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The Bodhisattva Vow and Now Standing Idly By


What is the nature of the Bodhisattva vow? Not being indifferent to the suffering of others, whether it applies to oneself or not.


Growing up in Twelve Step recovery, when I got to Step Two, I learned a priceless lesson from my predecessors. It was not about passing through or by people, places, and things with a minimum of concern. Instead, "We came to believe that Love with L.O.V.E. (Lots of Voluntary Effort) is a force stronger than ego, and as a result, we could be restored to soundness of heart and mind." Without having a sense of liking and then loving others, recovery doesn't work for me, especially when the goal is to be "Fully whole and wholly free."


In my early years of recovery from addiction, despite being clean, that didn't equate with being kind, generous, friendly, or particularly caring. Self-obsession and being overly self-involved in thought can easily result in being self-centered. When we're self-centered and self-obsessed, people can tend to look like tools in meeting our selfish ends rather than fellow human beings with feelings, like ourselves. I didn't have a path out of insanity until I understood that. The primary product I was mass producing was suffering for myself and others.


The traditional Bodhisattva vow in the Zen world is "However innumerable all beings are I vow to care for them all." In Narcotics Anonymous it was "That no addict seeking recovery need ever die from the horror of addiction." In Refuge Recovery for me it could be "If I can, You can." This ethos or way of being is important because they're three ways of looking at and bringing to life altruism and Love. The ability and willingness to help others, without it having to serve our own needs, or for us to get something out of it personally. To be of service altruistically, being free of egoism, is to live as Buddha or Universal Identity of Loving Presence, rather than a bumpkin, as my first Zen Master used to say.


Though I'm neither fully Black nor fully white, I've faced racism, though not as intensely as others. I'm not a woman, LGBTQ, or homeless. I'm not without what some might think of as having a "good" education. Yet, regardless of all the identities I don't associate with, I developed and cultivated the ability to care for others, not for my own benefit, but simply because it was the "right thing for the right reason." Your existence is enough; there's no need for performance art in order to be held in a place of respect and care. It's a reflection of unconditional positive regard. After all, Love with L.O.V.E. transcends egoism.


In closing, when diving deep into such experiences and practices, I often encounter individuals who may be intellectually sharp but lack emotional depth and what it means to hold people altruistically with unconditional positive regard. From my personal experience, and not just an opinion, being truly healthy as a person hinges on the ability to love genuinely rather than just being "smart" or "clever." The crux of the Bodhisattva Vow might be this: Sincere effort and energy not to remain passive while witnessing the suffering of others.


--We Are the Practice Itself

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