A bow of respect not submission
Some people call Buddhists a cult that worships the statues as idols. They point to our bowing before the image of Buddha, or bowing to the Sangha. We do not bow to the statue of Buddha, we bow in respect of the teaching that he left for us. Bowing is and always has been a way to show respect, regardless of culture or nationality. When we bow to a member of the Sangha, it is the Sangha we show respect to, not the individual monk. We are showing respect for the teachings and guidance that the Sangha provide to us. At times you may not have agreed with what one of them said earlier, however you show respect to the robes which are the mark of the Sangha. Bowing is a sign of humility and shows that we are willing to be flexible and malleable in our attitudes. Buddha expounded that it is the attainment of enlightenment which is to be our goal, no man not even he should be considered perfect. What men teach we are to test, and then if it passes we are to adopt it. Buddha mentions to us that we should not fix or gaze on the hand, but rather where it point to.