THE SACRED ART OF BOWING: Preparing to Practice

Andi Young, Author . SkyLight Paths $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-893361-82-9

"Bowing... was not always an important part of my spiritual life," writes Young, a recent graduate of Yale and resident at the New Haven Zen Center. While living in Nepal, however, she encountered temples where devotees performed Tibetan-style full prostrations. Spurred by personal struggles, she began doing these herself, and found that bowing was a powerful form of personal repentance. Returning to America, she continued to explore bowing as a personal spiritual practice (as opposed to bowing as part of a larger practice or liturgy). Asserting that the goal of all bowing practice is to "call us to greater awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and intentions," she describes the 108 full prostrations with which she begins every day. She discusses the unique role and forms of bowing in Buddhism, then surveys bowing in its various incarnations in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. She rounds out the book with several anecdotes and a discussion designed to inspire and encourage one's own bowing practice. Young unfailingly champions inner motivation over outer form, her tone is friendly and accessible, and her discussion sheds welcome light on an aspect of spiritual practice that is rarely highlighted. Yet the book lacks a rigorous central thesis, other than the general notion that bowing is helpful for spiritual practice, whatever one's tradition. She meanders by turns into Buddhist doctrine, Buddhist history, personal confession and long third-party anecdotal testimony. While informative, the book lacks the substance to be thoroughly engaging. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/15/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
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