Levels Of Discourse – Vow

There are, of course, levels of discourse. And nowhere is this more apparent than when talking about the subject at hand. For short I’ll call that Vow.

In the early days of Buddhism, in the time of the Buddha, I believe there was a simple way to enter the community of monks. The Buddha, or perhaps one of his close followers would say: Come Monk! And that was it. This simple form was a mutual recognition of….mutual recognition of…that which inspires the heart, enlivens the heart, to follow that which the Buddha was pointing out through the way he was living and what he was saying. No doubt there were people who came to join the growing band of devotees who were not invited in. That would be for one reason or another and who know now what they might have been. Being female was one reason, and that changed due to the Venerable Ananda’s representations to the Buddha.

In the intervening centuries becoming a monk has become formalized to a huge extent. The center of the wish remains the same whether it be ones vocation to be a monk or ones vocation to be an IT professional for example. (I do have to stress however that living the life of a monastic isn’t a life style choice, it goes deeper than that.) What I’m pointing to is the fundamental of vow/wish. I’d go so far as to say this is common to all, although the form that takes is vast and unfathomable in its’ expression. Unfathomable because what one encounters in the world doesn’t always look like it’s inspired, deep, honorable, worthy, worthwhile etc.

So here in this post there is a focus on the deep, for most largely unconscious, level of what it is to be human. A human with other humans. Buddhas together with Buddhas. As I am sure I remember hearing, Buddhas come in all shapes and sizes.

See the comments section attached to yesterdays post.

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6 thoughts on “Levels Of Discourse – Vow”

  1. A vocation chooses you, not the other way round. It does not come, it was always there. It need not be pleasant, and may lead to disaster – hence taking refuge is not a form of words.
    Thanks for throwing the stone in the pool!
    In gassho

  2. Reflections on a couple of points from today’s post and yesterday’s comments:

    “A flower unfolds up towards the sun, it is drawn to do so it being the nature of the flower to unfold. It is our nature to do the same …” and “So here in this post there is a focus on the deep, for most largely unconscious, level of what it is to be human.”

    Often it is said that plants grow towards the light, particularly when, on a windowsill, they become bent towards the glass. In fact what happens is that the side of the plant that is in shadow grows faster than the one in the light, so the stem has to curve. If you put one plant in darkness and another in the light, the one in darkness grows fast and thin, and the one in the light grows slow and sturdy. The effect of the fast growth in the darkness is to maximises the plant’s chance of finding a way to the light; and a plant partially in the light bends or turns to get maximum exposure. Plants do not know about light, or sense the direction and distance from which it comes; but what they naturally do in darkness results in flowers unfolding towards the sun.

    I had a longing for the Eternal, from a level below my rational, scientific, word-filled intelligence, somewhere in the “deep, largely unconscious, level of what it is to be human”, somewhere in the darkness. Because of that longing for something unknown in direction and distance, I came to Buddhist practice. As a result, though I had no idea it would happen, there has been and is a turning around of some aspects of my life. Years ago I said to Rev Meiko that I had no idea what would happen next; she said, “Me too”. Still mostly in darkness, I sit, I try to pay attention to what I do, and to the Precepts. I trust this to lead to the light, and flowering.

    In gassho.

  3. Well Walter there is much in this comment you have left. The business of vocation and how it comes about that one finds oneself going towards, going in a certain direction – as against another direction is complex. Level of discourse coming in here obviously.

    So, in response to a vocation choosing you, and I’m taking ‘vocation’ in the broadest possible meaning as ‘that which one does in ones life, the direction of ones life’. In one sense, in terms of ‘it choosing you’ yes and in another much broader sense, no. Level of discourse again. One is ‘drawn’ to this, that or the other course of action in ways that make one think ‘it was meant to be’ however the matter is much more complex. That is, what one does comes about by making choices, considered choices, ones forced by circumstance, default choices and the like. There appears to be a constant flow of choices in response to conditions. Obvious enough.

    So Refuge, in the traditional Buddhist sense of ‘Refuge in Buddha Dharma and Sangha’, is _both_ unspoken, heart to heart if you like, AND taking Refuge is an purposeful act. The holding up of the flower and the smile which took place between Shakyamuni Buggha and Makakasho is not two things, not ‘flower/smile’ and ‘holding up’. This has huge implications for living, for what being human is. Well, that’s the way I’m thinking this afternoon.

    One parting thought. We do not, in our tradition, talk about a person having a ‘vocation’ to be a monk. And I can see why that would be more clearly now.

    Thanks again Walter for your response.

  4. Thanks Chris for this contribution.

    While I can see the analogy of the flower growing towards the light working Ok, there does come a point though when the analogy trips itself up and falls over! Level of discourse thing again.

    How so in this case? Well, let me think on that for a bit…. It is to do with ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ and the Sandokai (for those who don’t know this is a scripture we sing regularly). How does it go: “Light goes with darkness: As the sequence does of steps in walking”. It’s another “not two”. Light and Darkness – not two business. It is so easy to see progressions, from dark to light, steps leading somewhere. We talk about sitting in bright darkness. A luminous (softly bright or radiant) darkness.

    I’ll leave that with you Chris and somewhere in here I think you know what I am talking about. Might be wrong. One does have to trust what it is one knows, the non intelectual knowing that is.

    I should mention that I do know Chris and we have been in correspondence. We might hear more from him, hopefully. And finally readers might want to nip over the the Telford Buddhist Priory web site (http://fwd4.me/5fw), go to ‘Talks’ and down load the talk given by Rev. Master Saido on the Sandokai.

  5. Yes, the analogy fails at that point. I knew: I had thought of Sandokai “The spiritual source shines clear in the light; the branching streams flow on in the dark”, in the translation used by Shunryu Suzuki. Suzuki says “In the darkness the branching streams flow everywhere, like water. … In the same way the pure source is everywhere … The pure source is flowing all over, even though you don’t know it. This “don’t know” is what we call “dark”, and is very important.” Thus the darkness is light, he implies. My own experience does not go so far.

  6. Thanks Chris. At this time of night my head starts to hurt when I start to think about all of this. Perhaps the best plan for me is to accept that the brain, my brain, is not functioning to full capacity and needs a rest. This is not a comment about this comment by the way. It’s just a reflection on what is right now. Thrashing oneself through tiredness, mental and physical and emotional tiredness, and on all levels, is not the way to go.

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