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108 Bows, Korean Style

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108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:26 pm

In the meditation journal thread, the subject of 108 Bows came up.

BeginnerStudent asked:

Thanks for your response. I have been told by those who have visited Korea that it is common for people to bow to elderly people. I watched the youtube video and read the link you provided. So, bowing in your particular tradition of Zen, is way of practicing being humble, showing respect and greeting fellow practitioners? Would my assumption be correct? Is there much more to bowing?


So, bowing to others is all the things you mentioned: being humble, showing respect, and greeting fellow practioners. There is also bowing (prostrations) as a practice. Check out Marcus' wonderful article over at the Wake up and Laugh blog.

Marcus also links to an article on the Chogye site, written by Sumi Loundon, which captures the spirit of bowing as a practice very nicely:

Bowing is becoming my morning coffee. I need the incense, the sweat, the thigh pain, the reverence, to wake me up. This might be my best New Year's resolution yet. If only I could get so much out of flossing.


The article is here.

Bowing is a very demanding practice, which requires a very gentle easing into if your not in decent physical shape (like I am definitely not!). If you can't do all 108 everyday, then just do standing bows. I have worked myself up (very slowly!) to just over 60/day with standing bows making up the difference. I use a 27 bead hand mala to count them (4x 27-108). I do every-others for the first three trips around the mala and then finish with straight prostrations on the last trip. So, far I have avoided any serious injuries, just a little soreness here and there. I am very lazy and this practice helps me to face it head on. :)

Good luck and thanks for practicing,
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby AlasdairGF on Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:49 pm

I did this practice with a group in South Africa some time ago - physically quite demanding, and I found that it took me a while to properly view it as a practice rather than a senseless "Zen aerobics" (which is what we called it!). However, once I got into it, I appreciated it as a rich practice in its own right, and am grateful to it. Not grateful enough to get back into 108 bows a day - much older and unfitter now - but grateful nonetheless!
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:06 pm

AlasdairGF wrote:I did this practice with a group in South Africa some time ago - physically quite demanding, and I found that it took me a while to properly view it as a practice rather than a senseless "Zen aerobics" (which is what we called it!). However, once I got into it, I appreciated it as a rich practice in its own right, and am grateful to it. Not grateful enough to get back into 108 bows a day - much older and unfitter now - but grateful nonetheless!


Was that Heila Downey's group? They are no longer affiliated with Kwan Um, but they were at one time.

I can tell you that rolling out of bed to do bows at 4:45 am during retreats makes me wish I practiced in another tradition! :lol2:
But, that's the beauty of it...facing that "I don't want to" mind. I had a signature quote from Ajahn Brahm that went something like "thinking about doing something is harder than actually doing it" Doing 108 bows really puts that one to the test.

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Nonin on Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:59 pm

Two Kwan Um Zen teachers based at Kansas Zen Center, Judy Roitman and Stan Lombardo, will be coming to our Soto Zen temple at the end of April as Guest Teachers. We'll be doing a retreat and will be doing the 108 bows first thing in the morning, at 5:00 a.m.

Hands palm-to-palm,

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Seigen on Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:40 am

I sat by myself for a week, the schedule is what held it all together, my body met the clock, was the clock, and those 108 bows were a late afternoon ritual, they lost the aerobic side and became (meaningful?) very very quickly. It is not a part of our zendo practice, but I like it.
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby AlasdairGF on Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:31 am

Jok_Hae wrote:Was that Heila Downey's group? They are no longer affiliated with Kwan Um, but they were at one time.

It wasn't Heila's group, but was related to it - based in a small town in the Eastern Cape run by a lady called Charlotte Jefferay. I never met Heila though certainly heard of her. Hadn't realised that they're no longer affiliated.
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Seeker242 on Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:23 pm

AlasdairGF wrote:I did this practice with a group in South Africa some time ago - physically quite demanding, and I found that it took me a while to properly view it as a practice rather than a senseless "Zen aerobics" (which is what we called it!). However, once I got into it, I appreciated it as a rich practice in its own right, and am grateful to it. Not grateful enough to get back into 108 bows a day - much older and unfitter now - but grateful nonetheless!



And to think that some monks routinely do 3,000 bows or more. Makes 108 look like child's play. :) I guess they have nothing better to do. :)
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Kwanseum on Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:44 pm

I do 108 bows morning and evening - more on special occassions. Bowing and chanting go very well together.

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:45 pm

Nonin wrote:Two Kwan Um Zen teachers based at Kansas Zen Center, Judy Roitman and Stan Lombardo, will be coming to our Soto Zen temple at the end of April as Guest Teachers. We'll be doing a retreat and will be doing the 108 bows first thing in the morning, at 5:00 a.m.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin


Excellent! I look forward to the report of how the retreat went. Between the bows and the faster walking, your students will surely be out of their comfort zone...which is usually a good thing. :)
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:49 pm

AlasdairGF wrote:
Jok_Hae wrote:Was that Heila Downey's group? They are no longer affiliated with Kwan Um, but they were at one time.

