Make vows and resolutions every day like it is the New Year!
Happy New Year! On every New Year, people make new resolutions. Some of us want to become fitter than last year. Some of us want to have better relationships with their loved ones. Some of us wants to earn more money, be more successful in their career. It is good to make resolutions. It means that we have a goal in mind that we want to achieve, that we are not aimlessly living our lives. If we do not have resolutions, we should make new ones!! Resolutions keep us going for the year ahead. However, sometimes we forget our resolutions as we move into the year. So, we must not forget our resolutions
Making resolutions is important! It is just like making vows for cultivation. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas make great vows when they are at the causal ground (初地). Amitabha Buddha made 48 great vows, Bhaisajyaguru (Medicine Master) Buddha made 12 vows. Samantabhadra (Pusian or Universal Worthy)Bodhisattva made 10 vows, Ksitgarbha (Dizang) Bodhisattva made the greatest vow not to become a Buddha until Hell is empty, Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) Bodhisattva made a vow to rescue all beings who calls out to his name, Manjushri (Wenshu) Bodhisattva also made 10 great vows. Even great Masters made great vows, and therefore they were able to accomplish great achievements and enlightenment. In the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment (圓覺經), it is written that the first step to cultivation is to give rise to the Pure Mind, as asked by Manjushri Bodhisattva. It can also be said that giving rise to the Pure Mind is to give rise to the vow to become a Buddha. Therefor the first step to any accomplishment is to make great vows. Therefore it is said, the greater the vows, the greater the achievement.
Although we may not be able to make great vows like the the Buddhas or Mahasattvas (great Bodhisattvas), or great Masters, we can do what we can with our own capacity. We can make resolutions, smaller vows. We can start with aiming to do the 3 acts of goodness daily. We then proceed to bigger vows each time, to the 4 givings, and 5 harmonies. It is the same with cultivation too. We start by taking refuge in the triple gem, then the 5 Precepts, and then the Bodhisattva Precepts. We should not rush into making resolutions that are very difficult to do. If you want to become a vegetarian, you may start by having vegetarian meals on 1 day a week, or 1 meal a week, then increase the number of meals, or cut down the number of meat.
We also have to make resolutions every day! It is not just once a year. We will forget our resolutions if we do it that way. Do you still remember the resolutions you have made a year ago? or two years ago? Even during Dharma services, we make vows at the end of the service. For example, there is this one:
愿以此功德，庄严佛净土。(only the first verse)
I vow that this merit will adorn the Buddha's Pure Land
and this one:
May kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity pervade all worlds
May we cherish and build affinities to benefit all beings
We chant these verses every time the Dharma function ends. Why? First, it is to dedicate merits to whomever or wherever or whatever. But most importantly, it is a vow, a reminder for us too. We make these vows every time we chant to remind us that we have to repay kindness, aid those in the three paths of suffering, bring forth the Bodhi Mind, and be born in the Pure Land. It also reminds us that we have to walk the Bodhisattva path by spreading kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, building affinities, practice equality and patience, and to keep giving rise to great vows!
We should also keep making new vows and resolutions. In cultivation, we should make vows for every minute things. In the Avatamsaka Sutra (華嚴經), there is a chapter (Purifying Practice 淨行品) that explicitly listed 139 vows for a practitioner to purify his or her practice. Some of these are listed:
When going to sleep at night, They should wish that all beings Attain physical ease And undisturbed minds.
Seeing people with conscience They should wish that all beings Act with discretion And cover their organs.
Seeing the shameless They should wish that all beings Give up shamelessness And abide in the way of kindness.
If we take a look at those vows closely, we see that vows are not just for stuff like meditation, precepts, chanting, self-cultivation. It is also for daily life (e.g. sleep, habits, behaviors). So, if we see our own bad habits, we should also make vows to correct them! If you see that you want to curse at someone all the time, make the vow to speak more good words to others. If you see others cursing, make a vow that they will to be able to speak more good words! If you see your admirable points, vow to create more of them. Make more resolutions day by day.
Therefore we should follow what we have learnt: to keep making the resolutions and vows everyday to remind us of what we have to work towards. Do not just paste it. Paste it, repeat it every morning, and every night. Do not forget your vows and resolution. If we can keep to our resolutions and vows every day, we can achieve it by the end of the year. To end this, make vows and resolutions every day like it is the New Year!