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Introduction to Korean Buddhism

01. Buddhist Behavior and Etiquette - Basic Buddhist Etiquette

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Writer Jogye Date08 Jan 2020 Read4,080 Comment0


01. Buddhist Behavior and Etiquette -Basic Buddhist Etiquette

01. Buddhist Behavior and Etiquette

Ideally, Buddhists should live and act according to the teachings of the Buddha, always reflect on the self, and be self-aware. Various Buddhist practices are performed to attain this ideal such as the performance of 108 prostrations, recitation of scriptures, chanting of mantras, and Seon meditation. These Buddhist practices may seem strange, awkward, and sometimes difficult for those being exposed to Buddhism for the first time. However, in order to be a good Buddhist, one must be aware of the reasons for performing prostrations, proper etiquette during teachings, proper attitude and postures, and other points of etiquette. All Buddhist etiquette and rituals are in themselves practices to attain enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. Therefore, it is very important to learn proper Buddhist etiquette so that every action in our daily lives can be filled with pious and humble practice.

Buddhist etiquette can guide Buddhists on how to live, pray and consult with the Sangha (the religious community). It will also help one to transcend temptations or difficulties, while principal practices will help one to lead a spiritual life. The essence of Buddhist etiquette is for the sake of guiding Buddhists to constantly take refuge in the Buddha, to contemplate his teachings, and put what we learn into action.

1] Basic Buddhist Etiquette

Hands: Chasu and Hapjang

One should always keep one\'s hands in Chasu when standing or walking in temples. The word Chasu refers to the position of crossing the hands in front of the midsection, with the top of left hand being held by the right. When standing, crossed hands should be placed naturally around the navel. When sitting, crossed hands should be placed neatly on the knees.

Hapjang, the most basic posture maintained while in prayer, is also the most common greeting method to indicate that one is a Buddhist. Hapjang refers to keeping the palms together; one must keep hands and fingers pressed together with no spaces in between, and place them on the heart. Keeping palms together symbolizes concentration of the mind. Moreover, it is a reminder that the self and others are bound by one truth and are part of one life. During the precept ceremonies, one must keep Hogwe Hapjang. To perform Hogwe Hapjang, keep both knees on the floor, with legs and hips off the floor and two hands held together at the heart. When one changes one\'s posture from Chasu to Hapjang, or Hapjang to Chasu, their movements should flow naturally.

Sitting Meditation and Proper Posture

Jwaseon or sitting posture is the most basic posture in Seon meditation. Many historic practitioners, including the Buddha, meditated with this sitting posture and the method has been passed down to this day and is used in different meditation practices.

There are two main Jwaseon postures: the full lotus and half lotus posture. In full lotus posture, the right foot is placed on top of the left thigh, and left foot is placed on top of the right thigh. In this posture, both feet are placed deeply into each thigh to maintain stability for an extended period of time. For half lotus posture, one should place either the right leg on top of the left leg, or left leg on top of the right leg.

Sitting postures are primarily maintained during chanting, praying or when reciting Sūtras (the teachings of the Buddha). However, one is expected to kneel during these practices. Even if it is difficult to maintain the posture, it is best to kneel during prayers or supplications. When kneeling down (for example, when doing prostrations), the right foot should be on the floor and the left foot should be on top of the right, creating an ‘x’. However, if this is also too difficult, the legs may be switched over when necessary, or both legs may be stretched out in front for more comfort. However, the spine should be kept straight when sitting on one’s knees, in order to maintain a correct physical posture.

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