Cleansing the Heart: Buddhist Bowing As Contemplation
The nature of the worshipper and the worshipped is empty and still,
This Bodhimanda[i] of mine is like a pearl in Indra’s net;
Shakyamuni Buddha manifests within it.
My body appears before Shakyamuni,
Bowing at his feet, I return my life in worship.
—Buddhist Bowing Contemplation Verse
The monkey mind calculates and schemes, chases thoughts of self and others, clings to rights and wrongs, and quarrels over me and mine. The wild horse mind loves to run away into fantasies and false-thoughts, to wander far without warning and to return when it pleases.
To the Chinese, both feeling and thinking are represented by a single written character xin, which we will translate as "heart/mind."[ii] So the first half of our topic, "purity of heart," viewed from a Buddhist perspective, would be more accurately expressed as "purity of heart/mind."
To assume that the mind of a meditator automatically rests in a state of permanent purity is to never have tried to meditate. Random, discursive thoughts rise and fall without cease, like waves on water.
Purity of heart/mind is not a product that one attains like a possession, rather it is a process, a practice. From the perspective of practice we might begin by replacing the noun "purity" with the infinitive "to purify,” or employ the gerund form, "purifying," to indicate the dynamic and continuous nature of purifying the heart/mind.
One purifies the heart by emptying out its cluttered thoughts and turbid emotions, over and over. Purifying requires letting go of attachments, “truing” or rectifying thoughts, and reining in desire's appetites.
Contemplation in Both Movement and Stillness
Both aspects of Purity of Heart/Contemplation appear with a characteristic Buddhist flavor, in “stopping and contemplating.” “Stopping” means to neither engage thoughts nor discriminate among them but simply to empty them out; sweep them away, and cleanse the mind as you would polish a mirror.
“Contemplating” complements “stopping.“ Here the task is not to sweep thoughts away, but instead to mindfully observe each thought as it rises and falls in the mind. Such watchfulness reveals the nature of thoughts, emotions, afflictions, and habits.
Once purified of defilements, the mind can return to its inherent stillness and purity; one can realize the goal of Chan meditation: "understanding the mind and seeing the nature," (mingxin jianxing.)
Here, “dust” refers to Basic Afflictions: greed, hatred, stupidity, pride and doubt. Afflictions reinforce an illusory sense of self; from the view of self comes arrogance based on the perceived existence of “me and mine.” The arising of arrogance, and its flip-side: inferiority or low self-esteem, create myriad related delusions, karma, retribution and its suffering.
The Buddha’s project, in general, aims to replace the distorted view of self with a direct perception as things as they really are. Replacing the view of an illusory self with a proper view brings suffering to an end.
Master Chengguan (737-839) the Tang Dynasty exegete, in his commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra, explains "bowing in respect to all Buddhas,” the first of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Ten Practices and Vows:
The obstacles of arrogance and ego diminish as bowing reduces affliction and increases good qualities. The Avatamsaka contemplations used when “bowing in respect to all Buddhas,” according to Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, constitute a unique feature of bowing in Buddhism.
As we will see below, bowing has a history in [[Buddhist monastic] liturgy]] as old as the Sangha, or Buddhist community itself. Why then, have scholars of Buddhism paid so little attention to bowing?
Westerners in their first encounter with Buddhism typically assume that Buddhist practice is synonymous with sitting meditation.[vii] This view persists despite the reality that the most common Buddhist practice in Asia from the third century CE was, and still is, bowing to the Buddha.
Eric Reinders in his article "The Iconoclasm of Obeisance: Protestant Images of Chinese Religion and the Catholic Church,” substantiates the lack of materials by Western scholars about Buddhist bowing and obeisance.
Reinders traces the European Protestant Iconoclasts’ aversion for physical gestures of deference and asks whether the quarrel in Europe arising from the Reformation has been projected onto Asian religions.
Bowing, on the other hand, seems inherently unequal, undemocratic, humiliating, and submissive.
