108 Bows (108 배) : Korean Buddhism
Korean Buddhists bow a lot.
It's a meditative practice that encourages reflection and concentration. Though three bows is common, the more dedicated followers often practice 108 bows [백팔배], a long tradition whose number is particularly significant for the following:
There are 6 bodily pathways that lead to suffering: eyes, ears, skin, nose, tongue, mind.
There are 6 objects that lead to suffering: something you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, think about.
There are 3 time periods in which you suffer: the past, the present, and the future.
[6x6x3 = 108)
(the interpretation may depend on the temple you visit, though, and other explanations may differ slightly.)
108 sounds like a heck of a lot, I know. It is. And though it feels a little awkward at first, you get into a rhythm pretty quickly. The whole thing takes about 20 minutes.
I've done 108 bows several times in templestays or at a meeting for Buddhist teachers that I was invited to. Every time, though, they put on a recording of a deep-throated man lyrically chanting 108 prayers in Korean over a meditative soundtrack made up of a flute and bird noises.
Though I was told just to "focus on things you want to change in yourself", I always kind of wanted to know what the guy was saying. I didn't want to think I was bowing all along to commit my soul to Kim Yun-A or something (though I would. Oh GOD would I).
Over the weekend I did another templestay at Golgulsa, and finally got an English copy of what (I think) the Korean man with the nice voice is actually saying. Some are more abstract than I would prefer (hard to focus on), and many are just not practical, but I imagine it still affects your mindset positively, much like visualization or repetition.
If you have knees, I highly suggest you try it. I can even send you an mp3 file of myself reading the list if you need motivation. (Visit this page for a video instruction on bowing.)
My personal favorites are #8, 25, 31, 34, 50 and 104. I bow, uh, extra hard when those come up. I think it goes without saying that I love #11, too, because - let's be honest (Buddha wants me to be HONEST, right??) - I really, really love myself.
Leave me a comment to tell me your favorites, or which prayers you wish Buddha had put on the "bow list".
Before bowing, I prepare the proper mindset:
- Bowing is one way to purify myself.
- Through bowing, I learn how to humble myself and how to have a healthy body and mind.
- I bow to realize that others' lives are just as valuable as mine.
- I bow to get rid of my selfishness.
- I bow because it is the desire of my true self.
- I bow for all living things, and for peace in the universe.
