"Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own
individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to
the world that we are living in. It means we are willing to take on
greater responsibility, immense responsibility.
In fact it means taking a
-- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
“When you love, you have to act. If you say that you have a lot of love
but you don’t do anything then that is not love that is merely lip
-- Thich Nhat Hanh
In the past month or so, I've been surfing across a deep yearning for more downtime. At first glance that may seem surprising. After all, I do Sit Still Doing Nothing -- a lot.
If it only were that easy.
Out to Save the World
thing that drew me to Zen and Mahayana Buddhism in the first place was
the ideal of the Bodhisattva. A public servant in the deepest sense, the Bodhisattva even forestalls entering Nirvana, in order to address the suffering of the world. This idea resonated
deeply with the inspiration I felt as a young teen as Dr
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, proclaiming their intention to even love their enemies, challenged this country to live up to its professed ideals. A few years
later, the emergence of SDS and Anti-War movement and the anti-materialistic, psychedelic spirituality of the youthful "counter-culture" set a trajectory for my
life that continues to this day.
Each morning I
recite the Bodhisattva Vow as I finish morning meditation. I first
came across a Hippy Zen version of these four statements of commitment
in Hey Beatnik: This is the Farm Book in 1974. I was transfixed. I got goosebumps. In that moment, I knew that there wasn't anything better to do with my life. (Here is a link to an on-line .pdf version of this classic work.)
then, like many of us who were navigating our way through the
confluence of Eastern Spirituality and the Psychedelic Revolution, I had
experienced a number of "Awakenings." The Most Profound One had
nothing to do with anything in my bloodstream except the byproducts of
meditation, breakfast, and lunch. For a few precious moments, I had a
glimpse of Our Perfect Oneness. What had been theoretical and
abstract, a belief, became real and tangible to me.
wish I had had a spiritual mentor at the time-- or even been more
inclined to listen to my friends at that point. It may have made things a
lot easier along the way. Even knowing what the bottom line is, over the years I've made most every dumb mistake possible. LOL
I have read (and recited) other versions and translations of the
Bodhisattva Vows over the years --some of the Tibetan versions are quite poetic and
beautiful -- this is the passage I read that day years ago:
"I don't have an ultimate goal in life. I believe in the vow of the
Bodhisattva. And that says that sentient beings are numberless, I vow to
save them all. The deluding passions are inexhaustible, I vow to
extinguish them all. The way of the dharma is impossible to expound, I
vow to expound it. It is impossible to attain the way of the Buddha, I
vow to attain it. And that keeps you busy. "
-- Stephan Gaskin, Hey Beatnik!
Excuse me. My chest is heaving and tears are streaming down my face -- again. I gotta go get some kleenex. I'll be back.