Spirituality Behind Bowing – A Spiritual Perspective of Bowing as a Greeting

What is the Spiritual Perspective of Greeting Someone by Bowing ?

In some cultures and countries, like Japan,Korea,Taiwan and Vietnam, there is a custom of greeting each other by bowing. Greeting by bowing is done when two people, standing across from each other, bend their bodies towards each other at the same time and at a bowingcertain angle, in order to greet one another.

Bowing (also called stooping) is the act of lowering the torso and head as a social gesture in direction to another person or symbol. It is also used in religious contexts, as a form of worship or veneration. Sometimes the gesture may be limited to lowering the head such as in Indonesia, and in many cultures several degrees of the lowness of the bow are distinguished and regarded as appropriate for different circumstances. It is especially prominent in Thailand, Laos, China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam where it may be executed standing or kneeling. Some bows are performed equally by two or more people while others are unequal – the person bowed to either does not bow in return or performs a less low bow in response. A nod of the head may be regarded as the minimal form of bow

In China, and Vietnam, shaking hands or a slight bow have become more popular than a full bow.However, bowing is not reserved only for greetings. Bowing is a gesture of respect. Different bows are used for apologies and gratitude.As a form of greeting, basic bows originate at waist level and are performed with the back straight and hands at the sides (for men) or clasped in front (for women), and eyes pointing downwards.However, in Japan, bowing is generally done with hands placed apart on their sides whereas in Korea, bowing is mostly done with both hands clasped at the front of their waist. In extreme cases a kneeling bow is performed, which may be so deep that the forehead touches the floor.
Bows can be generally divided into three main types:

  • Informal
  • Formal
  • Very formal.

Informal bows are made at a fifteen degree angle and formal bows are made at an angle of thirty degrees. Very formal bows are deeper. It is believed that bowing in Japan started sometime during the Asuka and Nara periods (538-794 AD) with the introduction of Chinese Buddhism. According to those teachings, bowing was a direct reflection of status—if you met a person of higher social standing, you put yourself in the more “vulnerable” position of a bow, much like a friendly dog rolling over on its back, to prove that you don’t harbor any ill will towards them. In modern Japanese society, bowing serves a variety of functions that go beyond this original intent. Generally speaking, you will bow when doing the following:

  • Saying hello or goodbye to someone
  • Starting or ending a class, meeting, or ceremony
  • Thanking someone
  • Apologizing to someone
  • Congratulating someone
  • Asking someone for a favor or their goodwill
  • Worshiping someone or something
  • More than just focusing on these occasions, it is important to remember that bowing conveys different emotions, such as appreciation, respect, or resourcefulness. As you learn the physical aspects of a good bow, keep in mind what you’re trying to communicate through your posture, as this will decide how deeply you bow and for what length of time you bow.

Spiritual Perspective of Greeting by Bowing

Mrs. Yoya Vallee, has drawn a subtle-picture of this greeting along with the Divine Knowledge on what happens when two people greet each other in this manner. This has been verified and authenticated by H.H. Dr. Athavale. When checked through advanced sixth sense, the picture was found to be 80% accurate. The picture below provides deep insights behind each of the subtle-aspects of bowing as a form of greeting.
[ YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN : CHAKRA SHUDDHI ]bowingWhen two people greet each other by bowing, a protective sheath of Divine Energy (Shakti) is formed around each one of them. Particles of Divine Energy start emitting from them and fill in the space between them. A sheath of the Energy of Creation is formed next to their body. Particles of this energy are emitted in the space between them.

Since nowadays the modern society does not do any kind of spiritual practice, some amount of black energy in the form of a subtle-covering, is usually present around their bodies continually.But fortunately, Since there is no physical contact between people in this type of greeting, this black energy covering is not transmitted to anybody.

Even then, due to many thoughts, personality defects and emotions that they have in their mind, intellect and ego, spiritual rings of black energy start emitting hazy waves of black energy along with particles of black energy in the form of thoughts at the mid-brow chakra (Ādnyā-chakrā) and crown chakra (Sahasrār-chakrā). This happens since they are not in communion with God but in contact with each other through their thoughts and emotions. This greeting does not possess any Divine consciousness (Chaitanya), since there is no communion with God, but still, particles of Divine Energy are emitted from both persons.

 Spiritual Benefits of Bowing as a Form of Greeting

  • Black energy is not transmitted between people engaged in this greeting.
  • Divine Energy gets developed between the persons bowing each other.
  • It produces energy that provides momentum to actions (kārya-shakti), and can benefit the persons bowing.
  • This method of greeting is respectful and reduces ego. The reduction of ego through this greeting will depend upon the spiritual level(bhāv) of the person who is engaged in bowing.
  • Greeting someone by bowing is more beneficial than some other common forms of greeting like huggingkissing or handshakes, since it does not involve any physical contact.

