Bowing

This can be a difficult practice for people new to the practice, particularly “us” in the west – bowing is a standard feature of etiquette in many Asian countries. Group members bow to one another during the evening’s formal practice. It has no religious connotations but many Westerners find it unnatural and wonder whether it is necessary to bow or not. 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 nature of awakeness, within us and within the other person. We do not bow just to be polite or diplomatic, but to recognize the miracle of being alive. It is also said that to bow is to acknowledge the potential of Enlightenment in the other person – potentially, we are all Buddhas!