1. I bow to wonder where I came from and where I am and where I am going.
2. I bow to appreciate my parents for giving birth to me.
3. I bow to think about who I am.
4. I bow to find my true self.
5. I bow to always appreciate my body and spirit.
6. I bow for the well-being of my body and spirit.
7. I bow to think about my true desires.
8. I bow to find myself and to learn how to control myself.
9. I bow to appreciate the life I live today.
10. I bow to give thanks for being alive.
11. I bow to think about how much I love myself.
12. I bow to be able to always love my family.
13. I bow to feel happiness and peace of mind through love.
14. I bow to look for happiness only through love.
15. I bow to know that unchangeable love is flowing through the universe.
16. I bow to the teacher who has shown me the right way.
17. I bow to feel that love originates inside me.
18. I bow to reflect that my teacher's lessons are inside me.
19. I bow to feel that all living things, and the universe, are inside me.
20. I bow to remember that my ancestors and gods are inside me.
21. I bow to ask for forgiveness from the people I have hurt, because it hurts the whole universe.
22. I bow to take care of myself and not to do bad things.
23. I bow to rid myself of arrogance.
24. I bow to rid myself of false humility, even if I am in bad circumstances.
25. I bow to call attention to the good in others, but not the bad.
26. I bow to keep others' secrets.
27. I bow to rid myself of hatred of others.
28. I bow to rid myself of anger against others.
29. I bow to not repeat anything I have not heard.
30. I bow to not repeat anything I have not seen.
31. I bow to always be ready, but not to expect things to be easy.
32. I bow to avoid expecting obedience from others.
33. I bow to avoid expecting difficulty in my life.
34. I bow to make the best of each moment in my life.
35. I bow to live a righteous life.
36. I bow to repay even the smallest debt of gratitude.
37. I bow to not put my own needs over the needs of others.
38. I bow to not be stingy to others.
39. I bow to not harm others in order to get ahead.
40. I bow to try not to obtain valuable things with little effort.
41. I bow to have the power to control my desires.
42. I bow to reflect that life is more valuable than anything else.
43. I bow to know that suffering comes from an attached mind.
44. I bow to avoid making foolish mistakes out of ignorance.
45. I bow to try to attain deep wisdom.
46. I bow to learn to be nice to people, even if I have negative feelings toward them.
47. I bow to avoid clinging to the strong in order to hurt those who are weaker than me.
48. I bow to be honest with myself, and also to avoid flattering others.
49. I bow to be true and honest with myself above all others.
50. I bow to know that happiness, unhappiness, and desire are all within my mind.
51. I bow to know that happiness does not come from others, it comes from me.
52. I bow to realize the value of living a smooth, peaceful life.
53. I bow to avoid looking back at the past, and to not worry about the future.
54. I bow to own possessions, but not to be controlled by them.
55. I bow to know that I can find peace by being patient.
56. I bow to know that having a repentant mind is the best mind.
57. I bow to find freedom through wisdom.
58. I bow to control my mind, not to be controlled by it.
59. I bow to be diligent in my efforts to improve myself.
60. I bow to be thankful for the hard times I have had, because they have made me strong.
61. I bow to keep my original pure mind, even when time passes.
62. I bow to pray with a thankful mind for everything.
63. I bow to be thankful that I can find myself in silence.
64. I bow to reflect on the value of living a pure, honest life.
65. I bow for the people who are working in bad conditions.
66. I bow for the people who are starving, poor, and living hard lives.
67. I bow for the people who work to provide me with healthy food.
68. I bow to have a generous mind, even if I don't have enough for myself.
69. I bow for the precious lives of my children, who I have brought into the world.
70. I bow for my partner, who became one with me through love.
71. I bow for all disabled people.
72. I bow for friends who have been beside me, sharing my laughter and tears.
73. I bow for moderation, even when I have enough to waste.
74. I bow for a humble mind.
75. I bow for humility, so that I can always put others first.
76. I bow to realize that nature is being destroyed.
77. I bow to realize that all lives are interconnected.
78. I bow for all the lives destroyed by the greed of humanity.
79. I bow for all the ecosystems that are recovering after being hurt by humanity.
80. I bow to listen to the sounds of life that are all around me.
81. I bow to realize that my life is the movement of my soul.
82. I bow to realize that the object of love and longing is life.
83. I bow to feel my soul being purified when I hear the sound of a clean, clear stream.
84. I bow to give thanks for being able to hear and enjoy the beautiful songs of birds.
85. I bow to be refreshed by the feeling of a cool breeze.
86. I bow to be thankful as I breathe in fresh air.
87. I bow to be thankful for the sight of beautiful wildflowers that are always present.
88. I bow to give thanks for the mountains and landscapes that speak to me through wind and snow.
89. I bow to the Earthh feeds all living things.
90. I bow to the sky, which gives life to all living things.
91. I bow for my own peace.
92. I bow to hope for peace in everything around me.
93. I bow for the peace of my neighbor.
94. I bow for peace within countries that have been separated for no reason.
95. I bow for peace between countries arguing for political reasons.
96. I bow for peace and harmony among all religions.
97. I bow to hope for peace in all dead and living things.
98. I bow to hope for peace between human beings and nature.
99. I bow for a mind that is enlightened and peaceful
100. I bow for harmony between the poor and the rich.
101. I bow for harmony between the sick and the healthy.
102. I bow for harmony between those who have learned and those who have not.
103. I bow for those who have fallen into darkness.
104. I bow to accept all of the things I have done.
105. I bow to be thankful for all of the people who love me and take care of me.
106. I bow to be thankful for all of the good and beautiful things in my life.
107. I bow to be thankful for my life and to reflect on the lives that are yet to be.
108. I bow for myself, realizing that my own precious life is like the universe.
and if you're still here, I'm thankful for you!