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.