From a Gospel-based, logocentric perspective, bowing is mere ritual, i.e., not textual. It masks the real thing— doctrine. Moreover, given cultural values of individualism and the ethos of equality, bowing seems to replace self-determination with servility.[x]
And yet, this marginalization of bowing constitutes a relatively recent trend. As we shall see in a brief comparative look at bowing as praxis in other religions, prostrations have figured prominently across the world’s religious landscape.
Where in Buddhism it opens a path to samadhi and liberation, bowing takes on different faces in other faiths. The comparisons and contrasts nonetheless are revealing and shed light on an ancient practice that could infuse the contemporary interfaith dialogue with new meaning.
In the Middle Eastern and Hellenistic traditions, beginning with the Ugaritic and Accadian religions of ancient Babylon, we discover a kinship—in language, liturgy and doctrine— between Babylonian and Semitic bowing practices. Babylonian texts, Hebrew scriptures, and the Kur'an, explain bowing in similar fashion.
"At the feet of my lord I bow down twice seven times from afar.[xi]" Jewish literature reveals an almost identical reference where vassals in the Amarna letters write, "At the feet of the king. . . seven times, seven times I fall, forwards and backwards."
And in the Gilgamesh, the founding literary epic of Babylonian civilization, we find, "When they had slain the bull, they tore out his heart, placing it before Shamash. From afar, they bowed down before Shamash.”[xii]
In Judaism we find a highly developed, normative and codified system of bowing spanning the centuries from the Hebrew scriptures to the Kabbalah[xiii]. In the Hebrew scriptures, hawa used exclusively in the Eshtaphal stem, and hishtahawa , mean “to prostrate oneself”, and “to worship.”
Hawa is cognate with the Ugaritic hwy to bow down. In Exodus 24:1 we find, "Come up to YHWH... and bow low from afar." Moses and his companions are expected to appear before the Lord and to prostrate themselves before Him in accordance with accepted rules of ceremony." In theTorah the saga of the Israelites‘ wandering includes the episode with the Golden Calf.
God in his wrath, prepares to destroy the tribe for their failure to bow. He tells Moses, "I have seen this people and it is a stiff-necked people. "In Ezekiel God calls the Israelites "impudent children and stiff-hearted."
The stiffness indicates inflexibility and unwillingness to bow. They are externally "stiff-necked" and internally, "stiff-hearted."
The Spanish Kabbalist mystical masterpiece, the Zohar, in its Tahanun recension, contains penitential prayers that were recited daily in prostrate form. The Zohar calls this section, "Nefitat Appayim," "falling on one's face."[xvi]
Thus it is not surprising to find that Islamic literature praises a paragon of bowing: It is related from Ali b. Abdallah b. Abbas that he used to perform a thousand prostrations every day, and they used to call him "the Prostrator."[xx]
The presence of rules that proscribe making prostrations at special times testifies to the universal presence of bowing within standard Eastern Orthodox devotions. The full prostration is seen either as penance or as an act of deepest reverence.
Making prostrations is Orthodox Christianity’s standard form of religious worship. Orthodox monks on Mt. Athos cultivate personal bowing practices in their cells in marathon sessions that last for hours, even all night.
While bowing is generally practiced in monasteries, Orthodox Christian laymen who have zeal are permitted to pray on their knees in church and to make full prostrations whenever they wish, excepting those times when the Gospel, Epistle, Old Testament readings, Six Psalms and sermon are read.[xxi]
In Roman Catholicism’s Rubrics of the Roman Catholic Breviary and Missal there are instructions for priests, ministers, prelates, and canons as to when to kneel, genuflect, or sit, also how to uncover the head and how to bow profoundly.[xxii]
For example, in Rev. John Ryan‘s discourse on Irish Catholic asceticism, the monks of Ireland specialized in vigor, which could include genuflections and prostrations in phenomenal number during prayer.[xxiii]
At his deathbed he instructed the monks to remove his clothes and lay his dying body on the bare ground inside the Portiuncula, the tiny chapel beloved of Francis. He wished to be close to the earth as his spirit returned to the creator.
He would quote the repentant words of David (2 Sam. 24:17), Psalm 43, (“My soul is laid low in the dust, my heart is stuck to the earth.”) Or Psalm 118 (“My soul sticks to the floor; make me alive according to your promise.”) [xxiv]
The Rule specifies that when a Brother comes back from a journey, he should, on the day of his return, lie face down on the floor of the oratory at the conclusion of each of the customary hours of the Work of God.
