Last Saturday at Chogye Sah Temple here in Manhattan, I showed once again up for our monthly 1,000 bows practice.
I'll let the Kwan Um School website explain it better than I can:
From the Dharma Mirror - Manual of Practice Forms:
Prostrations could be likened to the 'emergency measure' for clearing the mind. They are a very powerful technique for seeing the karma of a situation because both the mind and the body are involved. Something that might take days of sitting to digest may be digested in a much shorter time with prostrations.
I've really grown to love them and I try to do at least 108 every morning. Sometimes I even do 108 in the morning and 108 in the evening. My first Zen teacher had me do 3,000 one day earlier this year, and even though it was tough, I managed to do them all within 4.5 hours.
I have a weird toe issue that makes this a bit challenging at times so once in a while I need to help myself up by pushing up with my hands but I love doing them. I'm very physical and work out often so I really get into this form of practice.
Anyway, back to last Saturday--I showed up at 5:00 pm and Myoji Sunim (the Abbess of Chogyesah Temple) was there encouraging everyone as they started bowing. Her chanting and hitting of the moktak provided an intensely effective focal point to the practice. For the second and third hour the chanting was done by Myong Haeng, the Vice-Abbott.
This practice isn't for anyone who has any serious physical challenges. I don't recommend such practice for anyone with leg, knee, or foot problems.
While I was skeptical at first I can easily say now that this practice was the most demanding and mind-clearing of my life.