It wasn't Heila's group, but was related to it - based in a small town in the Eastern Cape run by a lady called Charlotte Jefferay. I never met Heila though certainly heard of her. Hadn't realised that they're no longer affiliated.


This from her organization's website:

Our Zen heritage and African Dharma

For some years the Centre based its activities and teaching format on that of the Rochester Zen Centre, led by Philip Kapleau Roshi, who after many years of formal training at Japanese Temples, had become one of the pioneers of American Zen.

In 1991, inspired by the teaching of Zen Master Seungh Sahn, who in the early 70's established Korean Zen on American soil, we changed direction and formally adopted the teaching and practice style of the Kwan Um School of Zen, whilst still drawing on our insights and experiences gleaned whilst practicing with the Rochester Zen Centre. It was during this year that we were officially appointed as the Head Temple of the school in Africa under guidance of Su Bong Zen Master, who played a pivotal role in the further development of the Centre and school until his death in 1994.
dcx (11K)

With changing times, our practice and teaching has evolved to express a style in harmony with our African heritage resulting in our resignation from the Kwan Um School of Zen. With this change, we will again function as an independent Zen Center, whilst expanding our MAIA program - (Mindful Awareness in Action), currently predominantly taught in prison, as part of the sustainable rehabilitation protocol for inmates.

In 2001, at the invitation of Tania Lohman from Porto Allegre, we started teaching in Brazil on a yearly basis and the 'Modesto Grupo de Meditadores' was started. This group too has relinquished their relationship with The Kwan Um School of Zen, and is now officially affiliated to The Dharma Centre - South Africa, with Tania Lohman as the group leader.

As the African Dharma continues to develop and grow, Zen Master Seung Sahn's legacy and teaching will continue to sustain and encourage us in the never-ending quest of "Who am I" and "How May I Help You?"
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:51 am

Seigen wrote:I sat by myself for a week, the schedule is what held it all together, my body met the clock, was the clock, and those 108 bows were a late afternoon ritual, they lost the aerobic side and became (meaningful?) very very quickly. It is not a part of our zendo practice, but I like it.


There is just something about the physical exertion mixed with staying present that does make the practice seem to be more than just Zen aerobics..kind of hard to explain.

Anyway, thanks for the effort! :)
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Wed Mar 30, 2011 2:54 pm

Seeker242 wrote:
AlasdairGF wrote:I did this practice with a group in South Africa some time ago - physically quite demanding, and I found that it took me a while to properly view it as a practice rather than a senseless "Zen aerobics" (which is what we called it!). However, once I got into it, I appreciated it as a rich practice in its own right, and am grateful to it. Not grateful enough to get back into 108 bows a day - much older and unfitter now - but grateful nonetheless!



And to think that some monks routinely do 3,000 bows or more. Makes 108 look like child's play. :) I guess they have nothing better to do. :)


Seongcheol Sunim was famous for making people do 3000 bows before he granted them an interview, even going so far as refusing to see the President of S. Korea at the time (Park C.H.) until he complied. Of course, he didn't submit. Some people have noted that after doing the bows, they no longer had a question! :lol2:

Here is an article that focuses a bit more on the physical side of things. It is written by a Korean Catholic and it make all sorts of lofty claims about the health benefits, but it is an interesting read anyway:

108 Bows for Exercise: Oriental Doctor, Kim Jaeseong

I know that Myo Ji Sunim's group in New York and the Cambridge ZC does 1000 bows once a month.
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Wed Mar 30, 2011 2:57 pm

Why We Bow

Bowing practice means that your body and your mind become one very quickly. Also, it is a good way to take away lazy mind, desire mind and angry mind.

When you're sleeping, your body's lying in your bed, but your mind flies around and goes somewhere. Maybe you go to Las Vegas or you go to the ocean or you go to New York, or some monster is chasing you. Your body's in bed, but your consciousness already went somewhere. When we wake up, many times, our consciousness and our body don't quickly connect. So you wander around your house, and drink coffee, and you bump into things.

Then slowly, slowly your consciousness and your body again come together. So that's why, first thing in the morning, we do one hundred and eight bows. Through these one hundred and eight bows, your body and your consciousness become one very quickly. In this way, being clear and functioning clearly is possible.

