Learning & Practice

Introducing the Bodhisattva Vows and Their Importance in Our Practice

“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.”

— Joanna Macy

Having explored Bodhicitta and Its Importance in the Path of the Everyday Bodhisattva, let's now turn our attention to the Bodhisattva vows. These vows give direction for our spiritual journey, guiding us in our daily thoughts, words, and actions as we aspire to live out the Bodhisattva path.

Please understand, the Bodhisattva vows are not commandments or rigid rules that we must adhere to out of obligation or fear of punishment. Rather, they are intentional commitments we freely make out of a deep sense of understanding and care. They serve to protect us by helping us see and let go of patterns of conflictive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that cause suffering to ourselves and others. The vows inspire us to cultivate positive qualities of heart and mind, accelerating our process of self-awareness, self-cultivation, and purification.

Our reality is shaped by our consciousness and its patterns of perception. In light of this fact, the Bodhisattva vows also serve as tools for transformation, helping us to reshape our habitual tendencies and incline our hearts and minds (or consciousness) towards wisdom and compassion. As we internalize and live by these vows, we progressively liberate ourselves and others from the patterns of greed, hatred, and ignorance that hinder our collective awakening.

Now, let's briefly introduce the four Bodhisattva vows as they will be explored in this course:

  • “Beings are numberless; I vow to care for them all.” This vow encourages us to cultivate boundless compassion and empathy for all beings without exception, recognizing our interconnectedness and mutual interdependence.
  • "The patterns of greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly; I vow to abandon them all.” This vow invites us to consciously let go of destructive thoughts, emotions, and other harmful mental patterns and behaviors, replacing them with wholesome qualities of generosity, love, and wisdom, which are direct antidotes to the three unwholesome roots (greed, hate, and delusion).
  • “The Dharma gates are everywhere; I vow to enter them all.” This vow reminds us that every moment, every encounter, is an opportunity for the cultivation of awakening, urging us to remain open and receptive to the lessons that life continually offers us within each and every moment.
  • “The Dharma Way is unsurpassable; I vow to fully embody it." This vow motivates us to strive wholeheartedly for awakening and freedom, committing ourselves fully to the path of wisdom and compassion.

Remember, these vows are not just words to be recited or conceptualized only; they are invitations to a way of life, a call to awaken our Bodhicitta and to express it in our everyday interactions and activities. As we continue in our exploration of the Bodhisattva path over the coming weeks, we will delve deeper into each of these vows, exploring their practical implications and learning to embody them in our day-to-day lives.

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