The Benedictine Rule guides bowing for contemporary Catholic monastics as well. The following are instructions from the Handbook for Postulants and Novices prepared by the Novice Master of a contemporary Benedictine Hermitage in California:
In this sense the bow is an expression of gratitude for the utter giftedness of life itself in the very moment. We bow to the ground, the earth, mother earth, of which we are a part, but in doing so we are also bowing to the "ground" of all that is, God, Source, and Sustainer of all that is...
In some mysterious way, the bow contains our whole life. One should be prepared to bow always, even in one's most ordinary moments, and one's last moments. Even if you can't do anything but bow, if done as an expression of who you really are, it contains everything." [xxvi]
European Protestants continue to be troubled by bowing. Leading Protestant reformers in Northern Europe broke from centuries of domination by an all-powerful, hierarchical Roman Catholic establishment that wielded absolute religious and political authority.
They protested against the need to show deference on bended knee to mere humans (the various Popes, and the Vatican’s hierarchy of Cardinals and Bishops,) or to icons and the ever-expanding pantheon of saints and martyrs.
Certainly given their grievances with an oppressive establishment that created the Iconoclasts, it is easy to sympathize with the Protestants desire to simplify and to reform the religious heirarchy that was increasingly unresponsive and distant.
It is not my intent to demean the impulse that created Protestant practice; the necessity of the Reformation is an historical fact.
The phenomenon of Orientalism deals principally, not with a correspondence between Orientalism and Orient, but with the internal consistency of Orientalism and its ideas about the Orient . . despite or beyond any correspondence, or lack thereof, with a "real" Orient.[xxx]”
Gregory Schopen says that with rare exceptions the scholarship done in the West on devotion in Asian religions projects battle lines, expectations and categories conditioned by the conflict between Protestant and Catholic issues of papal authority and the source of religious truth.
One can easily understand how a logocentric paradigm that emphasizes doctrine and intellectual analysis of texts, would influence the writing of Western Buddhology, seek for confirmation of that paradigm and distort or ignore aspects of practice that did not reflect its bias.
As we look towards Asia for to expand our investigation into comparative bowing practices, we find that obeisance has both secular and sacred significance. In Ancient and Medieval Chinese society, knowledge of how and when to make ritual prostrations was a requisite skill in civil society’s daily etiquette.
Shuowen Jiezi was the earliest etymological dictionary of the Chinese language, written by Xushen (58-147 CE). The earliest definitions of words used for various forms of bowing appear in the Shuowen.
Duan Yuzai[xxxii] (d.1750 CE), a Qing Dynasty scholar of the Qianlong Emperor's court, wrote the Shuowen Jiezizhu, Annotated Etymologies of Literature and Chinese Characters, a commentary to the Shuowen Jiezi.
The first is three methods of bowing; the second is six situations where one applies the three methods singly or in combination.
The three styles are:
kongshou, which means that the head hits the hands, folded and held at chest height, and sometimes while kneeling; jishou, which means bowing to the ground while kneeling, but not touching the head, and dunshou and (alternately jisang ), which mean bowing and touching the head to the ground.
The six situations six refer to applications of the first three, individually or in combination, in specific social situations. Six situations that require appropriate bows are:
For instance, according to protocol, you need not bow any of the three styles, and yet you do, out of excess caution, perhaps, or because you avoid trouble by showing deference.
5) "Auspicious" are the standard form required by social etiquette, such as paying respects to family members on holidays and birthdays, making social courtesy calls, to superiors or inferiors and for showing astute political diplomacy in a variety of situations.
8) "Multiple" means you don't stop with the required number, but continue to bow on.
Interest in Shuowen Jiezi’s analysis of these Nine Styles of Bows continued over 3000 years, from the 12th century BCE to the 18th century, when Duan Yuzai “corrected the terms.” The Nine Styles sustained their currency through the Tang Dynasty when Buddhist monk Daoxuan revived them for the benefit of novices in training as Buddhist clergy.
