Friday, April 28, 2006

Vows

If you have an aversion to things academic or religious in nature you can just by-pass this entry in my blog.

In fact, please go somewhere else. Might I recommend: http://www.msichicago.org/exhibit/zephyr/

Send me a postcard!

Now back to my entry. Don't say I didn't warn you.

If you were to go to the local Zen temple you might see me. If you stuck around you might catch me chanting "The Four Great Vows." The what?

Here it is in Japanese with the "english translation."

Shigu Siegan Mon

Shujo mu hen sei gan do
The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them;
Bonno mu jin sei gan dan
Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them;
Ho mon mu ryo sei gan gaku
Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake to them;
Butsu do mu jo sei gan jo
The Buddha's way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully.

When I first started studying Buddhism I ran across this chant. It was translated slightly differently. I wasn't sure I could honestly chant this. I mean do I really want to vow this?

So I studied it. I studied Buddhism. Slowly I came to my own understanding. It became a little more palitable. That or I became less obstinate. Who knows?

The many beings are numberless.
What does that mean?
Well, for me it means that I can't know everything. Heck, I can't come close. We tend to group things with labels. Old people. Young people. Smart people. Dull people. Baptists. Methodists. But even these groups are made up of groups. So to think I can know all groups and all members- well heck they are numberless.

I vow to save them all.

This one was a sticking point for me on several counts. Logically if I can't count them or even know them then how the heck can I possibly say I'll be so bold as to save them.

One day when I was doing something inane (probably watching an old movie on television) I wondered, what the heck am I going to save them from anyway?

My sister wants to save me from Hell. Baptists are like that. Come to think of it that's part of the answer.

She's the one who thinks I'm going to Hell based on her belief system. I don't happen to think the same thing.

So the only thing I can do to save others is to stop thinking they are in some way so different from me that they need saving.

You might think that is mental gymnastics. Maybe it is. It works for me. I try not to say that others are so miserable that they need me to save them.

Do I help others? Heck yes. I can help anyone I want and if I do it's not for a big thank you or kiss on my cheek. I just do it.


So then I got to Greed, Hatred and Ignorance showing up all of the time. Whew! Sort of the other side of the The Graces, right. And I think I can abandon them? Right. A had this mental image of being stuck in a bad video game. Everytime I shot one bad guy he/she/it was replaced by another one. Talk about getting tired fast!

So how the heck could I vow to "abandon" them if they just keep on coming?

Well, one way it to walk away from the video game. Of course, walking away from life isn't quite as easy. But I realized that they all have a root cause. THey happen because we don't (can't) accept change in our lives. Greed is nothing more than WANTING to get something we don't have or hold onto what we have. Hatred is nothing more than strongly disliking the state we find ourselves in and ignorance isd just not wanting to learn something and that something goes hand in hand with changing our mental position.

So OK, a way to "abandon" is simply to accept change. To accept this very NOW. After all, it's going to change. What choice do I have.

Well, that's enough for now.

Send me a post card.

G