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New Year's Resolutions and Buddhism

With the start of a new year comes the ritualistic process of “The New Year’s Resolution”. “The New Year’s Resolution” capitalizes on the fresh start of a new year by placing our hopes and aspirations on a promise to achieve something that we were unable to accomplish. Whether our hope is working out more, eating healthier, being kinder to strangers, or spending more time with the ones we love, these resolutions give us an opportunity to make a vow to become better and happier people. In Buddhism, vows also serve a special purpose.

Throughout the history of Buddhism, vows have always been a promise and commitment to the ideas of the Buddha. Some of these vows are followed only by monastics in the form of the Vinaya which governs their temple life. Other vows are adhered to by lay followers in

the form of the five precepts that guide ethical behavior. Buddhists can even use vows to benefit all living beings.

In Mahayana Buddhism, special reverence is even given to individuals called bodhisattvas who make the vow to remain in the realm of birth and death until every being is delivered from suffering and liberated. In fact, bodhisattvas make four separate vows for the benefit of all beings:

“Living beings are limitless; I vow to liberate them all.”

“Base passions are inexhaustible; I vow to sever them all.”

“Dharma gates are immeasurable; I vow to know them all.”

“The way of the Buddha is unsurpassed; I vow to perfect it.”

Bodhisattva vows even play a significant role in the Jodo Shinshu tradition especially with regards to Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha made 48 separate vows to help all beings to be reborn and attain perfect enlightenment. Of those 48 vows, special attention is given to the 18th or “Primal Vow”:

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name, even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offences and abuse the right Dharma.”

It is in this vow that we entrust Amida. We open ourselves to the compassion of Amida and seek refuge by saying “Namo Amida Butsu”. That is why this New Year, I will make my own “New Year’s Resolution” to say “Namo Amida Butsu” more and take refuge in Amida’s great compassion.

“Namo Amida Butsu”

“Namo Amida Butsu”

“Namo Amida Butsu”

In gassho,

Sterling Davenport

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