Eight Aspects of a Resolve

I, the unworthy Shr Syan, a lowly, ordinary Sanghan, weeping blood and bowing to the ground, exhort the great assembly and present-day men and women of pure faith: please listen and consider what I am about to say.

We have heard that resolving the mind is foremost among the essential doors for entering the Path, and that making vows is first among the crucial matters in cultivation. By making vows, we can save living beings. By resolving our minds, we can realize the Buddhas' Path. If we do not make our resolve great and our vows firm, we will remain on the turning wheel throughout as many kalpas as there are particles of dust. Any cultivation will be only bitter toil done in vain.

As the Flower Adornment Sutra says, "If you forget your resolve upon Bodhi, your cultivation of even wholesome dharmas becomes the karma of demons." From this it is clear that forgetting our resolve upon Bodhi is even worse than having never made the resolve.

Thus we know that anyone wishing to study the Vehicle of the Thus Come Ones must first make the vows of a Bodhisattva without delay.

But resolves and vows are various and they have many aspects. If they are not pointed out, how can we know what direction to take? I will now explain them in general for the great assembly. There are eight aspects of a resolve: deviant, proper, true, false, great, small, partial, and complete.

What is meant by deviant, proper, true, false, great, small, partial, and complete? A cultivator's resolve is deviant if in his practice he does not investigate his own mind but knows only about external matters. Perhaps he seeks benefit and offerings, likes fame and a good reputation, is greedy for objects of pleasure in the present, or he may hope for reward in the future. A resolve such as this is deviant.

When a cultivator seeks neither gain nor fame and has no greed either for pleasure or for rewards, but wishes only to settle the matter of birth and death, and to attain Bodhi, then his resolve is proper.

If, in moment after moment, he seeks the path of the Buddhas above; in thought after thought, he transforms living beings below; if he hears that the road to Buddhahood is long and far, yet does not retreat in fear; if he observes that beings are hard to transform, yet does not become weary; if he proceeds as though climbing a ten-thousand-foot mountain, determined to reach the summit or proceeds as though ascending a nine-storied stupa,   fixed upon advancing to the top, then his resolve is true.

If he commits offenses but does not repent of them; if he has faults but does not change them; if he is turbid inside but makes a show of purity; if he is diligent at the start but lax later on; if he has good intentions but mixes them with a quest for name and gain; if he does wholesome  practices, but defiles them with the karma created by committing offenses, then his resolve is false.

"When the realm of living beings has come to an end, then my vows will end. When the Bodhi Way is realized, then my vows will be fulfilled." Such a resolve is great. If he views the Triple Realm as a prison; if he treats birth and death as an enemy; if he intends to save only himself and has no wish to save others, then his resolve is small.

If he sees living beings as existing outside of his mind; if he does wish to save others and to realize Buddhahood, but does not forget his own accumulation of merit and does not get rid of his worldly knowledge and views, then his resolve is partial. If he knows that his own nature is the same as living beings and, therefore, vows to save them; if he knows that his own nature is the same as the Buddha Path and, therefore, vows to realize it; if he does not see even one thing as existing apart from the mind; if his mind is like empty space; if he makes vows that are like empty space; if he cultivates practices that are like empty space; if he attains a fruition like empty space, and yet does not grasp at the characteristic of empty space, then his resolve is complete.

Having understood these eight different aspects of a resolve, we should know how to investigate and contemplate them. Knowing how to investigate and contemplate them, we know which to keep and which to discard. Knowing which to keep and which to discard, we can then resolve our minds.

What does it mean to "investigate and contemplate them?" We must ask ourselves, "Which of these eight aspects does my resolve have? Is my resolve deviant or proper, true or false, great or small, partial or complete?" What does it mean to "keep or discard?" It means that we discard the deviant, the false, the small, and the partial, and that we keep the proper, the true, the great, and the complete. To make a resolve in this way is truly and properly to resolve upon Bodhi.

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