|Devotion (saddha) is rampant in Theravada Thailand (Katherine Neumann/fotopedia.com)|
|Zen zero in part symbolizing emptiness or shunyata, impersonality (etsystatic.com)|
|Mahayana novices (wellhappypeaceful.com)|
|O Zen empty spot, there is nothing you are...|
|Devotion in Chinatown, the Buddha's Tooth Relic Temple (Goderic Tia/flickr)|
|Theravada candles, Burma (Nadia Isakova/flickr)|
|The Buddha reclining into final nirvana, Vietnamese monument (Wisdom Quarterly)|
|Vajrayana puja (BuddhaWeekly.com)|
- Faith in Buddhism
- Pujas (devotions) in Buddhism
- Great Tibetan Buddhist Books
- Doubt and Uncertainty Prevent Enlightenment
This is in evidence on treks to Mt. Kailash (see below) in Tibet as well as at the Buddha's "Great Enlightenment" (Maha Bodhi) shrine in Bodh Gaya, Bihar state, India.
A great deal of reverence may go to special gurus, Himalayan shamans, Bon wizards/sorcerers, and famous writers like Jetsun Milarepa (The Hundred Thousands Songs of Realization) and the various Dalai Lamas and the incarnations of a variety of rinpoches.
|Tulsi from Sweden explains Buddhist bowing|
Why bow? Buddhism is a practice not a faith. It is almost like a second career. Buddhists learn very specialized skills, including the use of many tools. The largest classification of these tools are lumped together under the term "meditation." For the most part these tools are rather subtle, delicate, and specific in their purpose, like an array of precise surgical instruments.
Introspective methods scope out certain problem areas of the mind/heart. Skillfully employed these can map out every tiny grain and sliver of delusion yet remaining. They must be dealt with, each according to its kind. Some may have to be rooted out by use of one tool or another. Others we might choose to dissolve in place. The more skillful operator even has a few rare and wonderful tools to transform them into something beneficial. Of all these tools available, each just right for a certain task.
What if the problem is really big? What if instead of a minor negative karmic propensity, the problem needing to be addressed is an iron-hard knot of ego? It might be carved away with a magnifying glass and a scalpel. But that might take rather long, and all the while it might be growing... In such a case, why not go at it with tongs and hammer: hold it fast, take deliberate aim, and pound away with measured strength until it softens into a state of useful malleability? Is there a tool for that? Of course.
Tools have a secondary function also. Ego is clever and hides. Prostration helps flush it out. All I ever have to do is a few, and up it pops, virtually shouting: "Hey, hey, hey! What's all this? It's humiliating. Don't do this! People are watching. Stop it right now!" At that instant one may come to know right where ego is. How many hours might one have to sit for this kind of report? Having lured ego from its lair, we are a shade or two less vulnerable to its assaults and deceptions.
Ego would rather that we not know it exists. It much prefers to masquerade as "self" instead. When we make it show itself, the veil is lifted. We can stare it right in the face. We are by no means one and the same, which is very good to know. Prostration is bait that ego simply cannot resist. It is one of its weaknesses, which makes it an easy way to attack it, over and over and over again.
Tibetan Buddhist devotees traveling, doing prostrations every few steps all along the way, to the 2002 Kalachakra initiation -- from Werner Herzog's film "Wheel of Time" (Rad der Zeit).