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FOUR GREAT VOWS OF A BODHISATTVA





The First Vow:


`Living beings are numberless, I vow to help them all to cross over the sea of suffering, the sea of birth and death.'

According to the Principle of Impermanence, the existence of living beings is ever-changing. Some are born, some die. The absolute number at any given moment cannot be indentified, therefore it is regarded as being numberless.


The Second Vow:


`Though afflictions are endless... afflictions such as difficult moods, aversion, greed, confusion... though these afflictions seem inexhaustible and endless, I vow to penetrate and to cut through them all.'


The Third Vow:


`Dhamma doors are measureless, I vow to cultivate them all.'

Why did the Buddha make this vow? One of the incredible qualities of the Buddha is he was able to respond to different people's needs. If we, in our present individual cultivation, think we have to do all the countless meditative practices, we would feel confused and overwhelmed. The Buddha, however, might give one teaching for someone to go off and reflect on for six months, knowing that that teaching would be perfect for them. For one person he might emphasize samatha practice, for another Contemplation of Death, still another more attention to Vinaya discipline, or direct transmission outside the Doctrine such as when with he held up the flower at Vulture's Peak and Mahakashyapa smiled, leading to Zen. Through the third Great Vow the Buddha cultivated skill in countless approaches to the Path. The Buddha mastered all the Dhamma Doors, all the skilful means to enable beings each with their unique tendencies to give rise to insight into the true nature of things.


The Fourth Vow:


`Though the Buddha Path is unsurpassed I vow to realise it.'

The Buddha Path conditions that which gives rise not only to peace but to Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi. It means `perfect', `big', and `full' Enlightenment: the Enlightenment that not only knows how to let go and be peaceful but the Enlightenment that also knows how to perfectly respond to conditions in a way which is a true blessing for all beings.


Three men were walking through the desert. They were lost and about to die from thirst and hunger. They come to a very high wall and the first one climbs up, shouts for joy and jumps over the wall never to return. The next man climbs up the wall and he too, exclaims in ecstasy, jumps off the wall and never comes back. Now the third man climbs up the wall. He gets to the top and sees a sort of Garden of Eden place with water and lots of fruit trees. He smiles, turns, goes back down the wall, returning to the desert to help others find their way to this paradise. He chooses to go back into the desert of the world and help others find their way.


ANOTHER VERSION:

THE FOUR GREAT BODHISATTVA VOWS
(INCLUDES THE FOUR DEFEATS OF THE BODHISATTVA DHARMA)




Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.


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SEE ALSO:

FALSE GURU TEST


SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL?

CODE OF ETHICS FOR SPIRITUAL GUIDES