Anjali mudra, Namaste, Prostration and Etiquette in Buddhist temple - Myoma Myint Kywe

Anjali mudra, Namaste, Prostration and Etiquette in Buddhist temple
Myoma Myint Kywe

Buddhism is the education of learning and practicing the Buddha's teaching and spirit. The Buddhist spirit emphasizes the mind. Disciples of Buddha refer to themselves as people who are learning Buddha's teaching and good behavior. To put it simply, to be good Buddhist is to “refrain from doing all evil things, diligently do all good deeds, and purify the mind”.

One should visit a Buddhist pagoda or temple with a proper and pious mind.
Temples are places where one engages in spiritual practice.
Temples are also places where Buddhists can cultivate more merit:

Always be respectful of others
Reflect on the Buddha’s teachings
Remain quiet when visiting temples or pagodas

When entering the shrine room, a Buddhist practitioner may do three prostrations facing the shrine, or make a short bow with hands folded. This is done as a symbol of the surrender of oneself and the desire to benefit all beings.

Revealing clothing, such as tank tops, short skirts, shorts and the like may be inappropriate attire in some temple or shrine room settings. Shoes are removed before entering the shrine room and hats are not worn.

Inside the Shrine Hall
Guests should always move along the right side in temples, since this action represents deep reverence for the Buddha. When many people/visitors have entered the hall avoid disturbing the peace and silence.

When other members of the laity are prostrating, one should avoid walking in front of them.

Dharma materials, puja texts & dharma books should be kept off the floor and places where people sit, but on a table or cushion, and not be stepped over.

Dharma materials items used by the Sanghas are private and for their use. It is good to obtain permission before using their items.

Conversation should be kept to a minimum in and around the shrine room, as people often do silent sitting and practice there.

Do not sit with the legs outstretched, as this is a sign of disrespect, and of course, lying down shows great discourtesy.
The acceptable posture is to sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. If that is difficult because of a specific physical problem, it is permissible to sit in a chair in the back of the shrine room.
Pointing your feet toward the altar or teacher is regarded as disrespectful.
Do not stand with the arms akimbo in the presence of the Teachers. Do not chew food loudly or with an open mouth.
In the presence of a teacher, monastic, or in a shrine room, cover the mouth when yawning, coughing or laughing with a wide gaping mouth.
Respect and kindness in manner of speech, thoughts and actions towards our monks (Sanghas) and to each other are such a great source of joy and merit for everyone.

Greeting the Buddha's Statue
From a simple bow to a full prostration, Buddhists of different countries pay homage to the Buddha in a variety of ways. Bowing to Buddha’s statue is a sign of respect for the Buddha. Lowering oneself before the Buddha is also an act of genuine humility.

Anjali mudra or Namaste
Anjali in Sanksrit, has different meanings. These meanings may be for offering, a gesture of reverence, salutation. This particular term means to honor or to celebrate. The Namaste or Namaskara or the Anjali Mudra is usually taken as the mudra of gesture of offering and devotion. It is also a gesture of prayer with the palms folded together. The Namaskara / Anjali mudra is also the gesture of greeting, prayer and adoration.

The gesture of Namaskara is ha hand gesture which is practiced throughout many countries in Asia and used as a sign of respect and greeting in countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, etc.

Anjali mudra means to put the hands together. Hands are placed at the mid-chest level, palms together, fingers straight and pointed at a 45 degree angle upwards. Both elbows should be fairly close to the body and the hands should be at mid-chest level. The wrists should be close to the chest. To bow during gassho / Anjali, the hands should be held steady, while the body is bent forward from the hips and then back to upright position.

Anjali mudra is the natural expression of reverence and gratitude.
Anjali mudra is more than a pose. It is symbolic of the Dharma, the truth about life. For instance, we place together our right and left hand, which are opposites. It represents other opposites as well: you and me, light and dark, ignorance and wisdom, life and death.

Therefore, gassho means that through the Buddha’s teachings, we can see that these opposites are really one.

Anjali mudra also symbolizes respect, the Buddhist teachings, and the Dharma. It also is an expression of our feelings of gratitude and our inter-connectedness with each other. It symbolizes the realization that our lives are supported by innumerable causes and conditions. Tradition has given us this symbol.

This is a hand position or gesture that helps you to focus your attention and has a particular benefit or positive effect, for example; calming the body and mind or increasing energy levels within the body.

Anjali mudra also known as prayer pose is often used in yoga practice as a greeting or sign of respect along with the term “Namaste”. As we hold our hands together at the heart space and take a bow, saying Namaste, we greet another with respect from the heart.

Namaste is sometimes expressed as Namaskar or Namaskaram, is a customary greeting when people meet or depart. It is a form of greeting commonly found among Buddhists and Hindus of the Indian, in most Southeast Asian countries, and diaspora from these regions.


A prostration (叩头 , Kowtow) is a gesture used in Buddhist practice to show reverence to the Triple Gem (comprising the Buddha, his teachings, and the spiritual community) and other objects of veneration.

Gadot (ကန္ေတာ့) is a Burmese verb referring to a Burmese tradition in which a person, always of lower social standing, pays respect or homage to a person of higher standing (including Buddhist monks, elders, teachers and Buddha), by kneeling before them and paying obeisance with joined hands, and bowing. This is usually done by students to their teachers or children or grandchildren to their elders (parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents), in order to show gratitude and reverence and an opportunity to ask for forgiveness, often involving gift-giving.

Prostration is a general practice in Buddhism. Kowtow, which is borrowed from kau tau in Cantonese, or koutou in Mandarin Chinese, Gadot (ကန္ေတာ့) in Burmese, is the act of deep respect shown by prostration, that is, kneeling and bowing so low as to have one's head touching the ground. An alternative Chinese term is ketou, however the meaning is somewhat altered: kou has the general meaning of knock, whereas ke has the general meaning of "touch upon (a surface)", tou meaning head.

Theravada Buddhists execute a type of prostration that is known as "five-point veneration" or the "five-limbed prostration" where the two palms and elbows, two sets of toes and knees, and the forehead are placed on the floor. More specifically:

Three prostrations infer deep respect for Buddha’s teachings. By performing three full prostrations, one expresses his/her intention to adhere to The Three Jewels - the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Likewise, the act symbolizes the abandoning of the Seven Poisons – anger, hatred, jealousy, ignorance, ill will, aversion, and evil things.

Practitioners will press the elbows, knees and forehead to the ground when prostrating. (However in Tibet, prostrations involve touching all five body parts (head, legs, arms, chest and abdomen) to the ground). The posture is intended to symbolically release the ego and respect the Buddha and other sentient beings:  

Put the palms of your hands together with the thumbs aligned and tucked into the center of your palms. Your folded thumbs represent offering a wish-fulfilling jewel to the Buddha.

In the kneeling position, one's hand in Anjali (palms together, fingers flat out and pointed upward) are touch your folded hands, with thumbs tucked inside the palms, to your crown, forehead (optional), neck, and heart as above.

Bend forward, place your hands flat upon the ground, lower your knees to the ground, and touch your forehead to the ground. 

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