When I first started practicing Buddhism, I couldn’t relate to all the reverence paid towards religious Buddhist artifacts. On one hand I hear lofty discussion about formlessness and emptiness and on the other hand I see many devout elders bowing and prostrating to images, scriptures, pictures, people and statues. Isn’t respect all in our mind?
Then I came to conclude that it is a form of good exercise. That was after my first participation of the recitation of Amitabha sutra in a Chinese Mahayana ritual chanting. I was sixteen years old.
As time goes by, my studies of Buddhism deepen and I marveled the wisdom of Buddha. Prostration and reverence became a form of physical expression of my devotion and respect.
Then I found out the following.
The physical devotion and reverence is also a form of mental training. It train our mind to be receptive and responsive towards the triple gems.
In short, it is a conscious effort to build up a mental habit of being respectful and receptive towards Buddhism.
Buddhism believes in rebirth and we believe that a person’s mind is not a piece of blank paper at birth. We believe that each child is born with certain mental habits that are carried over from his or her previous life.
That explains why some children have specific temperament or special likes and dislikes (even phobia) or special learning affinities when it concerns certain skills or knowledge.
With this belief, a Buddhist wishes to build up a mental habit of becoming receptive towards Buddhism. This is to ensure that if we do not get enlightened in this life, at least we are not “lost” from Buddhism in our next one.
If you are someone who takes a liking to Buddhism or love Buddhism at first sight. Then there is high chance that you are a Buddhist in your former lifetime.
For example, some people are immediately attracted by Buddhist chanting whereas some are put off by it. Some people automatically felt inspired by a Buddha statue whereas some would see it as nothing more than a beautiful paperweight.
For a Buddhist, the idea of “forgetting” Buddhism is akin to being thrown into hell. It is like forgetting a “project” that we have started but stopped halfway.
The project of Enlightenment.