Ceremonial descriptions and illustrations

If you struggle with some of the aspects of ceremonial here are a few photos with descriptions to hopefully help you.


Understanding bowing is key to going deeper into an appreciation and understanding of Buddhist practice. To fully bow is to truly let go of whatever we are holding on to.

Going clockwise from the top left we a picture of a seated bow. This is mostly used during the evening service ceremony where we recite Rules fo Meditation. Whether we are on a cushion, bench or chair the movement is the same by bending forward at the waist as far as we can and raising our hands, with palms up, after the ting of the signal gong.

Next we have what is called a monjin which is used mostly for the gratitude bows at the end of ceremonies. Turning towards the altar and putting our hands together in gassho bow from the waist as described in the previous picture.

Finally we have the full bow. This is where we kneel on the ground, if we can, bend forward and raise our hands. If we can’t do this it is fine to do a standing bow which is similar to the monjin but we raise the hands rather than stay in gassho.

Candle Offering:

We often offer a candle instead of incense here at the Priory. An offering of light is the offering up of the dharma of enlightenment in much the same way that the incense of the dharma spreads out and infuses all places and things.

You may wish to offer a candle before a meditation period or maybe offer merit privately on an altar. If you are a chaplain you will need to hand over the candle to the celebrant so that he can offer it. If so here is a handy guide to how to do this. To hand the candle to the celebrant have it in the palm of your hand so that it is easy for them to take it. This will help with fumbling, awkward manouvering and less likelihood of dropping it, see top two pictures. The bottom two pictures show how to offer the candle up. The right hand photo shows that when we hold it up it is not advisable to hold it to the forehead as your hair may singe or indeed catch fire. Then hold it out as you quietly say the Three Homages, which are Homage to the Buddha, Homage to the Dharma, Homage to the Sangha. Then place the candle on the altar. Pleaqse make sure that lit candles are placed safely so that that can’t be knocked off or set any materials , like the altar curtains, alight. Please extinguish if the candle is to be left unattended i.e. when leaving the room after the ceremony etc.