Daoxuan’s version of the Nine Styles of Bows highlight how Buddhism skillfully appropriated the Chinese society’s disposition for bowing and adapted it to accord with the principles of Buddhist meditation.
On ceremony days, clergy and laity alike might engage in the practice of liturgical repentance and bow up to ten thousand times.[xxxiii] Monks and nuns bow to the images of Sages, Awakened Beings, and the Buddhas, to their superiors, and to each other.
the beginning practitioner is expected to complete at least 111,000 full-body prostrations along with chanted Refuge Prayers as part of the ngondro practices (which include several hundred thousand other prayers, purification mantras, offerings, mandalas, and devotional meditations).
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.
Each ceremony requires a minimum of nine bows. Interviews and meetings with teachers, superiors, depending on respective rank, require from one to three full prostrations, each set of three prostrations followed by a half-bow (Chinese: wenxun.)
The canonical texts describe venerable Bodhisattvas of great accomplishment bowing to the ground before the Buddha. The Youth Sudhana, in the Gandhavyuha chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra, who is the archetype of the bowing pilgrim, bows to 53 teachers.
Over and over he prostrates his five limbs (hands, feet and head) low to the ground to purge arrogance, repent of past offenses, demonstrate respect, and ultimately, to realize the highest goals of a Bodhisattva’s wisdom and compassion.
Years later, after his marathon bowing journey, he bowed one thousand or more bows per day over an extended period of months. Master Xuyun’s mother died in childbirth, and he wished to repay his mother’s kindness for bringing him into the world.
The biography of Master Hsuan Hua, (1918-1995) an accomplished Chinese Bhikshu pioneer in North America, tells how at the outset of his spiritual career he made a practice of bowing 830 times, twice a day, rain or shine, and did so for ten years.
As it was Daoxuan’s priority to establish a working monastic standard, he compares across cultures—Indian and Chinese—to offer a picture of how central bowing was to the Buddhist contemplative life. [xxxvi] The eight are:
3) Unroll the bowing cloth in preparation to bow. Daoxuan says that this refers to unrolling the nisidana, "the bowing cloth" which along with an alms bowl and three robes is one of the three requisites of a monk.
5) Place the head at the venerated one’s feet in respect.
Daoxuan says, “The highest part of my body is my head and here we place it at the lowest part of the other person. Paying respect with what I honor to the lowest part of the other shows the highest reverence.
Indian Buddhists practiced three aspects of genuflection: "foreign kneeling," "mutual kneeling," and "relaxed kneeling." “Foreign kneeling” gets its name from its source among the barbarian tribes. Monks perform "foreign kneeling" and nuns the “relaxed kneeling.”
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.
Thus, bowing in Asian Buddhist practice is real and significant. Given the centrality of bowing in Buddhism, it is a curious anomaly that Westerners who seek the Buddha’s Way so seldom encounter bowing.
[xxxviii] I participated in the daily practice of zazen, including week-long retreats in total silence, and witnessed the ordination preparation and liturgy in this branch temple of Eiheiji, the headquarters of the Soto School.
At Antaiji, under the tutelage of Uchiyama Kosho Roshi (1912-1998) and his students, I was taught deportment, which included bowing in every situation. Monks and laity bowed easily and readily. Bowing was as automatic as removing one’s shoes before stepping up onto the tatami mats on the temple floor.
I returned to California and began formal study and practice of Mahayana Buddhism with Venerable Chan Master Hsuan Hua at Gold Mountain Monastery in 1974. Gold Mountain’s schedule included many prostrations during a daily minimum of two and a half hours of liturgical ceremonies.
Novice monks and nuns performed an hour each morning of “universal bowing.” Optional personal practices included bowing repentances, bowing to each word in a sutra (scripture), or the distinctive “three steps, one bow” practice which requires the practitioner to take three steps and make a full prostration.
Some have decided to restrict, interpret or Westernize bowing.
Suzuki, according to a story, seeing the "stiff-necked" reticence of Americans, not only did not drop bowing to cater to American's likes and dislikes, instead he increased the required bows before meditation to nine. When asked why, he said that in his view, Americans needed to bow more.
