The Significance of Paying Homage: To pay homage is to express our respect to that which we believe. For a person of the Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith, it is the God of Abraham; for a Buddhist, it is to show our gratitude to the Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. When paying homage, our movement must be sincere and respectful. As in prayer, put our palms together, and bow our head, bend our waist and knell to the ground. By touching our elbows, knees and forehead on the ground, we have completed a gesture of being humble and showing the highest respect to that in which we believe, the Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
The Prostration – a step-by-step guide:
- Standing upright, press your palms together, feet should be shoulder width apart, and bow your head.
- Lower the right hand first, while keeping the left hand in its prayer position. Slowly bend your knees, bringing the right hand to the ground. Then bring down the left hand bending both knees into a knelling position. Your hands should be about 6-8 inches apart facing down, and the tips of the feet should not move or turn while knelling down.
- Place your forehead down touching a cushion or on the ground.
- Make two loose fists with your hands, turn them over, so the fists face upward; open both fists with the back of the hands laying flat on the cushion or ground.
(You can view a flash animation of the prostration here (quicktime or another program that displays .mov must be installed on your computer to view it): http://www.cutieanimations.com/bowcolor.mov.) This completes the prostration, and one then begins the steps to stand up.
- First, make the fists with your hands, and turn them over so they again face the ground; open both hands with the palm facing down.
- Lift your head, and move your right hand in order to use it to begin standing up from your knelling position.
- Use the right hand as leverage to prop up your body, and bring up the left hand into a prayerful position.
- Straighten your waist, standing up, and bring both hands back into the prayerful position.
For the Buddhist, this prostration is repeated three (3x) times; once for the Buddha, once for the Dharma, and once for the Sangha.
(Source: Buddhist Rituals and Observances. Buddhist Art Booklet Series (#6). World Buddhist Arts Editorial Committee (General Editors). Fo Guang Shan, 2006)
Also a Special thanks to Cutie Animations for the animation and most of the artwork that appears on this blog.