Prostration

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Prostration

Postby nem » Thu Jun 13, 2013 3:08 am

I'd like your thoughts on the subject of prostration. When I attend my local Buddhist center for meditation, I do the 5 point prostration 3 times to the triple gem before meditation. As a matter of respect. I learned the value and meaning of this by practicing at a Sri Lankan monastery a little bit. However I feel that maybe this makes people in my Buddhist Center a little disturbed since no one else does this except the monks and me. My center is Sri Lankan, but the attendees are more...I don't know..Western secular and people come there saying they are there for some benefit like stress reduction and things like this.

I wonder if I'm putting off newcomers when they arrive and see me prostrating. I remember there was a time when I was new to the teachings when if I saw a Westerner prostrating toward the Buddha, I would have thought they were worshiping him like a god, and would have thought that was a little fruity and be put off by this. I don't want to drive people away from the Center and turn them off, however I know that I would have never learned the value of the practice if I hadn't seen people doing it and learned.

So, what is Clear Comprehension here? To save the prostration for the home and monastery visits only, or continue doing this in the Buddhist Center too, risking turning people off to attending, but setting an example where maybe people will learn the value like I did?
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Re: Prostration

Postby Sekha » Thu Jun 13, 2013 6:03 am

I think prostrations come under "precepts and practices" (silabbata).
"Ananda, every precept & practice, every life, every holy life that is followed as of essential worth: is every one of them fruitful?"
"Lord, that is not [to be answered] with a categorical answer."
"In that case, Ananda, give an analytical answer."
"When — by following a life of precept & practice, a life, a holy life that is followed as of essential worth — one's unskillful mental qualities increase while one's skillful mental qualities decline: that sort of precept & practice, life, holy life that is followed as of essential worth is fruitless. But when — by following a life of precept & practice, a life, a holy life that is followed as of essential worth — one's unskillful mental qualities decline while one's skillful mental qualities increase: that sort of precept & practice, life, holy life that is followed as of essential worth is fruitful."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

It is also worthy of being noted that silabattupadana is one of the four main attachments, alongside with kamupadana (attachment to sensuality), and that silabbata paramasa (attachment to rites and rituals) is one of the 5 fetters that one has to abandon to become a sotapanna.

So if prostrations trigger more suspicion than faith, and that bothers one, one may in this case decide not to perform them out of compassion for others. One can still perform them mentally, as it is the mental action that matters most.
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Prostration

Postby Ben » Thu Jun 13, 2013 6:59 am

Nem,

By making prostrations you are paying respects to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. It is only a 'rite or ritual' only if it is mechanical or done only out of obligation.
I don't think you should concern yourself of what others think. In your situation, I would also do them.
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Re: Prostration

Postby Sekha » Thu Jun 13, 2013 7:57 am

nem wrote:if I saw a Westerner prostrating toward the Buddha, I would have thought they were worshiping him like a god, and would have thought that was a little fruity and be put off by this.

In my understanding, this is the very reason why Buddha statues and therefore the ritual of bowing in front of them was strictly forbidden by the early Sangha. But nearly no one in Theravada today is willing to address this fact straightforwardly. I am not saying that bowing down should not take place at all, only that it should not be done in a manner that could incite people to think it is a form of delusional worship (because it may and has actually become one in many places).
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Prostration

Postby Ben » Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:33 am

Sekha wrote:
nem wrote:if I saw a Westerner prostrating toward the Buddha, I would have thought they were worshiping him like a god, and would have thought that was a little fruity and be put off by this.

In my understanding, this is the very reason why Buddha statues and therefore the ritual of bowing in front of them was strictly forbidden by the early Sangha. But nearly no one in Theravada today is willing to address this fact straightforwardly. I am not saying that bowing down should not take place at all, only that it should not be done in a manner that could incite people to think it is a form of delusional worship (because it may and has actually become one in many places).


We are not responsible for what others think.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: Prostration

Postby cooran » Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:58 am

Hello Ssekha,

I can't find any evidence of such a prohibition - can you give a link to support your statement?

