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However innumerable all beings are

We vow to save them all

However inexhaustible delusions are

We vow to extinguish them all

However immeasurable Dharma teachings are

We vow to master them all

However endless the Buddha's way is

We vow to follow it



As students of Zen Buddhism, which belongs to the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, we chant The Four Vows every single day. By chanting it so many times, it may become just like a mantra for many, empty repetition.  It is important to really think deeply about the true meaning of each vow and make an effort to honestly practice them in everyday life. These vows crystallize the essence of Buddhist practice.

With clear insight and many years of zazen, one’s understanding of these vows deepens; or we can say that the only way to understand them is through zazen practice. When one’s karma is purified by doing endless zazen, one is able to embody these vows in everyday life.

In one of his teishos, Eido Roshi encouraged us to make a vow, a deep vow. He said, "everyone should have a vow."

What is this vow?

Of course almost everyone makes vows at the beginning of the year, such as: I will loose weight, or I will not waste  time and watch TV, or some other self-improvement aspect. Zen students may vow: I will do more zazen, I will be kind, I will not gossip. Of course nothing of this is kept, since there are endless excuses. And again, one vows the same at the beginning of next year… This is not this kind of vow, I think.

A True vow can be made only to yourself, to your own True Being. Something only you can truly do for yourself, something that no one else will evaluate or judge, something no one else will even know. You are in charge!

And it needs to be a vow which has a deep meaning for your being. Such a profound vow will give your zazen not only energy and inspiration, but also deep meaning for your life. This vow has a transforming power. The energy of your being will transform all beings around you and the world.

Nen after nen,  Let true Dharma continue!