As a young Aikido teacher, I always had a hard time to explain to whom and why we bow at the beginning and end of each class. My students got the message, that it is not the picture of Morihei Ueshiba hanging in the kamiza we are bowing to, neither anything else considered as sacred. Instead, we bow to all our seniors, ancestors and teachers. Since teacher and students bow together in the same direction, I explained, we all become students, respecting those countless before us, who kindly handed down their skills and art to us.
Today, I saw at a very old temple in Beijing a believer kneeling down and bowing in front of a closed building. I wondered to what he his bowing, so after he was gone, I peeked through a gap in the door. Inside the room there was a pile of rubbish and old furniture, nothing else.
Not caring if it is garbage or the famous lying Buddha (supposed to be inside the building) we bow to, this might be real Zen, I thought.