Berkeley Zen Center [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Bodhisattva Vows

An essay written by Sojun Roshi, for a book about the Four Vows to be published in Germany.

Reprinted from the March 2001 Berkeley Zen Center Newsletter.

The Four Noble Truths

The Bodhisattva's Response

Beings are bound by suffering,
Beings are numberless,
I vow to save them.
The cause is desire based on delusion.
Desires are endless,
I vow to cut through them.
There is a way out of suffering.
Dharma Gates are boundless,
I vow to enter them.
Take up the Eight-fold Path.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassable,
I vow to be one with it.

The Bodhisattva Vows are a response to Buddha's Four Noble Truths. We vow to save all sentient beings from suffering and delusion. Who dares to take up this impossible task? If you think it is impossible, you will be defeated by skepticism. If you think you can do it, you run the risk of being pompous and inflated. Should we save all beings step by step, or all at once? Besides, who or how can we save, when there is no one to save and no one who saves? What will you do? This is the Bodhisattva's great koan.

Suggestion: Start with the one who is standing in your shoes. As the Sixth Ancestor of the Zen School says, we can begin by saving the sentient beings of our own greedy mind, our own angry mind, and our own delusive mind.

I believe that the key is to offer our self to the Way and do the work that is offered, the work of the moment. To respond to what is right in front of us, and do it in an unselfish way, with no expectation of reward or attachment to a particular result. Don't even have an idea about it. Don't think about how long it will take. Don't think that because its seems impossible you can't do it. Just take up the vow, knowing that within its total impossibility is an infinite realm of possibilities. A Bodhisattva presents the dharma to living beings. But living beings must make the effort to find their own salvation. Without falling into the view of saving self or saving others, just do the work of practicing the dharma and maintaining the sangha. Without being attached to encouraging or discouraging words, let us nourish and take care of Buddha, and open a path for Buddha's light to shine forth in the world.

Last revised March 8, 2001. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

[an error occurred while processing this directive]