25th October, 2017 at Shasta Abbey. As it would happen tomorrow is the day the community settles down for a ceremony called Renewal of Vows. Part of it is to recite the Bodhisattva Vows, and there are bows and the reading of the Precepts too.
I’ve been thinking about vows, in particular the Bodhisattva Vows. (See the formulation we use within the OBC at the end of this post.) Looked at in a certain kind of way they are an expression of the aspiration to continue practice and to make one’s life, all that one does, an offering for the benefit of the world and all beings. BIG vow.
While looking for references to the Bodhisattva Vows I came across this poem, below, by Katagiri-roshi. The final words of the poem This is living in vow. Herein is one’s peaceful life found are touching and telling. Endless training, living by vow/religious commitment is where fulfillment can be found. The poem is part of an article titled, Living a Life of Vow By Zenkei Blanche Hartman. It is well worth a read.
In 1988, two years before he died, Dainin Katagiri-roshi, founder and abbot of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, wrote this poem:
Being told that is impossible,
One believes, in despair, “Is that so?”
Being told that it is possible,
One believes, in excitement, “That’s right.”
But, whichever is chosen,
It does not fit one’s heart neatly.
Being asked, “What is unfitting?”
I don’t know what it is.
But my heart knows somehow.
I feel an irresistible desire to know.
What a mystery “human” is!
As to this mystery:
Knowing how to live,
Knowing how to walk with people,
Demonstrating and teaching,
This is the Buddha.
From my human eyes,
I feel it’s really impossible to become a Buddha.
But this “I,” regarding what the Buddha does,
Vows to practice,
To be resolute,
And tells myself, “Yes I will.”
Just practice right here now,
And achieve continuity,
This is living in vow.
Herein is one’s peaceful life found.
The Bodhisattva Vows
However innumerable beings may be, I vow to save them all
However inexhaustible the passions may be, I vow to transform them all
However limitless the Dharma may be, I vow to comprehend it completely
However infinite the Buddha’s Truth is, I vow to realize it.
7 thoughts on “Endless Training – Peaceful Life”
“…..it does not fit the heart neatly.”
Thank you for this. It speaks directly to the heart in ways the brain cannot comprehend.
Thanks so much Norman.
Hi Reverend Mugo
Thank you for this helpful post, the Bodhisattva Vows have been source of contemplation for me recently.
Well you were the inspiration to write about the vows. I’m still thinking about the question re the vows and the teaching of zen ‘the goal of goalessness’. This is a huge subject. Thank goodness we have the ‘just sitting’ to return to! Thanks for leaving a comment.
Hi Reverend Mugo
It was smashing to meet you again recently. The poem by Dainin-Katagiri Roshi is truly apposite to the subject we discussed that chilly evening. I have a tendency to over-think things and end up stymied in a “paralysis by analysis” kinda way. As you mention, zazen is a blessing in this and other respects.
I hope to meet you again soon.
Just wonderful to see you leaving a comment Andy. I started to reply to you and ended up writing something in connection with living the vow so I’ve made it into a post titled Giving up, looking up.
these vows are very deep – a little unsettling – but point to something marvellous.