making vows

“And ‘I vow to attain buddhahood, no matter how transcendent’ means always to practice with humility, to respect all beings, to avoid attachments, to give rise to prajna from your own awareness, and to put an end to delusions. It is through self-realization that buddhahood is attained. This is the power of making vows”

The Platform Sutra, pg 43

Why bother, I have been asked, and ask myself, to become a monk?

I believe that vows are important and have made a few. And time passes and then something new pops up and this vow becomes a bit less important and this other vow is the new shiny.

Or although I have made a vow to do x, I am tired and worn out and just want to relax and play a computer game and let the world slide by for a few hours. I can pick it back up tomorrow.

So for me, this vow to become a monk (instead of a vow to study Buddhism or having a better practice) is a motivator. Believe it or not, sometimes I don’t really want to listen to someone’s problems. Or give up my time to share with you. Or think the best solution to an issue is to just ‘Go Off’ on someone. Or that piece of trash I just threw at the garbage can and missed…screw it, someone else will pick it up, and if they don’t, it is just one piece of trash…

In all these situations, I have a voice now that says ‘Is that what a monk would do?’ and it gives me a bit more umph to do the needful. To practice a right action. To reinforce the power of a vow.

take refuge in yourselves

“Our nature is pure like the clear sky above, and our wisdom is like the sun and the moon, our wisdom is always shining. But if externally we become attached to objects, the clouds of delusion cover up our nature, and we can’t see it. Then, because we meet a good friend who explains the true teaching, our delusions are blown away and everything inside and outside becomes perfectly clear, and the ten thousand dharmas in this nature of ours all appear. This nature of ours in which the ten thousand dharmas are present is what we mean by the pure Dharma body. Those of you who take refuge in yourselves, if you get rid of bad thoughts and bad practices, this is called taking refuge.”

The Platform Sutra, pg 154

The practice of taking refuge is often done in a ceremonial fashion, in a sangha or temple, with a Monk reciting things and you reciting things. In essence, you are simply making a commitment to a path. You are not committing to any one (living) teacher or any one ‘True Dharam teaching as taught by this school’. You are simply saying that you accept responsibility for your own health and well being. Although I may accept instruction, ideas, suggestions, compliments, or criticism to help guide me, everything I need is already here. I am already a Monk, a bodhisattva, an enlightened being,  whatever term you want to use. Maybe better said is simply a complete human. I need to commit to a practice to help me remember that; to find that part of myself; to recognize my best face; to help others remember theirs.


Buddhist Words

Gatha – song or verse

Prajna – direct insight into the truth taught by Buddha

Sansara – wandering, world. The “suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end” (Jeff Wilson)

Tathagata – Beyond all coming and going. How the Buddha at times referred to himself.

Samadhi – intense concentration; meditative trance.

Kalpas – aeon, long time period.

One Practice Samadhi – Means at all times, walking, sitting, lying down. Always practicing with a straightforward or pure mind.

Formless Precept – Transcend understanding, beyond restrictions on behavior.

Emptiness “Nothing exists by itself; any given entity can only be defined in terms of other entities in time, space, or mind”

Ino– In Zen, the supervisor of the meditation hall [sodo]. One of the six senior temple administrators.