To non-Buddhists, it may seem that bowing or prostration to an image or statue of the Buddha is treating the Buddha as a god or supernatural figure.  Actually, when a Buddhist bows or prostrates to the Buddha, this is how we show our humility, appreciation, and respect, for the Buddha as our teacher.
Buddhists look at the Buddha not as a god or supernatural figure, but as a respected teacher:
  • The Buddha is a teacher because he understood the true nature of things and taught others
  • He became a respected person because he vowed to liberate all sentient beings from suffering
  • He showed humanity how to better themselves by teaching love, kindness, and compassion

When a Buddhist bows before the Buddha, they are doing the following:

  • Reminding themselves of their own Buddha nature
  • Examining their own mind
  • Renewing their vow to remove any obstacles from their mind and life that prevent them from becoming enlightened
  • Manifesting kindness and compassion
  • Vowing to benefit all sentient beings
  • Letting go of their own ego