Prostration in Tibet is an important expression of devotion to Tibetan Buddhism. Prostrating is practicing one of Buddhism's three Jewels for Tibetan Buddhists. Tibetan pilgrims prostrate themselves by lying face-down on the ground and stretching out their arms and legs so as to earn merit.
Pilgrims in front of Jokhang Temple in Lhasa
Tibetan pilgrims always perform prostrations before monasteries in Tibet and before sacred images displayed on altars or when they enter and withdraw from a room. Some pilgrims from distant places in Tibet even prostrate themselves to their pilgrimage destination, like Lhasa and Mountain Kailash. They would spent several years making pilgrimages to Lhasa and other religious centers, covering the entire distance in a series of prostrations. Tibetan Buddhists also prostrate before their teachers.
Tibetans ideally are expected to prostrate themselves 100,000 times a year, which works out to almost 300 times a day, every day of the year. Not only do they prostrate themselves aroundtemples they also do it on roads, streets and sidewalks. Some pilgrims cover the entire 33-mile route around Mount Kailash or travel from their hometowns to Lhasa, repeatedly prostrating themselves.
How to perform prostration in Tibet
First, stand straight with your feet slightly spread and keep your toes pointing forward. Meanwhile, put the palms together, but leave a small open space in the center of the palms. Situate your hands at heart-level. And then raise your hands just above your head, touching the crown of your head. Then touch your hands to your brow, your throat and back to your heart.
Secondly, bend at the waist to the floor and make your arms parallel to the ground with the centers of your palms facing the earth. Place your hands at a place in front of you that will allow you to bend forward gracefully and allow you to raise up with ease.
Thirdly, allow your knees to touch the floor just after your hands and lie down on the ground. Form a straight line from your waist to your fingertips and keep face down.
Finally, touch the ground. The 5 points, hands, knees and head must touch the ground in that order. Some pilgrims put the palms together and lift them above the head.
As soon as your head touches the ground, raise up. Use your hands to push up from the floor quickly. Come to standing rest with hands returned to position before your breast.