I enjoy bowing to the statue of the Buddha, with palms together and a light heart. The Buddha isn’t a god. He was a human being who lived 2600 years ago, and he had some good ideas about leading a life. When I bow to him, I say inside, “All beings everywhere”. That’s whom I want to contribute to. At times, other words have bubbled up. “The God in me bows to the God in you.” “Love bowing to love”. In the meditation hall in Barre, Massachusetts, the Buddha sits at the front of the room. As I enter the hall for a sitting, with 100 other yogis, I pause and bow. It feels right.
Between the coat room and the meditation hall is a walking room, where we practice walking meditation. The Insight Meditation Society building used to be a Catholic seminary, I believe, and there are two lovely stained glass windows of Jesus in the walking room. At previous meditation retreats, and at this recent one, I came to stop in front of one of those windows and bow. I sometimes worried about what other retreatants thought of this behaviour, but more and more I didn’t care. I imagine they think that I’m bowing to Jesus. I’m not.
The stained glass shows Jesus sitting at a table, with the disciple John to his left. John has his right hand on Jesus’ right shoulder, and his left hand on his left forearm. John’s head is tucked into the hollow by Jesus’ neck. And the look on John’s face is one of supreme peace. I’m bowing to John’s love. And as I do, I silently say, “Love them all. Light the world.” And that is what I’d like to do.
Eight months ago, I wrote a blog post called “Ego Bowing”, in which I described walking a three-mile loop road at IMS and bowing to every person I met, making eye contact. When I walked the road this time, something inside told me not to bow and not to look. So I didn’t. I let everyone have their space, to be with themselves, not needing to respond to another. That too felt right.
May I bow inwardly to each one of us whom I encounter on our dear planet.