Greeting Sri Lankan bhikkhus

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Greeting Sri Lankan bhikkhus

Postby Vakkali » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:44 am

Hey everybody,

My temple is a Sri Lankan vihara, and as far as I know all of the resident bhikkhus are Sri Lankan. I was hoping to get your insight (hah!) on a couple of things.

1. What is the typical way for an upāsaka to address a bhikkhu? Añjali at chest level? Face? Forehead? Is there an actual bow involved? If so, how deep?

2. One night I was in the common area, and a Sri Lankan woman came to talk to the abbot (is there a Pāḷi term for "abbot?"), but instead of just greeting him with the añjali mudra, she went ahead and did a full-out five-point prostration right in front of him. Is THIS what I should be doing? Is it a gender thing? Is the abbot of a monastery shown respect in a different way than regular bhikkhus?

The last thing I want to do is be the dumbest, whitest guy in the place and give some sort of corny pan-Asian bow that'll just show how little I know about the culture I'm interacting with. I want to engage these people on their terms, not on mine. Help me out?

Your sahadhammika,
Vakkali
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Re: Greeting Sri Lankan bhikkhus

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 6:10 am

Sri Lankans address monks as "Hamudru" = reverend. If you use the Pali "Bhante" they will probably understand, and that will be understand by most Theravāda bhikkhus.

It's a humility thing. Some will not show any special respect at all, some will hold their hands in añjali, some will bow from the waist, a few will do a full five-point prostration (touching the forehead, forearms, and knees to the ground). It's not a gender thing, but women often show more humility than men.

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I see some differences between cultures, but Thai, Burmese, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Cambodian, Tibetan, and Indian Buddhists all seem to follow similar customs regarding bowing. Japanese Buddhists seem to bow from the waist only, but greet lay people in the same way too.

My advice is to do whatever you feel comfortable with. I certainly don't expect any Westerners to prostrate of even perform añjali when they greet me, though I am pleased to see that they have adopted the Buddhist custom if they do prostrate or perform añjali.

I do ask visitors to remove their shoes before entering the meditation room. Not doing even that would be seen as quite rude in most Buddhist temples.
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Re: Greeting Sri Lankan bhikkhus

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:44 pm

Vakkali wrote:The last thing I want to do is be the dumbest, whitest guy in the place and give some sort of corny pan-Asian bow that'll just show how little I know about the culture I'm interacting with. I want to engage these people on their terms, not on mine. Help me out?

Be yourself, rather than pretend to be someone else. Honesty is a Buddhist virtue, after all. Be polite the way you know how. And... observe what others do. If you feel so inclined, do as they do. Your sincerity will be appreciated.

And yeah, take off your shoes. :)
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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