Bowing

Judith Lief

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In Asia, prostrating is a familiar expression of deep respect. In India, it is customary to honor one's parents by prostrating at their feet. Tibetans wouldn't consider approaching a major teacher without prostrating. In turn, teachers often begin their instructions with a bow. However, as Westerners we tend to think of prostrating as a gesture of defeat or abasement. We think that to show someone else respect is to make ourselves less. Prostrating irritates our sense of democracy, that everyone is equal. On the one hand, we want to receive teachings, but on the other we don't really want to bow down to anyone or anything. We are incredibly impatient and would like to "get the goods," the sooner the better. But the traditional Vajrayana (diamond path) approach simply doesn't work that way.

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