“The Buddhist practice of bowing to the Buddha . . . diminishes one's habits of self-importance, pride, and arrogance. It is also a good physical exercise that can make the body strong. . . .” (WM 38)
“bowing is an important practice in Buddhism. It involves a full prostration-the placing of the forehead, forearms, and knees on the ground in a total gesture of reverence and of worship. It is usually done before an image of the Buddha, a Bodhisattva, a Sage, or before a Holy text. It is a misconception, though, to think that the worshipper is bowing to a statue of the Buddha, to a wooden or stone or clay image. 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.” (PDS, Feb. 1984, p. 4)
“1) The first is 'arrogant bowing', and describes a person who, although he or she bows to the Buddha, still has a mark of a self. When someone like this bows to the Buddha, it is forced and is accompanied by thoughts like this: 'What am I doing bowing to the Buddha? Why do I have to bow to him?' A person like this becomes annoyed at being forced to put his head down. He sees everyone else bowing and feels that if he does not bow along with them, he will stand out, and so out of embarrassment he bows to the Buddha. Although he bows, his mark of self is still not empty; on the contrary, he is filled with arrogance. . . .
“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 Buddhas, he bows to Sutras, and he bows Repentance ceremonies. He is truly a diligent cultivator. Upon hearing the praise of this cultivator, he also wishes to be recognized as a cultivator, and so he begins vigorously bowing to the Buddha. Although he finds pleasure in bowing, he does not truly bow to the Buddha; he is bowing for recognition. He is seeking recognition as a cultivator, and the pleasure he finds is in that recognition and in his dreams of fame. . . .
“With the first, arrogant bowing, you see others bowing, and so you bow along, but you think to yourself, 'Oh, this is really superstitious. Of what possible use could it be?' The second, 'seeking for fame', is not performed because you believe or do not believe; you bow because you see someone else bowing and receiving offerings, respect and others' praise. Since you too wish to receive offerings, respect, and praise, you bow to the Buddha.
“3) The third is called 'bowing with body and mind concurring'. . . . It describes a person who bows when he sees others bowing. In mindless imitation, both his body and his mind go along with what everyone else is doing. He doesn't have the slightest concern as to whether bowing to the Buddha is beneficial or not, or whether it is reasonable or superstitious. You do not seek for recognition; you just follow along with everyone else, you body and mind concurring. This kind of bowing has no real benefits and no real faults.
“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. people who are wise use this method to bow to the Buddha, and by doing so, they purify the Three karmas of body, mouth, and mind.
“When someone uses this fourth method to bow to the Buddha, his bodily karma is correct inasmuch as he does not kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, and so in this way his bodily karma is purified. When he uses this method to bow to the Buddha, he entertains no thoughts of greed, hatred, or stupidity]], rather he possesses the wisdom born from single[[minded]]ly and respectfully bowing to the Buddha, and so his karma of mind also becomes pure. When someone bows to the Buddha, he also recites the Buddha's name, and by doing so, or by Holding and reciting Sutras and Mantras, his mouth karma is also correct and devoid of any harsh speech, false [[speech, irresponsible speech or duplicity and is thereby purified. When the Three karmas of body, mouth, and mind are pure, this is called 'wise and pure bowing', with which one uses true wisdom to bow to the Buddha.
“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. As I bow before this one Buddha, I bow everywhere before all Buddhas. I am not just bowing before one Buddha; my transformation bodies bow before each Buddha, simultaneously making offerings to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.'
“Consider that 'everything is made from the mind alone', and so one's mind totally pervades the Dharma-realm (see entry). One's bowing practice totally pervades the Dharma-realm. What is the Dharma-realm? All of the Great world systems of a bil[[Lion worlds (see world systems*) are contained within it. In fact, nothing is outside of the Dharma-realm. With this kind of bowing, you contemplate your respectful bowing pervading everywhere throughout 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 Buddhas of the Dharma-realm; bowing to the Buddhas of the Dharma-realm is just bowing to one Buddha.' This is because 'all Buddhas of the ten directions and the Three periods of time share one Dharma Body in common, and all Buddhas' Lands and ways are identical.' A concentrated mind must be used to bow to the Buddha, to contemplate the Buddha, and to cultivate, so that you will not have polluted thoughts.
