Bowing- Why?

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  • Tin_Sandwich
    • Feb 2014
    • 21

    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,
  • Daitetsu
    • Oct 2012
    • 1145

    Hi Steve,

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

    Originally posted by Tin_Sandwich
    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, 07:56 PM.
    no thing needs to be added


    • treebeard
      • Sep 2014
      • 41

      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, 08:49 PM.

      sat today


      • Byokan
        Treeleaf Unsui
        • Apr 2014
        • 4269

        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, 09:29 PM.
        展道 渺寛 Tendō Byōkan
        Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.


        • Risho
          • May 2010
          • 3179


          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:

          This "Buddha quote", however nice it sounds, is not something the Buddha likely said at all (turns out to be from the cheery 70's writer on love, Leo Buscaglia ( Oh, the


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


          • Mp

            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. =)




            • Kyonin
              Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
              • Oct 2010
              • 6739

              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


              • Ishin
                • Jul 2013
                • 1359

                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!
                Grateful for your practice


                • Joyo

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

                  sat today


                  • Myosha
                    • Mar 2013
                    • 2974


                    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?"


                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39075

                      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
                      WELCOME ... ... to our TREELEAF 'AT HOME' Two Day 'ALL ONLINE' ROHATSU (Buddha's Enlightenment Day) RETREAT, being held by LIVE NETCAST on Saturday/Sunday December 6th and 7th, 2014 (though starting Friday night December 5th in some time zones). Please 'sit-a-long' with the LIVE NETCAST at the times below ... to be visible

                      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
                      Hi, 'Liturgy' means the many acts and rituals by which we manifest (and are manifested by) the beliefs and teachings at the heart of Buddhist Practice. Some we practice as a group together, some at private times (not two, by the way). These various practices can bring the teachings more visibly to life, and our lives into the

                      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

                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE


                      • Kokuu
                        Treeleaf Priest
                        • Nov 2012
                        • 6737

                        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, 08:42 AM.


                        • Daiyo
                          • Jul 2014
                          • 819

                          Originally posted by Joyo
                          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?




                          • Tin_Sandwich
                            • Feb 2014
                            • 21

                            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


                            • Troy
                              • Sep 2013
                              • 1318

                              Originally posted by Myosha

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

                              Salty, ain't it?^^

                              Myosha sat today
                              Love that, thank you