Bowing with palms together expresses respect to the Awakened Nature of others. It also sanctifies and expresses gratitude to the room where one practices, the meditation seat, and anything that is offered, including food.
I recently got the chance to learn what the Japanese characters are for Gasshō, the bowing with palms together that Dogen describes, and which we often translate in Practice as: your heart and my heart are one.
The first character is the “bringing together”. The second is “the palms of the hands”.
I learned that Gasshō can also be an architectural term – to refer to a high pointed roof, the slopes of the roof joined together in Gasshō. Notice the two slopes of a roof coming together at the top of the first character.
The Monastery roof - sheltering us, channeling rain on down to the gutters and onto the water tanks, playground for mountain squirrels - is a Gasshō!
Even before I saw the Monastery roof right there in the Japanese characters for Gasshō, I’d always been struck by the Gasshō quality of the Monastery buildings. There’s no sense of hierarchy (buildings and humans first, everything else second), or of separation. It’s All Life living together - - buildings nestled in to the forest, buildings and trees making Gasshō to one another -- built from a place of Gasshō.
At Work Weekends at the Monastery in March, Sangha got together and had a grand time cleaning many of these buildings top-to-bottom -- scrubbing, dusting, sweeping, mopping, painting -- a Gasshō of gratitude for all they do for us.