To walk into a BCA service on Sunday morning it could be assumed that one had entered a Lutheran or Methodist church. Jodo Shinshu adopted on purpose the external accoutrements of Protestant Churches.
The Protestant liturgical style was in a sense, protective coloring for a community that was seen as "other" and who during the Second World War, were cruelly incarcerated in prison camps for their racial and cultural identity.
Catholics in many cases had turned away from High Church liturgical formulas, incense and hierarchical structures of orthodoxy and sought the simplicity and internality of Buddhist meditation. Both undoubtedly felt more free to explore Vipassana in the absence of ritualized forms.
Where bowing will fit in remains to be seen.
Thus we see that for different reasons, Jodo Shinshu and Vipassana have stripped away the icons and the devotional aspects, including bowing, in favor of meditation, psychological Metta (loving kindness) and mindfulness.
Given the novelty of Buddhism in America in its second generation, and given our lack of familiarity with Buddhism as practiced by Asians, it is easy to see why Americans need a context for understanding bowing as a legitimate gesture of devotion to the Buddha.
He asked Katagiri-roshi, "Why do we bow.” Katagiri showed him a tiny image of the Buddha bowing to the ground. "If he can do it, you can do it," he said. Fischer thought that was reasonable. Katagiri explained that “bowing is mutual, just one bow, bowing back and forth.”
The more familiar we get with ourselves as we actually are, the more comfortable we get with the images that are "other."
By so doing, the exchange is now horizontal, not vertical.
"Bower and what is bowed to are empty by nature. The bodies of one's self and others are not two. I bow with all beings to attain liberation, to manifest the unsurpassed mind and return to boundless truth."[xliii]
The earliest printed appearance of this verse seems to be in a text by Tiantai Master Zhanran, (b. 711) disciple of the reknowned co-founder of the Tiantai School, Master Zhiyi, in a Lotus Sutra liturgical text called “Fahua sanmei xingshi yunxiang buzhuyi."[xliv] Dogen Kigen remarked on the line in his Hokyogi.
Inspiration for mental contemplations performed during bowing as well as while repenting comes from Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, who appears as one of the central exemplars of both the Avatamsaka and Lotus Teachings of Buddhism.
And nowhere is the nature of the mind - -the interpenetration of noumena and phenomena, the unity of Buddha and living beings - - more eloquently expressed than in the samadhi states of the Bodhisattva of Great Conduct, Samantabhadra.[xlvi]
This undoubtedly was the source of Katagiri’s recitation, and gets to the heart of my thesis, that bowing in Buddhism, like Chan meditation, is a Dharma-door that opens to samadhi and liberation. Let’s look at the contemplation.
Shakyamuni Buddha appears within it.
“Worshipper and worshipped” refer to subject and object, the one bowing and the one bowed to. “Nature” is the Buddha-nature, while "empty and still," refers to the doctrine of anatta, or "not-self."[xlvii]
“Response” refers to changes that take place when one cultivates the Dao according to the Buddha's Dharma instructions. "Hard to conceive of," suggests that the transformations of day-to-day, discursive consciousness that occur when one cultivates go beyond speech and logical thought.
Bodhimanda refers to the place of cultivation, literally "enlightenment field." In the verse the contemplator analogizes his body first as a Bodhimanda, the place where he cultivates, and secondly, he likens it to a pearl in Indra's net.
Shakyamuni Buddha appears within it.
At this point the cultivator, using the power of his mind's eye, visualizes the Sage he or she bows to, in this case, Shakyamuni Buddha, as if he were appearing right within the Pearl that he/she visualizes in his body and mind.
The interaction continues: the bower visualizes his body in the process of taking refuge. To “return my life in worship" is a literal translation of "namo" or “namah" the Sanskrit term used to praise a Sage or Worthy.
One of namah's meanings is "to return my life back to its sacred source." It can be thought of as recognition that one's life does not belong to one as a possession, ultimately one does not “own” his or her life.
At the end of the visualization the practitioner lets the thought go, and does not attempt to retain or grasp the vision, in accordance with the third of the Buddha’s "Four Stations of Mindfulness" (Brahma Viharas,) which is to realize that all thoughts are transient and thus, not to be grasped at[xlviii].
