Bowing. Genuflecting.

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. Psalm 95:6

And to God prostrates everyone in the heavens and the earth (...) Quran 13:15

O you, who believe, you shall bow and prostrate; you shall worship your Lord; and you shall work righteousness, that you may succeed. Quran 22:77

You see them bowing and prostrating, seeking grace from God and His pleasure. Their marks are on their faces from prostration. Quran 48:29

One evening, as I looked up from my cell to the sky and saw the beautiful star-strewn firmament and the moon, an inconceivable fire of love for my Creator welled up within my soul and, unable to bear the yearning for Him that arose within my soul, I fell on my face, humbling myself in the dust. I glorified Him for all His works and, when my heart could no longer bear  what was going on within it, I wept aloud. (...) Faustina Kowalska, The Diary, 470.

A familiar gesture of devotion consists in placing the palms of the hands together with fingers pointing upward. It is meant to express the movement of our body and soul toward God. All our faculties are gathered together and pointed toward God by this gesture. Thomas Keating, Finding Grace at the Centre, P.26.

(...) O God, in the abundance of Thy mercy do I come into Thy House, to bow down in Thy holy Temple in awe of Thee. O Lord, how I love to linger in Thy House, the place where Thy glory dwells. Here I will bow down and humbly speak praises unto the Lord, my Maker. Attune my heart unto Thee in this hour of my meditation, and in Thine abundant kindness do Thou answer me with Thine unfailing help. Jewish prayer. Quoted after: Miriam Bokser Caravella, The Holy Name. P.159.

The Prophet has said that each prostration of prayer
is a knock on heaven's door.
When anyone continues to knock,
felicity shows its smiling face.

Rumi, Mathnawi, 1127, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.107.

The simplest and most frequent bow is the gracious one that Buddhists make to greet, thank, or take their leave from one another. With the hands joined palm-to-palm a few inches in front of the mouth (fingertips pointing straight up and wrists bent at right angles to the forearms), the body is bowed slightly from the waist. (...) the palms together gesture has the same meaning: Besides conveying respect, it expresses the bower's oneness with the object of the bow and, by extension, the oneness (nonduality) of all things in the phenomenal universe. Jack Maguire. (2001). Essential Buddhism. A Complete Guide to Beliefs and Practices. N.Y.: Pocket Books. P.130

An even more elaborate bowing activity is the Vajrayana practice of prostrations. In its simplest prescribed format, it consists of a total of 100,000 full-body bows performed in repetitive intervals over a set period of time. (...) A proper prostration begins by raising the hands over the head, palm-to-palm, in salutation, and then laying the body completely down, so that forehead, chest, hands, and knees are touching the ground. (...) The specific purpose (...) (is) to achieve spiritual purification. Jack Maguire. (2001). Essential Buddhism. A Complete Guide to Beliefs and Practices. N.Y.: Pocket Books. P.130-1.

Last updated: 2006/08/10

See the related subjects: Fear of God, Human Love for God, Humbleness, Offerings, Paths to God, Penance, Pilgrimage.