Friday, February 22

Bowing in Zen Practice

"Here we come to the most ancient part of our practice, what I believe to be the heart of the discipline. When we bow we allow ourselves to stand in the second place, if only for a moment. Now women sometimes see this as one more continuation of an oppressive system, as also sometimes do people of color. Certainly, that is worth sitting with, and reflecting on. No one needs more oppression in this life.

But also, at some point, to find who we truly are; I suggest that all of us must learn to bow. Bowing is not about oppression. It is about liberation. Without at some moment in our lives taking that second place, without throwing everything we know away, without coming to that don’t know, to that beginner’s mind, we won’t find what is offered in the Zen way.

Gassho is the most distilled form of the bow. Our hands placed palm to palm, the tips of our fingers at eye level, our elbows slightly elevated; here we are offering a bow: Thank you. Hello. Goodbye. Dogen Zenji once said that as long as there is bowing there will be true dharma. Here we find the essential and the relative brought together. Here we find the way revealed."


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