DHARMA IN EVERYDAY LIFE
- BENEFITS OF
- BOWING TO BUDDHA
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
- 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.
- Liang-Wu-Ti Confession: A book of repentance, written by the
monk Chi Cong of the Liang-Wu-Ti dynasty to repent for
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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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