I Bow to My Teachers…and I Also Bow to My Students

I want to talk today about something very simple: the practice of bowing.

Whenever I come to meditate or to teach, I always bow. I bow to my lineage gurus, and I bow to all teachers who have made themselves available, who shared the benefits and insights of whatever difficult work they have done, to uplift the lives of people. Bowing to such people in profound respect is an important part of the tantric tradition. It is not in any way a demonstration of subservience.

Bowing is important for two reasons. The first is that the goal of our work is to have the palpable experience of the interconnectedness of the total unity of all. One of the reasons that a teacher is crucial is that if we can establish ourselves in the awareness of the interconnectedness between us and one person, then it is possible for us to take the leap from that experience of interconnectedness with one person to the experience of interconnectedness with all people, and from all people to all life forms, and from all life forms to the very living conscious field in which experience asserts itself in the first place. So, we’re not just bowing in respect for our teacher’s realization, their willingness to unconditionally accept and love us, and their allowing their own energy to be the nourishment for the awakening of our potential. We are also bowing to express our unity, which is the basic nature of reality.

In bowing to our teachers, we also bow to the work, the conscious effort that is necessary and appropriate in our endeavor to release ourselves from all of those limiting patterns that we were born into. Those patterns filter all the input and all the energy that we take in, and filter all the output, so that our understanding is always somewhat limited and our self-expression never truly meets the mark that we hope it would.

There’s one final thing about bowing that is also important. When I bow to my teachers, I am expressing my devotion. Devotion is the chemistry that unifies all the disparate aspects of my life and allows me to experience all the different ways in which I am called to express myself and the understanding that I am here to grow spiritually.

So, I bow every time I come to meditation. I bow to remember to reconnect to the wisdom aspect of our spiritual endeavor, which is the understanding that we are all completely interconnected. I also bow to remember the devotion aspect of my spiritual quest. That experience makes me feel really, really grateful, grateful for my teachers, grateful for my students, grateful for my life, and grateful for life itself. So please know that I don’t just bow to my teachers every morning. I also bow to my students.