Why We Bow and Chant

One who bows to the Buddha-statue must correctly understand from where that Buddha-statue comes.

Let me ask you once more! Whence comes the Buddha-statue? It comes from the radiant twinkle within your own luminous eye-ball. Buddha-statue becomes your mind. Your mind be-comes Buddha-statue and is no longer divided.

Second, one who bows to the Buddha-statue must understand how to do it correctly, While bending one's body, one should direct deep sincerity, not to the statue that is the twinkle of radiance within one's own luminous eyeball, but to the "mind."

Third, one should know to what they bow. Since the Buddha-statue is no other than your mind, then bowing to the statue is bowing to the mind. How is this possible, since the mind has no form, size or trace? If one bows and prays while within the living doubt of Koan (Kong-an) practice in which the mind is totally revealed in itself, then we call this true prayer to the mind. Doing this, you are not worshiping a physical form of Buddha, the Buddha-statue, but are worshiping the true Buddha that is beyond our physical eyes. This is true worship. If, instead, one chooses the outer form of the statue, becomes attached to it, and bows to it, then, as Bodhidharma warned us, one will sow evil seeds and not only may fall into the bad karmic sequence, but may lose all virtue and merit.

It is the same when chanting the names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. True chanting to the mind is keeping in mind the thought, 'What is this which is chanting?', whether chanting the names of Amitabha Buddha, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, or Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva. In the living doubt, "What is this?" the chanter becomes more sincere, more able to see the true Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and more unhindered by the outer forms of words, names, or Buddha-statues. In this way of praying, bowing, chanting, and reading the scriptures, the Kong-an is also naturally studied simultaneously to accomplish the Great Tao.

Steven E. Newton / sen@zentexts.org /