A Contemplation on Bowing

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday, we will look into the practice of bowing.  We are rarely called upon to bow in our day-to-day lives.  Perhaps the only time we bow is here at Still Water on Thursday evenings. What is bowing all about and why is it a part of our gatherings?  How does it feel to bow?  Together, we will read passages about bowing, practice bowing to one another and share our thoughts and feelings. 

Some teachers consider bowing an essential part of practice, along with sitting and walking.  I came across a wonderful paper online about bowing across history, cultures and spiritual traditions.  Here are a few excerpts:

From: Cleansing the Heart: Buddhist Bowing As Contemplation
by Rev. Heng Sure – Institute For World Religions (http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma7/bowing.html)
            Meditation masters [practice] bowing as an active counterpart to seated meditation. Bowing has many purposes; perhaps its primary psychological function in the Buddhist context is to dispel arrogance and to transform the affliction of pride.  . . . His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama puts his palms together and bows to whomever he meets, whether person-to-person or before a large audience. . . .

The unique quality of Buddhist bowing was that its primary function was internal. Bowing, then as now, helped cultivators "empty out" egotistical impediments that obscure enlightenment. In other words, bowing aimed at restoring the essential non-duality of the Buddha-nature present in all beings.

            Bowing is a mental yoga, a contemplation used therapeutically for its ability to replace and counteract the view of self, the source of pride and all the other evils that arise from arrogance 

Thich Nhat Hanh in The Heart of Understanding offers this prayer to be used when bowing:

The one who bows and pays respect,
And the one who receives the bow and the respect,
Both of us are empty.
That is why the communion is perfect.

Finally, here is a children’s song that sums it up, from:

Doggies should go Bow Wow Wow
But people should go Wow Wow Bow


Warm wishes,

Lynda Martin-McCormick