should i bow to a Buddha image?


#1

These days, when the Pope allows himself to recieve a Hindu blessing and kisses a Quran, it seems a lot of inter-religious exchange is acceptable.
I have two very good friends now living in Thailand and plan to visit as soon as i can afford the trip. They’ve promised to show me the sights, including some Buddhist temples and monastaries. They mentioned that when they had visited them they learned the custom of how to bow to the statue of Buddha—and then they did it.:bowdown: My friends are Christian and i am Catholic, but they seem to be perfectly alright with this practice.

I am ambivalent about whether i should do the same when i make my trip and visit a temple.:o I do not regard Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, as any kind of religious figure per se. I see him as a philosopher, on par with Plato and Aristotle, not with Jesus. Most Buddhists i’ve met would probably agree with that.
Many cultures have gestures of reverence that are secular and acceptable to Christians i.e. Americans saluting the U.S. Flag and showing it respect while handling it. If the nation of Greece had a custom of nodding one’s head :tiphat: to a bust of Plato, i would comply without a second thought.

If i did bow to a Buddha statue, following the customs and liturgical actions of the Theravada Buddhists, the intend behind it would be purely secular, showing respect to a long-dead philosopher whom i do truly respect. My question for the forum is: despite my intentions, would i be going against my Catholic Christian faith if i did so?


#2

These days, when the Pope allows himself to recieve a Hindu blessing

I think you are referring to a misrepresented photograph that circulated on the web some years back showing the Pope receiving the Aarti–a non-religious Indian greeting–from a traditionally dressed Indian **Catholic **woman. More here: shasta.com/sphaws/hindu.html . See the link at the bottom of that page, too.

And the answer to your question is, no, don’t bow to it. Even if it had no religious significance in your own heart you should not directly encourage false religious beliefs in those who are observing you.


#3

This is a difficult question that all comes to the intent of the bow. I have been told that when people in South America cover a statue of Mary in gold and bow to it that they are not worshiping her. I further was told that people did this before kings and the Catholic Church did not consider it worship.

So by this argument, as long as you are not doing the bowing as an act of worship you are not doing anything wrong.


#4

[quote=tractarian] These days, when the Pope allows himself to recieve a Hindu blessing and kisses a Quran, it seems a lot of inter-religious exchange is acceptable.
I have two very good friends now living in Thailand and plan to visit as soon as i can afford the trip. They’ve promised to show me the sights, including some Buddhist temples and monastaries. They mentioned that when they had visited them they learned the custom of how to bow to the statue of Buddha—and then they did it.:bowdown: My friends are Christian and i am Catholic, but they seem to be perfectly alright with this practice.

I am ambivalent about whether i should do the same when i make my trip and visit a temple.:o I do not regard Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, as any kind of religious figure per se. I see him as a philosopher, on par with Plato and Aristotle, not with Jesus. Most Buddhists i’ve met would probably agree with that.
Many cultures have gestures of reverence that are secular and acceptable to Christians i.e. Americans saluting the U.S. Flag and showing it respect while handling it. If the nation of Greece had a custom of nodding one’s head :tiphat: to a bust of Plato, i would comply without a second thought.

If i did bow to a Buddha statue, following the customs and liturgical actions of the Theravada Buddhists, the intend behind it would be purely secular, showing respect to a long-dead philosopher whom i do truly respect. My question for the forum is: despite my intentions, would i be going against my Catholic Christian faith if i did so?
[/quote]

As the resident Buddhist, I doubt anyone’s really going to care whether you do it or not. And I doubt that bowing to the statue would encourage what RacerX terms “false beliefs” in those who see you do it. I mean, do you really think people are going to say, “Wow! That farang is bowing to the Buddha statue. We are reinforced in our beliefs?” Maybe, but odds against.

I take my hat off when I go into a church, and I speak in hushed, reverent tones. Why? Courtesy; I observe the customs of the place where I find myself.

Zen Buddhists tell this story: An old monk and a young monk went to a temple. The old monk bowed before a Buddha statue. The young monk said, “That’s a statue, right?” “Yes.” “It’s not alive?” “Nope.” “So it doesn’t matter if I bow to it or make a silly face or swear at it, right?” “Right.”

The young monk swore at the statue; the old monk bowed. The young monk said, “You just said it doesn’t matter.” The old monk said, “You swear. I’ll bow.”


