Bowing is a modification of prostration.
When we prostrate, we de-centre the head, throwing it forward into the world, throwing it down on the ground of all being.
Our body is open and vulnerable. Our hands are without all the things of the self.
On entering the dojo we bow to the altar: to Buddha and to the flowers of emptiness. We bow to the incense that perfumes the space. We bow to our cushion. We bow to our fellow practitioners.
It is not that our cushion is a small person and you are great person or that Buddha is a great person and you are a small person. No. When we put our hands together and bow, a great person appears – not just in front of our hands, not just behind our hands. Not just in the hands themselves: