Prostrating to the Buddha and the Four Foundations of MindfulnessWhen prostrating to the Buddha, how do we utilize the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna)-- the method of mindful contemplation of our body, feelings, mind, and dharmas-- to practice observing our bodily and mental phenomena? Venerable Guo Xing, former Abbot of Chan Meditation Center in New York who frequently teaches Chan meditation in both the East and the West, pointed out that applying "mindfulness of the body (kāyānupassanā)" when prostrating to the Buddha means remaining clearly aware of each and every movement of the body. This is done by contemplating larger movements as a starting point, such as bending over, bowing down, and kneeling.
"Mindfulness of feelings/sensations (vedanānupassanā)" means observing, from bowing down through getting up, whether our bodily sensations are pleasant (sukhavedanā), unpleasant (dukkhavedanā), or neutral (adukkhamasukhā vedanā, neither pleasant nor unpleasant). According to Ven. Guo Xing, when contemplating our feelings, we should keep in mind that pain and pleasure are nothing more than sensations. Therefore, we should not let them affect our state of mind.
When prostrating to the Buddha, we use "mindfulness of mind (cittānupassanā)" to examine our state of mind, by contemplating whether our mind is in a state of greed, hatred, or ignorance. Ven. Guo Xing reminds us to practice mindfulness of mind while doing prostration to observe whether our mind is serene or restless. "Mindfulness of dharma (dhammānupassanā)", on the other hand, means to meditate on the arising and perishing of physical and mental phenomena related to our body, sensations, and mind, thereby becoming aware of the reality of impermanence, suffering, and no-self.
As the venerable pointed out, the method of four foundations of mindfulness usually begins with mindfulness of the body. "This is because feelings, or sensations, and mental thoughts are inseparable from bodily movements and tactile contact. The sensation of either pleasure or pain indicates the relaxation or tightness of the body, whereas calmness or agitation often reflects our bodily movements and sensations. It is difficult to go about practicing mindfulness of the mind without first establishing mindfulness of the body." Only when we are clearly aware of the body and its movements can we also become aware of the arising of a much subtler pleasant or unpleasant sensation. If the body is sluggish, then the mind will often be agitated and scattered, thus making it harder for us to remain mindful.
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
Translation: Shu-jen Yeh (葉姝蓁)
Editing: Leefah Thong, Chia-chen Chang (張家誠), Keith Brown