“It is not considered to be Proper concentration if when you are bowing, your mind runs off to the movies, or to the race track, or goes off hunting, or to a dance hall, a bar, or a restaurant. You need not purchase a ticket for your mind to travel off in all directions. With no travel arrangements at all, suddenly it is in the heavens, and suddenly it is on earth. Sometimes your mind will fly off to New York and then for no apparent reason, it comes back to San Francisco. You think, 'Oh, I was here bowing to the Buddha and then I went to New York, only to fly back to San Francisco again. This must be a spiritual power!'
“In fact, that is not even a ghostly power, let alone a spiritual power. It is nothing more than polluted thought and is called Deviant]] contemplation or improper contemplation. If you cultivate with Proper contemplation, you will not have these polluted thoughts. You would bow to the Buddha with an undivided mind.
”'Sincerely Cultivating' means that when you bow once, that surpasses one million bows made by someone who bows while having polluted thoughts. And so in Cultivating, 'when you reach the gate, you enter.' You should understand this Dharma Door, because if you do not, then when you see others bowing to the Buddha, you will not bow the way they do but instead will think, 'As soon as I'm finished bowing, I'm going to have a cup of coffee, or perhaps I'll have a drink.' people like that have no control over their minds, and after they have finished bowing, they run off to have a drink.
“The problem is not only do they themselves go out to have a drink, but they drag everyone else out with them. That is really pitiful. That is not 'Cultivating purely with Proper contemplation', but is a form of Deviant]] contemplation, because if you have false thoughts while you are bowing, your worship is devoid of any Merit and virtue.
“7) The seventh is called the 'true mark of impartial bowing'. It describes a person who bows and yet does not bow; who does not bow while he bows. When I say this, some of you are thinking, 'You say we should bow and yet not bow, and not bow and yet bow. Therefore, if I don't bow to the Buddha, won't I be bowing to the Buddha?' That is not what I mean. With this kind of bowing, although you bow to the Buddha, you are not attached to a mark of bowing to the Buddha. You cannot distort the meaning and say that while you are not bowing to the Buddha, it counts as bowing to the Buddha. One who speaks in that way is mentally disturbed.
“For example, recently someone told me he had attained the void. That is an extremely stupid thing to say. What is more, people like that cannot be helped, and there is no way to save them because their heavy attachment-nature makes them too stupid.
“The 'true mark of impartial bowing' means that 'I am bowing to the Buddha, I am impartially bowing to the Triple Jewel; I am reverent to the Buddha, reverent to the Dharma, and reverent to the Sangha. Although I bow in this way, I, nevertheless, do not discriminate that I am bowing and 'not one thought is produced, nor is one thought destroyed'. This is the Dharma of the 'true mark of impartial bowing'. It is a Dharma which involves neither coming into being nor ceasing to be: 'When not even one thought arises, the entire substance appears.' When you bow to the Buddha to the point that not even one thought is produced, you cause your body to manifest throughout the entire Dharma-realm. Although your body is bowing here, it is the same size as the Dharma-realm. This is just the true mark that has no mark. You bow until there are no people, no self, no living beings, and no lifespan. You become one and the same substance with the Dharma-realm. Your body is the Dharma-realm; the Dharma-realm is your body.
“Is this not wonderful? Before your body was just a speck on Mount Sumeru, and Mount Sumeru was the size of a dust-mote in the Dharma-realm. But when your reach the point of the 'true appearance which has no appearance,' Mount Sumeru is contained within your Dharma Body. You now contain Mount Sumeru. Is this not wonderful? You contain absolutely everything; everything in the uni[[verse is contained within your nature, and you understand everything. The true mark of impartial bowing is an inconceivable state. If you can reach this state while bowing to the Buddha, can you then explain all of its wonderful aspects? No, they are ineffable.” (UW 19-23)
A prostration (Pali: panipāta, Skt.: namas-kara, Ch.: li-pai, Jp.: raihai) is a gesture used in Buddhist practice to show reverence to the Triple Gem (comprising the Buddha, his teachings, and the spiritual community) and other objects of veneration.
Among Buddhists prostration is believed to be beneficial for practitioners for several reasons, including:
In contemporary Western Buddhism, some teachers use prostrations as a practice unto itself,<ref>See, for instance, Tromge (1995), pp. 87-96.</ref> while other teachers relegate prostrations to customary liturgical ritual, ancillary to meditation.<ref>See, for example, Aitken (1982), pp. 29-31, where he discusses such rituals as having a twofold purpose: “First, ritual helps to deepen our religious spirit and to extend its vigor to our lives. Second, ritual is an opening for the experience of forgetting the self as the words or the actions become one with you, and there is nothing else.” (p. 29).</ref>
Prostrations may also be subsumed within sadhana repetitions of various vinyasa forms of yogic discipline, such as Trul Khor, eg. Importantly, vinyasa forms were directly influenced from Buddhist 'impermanence' (anitya) as was the language of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras informed by Buddhist discourse.
