The Words of Hyung Jin Moon

Bowing Conditions

Hyung Jin Moon
December 2008

Question: What is the background to our tradition of doing bowing conditions?

The Divine Principle refers to the ascetic practices of Koreans as preparation while waiting for the Messiah; a lot of these were in fact bowing practices. The Divine Principle just mentions the Korean people -- that could mean shamans in the mountains, or it could mean Buddhists preparing for the Maitreya. But there is a bowing tradition in Asia -- in China for example. Yes, the Buddhist countries definitely have a very strong tradition of bowing; when you enter a temple, you offer three bows. In China, Thailand, Japan... It's very important to show humility before Divinity, or Wisdom.

In the Western world -- in Catholic ceremonies -- there is a lot of bowing in masses as there is in other traditions such as the Greek Orthodox, where they have very elaborate ceremonies; there is a lot of kneeling and bowing.

I remember it being explained that when we bow we engraft onto True Parents' foundation. That is to say that when we lower ourselves, we are connecting with True Parents. We are lowering ourselves almost to the level of their feet. We are engrafting onto them. Spiritually, we are lowering ourselves, but they are really raising us with their spiritual foundation. This process of humbling oneself is not some kind of self-hatred; it is almost a kind of self-liberation. You are transcending your own individuality and connecting it to the cosmic connection that True Parents have with God, with Divinity. There's that kind of distinction-it's not self-annihilation.

In the Western world we might interpret it as self-denial, self-oppression or annihilation, or even abuse, but I don't believe that's the right way to look at it. That would be a misunderstanding of bowing. The real element here is that we are humbling ourselves, so that we can be connected to a larger purpose and divinity. The practice when done with a sincere mind is self-liberating. It is a liberating gesture. If you understand mankind's image, or function, in eternity, we of course play a large role, but the powers of the earth are humbling. We are humbled by the size of the universe and by so much else in creation. Even though we are the owners of it, there is so much that can inspire us and bring us to higher levels of appreciation for creation. When we understand our place as owners, we can eventually understand how valuable creation is by the process of bowing to the Creator, bowing to True Parents as the Creator's representative. We are also acknowledging the greatness of creation, the greatness of their existence and purpose. In so doing, we are almost transcending our individuality, our individual purpose, our individual significance and connecting to a much larger creative process.

That's a very important aspect to understand. Through that lens, you can see it as a practice that helps us move close to perfection as opposed to something that trains us to be obedient. For example, in the Buddhist tradition, they say that when you bow to the statue of the Buddha, you are bowing to yourself, because the statue represents you, your innermost nature, your Buddha nature. Everybody is the Buddha, but we just have so much dirt -- accumulated sin and bad karma -- on top of us. Basically, we are bowing to our perfected self. From an Unificationist perspective, I think that also makes sense. Because the nature of a perfected person is that of a second God, where we stand on the same level as God, almost equal. From a Unificationist perspective, that thinking would also be appropriate -- that when we bow to True Parents we are actually bowing to our innermost perfection -- the unity of male and female within ourselves, the unity of True Father and Mother within ourselves, the dual characteristics.

Question: When you go to a Buddhist temple, and meet the Buddhist leaders who have been practicing their tradition throughout their lives, what is it about them that most impresses you, and what kind of relationship do you have with them?

I have a great deal of admiration for the monks who have lived in that tradition and pursued that very spiritual life. Different monks play different roles. There are monks who deal with administrative matters. There are monks who practice chanting. There are monks pursuing scriptural studies, monks who focus on meditation and monks who go around and witness; they specialize. The current head abbot (Jogye Order) has been a meditation master for the last thirty years, practicing meditation. He is so awakened. This is because he is very spiritually attuned. He has been training for so many years. He is very sensitive, spiritually.

The monks and I have mutual admiration. I appreciate them greatly. I have studied their tradition; I have lived with monks, and I love the Buddhist tradition; I have a great deal of appreciation for it. The monks already have an appreciation that I do so though I come from a tradition with a strongly Christian background. They think that's very special; they can't imagine a minister having a son who has a strong interest in Buddhism, who has studied Buddhism, and whose Father accepts him and has also elevated him (Father has asked me to take on responsibilities.) They see that as huge. They are amazed by that.

Whenever we meet, we talk about spiritual things, sure, but there is a great deal of friendship already that is implicit in our meetings -- because we know each other's history. I know their history as monks; they know my history as someone who has studied their tradition, coming from the family that I do. So when we do meet, it's a very happy experience. It's also very playful at times -- we joke about things.

One thing I think one learns from meditation practice is a certain humility, a certain awe of the simple things like a breath, or the sound of water; all these small things are amplified during meditation. They are used as tools to concentrate the mind. Because of those simple things, one starts to develop more appreciation of oneself and also of others. Once one understands that we are connected as human beings, through our practice, we can understand how valuable the life we are given is, and how valuable the lives of others are. In that process of adopting humility, meditation practice allows us to discover that.

When I meet the monks who practice meditation, they are very humble. They are very playful; they are not so stiff. The monks who are more scholarly want to talk about scholarly things. It's the same as with anybody else. The ones that focus more on meditation enjoy the simple things, simple conversation, good company, tea time, quiet meditation time. They focus on that. They have a very pure way, a simplicity of heart, in a good way -- they have a very enthusiastic, childlike nature. We all need it! We just share that together. They feel that with me -- I am kind of playful too; I joke a lot too. They like that. It's usually just a happy time! 

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