Physical Respect for the Buddha

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Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby Cal » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:31 pm

I'm interested in the respect shown to the Buddha in the Suttas by the physical actions of those he met. Specifically, in my (admittedly shallow) readings thus far I have become very aware of people who meet the Buddha (and sometime other Sangha such as Ven. Ananda) typically paying respect to him (presumably bowing) and then sitting down "to one side". (eg. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html)

Assuming the translations do actually mean 'to the side of', as opposed to 'in front of', this just struck me as different from the respect shown to members of the Sangha (in my again limited experience), where lay people may well bow but tend to sit facing the monk/nun in order to receive instruction.

On leaving the Buddha's presence, I'm aware of the repeated phrase that the visitor departed "keeping their right sides towards him". (eg. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .vaji.html para 25)
Presumably this is also a mark of respect? Why the right side? Incidentally, this isn't easy to picture - how might it physically be achieved?

Are such practices simply typical of Indian custom at the time of the Buddha (perhaps this is unknown) or only typical of the Buddha's followers? Are such customs still practiced in any Buddhist countries as a mark of respect?

Sorry if this is trivial, but personally I find any hints at real physical behaviour from the past quite interesting.

Metta
Cal
Right Speech: It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will. [AN 5.198]

Personally, I seem to gain the most insight when I am under the most pressure, when life is at its most unpleasant. There is something in me on those occasions which feels that there is nothing left but to be aware of 'this'. Ajahn Sumedho - Don't Take Your Life Personally, p288
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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:53 pm

The most common was to bow the head (paṇāma) and put the hands in a praying gesture (añjalī, D.I,118; M.I,168).


:anjali:

http://buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=159
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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby zavk » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:07 pm

What an interesting question! Thanks for raising it, Cal. I suppose for many contemporary folks such particularities might come across as peculiarities. I imagine for some it might at best be seen as cultural customs, and at worst empty ritual behaviour of little relevance to us--I'm not saying this is indeed what these acts are; just speculating how a modern day person unaccustomed to such behaviour might interpret it.

In any case, given our modern day tendency to treat Buddhism in a detached manner, as yet another set of knowledge to acquire--as a set complex questions to work through (though Buddhsim is not meant to be followed like that i must admit that I've fallen into this trap sometimes, have you?)--this suggests that maybe there's a performative aspect to the practice. By 'performative' I'm not implying that we play-act or make-believe. Rather, it seems that Buddhism asks that we enact and embody the teachings, that we let our actions--the very movements of our body--become the truths of sila, samadhi, and panna.
With metta,
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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby Euclid » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:25 pm

Yeah, I've never actually understood what sitting down 'to one side of' actually meant. Does it mean they would literally sit 'to one side of' him rather than in front of him, so they formed a line? What about when he was addressing crowds?
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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby SamKR » Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:23 am

I guess sitting down to one side would help other people (who visit later) by giving space to show respect to the Buddha by bowing the head. :bow:
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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby Hanzze » Fri Jan 14, 2011 4:56 am

Dear friends,

that may be useful to understand a little: Explaining of (Asian)/mindful behavior

...ups... I thought, didn't wrote jet... will need a little
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby Reductor » Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:49 am

In some places the arrangement of people is explicit:
On arrival he washed his feet, entered the hall, and sat with his back to the central post, facing east. The community of monks washed their feet, entered the hall, and sat with their backs to the western wall, facing east, ranged around the Blessed One. The Kapilavatthu Sakyans washed their feet, entered the hall, and sat with their backs to the eastern wall, facing west, ranged around the Blessed One.


In other places there is little mention of who is present, but perhaps there are more than one persons present on most occasions, hence the sitting to one side (verses sitting in sariputta's lap, say).

Also, the phrase "to one side" may be idiomatic for sitting "in front" of the Buddha. After all, even "the front" is a particular side of the Buddha, as would be the left side, right side or behind.
:shrug:

Just a thought.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby Hanzze » Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:11 am

Dear friends,

in front of the Buddha only in that case that you are representing his teachings. Most teacher, even teaching the Dhamma would not sit in front of the Buddha. It would be disturbing the direct line between the original teaching and the disciples and being less respectful.
On the side would be no problem, like devoted associating but not disturbing the direct line.

About right side: One thing is to do not show others your back when you leave as long as they are in, let me say, communication distance. If you now, take all with your heart, as symbol putting a hand of your heart, bow a little and go back ward. Look for your self in which direction you would turn your body automatically, "instinctive". Putting your heart in the front has a hidden symbolic of pride.

But I guess, all that is best experienced by one self and with awareness between body language and state of mind attitude.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Physical Respect for the Buddha

Postby Cal » Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:57 am

All very interesting thoughts, thanks.

thereductor wrote:In some places the arrangement of people is explicit:
....The Kapilavatthu Sakyans washed their feet, entered the hall, and sat with their backs to the eastern wall, facing west, ranged around the Blessed One.

from: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Interestingly (to me at least) this contiunues :-
the Kapilavatthu Sakyans rose from their seats, bowed down to the Blessed One, and — circumambulating him, keeping him to their right — departed.


Hanzze's thoughts on departing to the right, hand on heart as it were, is insightful.

Just to reassure people, I'm not obsessed with this topic, just interested in picturing what I'm reading and also trying to be open to cultural differences.

Metta
Cal
Right Speech: It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will. [AN 5.198]

Personally, I seem to gain the most insight when I am under the most pressure, when life is at its most unpleasant. There is something in me on those occasions which feels that there is nothing left but to be aware of 'this'. Ajahn Sumedho - Don't Take Your Life Personally, p288
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