Monday, April 4, 2011

Vows and bowing

"What is the proper attitude? You should incorporate vows into your practice. Each time, before practicing, vow to work hard, vow to attain enlightenment. Yes, you should seek enlightenment, but when you sit, and use your method, all thoughts of seeking must vanish. There is nothing to seek; there is nothing to gain or lose. Just practice. Vows strengthen determination. Every sitting should begin with a sincere vow"....Sheng Yen in The Infinite Mirror, pg. 90

The four Universal vows Ch'an uses are:
1. I vow to deliver innumerable sentient beings.
2. I vow to cut off endless vexations.
3. I vow to open all Dharma gates.
4. I vow to attain the Buddha Way.

The wording will change from nation to nation; for example in the third vow, doors can be sometimes expressed as gates. Essentially , they are universal vows. The bow is a full prostration: the full face touches the ground and the palms face upward. In Ch'an, we combine the initial four vows with the bowing.  

Auxiliary Practices: Repeat each morning... 

1. Your great vow: “I vow to (make up your own obligation).”
2. Renewal: “I realize that because of my self-centered attachment I have hurt sentient beings, those I know and those I don’t know. I have decided not to do this again.”
3. Transfer Merit: “I transfer all the merit I have accumulated thus far to all sentient beings (and /or to a specific individual in need.”)

"Bowing is a very important practice for diminishing our arrogance and egotism. It is not to demonstrate complete surrender to Buddha, but to help get rid or our own selfishness. "...Bowing is second only to zazen...It is Buddha bowing to Buddha. If you cannot bow to Buddha, you cannot be Buddha. It is arrogance."...David Chadwick in The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, Pg200-201.

Also check out these Chan sites of interest:


2.  Master Sheng Yen in Facebook; 

3. the Western Chan Fellowship at



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