Tibetan People are Prostrating on their way to Lhasa.(Photo from network. )
On the roads to Lhasa, from time to time, travelers can see Buddhists prostrating (lying face down in adoration and devotion). They begin their journey from their home and keep on prostrating all the way to Lhasa. They wear hand pads, knee-pads, and a protective leather upper outer garment. With dust on their faces and innumerable hardships in their lives, slowly they move forward by prostrating forward every 3 steps for months or for years, toward the holy city of Lhasa. Three or 4 acquaintances may go together under the same belief and for the same direction. Many years ago, Buddhists would go empty-handed, even without food or extra clothes. When they felt hungry or cold, they would beg and beg. Things are different now. A Buddhist may be designated for taking charge of food and clothes supplies, providing convenience for his companions, but never will he be allowed to replace a prostrator. The prostrating Buddhists are very scrupulous. They won't give up no matter their exhaustion. In case of heavy traffic or other situations, they will draw a line with some pebbles instead of prostrating. With determination and strong faith, they then continue to walk and prostrate forward.
The prostrator follows these procedures: first, stand straight upright, chant the 6-character truth meaning "merciful Buddha," put their palms together, raise their hands up over their heads, and take a step forward; second, lower their hands down in front of the face, take another step forward; third, lower their hands down to the chest, separate both hands, stretch them out with the palms down, kneel down to the ground, then prostrate with the forehead knocking the ground slightly. Stand up again and repeat the whole procedure.
Another, simpler method is to walk around the monastery in a clockwise direction and prostrate. Starting from the front gate of the monastery, Buddhists also prostrate once every 3 steps, chanting the 6-character truth and some Buddhism scriptures.
Prostrating is related to Lamaism and has much to do with the Chinese custom of kowtow. Kowtow was a kind of daily etiquette in the feudal society. According to the ancient book Zhouli Chunguan Dazhu, there were 9 kinds of kowtow, illustrating that the etiquette was popular as far back as in the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC-256 BC). In the following year of the Revolution of 1911 (also known as the Xinhai Revolution), Sun Yat-sen (first president and founding father of the Republic of China) abolished the etiquette.
The exchange between the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Tupo regime indicates the 2 nationalities, Chinese and Tibetan, can learn from each other. Kowtow spread to Tibet. In order to show their fidelity, Buddhists transformed kowtow into prostrating. Gradually, prostrating became widely accepted and practiced.
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