A:There's no real meaning. It's because when I was little, I was a very naughty boy. I liked to fight, and wanted to be a knight-errant, drawing my sword to settle injustice wherever I went. I didn't fear death, and wasn't afraid of guns or knives. I was ready to give up my life, fighting from the front village to the back village, and from the back village to the front village, unconcerned that I was making enemies everywhere. I was really stubborn and never gave in. I caused my parents much grief and worry, and was extremely unfilial. Later, as I sought a way to become immortal, I went around visiting cultivators. Some advised me to leave the home-life; others told me to become a Taoist. I heard about Filial Son Wang, who had practiced filial piety and attained the Way, and I also wanted to be obedient as a way to be filial. I was twelve before I realized that I should be a very good child.
From then on, without being taught, I'd bow to my parents and confess my wrongs everyday. I arranged my parents' beds in the evening and inquired after their health in the morning, warmed their beds in the winter and fanned them in the summer. I also learned to be patient, not to return blows when beaten, not to talk back when scolded, and to slowly change my bad habits. I also felt I owed an apology to all living beings, and I wished to bow to everyone, starting with Heaven, Earth, the national leader, my parents and teachers, sages, worthies, heroes, patriots, filial sons, upright husbands and virtuous wives...and even very bad people, very foolish people. I bowed to all bad people, hoping they'd reform and turn over a new leaf. The wind, rain, frost and snow didn't stop me from bowing to all living beings. Every morning I bowed over eight hundred and thirty times, and every night I also bowed over eight hundred and thirty times. Later, since the bowing was taking a lot of time, and in the modern scientific era everything is condensed, I followed the times and condensed the number of bows to five.
The first bow is to pay homage to all Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods of time. The second bow is to pay homage to the Dharma spoken by all Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods of time. The third bow is to pay homage to all the worthies, sages and common members of the Sangha in the ten directions and three periods of time. The fourth bow is to pay homage to all living beings in the Dharma Realm. The fifth bow is to all the Pratimoksha (precepts) spoken by the Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods of time. Each of the five bows pervades the ten directions.