Breathing, Bowing, and Chanting: Researching Buddhist Spiritual Practices in World Religions Class

The Subong Monastery in Causeway Bay where we will be taught about Korean Zen Buddhism and their practices.

So far in this course we have established that in order autorizacionto become what we are meant to be as human beings – to majestically harmonize the small self of the horizontal dimension with the Larger Self of the vertical – we need to open our body-mind-heart to the spiritual dimension of life. We do this through various practices that relax and open us to something beyond our own selves.

During our field trip to the Subong Monastery, the monks and nuns will teach us about breathing, chanting, prostrations, and meditations. I want each person to contribute some idea in preparation for our visit.  Find some valuable points from your article and record your insights on the Google doc (with a picture or two), which you will then share with the rest of the class.


  1. Zen Breathing and Practice
  2. Tibetan Pranayama
  3. The Buddhist Tradition of Breath Meditation (1st half): summarize some key insights.
  4. The Buddhist Tradition of Breath Meditation (2nd half): Go down to the halfway point where it discusses “Contemporary Buddhist Teachers on Breath Meditation” and get some useful quotes.
  5. Self-Observation and Breathing (go 2/3 down the entry)
  6. Teaching Consciousness of the Body (search for “breath” and find all references in this article)
  7. The Breath of Life by Dennis Lewis
  8. The Harmfulness of Breathing Techniques by Anadi
  9. Gurdjieff on Experiments with Breathing
  10. Endless Search Breathing Practices
  11. Attention Means Attention



  1. The Psychology of Buddhist Prostrations: In this case, body-lips-mind = body-mind-heart.
  2. Why We Bow
  3. Practicing Prostrations: Describe the four kinds of prostrations.
  4. Prostrations at Won Kwang Sa
  5. How to Make Prostrations
  6. How to Make a Prostration: Demonstrate how to do prostrations
  7. Bowing as a Buddhist Practice
  8. Buddhist Etiquette: How are we supposed to behave when we visit a Buddhist temple?
  9. Three Bows: make sure to mention the concept of Buddha nature in connection to bowing, and how Buddhists view the statues in their temples.
  10. Why do Buddhists bow?

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 A Buddhist monk Rabten (pictured below) wrote to me:

My personal experience is that I have never experienced a mental / emotional disturbance so severe that doing a hundred prostrations could not at least begin the process of shifting it. There is something about the combination of the physical exercise, the explicit faith, and the humility of the practice that allows the heart to open to blessings and be transformed. In my experience it is a truly magical thing.

Best Wishes,




  1. Chanting: A Basic Buddhist Practice
  2. The Practice of Chanting in Buddhism
  3. Does chanting “Nam myoho renge kyo” really work? Quora comment. Explain the meaning and practice of the chant.
  4. Play the “Kwan Seum Bosal” chant. What is the meaning and how does one chant it well?
  5. How To Practice Zen: Describe the “instruments” of chanting and pick out some of the useful tips about how to chant from this article.
  6. Heart Sutra: do this chant and search elsewhere for the importance and practice of the heart sutra. Play it for us.
  7. Om Mani Padme Hum: Explain the practice and meaning of this very popular Tibetan chant.
  8. The Green Tara Mantra and Chant: share an image of Green Tara and a chant. Explain the practice and meaning.
  9. See Episcopalian priest Cynthia Bourgeault’s comments copied below and see this 9-minute video at this link.
  10. Manitoba Buddhist Temple on chanting

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Chanting Buddhist sutras in Bhutan with a group of students.

Chanting is at the heart of all sacred traditions worldwide, and for very good reasons. What meditation accomplishes in silence, chanting accomplishes in sound: it wakes up the emotional center and sets it vibrating to the frequency of love and adoration while feeding the body with that mysterious higher “being food” of divine life. Sacred chanting is an extremely powerful way of awakening and purifying the heart because it allows us to experience, beyond the distortions of our own personal passions, the power and profundity of the divine passion itself.

At its simplest, chanting is simply a matter of putting voice to the words you see on a page. On a single tone is fine. Don’t be embarrassed or self-conscious about imageshow you sound; instead, simply sense the wonder of your own breath and your own tone. Out of these two elements, all sacred traditions agree, the divine Source brought the created realm into being, and these two elements are right there in you! In a mysterious way, your true voice, whether large or small, high or low, bold or timorous, is very closely related to your true self; and as you learn to sing out of your own natural being without pretense or strain, the beauty of your unique quality of aliveness will sine through.”

Cynthia Bourgeault. The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming An Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart (Kindle Locations 1008-1018). Kindle Edition.

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About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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5 Responses to Breathing, Bowing, and Chanting: Researching Buddhist Spiritual Practices in World Religions Class

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