Royal Ease

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on July 24, 2017.)

Guanyin in the Royal Ease posture, Longchang Temple, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu

There is a posture found among some Buddhist figures that is commonly called "Royal Ease."

It is easily recognized: one knee (almost always the right) is bent, with that foot either hanging down, or resting on the platform on which the figure is seated; the other leg is bent in such a way that that foot is either resting on, or facing toward, the other leg or foot. In addition, the arm on the side of the first (again, usually the right) is resting on that knee or thigh.

The entire impression is one of casual relaxation, unlike the rigid, formal positions so often seen in religious statuary. It is also the position one might take if one were in command--hence, "Royal Ease."

The Sanskrit names for this asana (a word meaning "posture" or, more specifically, "sitting down") are Rajalilasana and Lalitasana. Rajalilasana contains the words for "king" (rajah), "play" (lila), and "posture" (asana), and is thus simply "Royal Play Posture"--or Royal Ease. The other contains another word for "play," lalita.

This emphasis on play is illustrative. One teaching of Buddhism is that one is not to be terribly attached to anything. One way of explaining the idea is this: When you and a friend play a game--badminton, say, or chess--you ought to play with all your might. However, when the game is over, whether you win or you lose, you ought to "let go" of the results, and remain friends with your opponent. The same is true of all aspects of life.

So, the posture--whether the figure is Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, or some other--reminds us to take things lightly.

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