The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
|Articles by alphabetic order|
Bowing to the Buddha
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Bowing in Buddhism cuts across the lines of traditions and schools. Bowing has been part of Buddhist practice since the Buddha’s time in India and continues to this day. Within the Buddhist Sangha, or monastic community, the daily liturgical schedule began and ended with dozens if not hundreds of ritual prostrations.
On ceremony days, clergy and laity alike might engage in the practice of liturgical repentance and bow up to ten thousand times. Monks and nuns bow to the images of Sages, Awakened Beings, and the Buddhas, to their superiors, and to each other.
Venerable Shi Yong He
The Buddha we bow to is the Buddha inside our true minds, the pure good and perfect spiritual nature that has no shape or form. Images of the Buddha are simply symbols of the real thing. Bowing is a mindfulness practice.
Venerable Shi Yong Po
Buddhist scripture tells us that the Buddha realized his great awakening while sitting beneath a tree in the wilderness of northern India at Bodh Gaya. According to the sutras, when he awoke on that auspicious day, the entire natural world bowed to him in gladness, recognition, and veneration.
Over and over he prostrates his five limbs (hands, feet and head) low to the ground to purge arrogance, repent of past offences, demonstrate respect, and ultimately, to realize the highest goals of a Bodhisattva’s wisdom and compassion.
2) The second kind of bowing is called 'seeking for fame'. This category describes one who hears others praising a cultivator saying, 'That person bows often and really cultivates vigorously; he bows to the Buddha’s, he bows to sutras, and he bows repentance ceremonies. He is truly a diligent cultivator.
4) The fourth kind of bowing is called 'wise and pure'. 'Wise' refers to the functioning of wisdom, and 'pure' refers to the development of purity. It describes one who uses true wisdom to purify his body and mind.
5) The fifth kind of bowing is called 'pervading everywhere throughout the Dharma-realm'. . . . It describes one who, when bowing, contemplates: 'Although I have not yet become a Buddha in body, the nature of my mind fills the Dharma-realm.
6) The sixth is called 'sincerely cultivating proper contemplation.' One who cultivates proper concentration is one who concentrates his mind and contemplates: 'Bowing to the Buddha is bowing to the Buddha’s of the Dharma-realm.
Some Related Stories…
A. The seventh-century Indian Buddhist master Shantideva, whose name means "the gentle angel" and who wrote the classic Mahayana text "Entering the Path of Enlightenment," said that just to raise one hand in a gesture of respect and reverence sows the seed of enlightenment.
This gesture symbolizes yielding, surrender, reverence, and taking refuge in that which is good, true, and holy. In fact, this outer form of reverence simply reflects an inner gesture of awareness and is not very meaningful unless done in that spirit.
B. Master Changguan (737-839) in the Tang Dynasty, in his commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra explains "bowing in respect to all Buddha’s,” the first of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Ten Practices and Vows:
When one bows in respect to all Buddhas, a feeling of reverence arises in your heart, and animates your actions and speech. You express this feeling by bowing to all Buddhas. The practice gets rid of both obstacles of arrogance and ego.
When respect arises, you deepen your ‘good roots’ of reverence and faith. C. Master Xuanzang (596-664), the famous Buddhist pilgrim and contemporary of Daoxuan (596-667)), travelled to India during the Tang Dynasty to search out the original teaching and rejuvenate Buddhism in China.
He lists a graded series of bows from a simple nod of the head, raising the hands and bending the waist, placing palms together at chest height, up to genuflecting, kneeling, or touching the head to the ground.