We often bow in our Sunday practice. Some of us bow upon entering the meditation room, or to the Buddha icon. We often bow as we greet one another. We bow as we emerge from meditation. We bow to indicate that we wish to speak, and to note when we have finished speaking.
As with any repetitive or ritualized activity, it is human to bow as a habit, without much thought to the act. We might also choose, however, to bow mindfully, to invest the bow with meaning. One way of bringing mindfulness to an action is through the use of gathas, or mindfulness verses. In the Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book, Thich Nhat Hahn tells us that gathas “…help us to dwell in the present moment and to be deeply aware of the action we are doing so that we can perform it with understanding and love.” In this text, Thay provides gathas for a number of activities, among them entering the meditation hall, adjusting the meditation posture, and sweeping.
At one of our Sunday sessions, the people present that day were asked to sit with the intention of reflecting on what bowing might mean to them, then to consider generating their own bowing gathas. Here are some of the gathas from that morning.
I bow to honor the truth and the light that is within you.
At this moment, I honor the truth of the way it is.
Heart, mind and body are one.
The highest in me meets the highest in you at the source.
In and out, I am here now
I bow to those who can hear me,
and give thanks to the universe for holding what I have to say.
I bow to those who can’t hear me,
and offer them peace for their own inner turmoil.
Breathing in, I bow to the humanity in you.
Breathing out, I smile to welcome you.
As I bow, the Buddha in me recognizes the Buddha in you,
as the lotus blossoms in your heart recognize
the lotus blossoms in my heart.
I bow to you to hear the words of your heart.
I bow to you, knowing your words touch my heart.
The journey within may be long, but requires no baggage.
I am here.
I am always here.
I have never been anywhere but here.
I honor you, my fellow seekers.
I am blessed to share the warmth of your beings.
May my speech be true and honorable.