#5

[quote=Shibboleth]This is a difficult question that all comes to the intent of the bow. I have been told that when people in South America cover a statue of Mary in gold and bow to it that they are not worshiping her. I further was told that people did this before kings and the Catholic Church did not consider it worship.

So by this argument, as long as you are not doing the bowing as an act of worship you are not doing anything wrong.
[/quote]

I agree with two qualifications, and I think that Shibboleth would agree. First, do not do it if you think it can cause scandle or doubt about your faith. From the way you describe the people your with, I do not think it will. Second, if I were to bow, I would not perform any other ritual duties, such as chanting or incense or anything like that. Keep it as a bow of respect for the culture and not a part of some sort of worship.


#6

[quote=ralphinal]I agree with two qualifications, and I think that Shibboleth would agree. First, do not do it if you think it can cause scandle or doubt about your faith. From the way you describe the people your with, I do not think it will. Second, if I were to bow, I would not perform any other ritual duties, such as chanting or incense or anything like that. Keep it as a bow of respect for the culture and not a part of some sort of worship.
[/quote]

Yes the scandal statement brings up an important point. We as Christians are to preach the gospel always with both words and actions. If you have people that follow you or learn from you it should also equate into your decision.

In other words if I bowed to a Buddha statue in front of my children I would explain very clearly why I did such a thing.

Also I agree with the statement about doubt in your faith even if it is not immediately evident. The Catholic Church believes that gambling is O.K. and in and of itself it probably is, but all to often it corrupts individuals very quickly.

In other words do it if you like for the right reasons but be very aware of the possible consequences of your actions.


#7

[quote=Shibboleth]This is a difficult question that all comes to the intent of the bow. I have been told that when people in South America cover a statue of Mary in gold and bow to it that they are not worshiping her. I further was told that people did this before kings and the Catholic Church did not consider it worship.

So by this argument, as long as you are not doing the bowing as an act of worship you are not doing anything wrong.
[/quote]

A bow for a Catholic can indicate any one of the following things: respect, reverence, honor, or worship. The difference is in the intent. A Catholic can bow to a king to show respect. He or she may bow to a bishop to show reverence. A Catholic bowing to a statue or icon is showing honor to the person it represents, and a Catholic bowing before the Eucharist is showing worship. If there is the possibility that a bow will be interpreted out of context, I would say that prudentially it is not wise to make the bow. However, it sounds very much like the culture tractarian will be visiting will recognize a bow as a respectful act, not a worshipful one.


#8

I asked my parish priest the same thing and he told me that a catholic must not bow to a pegan image; we may bow only to Christian Catholic Saints and of course we have to bow and adore the Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.


#9

Psst…Auberon Quin, you’re not the only resident Buddhist here. :smiley: Perhaps the only Zen to make himself known. :wink:

That being said, I agree with what Auberon, Raphinal and Sibboleth have said. :eek:

Putting your palms together, fingers raised, at upper chest level and bowing your head (curtsey included for a female) is the cultural greeting, sign of respect, way to say thank you and good bye. So it’s a very cultural norm.

The wats of Thailand are beautiful and it would be a shame to go there and have to miss these great cultural masterpieces. If you are worried about the scandal aspect, don’t bow, but being respectful should be enough. Thai people are usually a very friendly and understanding lot. :wink:

Peace,
Amanda
Resident Thai Theravadan Buddhist


#10

As Auberon Quin notes, the Buddhists do not regard the statue as having divine properties. They worship neither the statue nor Buddha. They show great respect for an honored man, and there seems no reason we cannot do the same. In the same way I would bow to one of their holy men or shake hands with a member of the clergy of another religion.


#11

Ask yourself this question before you bow or whatever:

Does this act bring True Honor to Jesus Christ?

I wouldn’t bow (or whatever) to any pagan statue!

Remember all the Christian martyrs!


#12

RacerX,

I love your signature!!:clapping:


#13

[quote=Auberon Quin]I mean, do you really think people are going to say, “Wow! That farang is bowing to the Buddha statue. We are reinforced in our beliefs?”
[/quote]

Heh. My Thai friend and her farang wife use that term a lot.:rolleyes:

Zen Buddhists tell this story: An old monk and a young monk went to a temple. The old monk bowed before a Buddha statue. The young monk said, “That’s a statue, right?” “Yes.” “It’s not alive?” “Nope.” “So it doesn’t matter if I bow to it or make a silly face or swear at it, right?” "Right."
The young monk swore at the statue; the old monk bowed. The young monk said, “You just said it doesn’t matter.” The old monk said, “You swear. I’ll bow.”

