Common Qs and As on the Practice of Prostrating to the Buddha - 2. If we do not have a Buddhist altar or a Buddha statue at home, then towards which direction should we prostrate?Buddhist altars and Buddha statues are useful aids for our practice. If we have no Buddha statues to which to prostrate, we can use Sutras or Dharma quotes instead. This is because they are wisdom quotes from Buddhist scriptures or great masters' teachings, which, in themselves, are replete with the dharmayaka and wisdom of the Buddha. In the monasteries founded by Baizhang Huaihai, Zen Master of the Tang Dynasty, there were no Buddha statues or any sort of Buddhist altars; however there was always a Dharma Hall for preaching the Dharma. The Zen Master Baizhang believed that the Dharma itself embodies the presence of the Buddha; thus, seeing the Dharma is seeing the Buddha, and prostrating to the Dharma is prostrating to the Buddha.
As for the question of towards which direction should one prostrate: according to Buddhism, Buddhas appear in the worlds of the ten directions, preaching the Dharma and liberating sentient beings from suffering. Thus, the dharmakaya of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is all-pervading and always present. Therefore, it is not necessary to prostrate towards a specific direction, provided that you are in a bright and clean environment where you can feel peaceful and at ease.
In his article, The Meaning of Prostrating to the Buddha, Master Sheng Yen pointed out that, whether performed in a spirit of gratitude or repentance, prostrations should foremost be performed in a sincere way from the bottom of one's heart. Therefore, when doing prostrations, one does not have to be in front of a Buddha statue or at a specific place. In the early years, while Master Sheng Yen was still a soldier, he came to Taiwan as part of the army. There were neither Buddhist altars nor Buddha statues in the army camp; furthermore, he often had to travel with the army. Yet, Master Sheng Yen still prostrated to the Buddha every day, without interruption. The method used by Master Sheng Yen during that time was to prostrate towards the direction where he knew that there were Buddhist monasteries or Buddha statues to settle the mind and body.
However, Pure Land practitioners would usually prostrate to the west. The Records of the Sages and Worthies of the Pure Land records life stories of many great masters who prostrated exclusively to the west-- including Master Hui Cheng from the Song Dynasty and Master You Tan from the Yuan Dynasty-- to pay their respect and admiration to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss on one hand as well as remind themselves not to forget their aspiration to be reborn in the Western Pure Land.
Prostration: Paying Homage to the Buddha
Common Buddhist Etiquette
Common Qs and As on the Practice of Prostrating to the Buddha - 1. Buddhism does not advocate for idolatry, so why would people still make Buddha statues and even prostrate to them?
Common Qs and As on the Practice of Prostrating to the Buddha - 2. If we do not have a Buddhist altar or a Buddha statue at home, then towards which direction should we prostrate?
Common Qs and As on the Practice of Prostrating to the Buddha - 3. When is the appropriate time to make prostrations to the Buddha? How many prostrations should one perform?
Common Qs and As on the Practice of Prostrating to the Buddha - 4. Are the objects to which Buddhists prostrate only limited to Buddha statues?
Common Qs and As on the Practice of Prostrating to the Buddha - 5. Can prostrating to the Buddha eliminate karmic obstacles?
Prostrating to the Buddha to Train the Body and Cultivate the Mind
Prostrating to the Buddha and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness
Practice Method of Prostrating to the Buddha
Resource: Issue 347 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 347 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Editing: Bright Su, Keith Brown