Ever wonder what happened to that favorite professor of yours from college? Students of retired Duke University professor of religion Roger Corless needn’t wonder any longer. In his new incarnation as “Dharma Daddy,” Corless has relocated to the San Francisco Bay area with his significant other (“my library”) and answers questions about Buddhism for the Gay Buddhist Fellowship in his column, “Ask Dharma Daddy” (available online athttp://www.gaybuddhist.org).

A sample of what you can expect:

Q: Dear Dharma Daddy: Why do Buddhists bow?

A: Because they are very respectful to Daddy! But, also, there are good doctrinal reasons. Although the Buddhas, high Bodhisattvas (such as Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion), and respected teachers (such as the Dalai Lama) are not radically different from us, as God is said to be by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, they are nevertheless a bit different. They show us who we are in our basic nature. Bodhisattvas and respected teachers have gone a long way in realizing their basic nature, and buddhas have realized their nature fully. The Tibetan word for “Buddha,” pronounced “Sang-gyay,” is a compound meaning “one who has awoken” (as from sleep or drunkenness) and “one who has come to full bloom” (as a flower from a bud). We have the potential to be like the buddhas; and by seeing them or learning about them, we get an idea of how far we are along the road toward realizing our own full potential, and so we honor and respect them as ideals toward which we strive. In the Asian cultures where Buddhism originated and developed, bowing, sometimes by a slight inclination of the body and sometimes by a full prostration, was and is the normal way of showing respect for a superior. Although bowing is not a general custom in the U.S., if we follow the traditional practice we will probably find that it helps us focus on our ultimate goal of becoming buddhas, so as to free all beings from suffering. Now, be a good boy and bow nicely! ▼

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