Recently I heard some an old piece of Alan Watts audio where he gave the reason as to why Buddhists and Hindus bow. With the big skeptical head on me I didn’t really believe it at first, which is one of my default modes it would seem, but upon investigation it turns out he was right.
Well, more or less. Of course, when it comes to making broad, sweeping generalizations regarding cultural and religious beliefs you’re not going to get the full meaning all the time and as per usual there is always a slight difference between the Hindu way of doing things and the Buddhist way of doing things.
Why do Hindus and Buddhists bow?
So, enough waffle. Why do Hindus and Buddhists bow? It is to honor the atman within the person you’re bowing to (and your own atman too),
What is this Atman? In Buddhism it is the concept of the self (which ultimately doesn’t exist) while in Hinduism it is individual self or soul. It is believed to be eternal and divine, and is said to be connected to the ultimate reality, Brahman. Both believe that the Atman is considered to be distinct from the physical body, and is believed to be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation through spiritual practices.
Kind of a nice thought isn’t it? And, as well, when you recognize the atman in someone else you’re also recognizing your own because of the non-daulity of it all being One anyway.
I’ve noticed a wee thing in common with my rural roots back home and my extending rural roots here in Poland. When you’re driving you generally put up your hand when you pass by someone you know, you save waving for loved ones but, unusually both here and there, you can also just nod your head up at them. We do this in the pub too, y’know, you know that guy but you don’t have to actually go say hello or shake hands, so you just give him an up-nod. Not a down nod though, that would be weird.
It made me wonder whether they could be connected in some way, especially since our Western and Eastern roots come from a shared source. So, the next time your nodding your head at someone, you might well be recreating an older belief from long gone that you’re recognizing the atman in them and the one within yourself.