This link might be of interest:
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/dha ... /fdd35.htm

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Re: Prostration

Postby Doshin » Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:23 am

Ben wrote:
Sekha wrote:
nem wrote:if I saw a Westerner prostrating toward the Buddha, I would have thought they were worshiping him like a god, and would have thought that was a little fruity and be put off by this.

In my understanding, this is the very reason why Buddha statues and therefore the ritual of bowing in front of them was strictly forbidden by the early Sangha. But nearly no one in Theravada today is willing to address this fact straightforwardly. I am not saying that bowing down should not take place at all, only that it should not be done in a manner that could incite people to think it is a form of delusional worship (because it may and has actually become one in many places).


We are not responsible for what others think.


If that thinking leads to added suffering, I would find that the action starting/feeding that thinking, would be unskillful. In other words, what others think should be considered.

Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta: Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone:
...
"In the same way, Rahula, bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.

"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action ...

(repeat for verbal/mental action)

_/\_
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Re: Prostration

Postby steinghan » Thu Jun 13, 2013 12:36 pm

nem wrote:...
I don't want to drive people away from the Center and turn them off, however I know that I would have never learned the value of the practice if I hadn't seen people doing it and learned.
So, what is Clear Comprehension here? To save the prostration for the home and monastery visits only, or continue doing this in the Buddhist Center too, risking turning people off to attending, but setting an example where maybe people will learn the value like I did?


It's praiseworthy to spend at least some consideration on which effects one's actions may have on others. Right actions are only right if time and place also are right. Walking meditation on a busy highway durig rush-hours wouldn't be wholesome. It appears, that you are not concered about yourself loosing out by not prostrating in the center, since - as others have said - you can pay your respect to the triple gem without prostrating, which in itelf isn't but a ritual.

It's an open question whether or not your prostrating will turn anyone off, but if we assume that it in fact does so - I'd lean to the option of not doing it because surely -, your example would not make much difference on wether or not they'll learn it - if they are sincere and take on the path to a greater extent they'll learn about it anyway and - if they aren't sincere they won't be prostrating just because they've seen you do it.
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Re: Prostration

Postby Sekha » Thu Jun 13, 2013 1:28 pm

sekha wrote:Buddha statues and therefore the ritual of bowing in front of them was strictly forbidden by the early Sangha.

cooran wrote:I can't find any evidence of such a prohibition - can you give a link to support your statement?

Let us first read what they say in the link you provided:
No representations of the Buddha were made for about four or five centuries. It is sometimes said that prior to this time it was 'forbidden' to make statues or pictures of the Buddha, but this is unlikely and there is no evidence of such a prohibition. A more likely explanation is that until then symbols of the Buddha (stupas, footprints, an empty throne etc.) and written descriptions of him were deemed sufficient. Whatever the reasons, the first Buddha statues were produced in about the 1st or 2nd century AD in Bactria (Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) perhaps as a result of Greek influence, and in Mathura.

Of course, there is no evidence available today. This was about 2000 years ago and we have no written document remaining from that time. But the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, and resorting to this kind of logic already reveals this standpoint has a weak potential for self justification.

I first learnt about this when I visited the Sanchi Stupa a few years ago:
They [carvings at Sanchi] showed scenes from the life of the Buddha integrated with everyday events that would be familiar to the onlookers and so make it easier for them to understand the Buddhist creed as relevant to their lives. (...) On these stone carvings the Buddha was never depicted as a human figure. Instead the artists chose to represent him by certain attributes, such as the horse on which he left his father’s home, his footprints, or a canopy under the bodhi tree at the point of his enlightenment. The human body was thought to be too confining for the Buddha.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanchi#Satavahana_period

What we have here is a situation where there are integrated scenes depicting the life of the Buddha so that people would "understand the Buddhist creed as relevant to their lives". I can hardly imagine a situation in which a representation of the Buddha as a person would be more called for, and yet it is never used. It appears to me quite clearly that the explanation according to which this happened because it was forbidden to represent the Buddha is the only one that makes sense. In any case, I think it is dishonest to consider that this explanation is "unlikely" to be true.

