Bodhisattva Vows in My Bathroom Mirror – The Intention to Do Good

Every morning after situating the dogs, feeding and letting them out into the yard, I grab my coffee and head upstairs to the bathroom. Laying all the items out neatly on the counter and turning on the flat iron, I meet my own gaze in the mirror.

In my head, I echo words that have become familiar. I’ve repeated the words so many times that they’ve become more than words. The vow has become a challenge, a motivation, and a guiding light.

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

There are many variations on these Bodhisattva vows, but regardless of the words, the meaning is essentially universal. When you take these vows you are promising to undertake an endless and impossible task. It is a promise to act in a way that is helpful and beneficial to all beings. You promise to live your life for the greater good, in attempts to leave the world better than you found it.

What is a Bodhisattva?

The Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who, deferring his/her own full Buddhahood, dedicates his/herself to helping others attain Liberation. –  Sarasota Zen Center

The first line talks about all of the living creatures in the world. There are far too many for anyone to save. Despite the unfortunate fact that you will not possible be able to save everyone, you make a promise to help whoever you can.

Next, we talk about desires and sometimes the other poisons of the mind (delusion and aversion.) These things hinder us on our journey to achieve perfect knowledge. They will come up over and over again in life, endlessly. We vow to learn to recognize delusions every single time they arise and overcome them.

Dharma gates, opportunities for growth and learning. Each and every situation in life is an opportunity to for growth and knowledge. When we vow to enter or master every Dharma gate we are promising to tackle every learning opportunity head on. We will not sit passively and wait for the life’s truths to come to us. This vow is a promise to actively seek out and pursue the truth or Dharma.

The last vow asks you to do the impossible – be a Buddha. It is a phrase I repeat to myself over and over again in my head whenever I have to face something difficult “Be a Buddha, be a Buddha, be a Buddha.” Sometimes I ask myself “What would Buddha do?” This is the vow I call on this vow more often than the others, taking the Buddha with me in my day to day activities, doing my best to mindfully live carrying out the right actions.

People sometimes question taking a vow to undertake an impossible task. Someone once made a comment that I was “setting myself up for failure” by holding an impossible goal. This statement misses the point completely.

When we take these vows it is an affirmation, we put our intentions forward into the world creating the seeds for action. As long as we follow these vows, genuinely putting forward our best efforts, we continue to learn and grow while doing good in the world. We practice Buddhism in this way each day growing and learning more (key word practice).

Be a candle to those who are in the dark. Let your light glow bright and share it with the world. Remember that one candle can light many flames.

40 thoughts on “Bodhisattva Vows in My Bathroom Mirror – The Intention to Do Good

  1. LOL of course setting an impossible goal seems silly, to people who think the goal is the goal. It’s not. The journey is the goal. The striving for the goal is the goal. The path to enlightenment is the goal. The struggle to become better is the goal. Setting an impossible goal straightaway frees you from thinking you’re finished because you hit a goal. It helps you to constantly try!

  2. Thank you for the encouragement and ideas. I have been making the five precepts a daily focus/intention. I cannot help but believe that what you shared here is a fantastic way to practice the dharma. I am still very new to the path.

  3. Your are definitely new to Bhodhisattva, as and when you will get deeper into it you will realize the true meaning of life. Also look up for Vipasana meditation, it is a core teaching of the Bodhi Dhamma. Try to find out a Vipassana meditation course around you, the centers are all over the world. I have been there a couple of times. I go there for complete solitude and a journey within.

  4. What a refreshing and inspiring Blog. You have hit the nail on the head! This is exactly what the Bodhisattva vows are about, I think. Thank you for your work.

  5. Hi Christa,
    A joy to read. Have discovered that if I sing songs to myself at night and visualize Jean signing with me my internal babble takes a back seat. A more peaceful night!
    Your blog was one of 70 that just arrived in my post all via Weekly Digest. Christa could you tell me how that happens?
    Will never be able to respond to so many! What to do, they deserve attention?
    Putting the finishing touches to “The Case for Consciousness”
    Keep strong,

  6. What you strive for in “being a Buddha”is the life condition of Buddhahood. There are ten life conditionsand at the bottom is hell, then hunger, animality, anger, humanity, heaven, learning, realization, bodhisattva and buddhahood.Inside each ten are the other ten so there is buddhahood even in the started of hell. We Flip through these life conditions continually. When we are unaware of them life slaps us silly. We try not to react the same way to certain stimuli but we do, over and over. So we end up telling ourselves, that’s just the am I am. I can’t change. So we call the same people and events into our life over and over to learn a lesson that is there but we never learn it.

    People look outside themselves asking for something “out there” to change their life but it doesn’t happen so they say, God must want me to go through this. It must be his plan for me. So they live in pain, giving up, not realizing the key has been inside themself all along, they just don’t have the fortune to meet someone to show them where it is. Some never do. They aren’t ready. They can’t hear you. So you plant a seed. Some day, some life, it will grow

Leave a Reply