Monday, March 9, 2009

Why Gassho?

In the Martial Arts and the Zen World you will see people putting their hands together, palm to palm, and do a standing bow. This is called a Gassho. Nonin told us that Gassho represents the oneness of duality. When we Gassho to another person we are saying 'You and I are not two." One hand represents you and the other me.

A Gassho can also represent the everpresent 'Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form'. One hand is Form, the other is Emptiness. Gassho-ing is an acknowledgment of this deep teaching and reality that they are not two. They are not one...but also not two.

For myself, it is a deep sign of respect and most of all, Gratitude. I tend to Gassho to animate and inaminate objects in deep thankfulness for being in my life. This started for me many years ago during a sesshin (retreat) at the Zen temple in Omaha. I was putting away my sleeping bag in the spare bedroom. The door was open and Nonin came out of the bathroom into the hallway. He immediately did a 180 degree turn and Gassho-ed towards the bathroom. "Something" hit me. I have no words for it. All I can say is that almost everytime I go to the bathroom now I end up Gassho-ing to the toilet....and this has now extended to all areas of my life.

As most of you know, Karate ends and begins with respect. A Gassho also symbolizes this deep respect we have for the dojo, fellow students, Sensei and ourselves. We must bow often. Suzuki Roshi had stated that without bowing there is no Zen. It is very essential to our transformation and realization of our inner and pure nature. If you watch, you will notice many Karate styles, including ours, have a Gassho in the opening movements of Kata. This helps unify your mind with the Kata. It symbolizes you and the Kata are not two.

The more I Gassho the more feelings of peace and gratitude come over me. This is Budo. This is Ceasing the Struggle. Like the old saying goes, "Try it, you'll like it."

Hands palm to palm,

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