Living by vow, silently sitting
Plum blossoms begin to bloom
The jeweled mirror reflects truth as it is.
—Katagiri Roshi (1928-1990), written shortly before his death
What is the reason you wake up each morning? What guidelines show you the way when you’re confronted with difficult decisions?
In Buddhism, one’s foundational purpose is practiced and developed through the tool of the vow. Zen teacher, Hogen Bays defines a vow as a “heart’s deepest aspiration.”
A vow defines our purpose and our goals. Without purpose, we live on “autopilot” allowing habits and conditioning to take us from one moment to another. Without a sense of meaning and direction, our energy can be scattered and wasted.
A vow can be short-term, like the commitment to stay by a friend at the hospital until they get the news about a loved one. A vow can several years, like the commitment to stay in school until finishing a degree. It can be ongoing throughout life, like the commitment not to harm others or to preserve one’s integrity in relationships through honesty. A vow can even continue over lifetimes. It can be the thread that connects one generation to another, one life to another.
In the Mahayana tradition, the greatest vow is the bodhisattva vow: the vow to awaken oneself and help all others to awaken with us—to become a buddha together with all beings. This vow is vast, even infinite. On the way, we might make other promises to ourselves such taking up the commitments defined in the traditional Five Precepts. Or, we might use other words to guide us along the way.
What is your vow?
Lead by Seth (Sara is out of town), this Sunday is an opportunity to slow down and cultivate clarity. It’s an invitation to reflect on the intentions that structure our lives and a time to consider our life’s deeper purposes.
Please join us!