• By Nhat Quan
    In the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition, bowing to the Buddha is a very popular practice among monastics as well as lay people. On the fourteenth and thirtieth days of the lunar calendar, the temples have ceremonies to bow to the Buddha called Repent misdeeds and mental hindrances. Now in a foreign country, you continue to practice according to that tradition. That is enough to prove the mystery of this method. However, you have been practicing for a long time and feel that there is real peace and benefit for your body and mind, but you do not understand why. What is the reason that this practice brings such miraculous benefits?
    When I settled in the United States, at times living in the Northeastern states of the United States, which are very cold regions, I saw that there were many people suffering from rheumatic diseases, such as joint pain. Especially elderly people from tropical countries. Doctors advise people to exercise. Everyone found that advice to be correct. Because you come here you have little opportunity to exercise your body for blood circulation. You sit too much, as soon as you step out of the house, you climb into the car, go to work, and you have to sit all day. It's the same day after day.
    Plus, through eating, your body consumes too many toxins. From there all kinds of strange diseases arise. However, exercise is still a problem. For young people, this is normal. As for the elderly, especially from Asian countries, coming to this country to settle down, this is indeed a great difficulty. Because of the different cultures, older Buddhists find it awkward to go swimming or go to the gym to exercise.
    That is not to mention the problem of mobility as well as language because most of the elderly do not know how to drive and do not speak the language. And walking is also not easy to do, because in the warm season, you can still walk a bit, but on cold days you don't dare to open the door, don't talk about walking on the street. If you don't go well, if you slip in the snow, you will suffer. That's why some people complain and don't know how to solve the problem. I only advise the elderly to practice the method of bowing to the Buddha every day, morning and evening.
    Many elderly Buddhists follow the advice and practice for a while and see results, so someone came to the temple to thank me. Those Buddhists said that by practicing the practice of bowing to the Buddha, they were cured. Someone told me that after a while of bowing to the Buddha, my back pain is now gone. The disease that he has had for many years, taking any medicine can not be cured. Many other Buddhists said that now they sleep well without having a dream, and the aches and pains are also gone. The middle-aged people also reported that they sold exercise equipment, because every morning after twenty minutes of prostration, sweat was released like a bath, so it was much better than exercise.
    Talking about the method of bowing to the Buddha, in the Pure Land School there are sutras dedicated to prostrations such as:
    - Sutra of One Hundred and Eight Buddhas: It is the essential repentance sutra, 108 prostrations
    - The Five Hundred Buddhas Sutra: 500 prostrations, including the names of 500 Buddhas or Bodhisattvas.
    - The Thousand Buddhas Sutra: 1,000 prostrations, the name of a thousand Buddhas.
    - The Five Thousand Buddhas Sutra: 5,000 prostrations, the names of five thousand Buddhas.
    - The Ten Thousand Buddhas Sutra: 10,000 prostrations, the names of ten thousand Buddhas.
    - Regret for error through a sprinkling-of-water ritual: A book of penance, recited and prostrated, written by Mr. Wu-T'a.
    - Liang-Wu-Ti Confession: A book of repentance, written by the monk Chi Cong of the Liang-Wu-Ti dynasty to repent for Liang-Wu-Ti's wife.
    The practice of bowing to the Buddha is not only practiced by Vietnamese Buddhists but this method is also practiced by other traditions. For Tibetan Buddhism, bowing to the Buddha is a fundamental practice. In this tradition, at the beginning of long retreats, typically three months, and ten days, lamas do one hundred thousand prostrations. Every day from morning to evening just practice bowing to the Buddha.
    On average, one thousand prostrations per day, and continuously doing so for three months and ten days is enough for one hundred thousand. After a period of bowing, the practitioner's mind is relaxed, and the body is strong. The meditator then feels as though he has been reborn from body to mind. It is necessary to meet those necessary conditions, and the ascetic work of the coming months and years will be fully accomplished.
    Buddhism in Vietnam as well as in Japan and Korea was strongly influenced by Chinese Buddhism. Therefore, in the practice method, there is a lot of emphasis on prostration. Vietnamese Buddhists to this day still strongly maintain that method of practice. On the fourteenth and thirtieth days of the lunar calendar if it is a full month, and the fourteenth and twenty-nineteenth if it is a short month, Buddhists have bowing of 108 prostrations. There is some temple, do five hundred prostrations, a thousand prostrations, and ten thousand prostrations. Some people also make vows to prostrate themselves word for word in the great sutras such as the Suddharma-Pundarika Sutra, the Prajnaparamitahrdaya-Sutra, the Parinirvana Sutra, and the Avatamsaka.
    In addition, there are also Buddhists who practice the method of bowing one step at a time in pilgrimages, worshiping holy places such as Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained Enlightenment. Every day, hundreds of lamas and European and American Buddhists practice prostration. They kept bowing from morning to evening and from day to day. The Tibetan way of bowing is also different from that of Vietnamese Buddhism when they prostrate their whole body on the ground. The plank used for bowing became shiny and the place where the hands were leaning down to stretch out was deeply sunken. That proves that they have bowed countless thousands of thousands of bows already.
    In the United States, at Duoc Su Temple and Ten Thousand Medicine Buddha Temple, Monks, and Nuns, every morning after the morning chanting, bow one hundred and eight prostrations. It can be said that this method is also the main practice for most Vietnamese temples abroad.
    Some people wonder what is the benefit of bowing like that.
