[ by Charles Cameron — observing a certain universality across traditions ]
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is a teacher in the Bon tradition,
the native religion of Tibet
Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, a high lama of the Tibetan Buddhist Karma Kagyu lineage, has this to say:
The nature of all ritual is that symbolic devices are used to create a certain mental attitude. When we offer our body, speech, and mind, we do this though a system of gestures that create that particular meaning. But if the ritual is not based on an understanding of emptiness, then it lacks meaning, and the symbolic gestures could cause confusion.
In Tibetan Buddhism, body, speech, and mind are known as the three vajras — variously translated as diamonds or lightning bolts. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, another Karma Kagyu teacher, explained:
Buddha-Nature is present just as the shining sun is present in the sky. It is indivisible from the Three Vajras [i.e. the Buddha’s Body, Speech and Mind] of the awakened state, which do not perish or change.
In Arab circles, there’s a formal greeting known as the Salaam, in which to quote Desmond Morris, Bodytalks: A World Guide to Gestures:
The hand touches the chest, then the lips, then the centre of the forehead. The action ends with a forward flourish of the hand and is often accompanied by a bow of the head. [ .. ] This is the full version of the salaam, including all three elements. Its message is ‘I give you my heart, my soul and my head.
In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, we are told to make a triple sign of the cross at Mass:
At Mass when the reading of the Gospel begins, we place the sign of the Cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts and pray, “May the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” Lips, minds, and hearts—these symbolize three kinds of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contemplative. These modes of prayer include formal and informal paths, personal and communal expressions, popular piety, and the liturgical prayer of the Church.
Oh, and Gandhi taught:
There’s something profoundly human going on here.