It may seem counter-productive to deliberately introduce a thought, no matter how wholesome, into the mind, when the Chan principle is to never allow even a dust-mote's worth of thought to defile the fundamentally pure mind-ground.
In Buddhism, however, this is called “fighting poison with poison.” It reminds us that all dharmas taught by the Buddha are expedient, not ultimate, yet at the same time, in the process of cultivation, all are necessary. The Chan School has a teaching, “We borrow the false to find the true.”
Further, to bring the vision of a Buddha or Bodhisattva into one's mind, given that it is technically an illusion that has "marks," is nonetheless, a purifying image that increases one's "good roots," and banishes harmful thoughts or instinctual desires, greed, anger, and delusion.
Contemplations are an aid to samadhi; focusing with concentration on a single wholesome and directed thought, one purges the many random, discursive thoughts. Over time, the visualization's sublime aspects can connect with the nature, and the response to the Way can be "hard to conceive of."
The reactions of college students in California who meet bowing for the first time in a monastic environment suggest that bowing appeals to Westerners today as it has historically to people in every culture.
Students' Responses at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Students from Humboldt State University from the University of San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley, come regularly to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for a Monastic Encounter weekend, as a field trip in their religious studies courses.
At the end of the retreat we ask students to evaluate what they enjoyed and what they would improve.
From an 18 year-old “atheist,” a Caucasian woman in her sophomore year.
“I’ve never done any religious practice before. The bowing put me off at first, I’d never imagined doing anything at all like that. I felt aversion but because everybody else was doing it, and because the monks and nuns interpreted the actions in psychological terms, it didn’t seem so threatening.
From a 19 year-old "culturally Jewish" man:
“I realized that I had never before taken part in a religious ceremony of any kind. My parents never introduced me to religion. Joining the bowing and the chanting felt like water touching a thirsty plant. A part of my heart opened that hadn’t been touched before.”
From a 19 year-old male Baptist junior :
When I left the ceremony hall I felt lighter in spirit, as if I had left cares and years behind on that bowing bench. I went back and bowed by myself for an hour in the darkened Buddha Hall. I wanted to clean out while I had the chance.”
1) secular bowing as a social courtesy;
2) bowing in repentance and reform.
3) bowing to establish a worshipful relationship to deities and sacred presences;
4) bowing to praise a deity’s majesty;
5) bowing as a liturgical ritual;
6) bowing to reduce pride and increase humility and goodness;
7) bowing as mortification and punishment.
The "goal" or the end of the spiritual path then, is to gradually remove all aspects of the view of self, until one rediscovers his or her non-dual nature. Bowing, as a road to the non-dual helps empty out and purify false concepts within.
Buddhist bowing, like its quietistic counterpart of seated meditation, also supports and reflects the larger "theology" from which they emerge. The unique aspect of Buddha Dharma is to awaken to the self nature—Buddha.
Going and returning with no border,
Movement and stillness have one source.
Opening and disclosing the mysterious and the subtle,
Understanding the mind and all its states;
Deep and wide and interfused,
Vast and great and totally complete....
Flower Adornment Sutra Preface50
[iii]"Stopping" and "contemplating" correspond to the dual meaning of the Sanskrit word dhyana. Dhyana in Chinese is Chan (Zen in Japanese and Son in Korean) and has two definitions: "calming the mind,"
[vii]"Elite Buddhists have redefined Buddhism as synonymous with the practice of meditation. Those Buddhist groups that do not focus on teaching of meditation, therefore, are viewed as not really Buddhist at all."
Jan Nattier, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review 5/1 (Fall 1995), 48. See also Paul David Numrich, Old Wisdom in the New World: Americanization of Two Immigrant Theravada Buddhist Temples (Knoxville, 1996) 119-125.
[x] Reinders paints the picture:
"On one end of the yardstick of obeisance was aversion to full prostration, and the implications of self-mortification, ritual nudity, despotism, militarism, deception, slavishness, China, Siam, Japan, primitives, Catholics, idolators and dogs.
