Bowing (“prostration”)

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, to return to boundless truth.
Katagiri Roshi

Before and after meditation or a teaching, we do the “five-point veneration” (patiṭṭhita panca, or patiṭṭhitaṃ) to show honour to the Buddha or to our teacher.

It is called “five-point” because in the third stage, five points of the body — two palms and elbows, two sets of toes and knees, and the forehead — are touching the floor.

We start by kneeling facing the Buddha or our teacher, with back upright and eyes looking ahead.

  1. We place our hands together in front of our heart, and say “anjali“, which means respect
  2. We raise our folded hands to our foreheads, and say “vandana“, which means homage
  3. We separate our hands and place the palms on the floor in front of our knees, and lower our forehead to the floor between them, while saying “akhivara“, which means obeisance or reverence. note

We repeat this three times: one for the buddha, one for the dhamma, one for the sangha.

  • We do patiṭṭhita panca towards the Buddha image: before we sit down on our meditation cushion, and again when we arise from it.
  • We do patiṭṭhita panca towards our teacher: when they come in and sit down, and again when they finish teaching and get up to leave.

We do patiṭṭhita panca not in the worldly sense of bowing, which is to show deference to power, but as a sign of respect for each of them, and of part of our practice of emptying the Self.

Almost every organised faith in the whole world has a practice similar to this. There is a good discussion about bowing at ExistentialBuddhist.com.

More info about bowing

Bowing at Wikipedia.org

Prostration at Wikipedia.org

Prostration in Buddhism at Wikipedia.org

More about showing respect in Buddhist traditions, at WisdomLib.org

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