This seems like an easy one; don’t kill people. But a resolve not to kill, to cherish all life, is much deeper than that. Yet, still simple.
I can easily avoiding killing people and have done so to the best of my knowledge so far. But cherishing life is not a passive thing, but instead an active one. It requires that I am a vegetarian, as taking a life for my pleasure (which is the only reason I eat animals, the pleasure of the taste, nutrition can be gained elsewhere). It allows for eating eggs and drinking milk if I can be confident that the life of the animal isn’t one of unnecessary suffering (the images of a egg laying machinery in the movie Samsara are not easily forgotten).
And then cherishing people. All people, the ones I judge as jerks or bigots or arseholes or whatever term I use to put myself as better than them. Can I cherish all people even if it is a situation where the person is causing harm, or unskillful, or someone that I need to avoid for my health? It helps if I know that I don’t know. Meaning I don’t know any ones full story, and until I do, my judgement about them is based on half truths through my biased opinions.
“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.