Carlos Montero, Part Four
Carlos: I am glad that I helped you understand the term karma. Not only we can do something about it, we actually create it! if we created it, we can also extinguish it. Your comments on karma are very clear too, I think you already understand. Yeah some people may use karma as a scapegoat but at the same time that karma came about some kind of previous action so it is impossible to deny responsibility.
Regarding bowing meditation. There is a nun in our school who has a great deal of energy and during her intensive training she focused on bowing. She actually did 3000 bows every day (it takes about 6-7 hrs to do this) every day for many years. When I asked her about bowing she said to me in her strong korean accent: "Sitting meditation is like taking a bicycle to enlightenment, bowing is like ROCKET!" hahaha.
Also Zen Master Seung Sahn always did a lot of bows to center his energy. Personally I have done some bowing practice and I agree with these comments. It is really a very powerful practice which involves focusing and paying attention, just like sitting, but with the added physical component. After a lot of bowing the mind reaches one-pointedness as it is helped by all the focused activity. Also if one's thinking or desires are too strong, sometimes sitting will not help as much. In that case, bowing is most effective.
At the same time, bowing is a very humbling act. You are prostrating yourself to the universe, getting back up, and then down again. I really appreciate bowing in my personal life and recommend it to many people. If you really want to attain bowing, then you should do it. At the beginning even doing 108 bows is difficult and the legs tend to be very sore but it all gets much better after some practice.
Med: I remember reading about bowing in, I believe it was the Flower Sutra- bowing in particular to various Buddhas, and on and on. Can you explain the details of the bowing? What kind of motions are involved? Does this matter, or is it more about the gratitude and focus? All of your answers are really helpful. I think we are close to this interview's natural conclusion. Perhaps one more question after this one. Thanks for your participation, once again.
Carlos: I am not familiar with the flower sutra (is that the avatamsaka sutra?) and what it says with respect to bowing. When we do bowing (prostrations) we start standing with our hands in the praying position (hapchang in korean, gassho in japanese) then we go down on our knees on a mat. Then we put both hands on the mat and bring our foreheads down until it lightly touches the mat. Then we rock our tail bone back and turn the hands palm up. Then we get up to a full standing position and repeat the whole process.
This is the mechanics of bowing but the physical part is not as important as how you keep your mind while you are doing it. Most important is to 100% be involved in the act of bowing. Feeling how gravity pulls you down and how our muscles do work to bring us back up. Sensations of heat, fatigue, heavy breathing, etc all those are part of the experience of bowing. Just like in any other meditation our thinking mind will take us somewhere other than the experience.
Our job is to return to just bowing. In our temples and during retreats we bow 108 times every morning. It is the responsibility of the person to count these bows and that can be done mentally (which also helps to focus the mind) or with beads. Another great technique to help focus our attention while we bow is keep the great question. What am I? or in this case, Who is bowing?
This question ultimately leads to don't know, then all thinking is cut off and you are back to just bowing. I can write a dissertation on bowing but most helpful is for you to try it. Regarding the reason for bowing, it really doesn't matter. For some people it is more about gratitude, for others more about focus. Better is to not make anything special and just do it! If you ask me, why do I bow, I would just say, I do it for you.
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