On Doing Bows
Sword requires considerable strenght in the legs, for this we rely on bowing. There are eight basic forms of bowing which are; hapchang, standing bow, half standing bow, sitting bow, full prostration, half prostration, three prostrations and 108 prostrations. In the following section the use and fom of each of these types of bows will be discussed.
Bowing practice or prostrations are an effective means of prosessing our life's karma. Bowing helps us truly understand the Zen aspiration of "how may I help you" in a very real and physical sense. Performing 108 prostrations frequently helps us to balance the scales of our ongiong accumulated karma; however, if our accumulated karma begins to weigh heavily on us, then prostrations can be used as an 'emergency measure' for clearing the mind. They are a very powerful technique for seeing the karma of a situation because both the mind and the body are involved. Something that might take days of sitting to process may be digested in a much shorter time with prostrations. The usual practice is to do 10 bows as a warm up before class. This can be done all at once or as is usually the case, spread out through the day.
*Here is a suggested schedule for 1080 bows:
The full prostration is performed while starting
from standing position, with the hands in hapchang.
Then keeping your back straight and knees together,
bend the knees until you are sitting on your heels,
continue with toes turned under, bend forward on both
hands and knees. This is done while keeping the trunk
of the body parallel to the floor, and lower the body
to the floor in a crouching position. The toes are out
straight with the left big toe over the right. Then
touch your forehead and hands to the floor and
rotating the palms 90° towards the ceiling, keeping
them shoulder-width apart and near the ears with the
forearms touching the floor. Come up by swinging
forward again onto the hands and knees, then back onto
the heels with the toes tucked under, and swinging to
a standing position using the strength of the legs. If
one cannot swing up by the strength of the legs alone,
use one hand on the floor to push off and keep the
other in the hapchang position. When perfoming one
prostration, always start and end with a standing bow;
when doing more than one, always execute a standing
bow at the beginning and end of the series.
The use of three prostrations (a standing bow, three full prostrations, one half prostrations, and a standing bow)-takes place when greeting the Zen Master after a long absence, bowing to the Buddha when leaving the Sangha for an extended period or returning to the Sangha after an extended absence, and bowing to the Buddha at other temples when visiting.
Finally the 108 prostrations (a standing bow, 108 full prostrations, one half prostration-and a standing bow)- is performed every day usually in the morning and more often by people doing special practice.