On September 19th, the Venerable had a workshop on teaching everyone who attended how to wear the robes and how to bow and prostrate.
Admittedly, I am not that good at prostration. I think one reason is that I do not understand why I am doing it. I did find a beautiful explanation of prostration written by Thich Nhat Hanh. It made me understand it better and not feel so strange about bowing down to the floor.
Here are Thich Nhat Hanh‘s words regarding prostration: The practice of Touching the Earth is to return to the Earth, to our roots, to our ancestors, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We are their continuation and with them, will continue into the future generations. We touch the earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the Earth and part of Life.
When we touch the Earth we become small, with the humility and simplicity of a young child. When we touch the Earth we become great, like an ancient tree sending her roots deep into the earth, drinking from the source of all waters. When we touch the Earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the Earth, and breathe out our suffering- our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy and grief.
Our hands join to form a lotus bud and we gently lower ourselves to the ground so that all four limbs and our forehead are resting comfortably on the floor. While we are Touching the Earth we turn our palms face up, showing our openness to the three jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. After one or two times practicing Touching the Earth (Three Touchings or Five Touchings), we can already release a lot of our suffering and feeling of alienation and reconcile with our ancestors, parents, children, or friends.
During the workshop, Francoise and George both received their black robes and will be wearing them on Sundays. They both scored high points on placing the robes on and off. I, however, did not do so well and will be attempting it some other lifetime.
Anyone who does not have his/her black robe and would like to wear one in honor of this tradition, please just let Benny, the Venerable or anyone in the Sangha know. The black robe represents finding refuge in the triple gem: the Buddha, the Sangha and the Dharma. If you accept the triple gem, it is customary to wear the black robe whenever you enter the main hall of the temple.
We hope that if you were not able to attend this workshop that you can attend another one in the near future given by our Venerable. Each workshop is very informative, relaxed and you are given one on one instruction so that a better understanding of the traditional aspects can be achieved.