During the course of our evening practice at MPCH, we occasionally bow to each other and bow towards the altar. Bowing is not a form of worship. It is, instead, a deep form of communication. A bow to another person may mean hello, thank you, good-bye, or excuse me. But it’s not just a way of being polite. It’s a way of recognizing and honoring the Buddha, or the awakened nature in each of us. When bowing towards the altar, we are honoring this awakened nature in all beings.
To bow, we bring our palms together to form a lotus flower at the level of our heart. Then we look at the eyes of the person we will bow to and we smile. We say silently, “a lotus for you,” as we breathe in, and, “a Buddha to be,” as we breathe out and then bow from our waist. Then we straighten up, look at the eyes of the other person, and smile.
To Bow or Not to Bow
Thich Nhat Hanh has often said to his students, “To bow or not to bow is not the question. The important thing is to be mindful.” When we greet someone with a bow, we have the chance to be present with that person and with the wondering elements within us and around us.
With that said, bowing is an optional practice. Instead of bring your hands together into a lotus flower, you may also place a hand on your heart, or you may simply follow your breathing.