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Why do some monastics do añjali at the mouth and forehead?

Hi, all! In some YouTube videos I’ve seen some monastics do añjali at forehead level and mouth level, in sequence with the usual chest-level gesture, sometimes before prostrating. Why is this? And in what occasions do monastics do this?

It’s my understanding that añjali at chest level is a salutation gesture in India, more or less independently of one’s religion. So what is the meaning of those other variations?

Thanks, and metta!

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It’s not just monastics that do this; it’s quite a common practice. It was always explained to me as a salutation with body (forehead), speech (throat/mouth), and mind (heart). So one is saluting with one’s whole being.

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I visited Thailand for several months and saw it at chest level there as a respectful gesture among laypeople, but I always saw it done at forehead level when one was showing respect/deference to a monastic or high level official, etc. This was quite a few years ago and I never had it thoroughly explained to me, so just offering an anecdotal observation.

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That’s interesting, thank you. And in which order does one perform the gestures? Does the laity incorporate that into their prostrations during their daily practice or liturgical service?

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Thank you for the contribution!

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I can’t comment on practices in Asia, but only on what I’ve seen and done as a practicing (non-Theravadin) Buddhist in Europe and North America. But in the western context I’m familiar with, practitioners will sometimes salute in the order body (i.e. forehead), then speech (throat), and lastly mind (the heart).

Some people are more devotional than others, and prefer the threefold salute as standard. Other people will generally perform añjali at the heart, but it they’re feeling extra devotional they’ll “upgrade” to the triple salute. And, yes, the triple anjali is often employed at the start of a prostration.

I’m sure that in other traditions things will be done differently.

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Just to share the info as I understand it for Theravada (noting that my training monastery didn’t have an anjali policy). Some of the time, chest level anjali isn’t really “enough” for religious situations (very high respect level)…both for the monastic and lay community.

For the Buddha vandana/extra devotion, some will start from forehead level anjali for vandana e.g. 5 point prostration. In Sri Lanka, this can become a very high above the head arms raising…you see this thing a lot for ordinations.

Monastics (or in my case, the senior monastics) can also get face-level anjali At least for formal vandana going into 5 point prostration etc.

If we are on the run & want to worship a senior monastic, there are different ways…also crouching bow, not only five point.

Outside of formal vandana, people will still use normal chest level anjali for chanting, normal use, less formal situation etc.

I have never seen throat anjali in Theravada.

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Thank you so much for this detailed answer, Venerable!

So, according to your experience, higher añjali is for a higher show of respect, correct? And in these occasions, does one do añjali successively from the forehead, then mouth, then chest, and then do the five point prostration? Or just the forehead/face añjali and then the prostration?

I ask because a more elaborate salutation seems appropriate for when I’m observing Uposatha, at the beginning of my morning practice, etc. It would make these days feel more special :grin:

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You know, TBH, I think the forehead thing is a bit idiosyncratic…you mostly see it in a very spontaneous, devotional kind of context, very possible to overdo it?

Face level is ok, just from the face to the bow, raising palms from chest level. Chest, face, bow. If you feel inspired to anjali higher than that, you can work it out…

There are a lot of guides for this on the internet from people who are much better at it than I am. I don’t see human beings much these days since lockdown, not sure if I’m fit for civilised company anymore. Quite often our lay supporters have to remind me to do these things.

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