We always bow one hundred and eight times. One hundred and eight is a number from Hinduism and Buddhism. That means there are one hundred and eight defilements in the mind. Or, sometimes they say one hundred and eight compartments in the mind. Each bow takes away one defilement, cleans one compartment in your mind. So our bowing practice is like a repentance ceremony every morning. In the daytime, in our sleep, our consciousness flies around somewhere. Also, we make something, we make many things in our consciousness. Then, we repent! So we do one hundred and eight bows; that's already repenting our foolish thinking, taking away our foolish thinking.

Some people cannot sit. Sometimes due to health limitations or they have too much thinking, and if they sit, they cannot control their consciousness. Then, bowing is very good. Using your body in this way is very important.

The direction of bowing is very important. I want to put down my small I, see my true nature and help all beings. So, any kind of exercise can help your body and mind become one, but with just exercise, the direction is often not clear. Sometimes it's for my health, sometimes it's for my good looks, sometimes it's to win a competition, but in Buddhism, everything's direction is the same point - how to perceive my true nature and save all beings from suffering.

Our bowing takes away our karma mind, our thinking mind, and returns us to this moment very clearly: want to find my true nature and save all beings from suffering. This is why bowing practice is so important. If somebody has much anger, or much desire, or lazy mind, then every day, 300 bows, or 500 bows, even 1,000 bows, every day. Then their center will become very strong, they can control their karma, take away their karma, and become clear. This helps the practitioner and this world.
Zen Master Dae Bong


Emphasis mine. :peace:
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Nonin on Wed Mar 30, 2011 3:50 pm

Jok_Hae wrote:
Nonin wrote:Two Kwan Um Zen teachers based at Kansas Zen Center, Judy Roitman and Stan Lombardo, will be coming to our Soto Zen temple at the end of April as Guest Teachers. We'll be doing a retreat and will be doing the 108 bows first thing in the morning, at 5:00 a.m.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin


Excellent! I look forward to the report of how the retreat went. Between the bows and the faster walking, your students will surely be out of their comfort zone...which is usually a good thing. :)

This isn't the first time a teacher from the Korean tradition has taught as a Guest Teacher at our temple. Haju Sunim (Haju Murray), a dharma successor of Samu Sunim and the abbot of Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been here a couple of times. The 108 bows were a great challenge for us! They were done so quickly that most of us (the older people) had to intersperse the full prostrations with a lot of standing bows.

We do 50 or 60 prostrations during our morning service, but they're spaced out over the whole service and are done slowly. When I first visited Haju's temple as a Guest Teacher, I managed maybe 80 of the 108 full prostrations, and when we went downstairs for breakfast, my quadriceps muscles were so weak that I had to hold on the the railing with both hands to keep from pitching down the stairs! Haju's about the same age as I am, yet she bounces up and down doing the 108 with no problem. However, she's been doing them for years and doesn't carry as much weight as I do!

By the way, Haju did 3,000 prostrations before seeing a master in Korea. Maybe it was the one you mentioned. It took her all day to do them, and she had to climb a whole bunch of steps to the master's hermitage to see him. She said that it was worth it; he was quite powerful and impressive. When she was coming down, she had to sit down on the steps and come down that way because her quads were so weak, even though she was used to doing 108 each morning. What a great way to weed out non-serious people -- make them do 3,000 bows before they see you!

Hands palm-to-palm,

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Seeker242 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:21 pm

We should all take bowing lessons from this guy! He's been doing 3,000 a day for the past 20 years. But he is getting old so now he only does 1,000 and sometimes only a mere 500 when it gets cold. :lol2:

http://in.reuters.com/article/2009/02/2 ... XI20090226
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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:55 pm

Rev. Nonin wrote:

This isn't the first time a teacher from the Korean tradition has taught as a Guest Teacher at our temple. Haju Sunim (Haju Murray), a dharma successor of Samu Sunim and the abbot of Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been here a couple of times. The 108 bows were a great challenge for us! They were done so quickly that most of us (the older people) had to intersperse the full prostrations with a lot of standing bows.


My teacher is a bowing machine and the only one who I really have trouble keeping up with. The pace really should take about 15 minutes to complete the 108. I never had the sense he was trying to prove anything, he just bows quickly. I can do the full set without any trouble, I just can't do them every day like that. Since I am trying to develop the habit of doing it every day, I am taking my time. But for those who don't do them often, it does result in serious jelly-legs and pretty sore muscles for the next few days! :lol2:

We do 50 or 60 prostrations during our morning service, but they're spaced out over the whole service and are done slowly. When I first visited Haju's temple as a Guest Teacher, I managed maybe 80 of the 108 full prostrations, and when we went downstairs for breakfast, my quadriceps muscles were so weak that I had to hold on the the railing with both hands to keep from pitching down the stairs! Haju's about the same age as I am, yet she bounces up and down doing the 108 with no problem. However, she's been doing them for years and doesn't carry as much weight as I do!


