Prostrations to the Three Jewels


The three jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dharma (truth/wisdom) and the Sangha (spiritual community).

So where is the Buddha? Where is the dharma? Where can we find enlightenment, freedom, and truth? Where is our spiritual community? That which you seek, whatever it is, will be found in giving up the search and simply focus on the practice itself. If it is the Buddha we seek, all we have to do is practice.  It is also through the practice of our spiritual principles that we are protected. For example, when difficulty happens to me instead of getting angry, afraid, or resentful I practice my spiritual principles and am thus protected from further suffering (and I also don’t create more negative karma through negative actions). That is why it is said that the Dharma is our best protection. Instead of getting caught up in some difficulty or problem, we practice our spiritual principles and in this way it protects us. Our spiritual community too will be found in our practice. Instead of searching for the Buddha or for truth or for our spiritual experience in some far away place or through some powerful spiritual experience, simply practice and there you will meet up with the three jewels. The practice includes meditations, applying principles, contemplation of sacred texts, mindfulness and prostrations, to name a few.  Prostration to the three jewels is a powerful practice of purification and humility.


Prostrating to The Three Jewels

Knowing that others have gone before us and succeeded with conquering their negative states (the Buddha for example); knowing that if we let our egos drive our bus, we will continually be driven by pride, fear, arrogance, desire and all other habitual states. When we willingly bow down to those who have shown us there really is a path to freedom, we experience our own freedom. We also bow down to the three jewels within our selves. WE HUMBLE OURSELVES to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.  Prostrations are a way to “bow down” to that which represents our inherent goodness and beauty. We bow to those who remind us of our basic humanity. It is an act of surrendering and vulnerability and it helps purify us of arrogance and self-importance. The energy and attention we put into all the acts of self-importance actually keep us caught in a cycle of negative habitual patterns (or Samsara, cyclical existence). This is because we feel the need to “prove ourselves” over and over again since self-importance is such a fleeting and externally based dynamic. Prostration then frees us from this stance of self-importance, letting go of a bit of the ego each time we bow.

We can do this on a daily basis, freeing ourselves in this way simply by making three prostrations to the rising sun or to your root guru or spiritual teacher, or in this case, to the three jewels. I recommend beginning with three a day. Most important is what you hold in your heart as you bow. Hold a strong desire to clean your self of obstructions, bowing down to your spiritual source, in gratitude to your teacher, to truth, and to your spiritual community. I prostrate to the three jewels of Buddhism (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha) and to my root Guru, Padmasambhava and to all the dharma keepers known and unknown in all the traditions. I have a friend who prostrates to the rising and setting sun. At sunrise she prepares herself for the day; at sunset she lets go of all the negativity from the day.


“ Prostrations connect us with our own sanity. As a gesture of respect, love, and gratitude to those who show us our basic goodness, we bow down and prostrate. Prostrations serve as a way to overcome resistance and surrender our deeply entrenched neuroses and habits. Each time we bow, we offer ourselves: our confusion, our inability to love, our hardness and selfish ways.” Pema Chodron, No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide To The Way of the Bodhisattva. Shambhala Publications. 2005. Bosto



This week’s meditation practice

After practicing three prostrations ten minutes of mindfulness practice followed by this meditation. A simple practice by a teacher of mine, James Powell, A’cha’rya Jina’neshvar

Close your eyes… take a moment and notice your breath…the natural flow of the inhale and exhale…now from that place that you are witnessing your breath, notice the experience of your body…its sensations…its form…appreciate for a few moments what your body does for you…as you are aware of your body, say to yourself, silently- “I have a body, but I am more than my body”…repeat this a number of times…really feel how the “I-feeling” is more than the body…now be aware of your emotional body…noting how the range of your emotions colors your life…appreciate the varieties of emotions you experience and what they do for you…and now say to yourself silently-“I have emotions, but I”, and really feel the consciousness of , “I am more than my emotions”…repeat this until you feel the meaning of the I as being more than the emotions…now be aware of your mental body, appreciate its ability to solve problems and help you navigate your life…and now say to yourself- “I have a mind, but I am more than my mind”…again repeat and experience the I-feeling as being deeper and greater than the thinking mind…thoughts will come into your awareness and just simply note them and return to that I-feeling…you can even say to yourself- “I am more than these thoughts”…after feeling some experience of this “I-feeling”, affirm to yourself- “I AM”…do this a few times and then affirm “I AM PURE BEING”…”I AM THAT”…stay with this for awhile… whenever you become aware of the mind drifting, gently pull it back to the affirmation…remembering to experience the affirmation…if you like you can coordinate the affirmation with your breath…such as “I AM” on the inhale and “THAT” on the exhale…if you have a mantra, experience the vibration and consciousness of your mantra from this place of “I AM-ness”…continue until you are ready to come out of your inner being…then after your eyes are open look at the sacredness of THAT which is around you with new eyes. . .

The wilderness cave is an open market

          where Samsara can be bartered for Nirvana.

In the monastery of your heart and body

          lies a temple where all the Buddha’s unite. Milarepa, Tibetan saint

We are now into the fifth week of this meditation class and practice. In July I will be taking teachings at Deer Park on RJe Tsong Khapa, ”Ocean of Reasoning,” A Great Commentary on Nagarajuna’s Mulamadhamakakarika. I will share in a weekly blog some of my response and insights to this journey, (as limited and as humbling as they may be). You may join me by reading His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book, “How to See Yourself As You Really Are.”  This book is a user-friendly version of Nagarajuna’s wisdom path. Published through Atria Books.

THIS COMING SATURDAY, June 13th at Thundering Clouds Center for Creative Living, LLC we will be building the Labyrinth of the Three Jewels (followed by a sweat lodge). This will be a three-circuit labyrinth, with each circuit representing a jewel. Email me if you are interested in joining us. 

“The way of the Great Learning is to illustrate brilliant virtue,

to love people, and to rest in conduct that is perfectly good.

By knowing how to keep still,

one is able to determine what objects he should pursue.

By knowing what objects he should pursue,

one is able to attain calmness of mind.

By knowing how to attain calmness of mind,

0ne is able to succeed in tranquil repose.

By knowing how to succeed in tranquil repose,

one is able to obtain careful deliberation.

By knowing how to obtain careful deliberation,

one is able to harvest what he really wants to pursue.” –From the Great Learning, Confucius


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