I go to mass every Sunday. It’s a strange thing to do for a non-believer of the Catholic faith. In the two decades of this weekly ritual, I have noticed one thing that everyone does in my church (when I say my church, I mean my physical church. A building.) When people line up to receive “The body of Christ“, they bow towards the crucifix in such a manner that I find disrespectful. “But why do I find it disrespectful since I’m Buddhist?” I hear you say (I have an ear of a bat. Just an ear, and it’s in the cupboard.) I’ll get to that in a moment.
In reference to the picture above, most people I see bow the Eshaku. However, their Eshaku feels like it’s done out of habit. When you do things out of habit, you are not aware of the things around you. This should not be the case in when in comes to bowing. A person bows because he/she acknowledges the other’s presence and, essentially, existence. One does not simply bow and ignore the person he/she is bowing to. I cannot believe that they actually ignore the crucifix so easily when they bow! It’s quite disrespectful.
I bow the Saikei Rei, but since I’m not Japanese, I bow with my right hand upon my heart and my left arm tucked behind me at 90 degrees. But why do I bow to something or someone who, in essence, does not exist for me?
God (referring to the Christian god) is an idea that does exist. I as a Buddhist acknowledge God’s existence, but only to the extent of Him as an idea. Ideas, as we all know, can never be destroyed; ideas live, prosper and multiply in all of us. He does not have to be an ominous being that transcends time and space; He is, to me, an idea and a symbol for people who believe in Him.
When I bow towards the crucifix, I acknowledge the fact that God does exist. It’s like seeing your parents for the first time in a week. You would greet your parents with utmost enthusiasm.
In the movie Avatar done by James Cameron, Neytiri teaches Jake Sully about seeing. When Jake finally gets the meaning of what Neytiri was trying to say, he says, “I see you.” I didn’t get what he meant until my Philosophy professor explained it me.
This type of seeing involves, as my professor said, transcendence. When a parent gets lost in their baby’s eyes, their minds would transcend space and time. This means, when that special moment happens between parent and child, their world is the only one that exists. That’s how I would interpret it.
Now take that idea of seeing with transcendence and imagine me doing that with bowing to the crucifix. The only people I see doing this are the elderly and those who are married to this religion (I can tell. Trust Me.)
So please. Respect what needs to be respected, even if it isn’t in your history and culture.