Bowing practice or prostrations is one of the most powerful techniques in Zen. In this technique the whole body is in constant motion while the mind is kept still. Like all other meditation techniques, bowing points to the moment. During bowing the pulse accelerates and the body heat increases while the mind’s job is to perceive all these changes. The bowing motion is a very humbling experience; however it must be remembered that we are not prostrating ourselves to some outside object. Instead we say that we let our small self bow to our true self or Buddha-nature.
In our Zen Centers daily morning practice starts with 108 prostrations. During his training, Zen Master Seung Sahn did 1080 prostrations every day and some monks and nuns have been known to do 3000 bows every day. When bowing in groups the participants bow simultaneously at the pace of the Dharma Teacher. Everyone is responsible to count the prostrations, sometimes beads are used to aid in the counting. If the exercise of bowing is too demanding, students are encouraged to do standing bows instead.
For more information on how to bow see the instructions given by the Kwan Um School of Zen Click here