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?No. The objects to which Buddhists prostrate include the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
The first jewel is the Buddha. The Buddha statue represents the presence of the Buddha himself. To prostrate to the Buddha statue is, in fact, to prostrate to all Buddhas of the three periods, thereby showing gratitude to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for bringing the Dharma to the earthly world. The second is the Dharma as represented by Buddhist scriptures. Practitioners prostrate to the Dharma because they encompass the teachings of the Buddha. The last is the Sangha, which includes the great masters, accomplished monks, and ordinary monks. Buddhists prostrate to the Sangha because it is the monastic community of monks and nuns who practice the Buddha's teachings accordingly, spread the Dharma, and vow to liberate all sentient beings from suffering. Therefore, in addition to the Buddha statues, the Dharma and the Sangha are also the objects to which Buddhist make prostrations and show respect and gratitude. There is yet another method of practice derived from prostrating to the Buddha: prostrating to the sutras.
The method of prostrating to the sutras consists in reciting first the title of the sutra followed by the assembly of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that appear in the sutra. For example, when prostrating to the Lotus Sutra, you should recite first the phrase "Namo (homage to) the Lotus Sutra of Wondrous Dharma. Namo Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the Lotus Dharma-assembly"; or, "I wholeheartedly bow to the Lotus Sutra of Wondrous Dharma, I wholeheartedly bow to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the Lotus Dharma-assembly". Then,
say the word to be prostrated, followed by the word "treasure" (Bao in Chinese, because every word in the sutra is a Dharma treasure), and make one prostration for each word. In this way, the object of prostration would not be only the sutra itself but would also include all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, Dharma protectors, nagas and celestial beings participating in the Dharma assembly.
The purpose of prostrating to the sutra is not to understand the contents of the sutra, but to wholeheartedly recite and prostrate to the whole sutra. In particular, when prostrating to the sutra, you have to recite the sutra orally while maintaining awareness of each word you are prostrating. Thus, through this method of practice, it is very easy to have a concentrated mind.
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