Why We Bow?
by Zen Master Dae Bong
Bowing practice means our body and mind quickly become one. Bowing takes away lazy mind, desire mind and angry mind.
When you are sleeping, your body is lying in bed, but your mind flies around and goes somewhere. Maybe you go to Busan or Je Ju-do or the ocean, or a monster is chasing you. Your body is in bed, but your consciousness already goes somewhere else. When we wake up, our consciousness and our body do not quickly connect. You wander around your home, your thinking is unclear. Maybe drink coffee to become clear. Slowly your consciousness and body come together again. But, in our Zen centers first thing in the morning, we always do 108 bows. By bowing, our body and consciousness quickly become one and return to just now. In this way, becoming clear and functioning correctly becomes possible.
We always bow 108 times. One hundred and eight is a number from Hinduism and Buddhism. It is said, there are 108 defilements or compartments in the mind. Each bow takes away one defilement, cleans one compartment. Our bowing practice is like a repentance ceremony every morning. In the daytime and in our sleep, our consciousness flies around somewhere. We make something; we make many opinions and “I, my, me” in our consciousness. When we do 108 bows, we are repenting of our deluded thinking and desire. We are taking away our opposite thinking and returning to our original clear mind.
Some people cannot sit, due to health limitations or too much thinking. If they sit, they cannot control their consciousness. But if they have try mind, they can bow. Doing many bows every day helps bring our energy down and reduce unnecessary thinking. Using our body to practice in this way is very important.
The direction of bowing is also very important. I want to put down my small “I”, see true nature and help all beings. Any kind of exercise can help your body and mind become one, but with just exercise, the direction is often not clear. Sometimes it’s for my health, sometimes it’s for my good looks, sometimes it’s to win a competition. But in Zen practice, our direction is clear – how realize my true nature and save all beings from suffering.
Bowing practice is very important. If someone has much anger, much desire, or lazy mind, then 300 bows, 500 bows, or 1,000 bows every day is very good. If you decide something, you must do it! Then your center will become strong, you can control your karma, make your karma disappear and become clear. This will help you, your life and all beings.
So, Just Do It!