In the Pali canon, laypersons prostrating before the then-living Buddha is mentioned in several suttas.<ref>Khantipalo (1982). In addition to making this general statement, Khantipalo quotes an example of lay people prostrating before the Buddha from the Kalama Sutta (AN 3.65).</ref> In Theravada Buddhism, as part of daily practice, one typically prostrates before and after chanting and meditation. On these occasions, one does typically prostrates three times: once to the Buddha, once to the Dhamma, and once to the Sangha. More generally, one can also prostrate before “any sacred object of veneration.”<ref>Indaratana (2002), p. v.</ref>
Theravada Buddhists execute a type of prostration that is known as “five-point veneration” (Pali: patitthitapanca) or the “five-limbed prostration” (Pali: pañc'anga-vandana) where the two palms and elbows, two sets of toes and knees, and the forehead are placed on the floor.<ref>Indaratana (2002), p. v. Khantipalo (1982).</ref> More specifically:
In Thailand, traditionally, each of the three aforementioned prostrations are accompanied by the following Pali verses:<ref name=“Khantipalo 1982”/> <center> <table cellspacing=“10”> <tr> <td>First Prostration</td> <td style=“border-left:1px solid #AAAAAA;border-right:1px solid #AAAAAA”> Araham samma-sambuddho bhagava<br />Buddham bhagavantam abhivademi. </td> <td>The Noble One, the fully Enlightened One, the Exalted One,<br />I bow low before the Exalted Buddha.</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Second Prostration</td> <td style=“border-left:1px solid #AAAAAA;border-right:1px solid #AAAAAA”> Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo<br />Dhammam namassami. </td> <td>The Exalted One's well-expounded Dhamma<br />I bow low before the Dhamma.</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Third Prostration</td> <td style=“border-left:1px solid #AAAAAA;border-right:1px solid #AAAAAA”> Supatipanno bhagavato savakasangho<br />sangham namami. </td> <td>The Exalted One's Sangha of well-practiced disciples<br /> I bow low before the Sangha.</td> </tr> </table> </center>
In Theravadin countries such as Sri Lanka, when one goes before one's teacher, in order to “open one's mind up to receive instructions,” one bows and recites the phrase, “Okāsa ahaṃ bhante vandāmi” (“I pay homage to you venerable sir”).<ref>Bhikkhu Bodhi (2006), Sn 2.9 Kiṃsīla Sutta — Right Conduct (lecture) at time 25:20, available as “Sn032” (mp3) from “Bodhi Monastery” at http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/about-buddhism/audio/903-audio/84-sutta-nipata.html. Before a nun (as opposed to a monk), one would presumably use ayye instead of bhante.</ref>
Roshi Philip Kapleau writes:
Ninth-century Zen master Huang Po is said to have done prostrations so intensely that he wore a permanent red mark on his forehead.<ref>Kapleau (1989b), p. 192.</ref>
</td><td style=“margin-left:2%; margin-top:3%; margin-bottom:3%; margin-right:0%; background:#FFD060; border:2px solid #FF4500; font-size:100%”>
<center>An American in Dokusan</center> <div style=“margin-left:1%; margin-right:1%”> Zen master Phillip Kapleau recounts his first stay in “a real Zen monastery”:
prostrating at the Jokhang, Lhasa]] In Vajrayana Buddhism, prostrations are often performed before meditation or teachings, but can form a separate practice by itself. Prostrations are seen as a means of purifying ones body, speech and mind of karmic defilements, especially pride.<ref>Tromge (1995), p. 87.</ref> Prostrations are used in tandem with visualization and can be used to express reverence to Guru Rinpoche<ref>Tromge (1995), pp. 88-9.</ref> and others.
For example, in the context of offering homage to Guru Rinpoche, prostrations are to be performed as follows:
This type of prostration is often done 3, 7, 21, or 108 times. A prostration mala can be used to facilitate counting.<ref>Tromge (1995), p. 95.</ref>
This form of prostration is used with enlightened beings other than Guru Rinpoche as well.