On the other positive end of attraction was Herbert Spencer's world: faint echoes of obeisance (growing fainter every day), freedom, industry, free-market capitalism, honest, dignity, Britain, Protestantism, (and perhaps even God.)" (Reinders, 1997 p. 314.)
[xii] Loewenstamm, ibid., p. 42.
[xiv] The situation regarding bowing is complex in Judaism. Prostration was a common act of self-abasement performed before relatives, strangers, superiors, and especially before royalty. Abraham bowed himself before the Hittites of Hebron (Gen 23:7, 12). He also bowed before the three strangers who visited him at Mamre (Gen 18:2), as did Lot before the two angelic visitors who came to him at Sodom (Gen 19:1). The verb, however, is used less frequently of an individual’s worship of the Lord. Abraham on his way to sacrifice Isaac says that he is going to worship (Gen 22:5). It is used most often of particular acts of worship, e.g. of Abraham’s servant who "bowed his head and worshipped" (Gen 24:26, 48), and of Gideon (Jud 7:15) upon experiencing God’s grace. Such acts often involved actual prostration "to the earth" as in the case of Abraham’s servant (Gen 24:52), Moses (Ex 34:8), Joshua (Josh 5:14), and Job (Job 1:20). Yet, while one is compelled to observe the rules for proper bowing, at the same time the second commandment forbids the worship of any graven images or other gods (Ex 20:5; 34-14; Deut 5:9). The Israelites were warned not to worship the gods of the Amorites, Hittites, etc. (Ex 23:24; Ps 81:9 [H 10]). Nevertheless the Israelites repeatedly worshiped other gods (Deut 29:26 [H 25]; Jud 2:12, 17; Jer 13:10; 16:11; 22:9). See, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. I, ed. R. Laird Harris, et al. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), pp. 267-269.
[xv] Moses Maimonides, the Mishneh Torah: Laws of Prayer, Chapter 5; and par.10 and Par 12: Yad Hilkhot te_la 5:9-15). http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/prostration_heb.htm
[xvi]Uri Ehrlich published a revised edition of his dissertation on the gestures and physical aspects of Jewish prayer in Hebrew by the Magnes Press as Kol Atzmatai Tomarna (Jerusalem 1999). Chapter 2 in his book deals explicitly with bowing.
[xvii] Sura xxiii.2. Salat doesn't mean "prayer", another Arabic word dua corresponds to the concept of prayer. It doesn't occur in pre-Kur'anic literature. Muhammed took it, like the ceremony, from the Jews and Christians in Arabia. See also, Surah ii. 83, 110, 172, 277, iv. 77, 162, v. 12, 55.
[xviii]Qur'an xcvi. 19
[xix]Ibid., p. 499
[xxi] “Why We Are Not to Kneel On Sundays,” from “Living An Orthodox Life,” Orthodox Christian Information Center, <http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/kneeling.htm>. See also, Orthodox America, <http://www.roca.org/oa/150/150e.htm>
[xxii] Rubrics of the Roman Breviary and Missal Translated from Acta Apolstolicae Sedis LII (1960) No. 10, (Aug. 15), The Liturgical Press, St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, Leonard Doyle, translator, 1960.
[xxiii]Rev. John Ryan SJ, MA, Irish Monasticism: Origins and Early Development, 1931 Jan. 3, Dublin, Talbot Press Limited. p. 345. The Irish monks considered asceticism to be a form of martyrdom and there were three grades: white, blue and red. White martyrdom, the basic form, consists in external mortification, like renunciation, fasting and labour; blue martyrdom, the intermediate form, consists in internal mortification, or triumph over the will and inclinations; while red martyrdom (the highest form) is actual death by violence for Christ’s sake. p. 400 fn.1. Ryan deduces that vigor in cultivation was a sign of weak powers of reflection. He proposes that perhaps because (Irish monks) were less capable of contemplations than the Easterns, (i.e. Asian monastics,) the Irish monks showed an exceptional zeal at reciting psalms and other vocal prayers. This trait remained with them throughout the centuries. This would explain their devotion to the long psalm 118, because of its unusual length. Reciting it was a form of martyrdom.
