I Do - What Vows Signify (Part 1 of 2)


Blog Post 21: I Do - What Vows Signify (Part 1 of 2)


"What it means to take our vows and the importance – and ways – of repairing broken vows."

The vows that we take before our masters or our Gurus are commitments we make for our vajra speech. These are promises to the outer teacher, who comes from a lineage of Buddha. And to the inner teacher or the inner guru, which is essentially our enlightened nature. 

When we take vows, we promise to practice this commitment, which we say for ourselves and to benefit all beings. 

The most significant of all vows is the bodhisattva vow. This is the vow where we hold the thought to become a Buddha to liberate all beings from their suffering. This vow is the fundamental root of all the vows.

You want to awaken so that you can be of service to lead all beings to their enlightenment. As a principle, you must take this vow only if you are mentally sound. 

If a person is mentally unwell but goes through the ceremony, it doesn't mean that person has taken the vows. We must be able to understand the explanations given. We must know what we are in for, so there are no excuses later. If a person's mental state is unsound, that person cannot hold a vow. Therefore, there is nothing to break. 

You may feel that you are not ready to take vows. But who is ever prepared? By the time we are ready, there is no time left to practice. Then we have regrets. We must accept our emotions. That there will be desires. And lust, anger, and cravings. All this is part of dharma practice, and none of us are perfect. 

Initially, it won't be easy, but the skill slowly grows into our nature. When it comes to vows, precepts, and commitments, never wait for the perfect time and perfect situation. Start to gain merit. 

If you break a vow, confess and restore it. You will still be accumulating merit. When you are successful, you must share it. If you fail, learn from it. Either way, you will always benefit. 

There are, however, two circumstances under which we can immediately break the vows. Both are as potent as killing one's father and mother. However, we must not be afraid because they offer possibilities for restoration. 

The first one of these circumstances is giving up on bodhicitta. That is because this vow has come from a long lineage that goes back all the way to Shakyamuni Buddha. Also, everything else rests upon this vow. 

The second circumstance is if we abandon the Three Jewels, which are your refuge. In doing so, we deny the existence of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

For both, restoration lies in confessing and seeking forgiveness in the present moment. How exactly? Read about it – and about the four conditions in Part 2 of 2 next Sunday!

Dharma Teaching by Singha Rinpoche and edited by Sandeep Nath
31 Jan 2021