1. The first bodhisattva vow is:
All living beings, I vow to save them
We need to understand the dual meaning of I (Jiko). It means both the personal I, the ego, but it also means the I which is not separate from all of existence.
Taking the ‘I’ in the second sense, the vow is a simple statement. ‘Vow’ and liberation ( ‘save them’) are simply facets of non duality
2. The second bodhisattva vow is:
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
We should not understand this as meaning that by great effort, sometime in the distant future we will have no more delusions forever after. That would be a wrong understanding.
We should understand that liberation and delusion, Buddha and Mara, are the two poles of our nature as human beings. We can get rid of neither.
However, when we practice Zazen, when we allow our delusions to freely arise in vast space; to live, to change, to disappear, then is this not ending them? Not forever, because time is a delusion too, but just for this moment
3. The third bodhisattva vow is:
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Because dharma gates are boundless, they are innumerable. And so, they are all dharmas.
If our mind makes each thing a word picture, there are two things, and they can never become one. If each dharma is a dharma gate, then we can ‘enter’ it, and dualism falls away. The vow is also a statement, a statement of non duality.
Because dharma gates are boundless, each dharma is vast beyond measure, and cannot be grasped. Each dharma is thusness
Because dharma gates are boundless, there is no boundary, no separation between each dharma. So, to enter one dharma is to enter all dharmas. To fully encounter one thing is to fully encounter all things.
4. The final bodhisattva vow is:
The Buddha Way, unsurpassable, I vow to realise it
What is the Buddha Way? It is dropping off body and mind. That is, it is decentering our sense of separateness, affirming the whole ness, the dynamic wholeness of everything, which we variously call emptiness, dependent origination, impermanence.
But our sense of self, and of the world as something out there, pleasing or obstructing us, is like a coat which, no matter how often we drop off, we still find around our shoulders again. It is our nature as human beings to clench the fist of the self. And so it is our vow as Buddhists ( to use Uchiyama’s phrase) to open the hand of thought, endlessly, for the rest of our lives.
If we think we have surpassed this, that we are enlightened, this is the most dangerous delusion.
5. Master Dogen said:
When human beings see water, fish see palaces, gods see strings of pearls, demons see blood, or pus.
He doesn’t say that the fish are mistaken, or that the gods are mistaken. But we want to.
The dead weight of the self pushes the world flat, into an image. To then fret to what extent the image is true or false is to miss the primary repression