Filed in Devotion

Bowing: A Portfolio By Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry & Lama Surya Das

Wisdom Collection

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Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos
[Group of devotees prostrating themselves on their way to Lhasa, Tibet. It will take them two years to get there.]

Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos
[Monk prostrating himself at a prayer festival in Bodh Gaya, India.]

Prostrations such as these are an important part of the most common foundational practices of Tibetan Buddhism, called ngondro, or “preliminary practices.” Over the course of several months or more, the beginning practitioner is expected to complete over one hundred thousand of these full-body prostrations, along with chanted Refuge Prayers. It is also something Tibetan Buddhists continue to practice, in fewer repetitions on a daily basis, throughout their lives. The late Tibetan master Kalu Rinpoche explained that prostrating our five limbs on the ground reintegrates our separate sense of being into oneness with the original nature of the five elements.

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