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Thread: Bowing- Why?

  1. #1

    Bowing- Why?

    Hi all,

    I have been away from the Sangha and my practice for a long time. I'm currently getting myself in the mind set to re-astablish my practice but I feel I am back at the begining again. Well they say a beginners mind is a good thing.

    How and why do we bow? What do we bow to? Could someone please shed some light on this for me.

    With metta,

  2. #2
    Hi Steve,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tin_Sandwich View Post
    How and why do we bow?
    Why not? (I don't mean this in a smart-ass way)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tin_Sandwich View Post
    What do we bow to?
    To everyone and no one, to everything and nothing.
    In fact, you bow to yourself.

    However, better ask Jundo, the above is just my spontaneous outburst...



    #about to sit within the hour#
    Last edited by Daitetsu; 12-08-2014 at 07:56 PM.
    no thing needs to be added

  3. #3
    Well, I'm just a rank beginner, but for me the bow has become a transition, a time to slide from the state experienced in shikantaza to the different state of mind as my mind resumes it's chaotic duties of everyday life. Without the bow it almost seems jarring to snap back into the usual world again. Again though, that's just me, the guy with 1 whole month of daily zazen in his life.
    (But it's one month that has done wonders to relieve my blood pressure and anxiety I should add)

    Sat today
    Last edited by treebeard; 12-08-2014 at 08:49 PM.

    sat today

  4. #4
    Hi Steve,

    there was some good discussion of bowing on this thread recently, starts about halfway through:

    Jundo has a great answer he gives about bowing, I'm sure he'll post it here soon.

    In the past Taigu has said that we practice first, and then we understand. That worked for me.

    sat today

    Paul, congratulations on one whole month of daily zazen!
    Last edited by Byokan; 12-08-2014 at 09:29 PM.

  5. #5

    I can tell you that no matter what answer is given to you won't matter. It will matter, but it also won't unless you can answer yourself. So why do you bow?

    Until you can really answer that yourself, you will never know why. You may believe why, but you will never know. I'm still finding out too. Sometimes I know, sometimes I forget, but I keep doing it to make sure I continue to find out.

    Right now I bow because of gratitude for being here. But that's easy; there's also bowing with gratitude for things that I don't want to have but do.

    Edit: This is a really great talk about this:


    Last edited by Risho; 12-08-2014 at 10:16 PM.

  6. #6
    Hello Steve,

    Some wonderful answers here and I agree with them all. For me, bowing is an important part of my practice. It allows for gratitude, humility, cutting the ego, and it is a great way to keep the body limber for zazen. =)



  7. #7
    Hi Steve,

    Unless I am totally wrong, you will get a lot of different answers to why we bow.

    To me is a way to show respect to the Buddha, to all the wise men and women who have written each word of the Dharma that I now study and practice. It's a way to pay respect to all living creatures I vow to save all mornings.

    Bowing and prostrating remind that I am not such a hot shot as sometimes my deluded mind thinks. Getting my head to the ground reminds me that my practice is a platform for others to climb and achieve peace and a better life.

    That, or I am a totally deluded crazy guy.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  8. #8
    Nothing to add here except deep bows to all the wonderful answers.

    But just to underline what they HAVE said, it is a way of showing respect to all that is, that our ego is not the most important thing, that we are in service and part of all other things, to show appreciation and gratitude for all the NON-self out there that allows or self to be here. We are not worshiping any other than ourselves, ultimately, but recognizing that ourselves is dependent on other things too. And man, those long Zazen sessions really cause my legs to ache too sometimes, then I actually enjoy the gesture. ( I secretly believe they have a practical side too)


    Sat Today!

  9. #9
    Just a thought, I bow to my messy house, my children's clutter, and my perfectly imperfect life.

    sat today

  10. #10

    No one bows ​ to any one. Bowing is ​with every one.

    Salty, ain't it?^^

    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  11. #11
    Some lovely responses here. I bow to those.

    Here is my own view, which I posted in preparation for our Rohatsu Retreat. However, more than my or anyone's view, please find your own view ... and viewless.

    Bowing and Prostrations

    You may also find interest in our whole At Home Liturgy which recommend to folks, all while noting that some Practices will resonate with some people but not others, and there are different medicines for different patients.

    Recommended 'at home' liturgy

    Risho also had a lovely comment in the Ango forum today, about some Practices like bowing ...

    Maybe I'm a reformist zen practitioner; I don't even like being called a Buddhist; I really don't think the labels and the costumes help.

    So then I'm thinking more, and I just started thinking about the vows and the chanting and the rakusu. And even though I'm not in danger of buying a new Zen wardrobe, that line of questioning and that distancing myself from it actually brought me back to it more closely.

    That's my point, and it relates to the beginning of this post. I think for the first time, I realize how important zazen is to my life. And I started realizing the importance of the liturgy. It's about gratitude.

    I cringe at new-agey stuff or magic, etc. (Zen is not new-agey and magical, but just stating this to give you an idea of where I stand). I'm very scientific; that being said, there is something in this practice that addresses what it is to be human, that goes beyond science, to address what we experience, and how we can enrich our experience. I'm also born and raised in a culture that doesn't typically gassho or wear robes what have you.
    Gassho, J


  12. #12
    Hi all

    Many westerners do not like bowing as it denotes subservience and inferiority. I like it for exactly this reason. It keeps me humble. During Rohatsu I use the washing and toileting gathas and bow to the sink and toilet. Bowing, for me, shows reverence and respect and acknowledges interdependence. If we bow to every thing and person who makes it possible for us to live we realise how dependent our life is on other beings and give thanks for that. Eventually, as Myosha says, we realise that the whole world is bowing together.

    Some worship a golden goddess
    With four arms, a book, and a rosary --
    Expecting, perhaps, to be freed from pain.

    Some worship a collection of sacred tomes
    Full of subtle concepts and subtler logic --
    Confident, perhaps, in the power of reason.

    Some worship bliss, clarity, emptiness
    Or other altered states --
    Convinced, perhaps, that there is something to gain.

    Apparently, no one told them
    How to bow.

    -- Ken McLeod 'An Arrow to the Heart'

    Today I bow to the trees, my sick son and all of you lovely, lovely people (especially Steve for asking the question - I went on holiday to Weston-super-Mare once!)

    Last edited by Kokuu; 12-09-2014 at 08:42 AM.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    Just a thought, I bow to my messy house, my children's clutter, and my perfectly imperfect life.
    How nice Joyo, I would like to feel that way.

    But to be honest, most times I struggle with myself not to dub my family duties "hindrances".
    How did you come to feel that way? Have you always felt so?



  14. #14
    Thank you one and all for your response to my question. I have found it very helpful. I shall start by bowing to the rush hour traffic jam that made me late finishing work. With metta Steve

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Myosha View Post

    No one bows ​ to any one. Bowing is ​with every one.

    Salty, ain't it?^^

    Myosha sat today
    Love that, thank you


  16. #16
    Hi Paul

    Like you i bow to mark the transition from sitting to not sitting. Not sure why I started this but it just seems so natural. I just felt sort of compelled to do it one day and have just, largely, carried on, not sure if its "right" but it works for me.



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