Prostrations done in large numbers (like 100,000) can be part of the preliminary practices to the practice of tantra. Other practices like this can be reciting the Refuge prayer, mandala offerings, Vajrasattva mantras and other practices called ngöndro.
Fair Use: Vaidya Vasant Lad, Textbook of Ayurveda, Ayurvedic Press, 2002; Vasant Lad, BAMS, MAsc, Ayurvedic Institute Gurukula Notes, Ayurvedic Institute, 1994-2006; and Ron Epstein, Buddhism A to Z, Burlingame, California, Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2003, p. and many other sources (see Bibliography). Adapted from Fair Use Source: Upasaka Ron Epstein, Buddhism A to Z, 1999: p. Primary Original Source: The Tripitaka of Sutra, Shastra and Vinaya Dharma teachings (as found in the scripture storehouse of the Indian Sanskrit- Siddham, Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese traditions of the Nalanda Tradition of ancient Nalanda University) of Shakyamuni Buddha, and his Arya Sagely Bodhisattva Bhikshu Monk and Upasaka disciples.
These Good and Wise Advisors (Kaliyanamitra) Dharma Master teachers include Arya Venerables Om Tare Tuttare Ture Om Ah Hum and Namo to Jivaka, Charaka, Lao Zi - Mahakashapa, Ashwagosha, Shantideva - Hui Neng - Shen Kai Sheng Ren Shr, Bodhidharma, the 16 Nalanda Acharyas 1. Nagarjuna-Manjushri, 2. Arydeva, 3. Buddhapalita, 4. Bhavaviveka, 5. Chandrakirti and Chandragomin, 6. Shantideva, 7. Shantarakshita, 8. Kamalashila, 9. Asanga-Maitreya, 10. Vasubhandu, 11. Dignaga, 12. Dharmakirti, 13. Vimuktisena, 14. Haribhadra, 15. Gunaprabha, 16. Shakyaprabha; Dharmarakshita, Atisha, Tsong Khapa, Thogme Zangpo, Nyingma Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyel, Machig Lapdron, Tilopa, Naropa, Milarepa, Sakya Pandita, Fazang, Yunmen, Nichiren, Honen, Shinran, Kukai, Dogen, Hakuin, Jamgon Kongtrul, Nyingma Penor Rinpoche, Bakula Rinpoche, Dagri Rinpoche, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Geshe Lama Kongchog, Longchen Rapjampa - Gosok Rinpoche, Phabongkha Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Geshe Ngwang Dakpa, Geshe Sopa Rinpoche, Garchen Rinpoche, Karmapa, Sakya Trizin, Tenzin Gyatso the Dalai Lama, Hsu Yun, Hsuan Hua, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Choden Rinpoche, Ajahn Chah, Seung Sahn, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ajahn Sumedho, S. N. Goenka, Mama Ayur Punya Jyana Pushtim Kuriye Svaha, bowing at your feet I make requests. Please bestow on me the two attainments of Maha Punya and Maha Prajna Paramita. And thanks to other modern day masters. We consider them to be in accord with Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua’s ”Seven Guidelines for Recognizing Genuine Teachers”
Nalanda Online University's teachings are based especially on the following Buddhist Scriptures: Lama Tsong Khapa's Lam Rim, the Dharma Flower Lotus Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, the Ksitigarbha Sutra, the Bhaisajya Guru Sutra, the Dharani Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, the Prajna Paramita Hridayam Heart Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Sanghata Sutra, the Sutra of Golden Light, the Srimala Devi Sutra, the Sutra in 42 Sections, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Hui Neng Sutra, Vasubandhu's Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas, Maitreya's Ornament for Clear Realizations (Abhisamayalamkara), Chandrakirti's Supplement to Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara), Vasubandhu's Treasury of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha) and the Tantras and Mantras of the Vajrayana the 42 Hands and Eyes, Guhyasamaja, the Kalachakra, the Vajrayogini, the Heruka, the Chakrasamvara, the Chod, the Hayagriva, the Hevajra, the Yamantaka, the Kalarupa, the Manjushri Nama Samgiti, the Vajrakilaya, the Vajrapani, the Vajra Claws Dakini, the Mahakala, the Tara, the White Umbrella Goddess (She Dan Do Bo Da La), Kirti Losang Trinle's Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra, and Aku Sherab Gyatso's The Two Stages of the Guhyasamaja Tantra and their commentaries (shastras) by the above Arya Tripitakacharya Dharma Masters.
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