Question: Some say it is disrespectful to read Buddhist materials or listen to Buddhist recordings while lying down flat, that we should sit upright to do so. Is it not alright to make ourselves comfortable?
Answer: The idea that listening or reading to the Buddhist teachings when lying down being disrespectful probably arose from the perception that one might be taking the Dharma trivially, or learning inattentively, which thus shows disrespect. Even if not, one would not be receiving the Dharma properly, perhaps falling asleep quickly due to mindfulness tapering off because of indulgence in ‘over-relaxation’ then.
Considering the above, as long as one does treasure the Dharma, handles its materials respectfully, and is able to learn properly while lying down, it should be alright. That said, it is indeed generally true that studying the Dharma when seated upright is the most conducive. It has to do with the nature of body language – as the way we position our body can help direct the mind to give rise to a more appropriate attitude.
For example, slouch while reading a book and we will easily and quickly feel disinterested and tired. Being upright while reading keeps us more alert, yet harder to feel tired. Lying down is trickier as it is not slouching, while being ‘upright’ in a horizontal way, though some would consider it to be the ultimate slouching! A lot depends on how the individual relates to lying down. Although the posture can help direct the mind, the mind is not always directed accordingly if the mind is resistant.
Also to note, is that some who are very sick and bedridden have no choice but to lie down. For them, if they habitually see lying down as negative, they have to transform their attitude further – to give rise to wholesome attitudes, especially if they wish to learn the Dharma while on bed. We must remember that the Dharma should not treated like an afterthought, as deserving nothing more than being bedside reading, or worse, merely as bedtime ‘stories’ for falling asleep! (Reading when lying down does strain the body and eyes more too.)
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