Friday, Mar 05

The Four Great Vows

June 05, 2010


Learning Buddha's way, we need to make the four great vows shared by all Buddhas. These four great vows are: 

Living beings are incalculable, 

I vow to deliver them all

Afflictions are infinite, 
I vow to eliminate them all

The Dharma doors are innumerable, 
I vow to master them all

Buddhahood is supreme, 
I vow to attain it

The first vow is the vow to deliver all living beings. This is one of the first essentials of Buddhist practice. To do that, we enter into the community to be of service and benefit to living beings. However, when we go among living beings, many afflictions will arise. We really need to work at cutting off all of our afflictions. Had we not come face to face with living beings, how would we have known that we still have afflictions that haven't been eliminated?

There are many different faces to living beings, and every face triggers a reaction in us. The reactions can be love or hate, pleasure or displeasure. So, faced with these different forms and appearances of living beings, our mind gets stirred up. We would give rise to unwholesome thoughts and feelings. If our mind is filled with unwholesome thoughts and feelings, how can we possibly help deliver living beings? So, we must train our minds and learn to cut off our afflictions, and the way to do that is to go into society to help living beings.

How are we to help guide living beings? There are innumerable ways of teaching, innumerable Dharma doors. Since they are innumerable, how are we to learn them? Indeed, to deliver living beings and eliminate afflictions, we need to learn "the way of innumerable Dharma doors". We need to go amongst living beings and gain deep understanding of each living being's unique propensity, disposition, and spiritual capacity. Living beings all have differing propensities, dispositions, and spiritual capacities. So, we must look deeply into this, so that we can understand the living being before us and use the most appropriate methods to guide him or her. This is the way of the Buddha, and because we seek Buddhahood, we must learn the ways of the Buddha.

Because Buddhahood is our goal, we must emulate the Buddha and learn his ways. Being so, we must first believe in the Buddha and his teachings. Why do we want to learn from the Buddha? Because life is filled with considerable suffering. If we still continue to get caught up in our worldly attachments and misguided understanding of the world, we will only continue to cycle in suffering, endlessly. Every day, as we look about the world, we can see many cases that show us this. So, we must truly aspire to learn the Buddha's way.

To learn Buddha's way, we must make these four great vows. Let us dedicate ourselves to them mindfully.

Compiled into English by the Jing Si Abode English Editorial Team