades in school. His teachers praised his good manners they just wished he applied himself more to his studies. I was having great difficulties with getting my thoughts and emotional reactions under control. I would cry when I was alone in my car. I didn't like being short tempered and sometimes I was not sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much, taking too many naps and feeling fatigue. I had a knee injury and and low back pain. I was overall unhappy with my life.
I started Chan meditation in 2016. I was walking in the park with my son and saw someone was putting a sign, ‘Chan Meditation in the Park’. I asked how much she would charge for the class. She said “it’s free.”. That’s how everything started!
At first, when I began sitting in full lotus and meditating on Amituofo, I felt the healing in my body. My knee healed up quickly and my lower back didn't hurt as much. A few months later I was sitting for an hour, daily, and I was feeling well rested. Soon my insomnia was gone and I was getting a full night’s sleep. I also didn't need as much sleep to feel well rested. Little by little I began to notice my thoughts were more focused and I wasn't angry or depressed, I was able to think clearly. I no longer react quickly in response to other people’s actions. I'm more patient and tolerant of everyone including myself. My little sister is calmer around me and is easily made peaceful. She doesn't try to fight with me anymore. My mom's bipolar depression isn't as bad as it used to be and she's more open to taking advice from me about her own health. Even my son’s grades in school have improved. I'm more supportive of him and he started meditating too.
My spirituality comes from Native American Traditions. It's not a religion but a way of life. It's very inclusive and tolerant of other people’s faith. I relate many of the spiritual leaders from the past as Holy men and women who were born to teach us something and it is up to us to pick up those teachings and utilize them or not. I choose to utilize Chan as part of my self-care and actually helps me improve the way I take care of others.
Chan mediation helped me improve on so many levels but if I were to choose one thing that it helped me the most with, it would be, with my mind, and the ability to organize my thoughts. I no longer feel so scattered about my choices and decisions. I enrolled in college and got accepted into the Honors Program. I no longer worry about living up to other people’s expectations of me. I see clearly where I've wasted so much time on worrying about things that will most likely never happen. And I'm enjoying life's precious moments on a deeper level than before.
Chan experience of a young Korean Veterinarian in Korea. Overcoming foot surgery with full lotus practice
Written by Venerable XianAn
A few days ago, I got a message from Soo Seong Choi, a young Korean veterinarian who used to meditate in kneeling-down posture. He also did a lot of bowing but didn’t feel that he was making any further progress.
He read articles about Chan during the last year and had started to sit in full lotus, but I wasn’t aware of this because he had never contacted me before. When he contacted me, he said he started to build faith in Buddhism after practicing full lotus and kept reading articles about Chan. I asked him how reading the articles helped him develop faith.
Recently he fell in a car repair shop and broke his foot. Despite having foot surgery, he started sitting in full lotus. His pain was gone when he was sitting, and he didn’t have to get pain injections. He also felt that some things started melting away from his heart.
It’s been about one week since the surgery, and his recovery has been very speedy. Because he wasn’t happy about not making progress, he has been very glad to be able to practice Chan. He read about Juan’s Chan meditation experience and felt that it was similar to his job. When he was in veterinary school, he wished to help animals, but in reality, he often has to euthanize animals. It makes his job very hard. Now he has started learning the Medicine Buddha Dharma, and he will start reciting Medicine Buddha’s name, “Na Mo Yak Sa Yeo Rai Bul,” in Korean.
[Please consult with your own physician before trying this practice]
Written by Venerable XianAn, Wei Mountain Temple
I remember when I first started seeing Juan at Lu Mountain Temple about 2 years ago. Back then I was so busy, I wasn’t able to talk with him much, but I remember that he always worked around the temple even during lunchtime while everyone else was enjoying the food. One day I asked him, “Why don’t you come and join the lunch with everyone?” He said, “I don’t want to spend my blessings. I want to work and help the temple.”
Unlike me, Juan always worked hard at the temple and then quietly went back home. He did that regularly, maybe once or twice a week. He politely refused to have lunch and continued to work.
Today I saw him sitting in full lotus during Master YongHua’s sutra lecture. He didn’t move or make any sound for the entire 2 hours, and his face looked peaceful. I wanted to find out how cultivation has changed his life, so I invited him to have a conversation.
Juan was born in 1981 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and his family moved to the U.S. when he was only 8 years old. He is a vocational nurse, has been married for 11 years, and has no children. He grew up in a typical Mexican family going to Catholic church. Until he turned 17 years old, he went to church every weekend with his family.
However, he had been very self-destructive in his 20’s. He wore his hair long like a rock musician, with large tattoos on his body, and he often drank alcohol and smoked. He spent his time hanging out with friends at music concerts. Like a lot of young adults in the U.S., he did various kinds of drugs too.
He had no direction in his life but didn’t want to return to the Catholic church. He felt that the church didn’t provide any realistic solutions for his problems. There were also parts of the sermon with which he did not agree. Therefore, he decided to try Buddhist temples.
He did some internet research and found a Japanese Buddhist church. He went to this church every week for a year, but he didn’t experience any realistic or practical changes in his life. There were no actual monks or meditation class. The church members were not observing precepts. They were eating meat, and they smoke and drank. He decided to stop going because he wanted to find a place that practiced more principles. About a year later, he learned about Lu Mountain Temple, saw some photos, and liked what he saw.
When Juan first visited Lu Mountain Temple, he was nervous. It was during the Chan Qi meditation retreat. He saw people were sitting in full lotus in the Buddha hall, so he naturally sat in full lotus too. He experienced intense pain but was able to sit for about 30 minutes that day. When he learned that Master Yonghua gave a daily Dharma talk in the evening, he decided to stay for the talk. He felt a strong connection with Master YongHua’s Dharma, and it made a strong impression on him when Master said that we can all become Buddha, regardless of who we are or where we come from.
He decided to help out around Lu Mountain Temple to generate more blessings as he had learned during the Dharma talk. His hope was that these blessings could help him transcend beyond worldly life.
Juan has meditated daily ever since, and within 3 months, he was able to sit for more than one hour. His life has drastically changed due to this daily meditation. He naturally stopped drinking, and the anger arising in his mind has significantly reduced. Just a few months of meditation and volunteering at the temple has brought him peace of mind! He has become a better son and brother.
Within 6 months, he officially became a Buddhist, took refuge under Master YongHua, and received the Five Precepts. Following this, his life changed even more. One of the biggest changes was that he started taking his cultivation seriously. Juan started sitting in full lotus for at least 2 hours every day. He was more aware of his environment and the people around him. He became a better nurse by having more patience while listening to his patients, by helping them be more comfortable and happy. His life had become more meaningful...but there was a drawback. Since he began caring for his patients with sincerity and a more open heart, his health had begun to decline. As a nurse, he had been engaging in meddling—interfering with the karmic debts of the sick people he was treating.
He sought the counsel of Venerable Xian Jie and was told about the Medicine Master Dharma. Juan learned that he could improve his health, career, and cultivation by creating more Medicine blessings, so he requested a Medicine Master plaque. Amazingly, he didn’t feel sick quite as often, and his physical health significantly improved immediately. He also noticed that he was more mentally stable at his work.
Juan has even thought of leaving the home life. He is very grateful to Venerable Xian Jie for helping with his cultivation. Juan is just another example of how our temple community is very international, with a great mix of cultures. My hope is that he would attain fruition in his cultivation in the near future.