I also think it is dishonest to say that "symbols of the Buddha (...) and written descriptions of him were deemed sufficient", as if people at the time would not have found it more telling to include the Buddha as a person in those scenes.

And the reason for such a bias is quite evident: the attachment to statues nowadays is so strong that whatever temple would decide to prohibit Buddha statues and the rituals that involve their presence out of respect for the early Sangha would very soon loose a lot of followers, which means loosing a lot of power, influence and money. In many cases, if not most cases, that would even be a case of non-survival.
Last edited by Sekha on Thu Jun 13, 2013 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Prostration

Postby Sekha » Thu Jun 13, 2013 1:47 pm

Doshin wrote:
Ben wrote:We are not responsible for what others think.


If that thinking leads to added suffering, I would find that the action starting/feeding that thinking, would be unskillful. In other words, what others think should be considered.

Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta: Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone:
...
"In the same way, Rahula, bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.

"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action ...

:goodpost:

Here is another instance in which one is clearly taken as kammically responsible for the effect of one's actions on others:
Talaputa Sutta: To Talaputa the Actor
Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter.


I agree though there is a scale in intensity according to 1) the extent to which one intends to produce a particular reaction, and 2) the degree of (un)wholesomeness of that reaction.

If one realizes that one's actions may be detrimental to others, one imho should try to avoid performing those actions as much as possible and reasonable.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Prostration

Postby Anagarika » Thu Jun 13, 2013 1:56 pm

I'm with Ben and others on this issue. Prostrations are an important part of practice, IMO, and are not to be seen or felt as a demonstration or performance, but as an act of humility and respect. Bowing to the Buddha is to bow to him and his Dhamma, and not to a statue. For lack of a better resource, here's Wiki:

"In the Pali canon, laypersons prostrating before the then-living Buddha is mentioned in several suttas.[3] In Theravada Buddhism, as part of daily practice, one typically prostrates before and after chanting and meditation. On these occasions, one does typically prostrates three times: once to the Buddha, once to the Dhamma, and once to the Sangha. More generally, one can also prostrate before "any sacred object of veneration."

Theravada Buddhists execute a type of prostration that is known as "five-point veneration" (Pali: patitthitapanca) or the "five-limbed prostration" (Pali: pañc'anga-vandana) where the two palms and elbows, two sets of toes and knees, and the forehead are placed on the floor. More specifically:

... In the kneeling position, one's hand in añjali [palms together, fingers flat out and pointed upward] are raised to the forehead and then lowered to the floor so that the whole forearm to the elbow is on the ground, the elbow touching the knee. The hands, palm down, are four to six inches apart with just enough room for the forehead to be brought to the ground between them. Feet are still as for the kneeling position and the knees are about a foot apart....

In Thailand, traditionally, each of the three aforementioned prostrations are accompanied by the following Pali verses:

First Prostration
Araham samma-sambuddho bhagava
Buddham bhagavantam abhivademi.
The Noble One, the fully Enlightened One, the Exalted One,
I bow low before the Exalted Buddha.

Second Prostration
Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo
Dhammam namassami.
The Exalted One's well-expounded Dhamma
I bow low before the Dhamma.

Third Prostration
Supatipanno bhagavato savakasangho
sangham namami.
The Exalted One's Sangha of well-practiced disciples
I bow low before the Sangha.

In Theravadin countries such as Sri Lanka, when one goes before one's teacher, in order to "open one's mind up to receive instructions," one bows and recites the phrase, "Okāsa ahaṃ bhante vandāmi" ("I pay homage to you venerable sir")."

(3) Khantipalo (1982). In addition to making this general statement, Khantipalo quotes an example of lay people prostrating before the Buddha from the Kalama Sutta (AN 3.65).

Keep prostrating. It's a humble act. It can be a nice precursor to meditation and/or chanting. If others are affected by your humble prostrations, perhaps they will learn in time how and why prostrations are practiced, and the dust will clear from their eyes. They, then, with the guidance of one of the monks, might commence this practice too.
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