Performing Prostrations

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Dave The Seeker
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Performing Prostrations

Post by Dave The Seeker » Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:53 pm

Is there a major difference in performing prostrations in Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions?

This was copied from Wikipedia in the Vajrayana area of Prostrations:
...Bring your hands together in the 'lotus bud' mudra (the base of the palm and the fingertips together, and thumbs slightly tucked in) and place them on the crown of the head, then to the throat and heart. As you place your hands on your crown, you offer homage to Guru Rinpoche's enlightened body, purify defilements and obscurations incurred through the avenue of your body, and establish the potential to realize nirmanakaya. At your throat, you offer homage to his enlightened speech, and establish the potential to realized sambhogakaya. Bringing your hands to your heart, you offer homage to his enlightened mind, purify your mind's obscurations, and establish the potential to realize dharmakaya. The actual prostration is performed by dropping the body forward and stretching it full length on the floor, the arms outstretched in front.... Again, with hands in the lotus bud mudra, bend your arms back and touch your hands to the top of your head, a gesture that acknowledges the blessing flowing from Guru Rinpoche. Then stretch your arms out once more and push yourself up.... Bring your hands into the lotus bud mudra for the third time and touch your heart in a gesture of reverence. Then, with a smooth motion, bring your hands to your crown and perform the next prostration...
Thank you :namaste:

Kindest wishes, Dave
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Mr. G
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Re: Performing Prostrations

Post by Mr. G » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:06 pm

  • When one bows in respect to all Buddhas, a feeling of reverence arises in your heart, and animates your actions and speech. You express this feeling by bowing to all Buddhas. The practice gets rid of both obstacles of arrogance and ego. When respect arises, you deepen your ‘good roots’ of reverence and faith.

    —Avatamsaka Exegesis
Rev. Heng Sure writes on this from the Mahayana POV:

Cleansing the Heart: Buddhist Bowing As Contemplation
  • How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu

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Re: Performing Prostrations

Post by DGA » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:59 pm

I've done significant accumulations of Tibetan-style and Japanese-style (Tendai) prostrations. There are significant differences. I'll assume a basic familiarity with the Tibetan version; here are ways in which the Japanese version differs, emphasizing the physical aspects.

You start "down," not up. That is, you begin from a kneeling, crouching position, with the hands open and pointing upward. The first move you make is to lift your hands upward, then back down. You rise up to one knee with the hands at the hips. Next, you stand with the hands in gassho, and bow. Then, reverse the process to get to one knee down again, and then back to a crouch that looks like child's pose if you're familiar with hatha yoga.

Meanwhile, the idea is to practice in a harmonious way with those around you. So it's synchronized: everyone moves and practices as one, to the same beat, by the same count.

There are more elaborations to talk about, and there are things to enjoy about both versions. I think the Tibetan version is gentler on the body in certain respects.

I'd like to know how this works in Korean and Chinese schools.

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Re: Performing Prostrations

Post by catmoon » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:29 pm

The quote in the first post mentions three stopping points for the hands - crown throat and heart. Thubten Chodron's two videos on prostrations use four -crown, forehead, throat and heart. Is this peculiar to the Gelug sect? Or to Tibetan Buddhism?
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Re: Performing Prostrations

Post by Huifeng » Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:05 am

For the Chinese style approach, Checkout Ven. Heng Sure (above) and his "three steps one prostration" pilgrimage from LA to Ukiah (north of SF). There's a book / PDF available called "News from true cultivators". Took him 2.5 years! Goggle it.

The difference intechnique reflects more of a Chinese / Tibetan different, rather than Mahayana / Vajrayana, I believe.


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Re: Performing Prostrations

Post by zerwe » Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:17 am

catmoon wrote:The quote in the first post mentions three stopping points for the hands - crown throat and heart. Thubten Chodron's two videos on prostrations use four -crown, forehead, throat and heart. Is this peculiar to the Gelug sect? Or to Tibetan Buddhism?
Crown, forehead, throat, and heart is the only way I have known as well. Loosely, Crown=Guru, forehead=body, throat=speech, and heart=mind. I think I have seen it this way for all four schools in TB.
So, I don't think that it is Gelug specific. Or is it?

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