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This may have been asked before, but I have not found any reference to it yet. What is the significance of sitting to one side? many scriptures describe meetings between the various monks and layman and royalty characterized by sitting to one side. what is the origin and reason of this custom? Is it still practiced?

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Sorry but I don't know the specific history or origin.

is it still practiced?

It's mentioned in the last sentence of this, quote from a Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in 1998:

Before we continue we should look at the Chinese version. It’s rather a difficult sutra to translate. The Chinese version is a very ancient one and you have to study these things in order to be able to go into the sutra and read it for yourself.

Thus have I heard: one time when the Lord was staying at the guest house in the forest of Nala... At that time he was staying in a village whose name was Nala, not far from where Sariputta was born. Nala is a village in the forest.

At that time the Venerable Kaccayana came to where the Buddha was, bowed his head and made reverences at the feet of the Buddha; he put his forehead on the ground at the Buddha’s feet, and circled the Buddha three times, and sat to one side.

You don’t sit in front of the teacher, you sit to one side of the teacher.

what is the significance of sitting to one side?

Perhaps so that other people too can come and sit (and use the front to make the same reverence).

There's only one "in front" but space for many "to one side".

Also I guess face-to-face is symmetrical which might (wrongly) imply equality.

I guess the practice may be cross-cultural:

  • You'll see it in the seating in most churches, with an aisle down the centre
  • You'll see it in the seating of board-room tables, with the VIP at the head of the table
  • I seem to remember from childhood of a custom in court (I don't remember which one), where when summoned by the ruler for an interview you'd sit or kneel in from of them but facing sidewise, so that the ruler can see your face in profile and you cannot see them (i.e. so it's asymmetrical)
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  • thanks..maybe they thought it would aid hearing...less distraction...idk
    – blue_ego
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 15:16
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    also sitting in front almost demands interaction, doesn't it? with sitting off to one side the Buddha can talk if and when he sees fit.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 9:53

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