Beings are countless, I swear to save them
The delusions are inexhaustible, I swear to put an end to them
Dharma gates are limitless, I swear to enter
Buddha's way is inaccessible, I swear to reach it
We live in a time of great peril and opportunity. There seems to be no bottom to the horror that each news cycle offers, and it is unclear if we will ever be able to extricate ourselves from the downward spiral that our planet is going through: authoritarian regimes reducing people to numbers; income inequality is widening; greed and hatred moving across the land like a dark, creamy mist. How can we save all sentient beings under such dire conditions? And yet, we are attached to our bodhisattva vow, beings are countless, I swear to save them.
And how about the delusions are inexhaustible, I swear to put an end to it? Anyone who's taken a good look inside their own mind — an honest look, not just a scan — can't help but be humbled by the useless trash flying around in there. Sometimes junk food is just a collection of benign wastes of time, like lists and echoes of past conversations, and sometimes junk food is petty jealousy or feelings of envy for what we don't have. We have learned, as social beings, to speak only a small part of the delusions that we allow to run freely through our minds. We can barely see our delusions, how are we supposed to end them?
There is no limit to the wisdom of the Universe. But The doors of Dharma are limitless, I swear to enter them. Thousands of teachers, past and present, have left their words and stories in the form of books for us to learn. All the sutras and practices, all the things the Universe is teaching us every moment about being human and living on this wonderful planet. The amount of information is endless and can be overwhelming. It seems that we can only assimilate a small drop of the vast Dharma found throughout the Universe.
And even, the way of Buddha is inaccessible and we are committed to reaching it. We are committed to doing what any sane person would agree is the impossible. These bodhisattva vows speak of a bottomless level of commitment rather than the accomplishment of an achievable goal. They encourage a state of the heart rather than pointing to a concrete result. When we take our bodhisattva vows, we impose no limits on ourselves, offer no escape clauses or final destinations. We all go there; our compassion knows no bounds. It's the same commitment an artist makes when looking at a blank canvas, or a musician faces in a silent room. There is nothing and soon there will be something. The blank canvas, the impossible, encounters a mind that does not know. We keep walking without knowing where we will land, or if we will ever land. It is our bodhisattva vow, to walk into the unknown every day with an open heart and trust in what we cannot know.