    Roughly speaking, you can understand this as the preparation stage for the time to put down the skill, to put forth diligent effort on the path of developing insight. This preparation is emphasized in both the physical and mental aspects. The method of bowing to the Buddha is the crystallization of profound practice experiences from Eastern religious traditions. Because the benefits brought from practicing this method are immense. That benefit is achieved both physically and mentally.
    A- Talking about the Body:
    The method of bowing to Buddha brings the following effects:
    1- First of all, the movement of bowing to the Buddha is a good exercise method. With gentle movements, all muscles in the whole body are maximally exercised. Unlike when you exercise, because normally when you exercise you don't work all the muscles at the same time. For example, when you walk, you only work many muscles in your legs. If you are swimming can you move your whole body. Meanwhile, when bowing to the Buddha, all the muscles in the body are active, so it helps to circulate blood throughout the body, helping you to treat rheumatism, as well as prevent other serious diseases.
    2- The important acupuncture points on the body are affected. From the baihui point on the top of the head down to the dantian point, the points along the spine, and the points in the limbs. You feel a stream of hot air running through your body, and sweat comes out from your pores. According to oriental medicine, once the acupuncture points on the body are affected, the qi and blood will flow and disease will be eliminated.
    3- After bowing to the Buddha, you will have a feeling of peace and relaxation right away, because the acupuncture points are affected. This peace is very profound, a very special experience that you can only achieve during meditation. This peace brings you joy throughout the day. Since then, the afflictions, worries, and sorrows… also quickly disappear.
    4- These centers correspond to the chakras in the Indian yoga tradition. These chakras are located along the spine from the crown of the head down to the sacrum consisting of seven chakras. Once activated, these chakras help you to develop the mysterious powers latent in each person, creating favorable conditions for spiritual development.
    B- Talking about the Mind:
    The method of bowing to the Buddha is a method of regulating the mind to purify the three karmas: body, speech, and mind, i.e. thought, speech, and action. This method helps you:
    1- Eliminate karma:
    In repentance, sincerely bow to the Buddhas of the ten directions with your whole body and mind. Deeply contemplate the origin of sin and the nature of sin. Visualize the radiance of the Buddhas of the ten directions appearing before your eyes, just as the Buddha-nature in your own mind radiates. Thanks to the Buddha's protection, together with efforts to cultivate the mind to purify the three karmas. With that repentance, all negative karmas and obstacles are transformed.
    2- Good roots for growth:
    While prostrating, you dedicate to relatives and enemies, both benefit and achieve the cause of enlightenment and liberation. Thus, Bodhicitta is first to learn to become a Buddha, then to save sentient beings is nurtured, and compassion is developed. Daily worship brings you boundless peace. This peace helps afflictions dissipate, calmness returns to the soul and compassion also arises for the haters.
    3- The virtue of humility arises:
    While lowering yourself to the ground to prostrate yourself to the Buddha, to see that your accomplishments are just drops in the vast ocean. Therefore, if you want to transform your conceited mind, every day you should bow to the Buddha to dedicate the merits to your elders, to your grandparents, to your parents, etc., to feel endless gratitude. To see your achievement today is the thanks of many people. From there, a humble mind arises. In the Sutras the Buddha often taught, that the humble mind is the gateway to wisdom and the way to liberation.
    Depends on the circumstances, and your ability to apply prostrations appropriately. What is important is regular practice. If you're not used to it, you can start with thirty prostrations, and then gradually increase to one hundred and eight prostrations. One hundred and eight prostrations are to eliminate one hundred and eight defilements. You can prostrate at least once a day.
    The simplest way, you bow down following the breath. Inhale you stand up and exhale you bow down. Just bow slowly. For each bow you recite one Buddha's name and count one, and so on until the number is enough. Or you can keep an eye on the clock and bow to the allotted time to stop. Or fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, or half an hour. These are suggested methods for you to practice at your own discretion.
    The prostration can be done anywhere. As long as you have space about the size of a mat, it's enough to bow. It is best to be in front of the Buddha's table, if not, anywhere, as long as the heart is sincere. Even in the bedroom, every morning when you wake up or every night when you go to bed, you can practice.
    When bowing, hands clasped across the forehead, brought down to the chest, and then bowed to the ground. This symbolizes the reverent body and mind. When bowing with both hands, both knees and forehead should touch the ground. You should stand up straight, bow down, then straighten up. This way the muscles throughout the body are better exercised, unless your legs are weak, you can kneel to bow.
    While prostrating try to combine all three aspects:
    - Body: Stand straight, move in harmony, and breathe regularly.
    - Mouth: recite the name of Buddha or Bodhisattva
    - Mind: Visualize Buddha, Bodhisattva, or the realm of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. For example, you can visualize Amitabha Buddha or Bhaisajya-Guru-vaidurya-prabhasa or The Buddha of Medicine in front of you, or the Pure Land scene around you.
    In short, the method of bowing to the Buddha is a very simple method but brings great benefits. Anyone can practice, and anyone can bow, and bow anywhere and no need to buy any equipment. This is the crystallization of the precious cultivation experiences of the ancestors, combined with the cultivation methods of Zen masters and martial artists to create it. The practice of this method brings tangible benefits to both body and mind. A strong body cures and prevents dangerous diseases such as heart disease, and high blood pressure, and helps the spirit to be peaceful and relaxed. Live happily in the present moment. Creating favorable conditions for the development of boundless spiritual abilities toward complete liberation. This is a magical practice, the profound joys you experience while practicing are solid steps along the way. Through these achievements, you will increase your faith in the teachings handed down by the ancestors.
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