16 April 2009

The Bowing Controversy - or To Bow or Not to Bow

I knew I had a hard time with the whole idea of bowing (see the end of the Path of Love) but I thought it was just my personality quirk. Then came all the hullaballoo over President Obama bowing to Saudi King Abdullah on April 2nd. You'd think President Obama had floated the idea of making the king a cabinet member.

I thought it was my little old outsized ego that kept my spine rigid, unwilling even to try out this bowing thing just to see if I could at least come to appreciate why it's so important in both Hinduism and Buddhism but here I find it isn't just my problem, it's cultural. We're all raised to think bowing down before someone implies weakness or, worse, fealty or subservience to another.

It seems to me that how we greet one another is less important than that we do. I know that when I'm concerned more about how someone else sees me, more about making clear my power and its importance to me, more about making sure my position seems dominant from the get-go, my relationships don't go very well. I've lived most of my life with that first in my mind and, boy, was that a waste.

All I can say is, the whole angry storm over the President's bow at least made me feel that I am a real American, not just a real egotist.

(In case you're interested, here are links to previous posts with some of my bowing challenges: Hemu's Morning Rituals, First Teacher, Path of Love, Doing It, The Destroyer of Time...there must be a few more but, you get the idea. Most of the bowing is at the end of the posts...)

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