Spiritual Drawbacks of Bowing

  • There are no thoughts about God or communion with God in this form of greeting.
  • There is a formality in this greeting that decreases the feeling of closeness associated with greeting one another.
  • Black energy in the form of thoughts and emotions is exchanged between two people engaged in this form of greeting.
  • Bowing does not enhance the Sattva component in us, as is the case with namaskara.

Types of Bows

There are two basic categories of bows.
These are zarei – the seated bow and ritsurei – standing bow.
Within these two basic categories, we can find several different types of bows that are commonly used. Generally, these can be done either as zarei (seated bow) or ritsurei (standing bow). The types of bows include:

Soushu Rei

Soushu rei comprises a first kanji of “sou” meaning “pair” or “set.” The second kanji has our common pronunciation of “te” (kun yomi), but also a pronunciation “shu” (ON yomi) with a meaning of hand. When conjoined as soushu rei it means with “both hands (or approving) bow”. It is the basic bow used in everyday life in Japan.

Takushu Rei

Takushu rei is the formal “general purpose” bow. It can be used from both the standing as well as seated positions. This bow is generally performed by students especially when the courtesy is being paid formally to a person of higher rank. Literally translated, takushu rei means “open up your hands and bow.”

Shiken Rei

Shiken rei is a formal kneeling bow used in the presence of juniors. Literally shiken rei is translated as “finger (point) build bow.”

Gassho Rei

The first kanji is the well-known “ai” meaning unite but it also has a pronunciation of “Gatsu.” The second kanji is “shu” meaning palm of hand. Gassho rei means pressing one’s hands together in a fashion similar to prayer and then bowing. 

The standing bow is divided into five “unofficial” types:

1. The Cursory Bow – Bow to an angle of five degrees, it is a basic nod, “Hello”, used to convey an extremely simple (impersonal) greeting.
2. The Shallow Bow – Bow to an angle of fifteen degrees. This is used for common salutations, “Good Day” greeting. It is slightly more formal than the cursory bow.
3. The Ordinary Bow – Bow to an angle of thirty degrees. This is the most common, respectful bow to be used especially when indicating appreciation.
4. The Politest Bow – Bow to an angle of forty-five degrees. This bow is used to convey very deep respect or to express extreme gratitude or apology.
5. The Ceremonial Bow – Bow to an angle of ninety degrees. The deepest of the bows is reserved for ceremonial occasions such as a visit to a shrine or Buddhist temple.The only significant difference among-st each of these bows is the angle to which it is performed. This angle increases according to the level of respect that should be shown. In most of the everyday situations, one uses the “ordinary bow.” The “shallow bow” is made only toward those with whom one is quite familiar, since it can be perceived to be, at the very least, impolite if another deeper bow is more appropriate to the situation.

Bowing in Different Religions

  • Eastern Religions : In many Eastern religions bowing is used as a sign of respect in worship and has its origins in the Indic Añjali Mudrā.
  • Shintoism : Bows are performed in Shinto settings. Visitors to a Shinto shrine will clap or ring a bell to attract the attention of the enshrined deity, clasp his hands in prayer, and then bow.
  • Buddhism : Bowing is a common feature for worship in Buddhism. Zen Buddhism, for example, has a daily ritual in which practitioners do 1,080 full prostration bows, usually spread throughout the day. More casual practitioners and laypeople typically do 108 bows, once a day instead.
  • Hinduism : In the Hindu traditions people show deference by bowing or kneeling down and touching the feet of an elder,teacher,noble soul,god or a respected person. 
  • Muslim practitioners performing Sajdah or Sujud : In Islam, it is shirk (major sin) to bow to a human being. Muslims are only supposed to bow, with the intention to worship, to Allah.In Islam, there are two types of bowing, Sujud and Ruk’u.
    • Sajdah or Sujud means prostrating oneself to Allah in the direction of the Kaaba at Mecca which is done during daily prayers (salat). The position involves having the forehead, nose, both hands, knees and all toes touching the ground together.
    • Ruku’ means bowing down in the standing position, during daily prayers (salat). The position of ruku’ is established by bending over, putting one’s hands on one’s knees, and remaining in that position while also praising Allah and glorifying Him.

      Muslims Bowing to Allah
  • Christianity : In Christian liturgy, bowing is a sign of respect or deference. In many Christian denominations, individuals will bow when passing in front of the altar, or at certain points in the service (for example, when the name of Jesus Christ is spoken) It may take the form of a simple bow of the head, or a slight incline of the upper body. A profound bow is a deep bow from the waist, and is often done as a substitution for genuflection. In Eastern Orthodoxy, there are several degrees of bowing, each with a different meaning. Strict rules exist as to which type of a bow should be used at any particular time. The rules are complicated and are not always carried out in all parishes.
    Conservative Protestant Christians such as Brethren, Mennonite, and Seventh-day Adventists make a practice of kneeling during community prayer in the church service. Until the mid-1900s this was common practice among many Protestant Christian groups.

According to the New Testament writer Paul, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

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