When I was an infantryman in South Korea, our unit walked up a hill one day. I could tell it was hill because when I looked straight ahead, I was looking at the ground. When we finally got to the top, I was exhausted. Thankfully, we took a short break before moving on. And all the sudden I hear "pepshi, you want pepshi?" It was a little Korean woman hawking sodas. She had just walked up the same hill, with a wooden box she had strapped to her back, full of glass bottled pepsi's! I was in awe, and a bit ashamed. :lol2: Thinking back to that, I can't help wondering if she was one of the women I always hear about that do 108 bows at the local Temple to start off their day. She looked like she had just walked across the street, instead of a big hill!

By the way, Haju did 3,000 prostrations before seeing a master in Korea. Maybe it was the one you mentioned. It took her all day to do them, and she had to climb a whole bunch of steps to the master's hermitage to see him. She said the it was worth it; he was quite powerful and impressive. When she was coming down, she had to sit down on the steps and come down that way because her quads were so weak, even though she was used to doing 108 each morning. What a great way to weed out non-serious people -- make them do 3,000 bows before they see you!


Quite possibly. I haven't heard of any other Soen Sa Nim making a similar request. Soengcheol Soen Sa Nim was accused of being arrogant, but his reasoning seemed to be just what you mentioned - weeding out the non-serious people.

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Nonin on Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:12 pm

Jok-Hae,

Here's a bit of an off-topic question; I hope that nobody minds, for this is the Son forum: You referred to Master Soengcheol Soen Sa Nim. I assume that Seongcheol is his dharma name. Is that correct? What does Soen Sa Nim (or Sunim) mean in English? I thought that Soen was Master Seung Sahn's dharma name, for sunim means "monk" doesn't it, and people referred to him as Soen Sunim. Can you enlighten me? I think that I've been wrong all these years.

Haju Sunim told me that "sunim" means "bald-headed idiot," but she was either being modest or putting me on!

Hands palm-to-palm,

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Jok_Hae on Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:53 pm

Nonin wrote:Jok-Hae,

Here's a bit of an off-topic question; I hope that nobody minds, for this is the Son forum: You referred to Master Soengcheol Soen Sa Nim. I assume that Seongcheol is his dharma name. Is that correct? What does Soen Sa Nim (or Sunim) mean in English? I thought that Soen was Master Seung Sahn's dharma name, for sunim means "monk" doesn't it, and people referred to him as Soen Sunim. Can you enlighten me? I think that I've been wrong all these years.

Haju Sunim told me that "sunim" means "bald-headed idiot," but she was either being modest or putting me on!

Hands palm-to-palm,
Nonin


Hello Rev. Nonin,

Soen Sa Nim is the Korean equivalent of "zen master". "Soen" is the Korean pronunciation of Chan (Zen) and Sa Nim is similar in meaning to "master" or "teacher". Many Korean Soen Sa Nim's will use the term "sunim" (which means monk) instead, i.e. "I am simple mountain monk". Seongcheol Soen Sa Nim and Seongcheol Sunim is used pretty much interchangeably. His Chogye biography can be found here. Interestingly, when he assumed the Supreme Patriarch position in the Chogye Order, he refused to leave his mountain hermitage, saying basically that a monk's place was in the mountains! :lol2:

In Kwan Um, we almost universally refer to ZM Seung Sahn as "Dae Soen Sa Nim" which means "Great Zen Master", a title conferred upon him by the Chogye Order. If we are in mixed company, then it's "Zen Master Seung Sahn" . His full Dharma name was "Seung Sahn Haeng Won Dae Soen Sa Nim". Haeng Won was the Dharma name given to him by his teacher, Ko Bong Soen Sa Nim (who seemed to have little patience for monks, but that is another story). Seung Sahn is the name of a mountain in what is now North Korea (I think, hopefully someone can correct me on that one, if necessary.) His birth name was Dok-In Lee. Many names!


So, Ji Do Poep Sa Nim roughly means "Dharma Teacher" and is a person given authority to teach kong-an's in the Kwan Um tradition, but is not quite at the level of a Soen Sa Nim. Judy Roitman is a JDPSN. Stanley Lombardo is also known as Hae Kwang Soen San Nim or Zen Master Hae Kwang.

Long story short "sunim" means monk, "soen sa nim" means zen master, dae soen sa nim means great zen master.

Haju sunim was pulling your leg, of course. :lol2:

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Nonin on Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:01 pm

Thanks, Keith. I now have it straight after all these years!

With bows,

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Re: 108 Bows, Korean Style

Postby Kwanseum on Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:04 am

Nonin wrote:Haju Sunim told me that "sunim" means "bald-headed idiot," but she was either being modest or putting me on!
A modest monk - now there's an idea! :blush:
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