Reminds me of another Zen saying: “If you see the Buddha on the side of the road, kill him.”:eek: It’s odd how the Zen Buddhists and the Christian Fundamentalists have one random thing in common: shocking iconoclastic attitude.


#14

[quote=theodorro]I asked my parish priest the same thing and he told me that a catholic must not bow to a pagan image; we may bow only to Christian Catholic Saints and of course we have to bow and adore the Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
[/quote]

theodorro and George789 have expressed similar sentiments, reminding that it is unacceptable to bow to a pagan image under any circumstance. I agree. The assumption that a Buddha statue is a pagan/religious image, however, is far from certain. AmandaPS and Joe Kelley (BTW i didn’t know we could put spaces in our online names!:o ) have indicated that the Buddhists themselves don’t regard the statues as a religious function in the Biblical sense: according to at least some Buddhists, the statue is neither an idol nor a representation of a god.
Everyone’s input has been really great :tiphat: and i promise to add to the reputation of all who posted here. So far, i think my Buddha-Plato analogy still holds.
If anyone does not think that the Buddha can honestly be regarded as simply an Eastern philosopher—and therefore given the respect & honor due—i welcome a rebuttal.:smiley:
And even if the analogy works, would you bow or salute a statue of Plato if such was the custom in Greece, or to Marcus Aurelius if that was the custom in Italy, etc.??


#15

[quote=tractarian]If anyone does not think that the Buddha can honestly be regarded as simply an Eastern philosopher—and therefore given the respect & honor due—i welcome a rebuttal.:smiley:

[/quote]

afaik, even Buddhists regard him simply as a philospher


#16

[quote=AmandaPS]Putting your palms together, fingers raised, at upper chest level and bowing your head (curtsey included for a female) is the cultural greeting, sign of respect, way to say thank you and good bye. So it’s a very cultural norm.
[/quote]

This is also how the sign of peace is exchanged during mass.


#17

[quote=AmandaPS]Psst…Auberon Quin, you’re not the only resident Buddhist here. :smiley: Perhaps the only Zen to make himself known.
[/quote]

Whoops.


#18

[quote=digitonomy]This is also how the sign of peace is exchanged during mass.
[/quote]

Umm this certainly isn’t the case in the Latin rite in the United States, where we typically shake hands (or with family members, give a small kiss or hug). But perhaps in other rites or cultures the bowing action you described is the norm. If someone in my church bowed to me I would just nod my head back. I reserve bowing for a showing of respect to the altar.


#19

I can see you saluting the flag, i can see you bowing to the Queen of England given the opportunity to meet her… i can see you sitting, standing, kneeling or whatever posture you want to assume out of respect for the office the person represents, non-catholics have bowed and kissed the pope’s ring on occasion… is doesn’t mean you agree with aquiess to their creed or believe what they profess, it is no more than being curteous… i personally see nothing wrong with bowing to the statue if you were with a group of Budhist and didn’t want to feel out of place or attract attention to your self, or maybe you feel it would be the diplomatic or venerable thing to do… don’t get hung up on this, your just being respectful and kind and courteous… :thumbsup:


#20

[quote=ktm]Umm this certainly isn’t the case in the Latin rite in the United States, where we typically shake hands (or with family members, give a small kiss or hug). But perhaps in other rites or cultures the bowing action you described is the norm. If someone in my church bowed to me I would just nod my head back. I reserve bowing for a showing of respect to the altar.
[/quote]

Bowing is very common among Asian cultures. It can encompass anything from a slow nod of the head, to a deep curtsey bow.

To a Theravadan, the Buddha was an enlightened man, and nothing more. He never wanted to start a religion, and I used to tell people that Buddhism is not a religion, but a philosophy. Some are strict athiests, and some believe in a higher being. Either one is acceptable, but a belief in God is not required.

Part of my wanting to become Catholic is that deep faith in God. My brother is an athiest, but we were both raised the same.

That doesn’t mean that there are some Buddhists who go over the top in their veneration of the Buddha, but I think people will agree that there those in every religion.


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