Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Taking Vows

I witnessed a friend take barma rabjung vows tonight...the preliminary vows to becoming a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

The other night I took the Bodhisattva vows.

That felt like a serious commitment to me. And it is. But this...there is a visible, palpable difference. A tangible sign of commitment in this lifetime. Although he is not yet a fully-ordained monk, he now has the robes of a monk. He has the serious precept vows...vows which I have promised myself and taken to heart as best I can, but not in a formal way as he did tonight. I admire him for his courage. But I fear for his stamina.

Lama Phuntsok, who transmitted the vows, talked about the significance of taking them. They are not something you put on or take off, depending on how you feel. They are not something you can keep by default, as in, "Oh, I forgot to steal for a whole year!" He said taking the vows was like saying, "All right, from this moment I begin the conscious work of becoming a good person."

When I took refuge, Sonam Rinpoche said, "Now you are guaranteed to achieve enlightenment...but you must work for it." Tonight Lama Phuntsok said, "When you take vows you understand that no one is responsible for your enlightenment but you." And of course, the Buddha said no one can give you liberation or enlightenment. He was only the finger pointing at the moon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was a time when Kabul was the centre of learning. Buddhism, Islam and Christianity mixed in time and geography where there was a free expression of man’s biggest questions. In Islam, there was the beginning of a way toward enlighten Sufism. Then came the crusades and conversion by the sword. Buddhism receded to the mountains of Tibet. This is an aspect of hsinag sheng in which cause and effect are not sequential but simultaneous. The forces so interdependent that no one can exist with out all others. While others turned outward toward conversion, expansion and conquest, Buddhism turned inward.

Buddhism exists not because of borders, territory or billions served. Fundamental Islam has once again picked up the sword. It applies its will through intimidation and terror. Western response has been noisy and clumsy. Another crusade and so call goal of democratization. An application of force may alter appearances but it has little impact on our inward journey.

Taking the vow means one understands the world’s pain and one chooses a spiritual outlook beyond earthly burdens. Even a person deeply committed may not always follow the dharma way as well as they wish. That does not make them any less a Bodhisattva. An awaken being or gentle warrier...if the path does not have compassion..it is a dead end.

Help! I've written and I can't get up!