[xxiv]Elizabeth T. Knuth, Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic: Prostrations/Rev. 12 December, 1998 URL: http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/nineways/9ways2.html
[xxvii]Susan Rosa comments:" the formal statements of conviction issued in the wake of the Reformation... had encouraged the development of the notion of religion as adherence to a set of propositions. Rosa, Journal of the History of Religions, 1991.
[xxviii]The concern with bodily posture in worship includes three areas of questions concerning: 1) scriptural basis for truth claims, involving a characteristically Protestant appeal to the priority of textual authority over institutional authority; 2) bowing and genuflection's alleged insult to human dignity, involving therefore an implicit definition of a properly dignified self with its properly dignified posture (erect); and 3) its historical associations with "idolatry" and the Roman Catholic Church, involving, therefore, certain historical defining conflicts of religious, national and institutional identity.Scholars have emphasized the study of doctrines and beliefs and have ignored practice in general, and devotional or ritual practice in particular. Reinders and Schopen redress an epistemological blind spot of Anglophone humanities and Social Sciences, particularly Sinology and Buddhology.
[xxix] Said, Edward, Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979. See also: Immanuel Wallerstein,."Eurocentrism and its Avatars: The Dilemmas of Social Science"1997, [Keynote Address at ISA East Asian Regional Colloquium, "The Future of Sociology in East Asia," Nov. 22-23, 1996, Seoul, Korea, co-sponsored by Korean Sociological Association and International Sociological Association] http://fbc.binghamton.edu/iweuroc.htm. A supplementary bibliography on Orientalism and post-colonial studies is available at http://landow.stg.brown.edu/post/poldiscourse/bibl.html
[xxx]Said, (pp 1-3,5) ibid.
“The study of Indian religions are dominated by a search in written sources for a logocentrism that typifies the Protestant traditions of most Western Indologists and Buddhologists. Evaluations of quality and authenticity of their conclusions and foci of that scholarship must be reinterpreted in that light.
[xxxii]Duan served as governor of Wushan. Known for his literary acheivements, he was also famous as a advocate of the ancient virtue of yi "righteousness." Duan was expert at xiaoxue, "The Lesser Learning." He wrote seven well-known reference works, including our text, the Shuowen Jiezizu. (Zhongguo renming dazidian p. 666.)
[xxxiii]“The Ten Thousand Buddha’s Repentance Liturgy” is bowed every Spring at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Northern California and requires 11,111 bows in all. The ceremony requires three weeks to complete.
[xxxvi]T. 45, #1896, 862c. Daoxuan obviously has access to the earliest Chinese etymological dictionary, the Shuowen Jiezi, as well as the Rites of Zhou, as he quotes from them in citing the “Nine Styles of Bows.”
[xxxviii] Antaiji moved to Hyogo Prefecture in 1976.
[xxxix] Shasta Abbey, in the Soto Zen lineage, under the tutelage of the late Jiyu Kennett Roshi, developed a full monastic liturgy that has been said to resemble Anglican church music. Kennett Roshi was an accomplished organist; her Protestant religious background, university training in music and love for liturgy informed her translations of Japanese Zen ceremonies into Western modes.
[xl]Tricyle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. IV, No. 1, Fall, 1994, p. 32.
[xlii] Fischer, ibid. (pp 58-59.)
[xliii] Fischer, ibid. (pp 58-59.)
[xliv] T. 1942, vol. 46.956a2.
[xlvi]For more on Samantabhadra, I refer the reader to Taigen Daniel Leighton’s Bodhisattva Archetypes: Classic Buddhist Guides to Awakening and their Modern Expression, Penguin Arkana, New York, 1998.
[xlvii]The Buddha taught the Three Dharma-seals," i.e. all dharmas made of components, arising from conditions, are 1) dukkha: subject to decay and destruction and thus, inherently unsatisfactory, tending to suffering, 2) anatta: not-self; 3) anitta: transient and impermanent.
- This article appears in "Purity of Heart and Contemplation," Barnhart and Wong, Editors, Continuum Publishers, 2001/ Rev. Heng Sure - http://paramita.typepad.com