When worshippers enter a room in which there is a Buddha statue, they put their palms together and bow, to show their highest respect for the Buddha and His teachings. The proper term for the bowing is prostration. The individual prostrates three times by facing the Buddha or Bodhisattva and kneeling – with palms turned upward – on a kneeling stool. The open palms represent wisdom and compassion; during the first prostration, the turning out of one hand symbolizes cultivating wisdom internally, while the movement of the other represents the outward offering of compassion.
The second prostration indicates the Buddha or Bodhisattva’s bestowal of wisdom and compassion upon the individual. The third shows the sincerity of the person’s prayers to the Buddha or Bodhisattva. It takes three prostrations to build up concentration and emphasize one’s earnestness.