By Nhất Quán
          Why is it called the great vow?
          Ordinary people have many vows such as:
          - Vegetarian vows,
          - Vows to study religion,
          - Vow to do good deeds
          - Vows to quit smoking, vows to quit bad habits, etc., that's called vows. Especially people who have a good mind towards goodwill also have to make a vow to promote you to practice. These four vows, in the scriptures, are as follows:
          - The Prajnaparamita Sutra, volume 8
          - The Lotus Sutra, volume 3, Chapter Herbal Medicine Example
          - Peaceful Sutras, The Upper Book;
          - Sutra of the Six Patriarchs
          And some other Mahayana sutras, although the wording and order of the vows have some differences, the basic meaning is the same. Those four great vows are the great vessel that carries the Buddhadharma into life, as is the practice of the Buddha's legacy before he entered Nirvana.
          All the monastic practices in Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism are based on the basic teachings of the Buddha, such as the Four Truths, Dependent Origination, the Three Dharma Seals, and the content of the Thirty-Seven Teachings in general. It is the essential knowledge that begins for those who are just beginning to practice until enlightenment. Buddhism established the means of spreading the Buddhadharma throughout the ages to all human subjects. Buddhism in the process of going deep into the life of the masses must be called uncertain dharma. Because it is understood that all methods of practice are means. Means are different, but the sole purpose is to escape samsara. The entire Buddhadharma is not apart from the teaching of the Four Noble Truths. All dharma practices that are not outside of the Four Noble Truths but deployed, are the real Buddhadharma.
          Talking about the vast vow to open your mind to the limitless, limitless is so vast. Because living beings often live with a narrow mind, the mind only knows how to surround the self. As for the spirit of vast vows, the Buddha taught practitioners to make four broad vows like Bodhisattvas, thereby reminding practitioners to break their limited thoughts and know what lurks in the body of several hundred kilograms of this limitation.
Four vast vows that a Bodhisattva makes before becoming a Buddha. The chant you often hear is exactly the same as in the Mahayana sutras handed down:
          - Boundless sentient beings vow to save
          Endless afflictions vow to cut off,
          The Dharma Door has boundless vows to learn,
          Unsurpassed Buddhism vows to become
          The content of the vows of the Bodhisattvas who have compassion and want to save all sentient beings, such as the Prajnaparamita Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, record:
          I will save those who have not been saved, I will liberate those who have not been liberated, I will comfort those who are afraid, I will bring to Nirvana those who have not yet come.
          Vows are usually distinguished under three circumstances:
          - Prayer before action
          - During action and
          - After the action.
          The vows are all determinations, performing extremely great things, requiring courage, perseverance, wisdom, and love for all sentient beings of the aspirant. Therefore, vows are often understood as great vows that include all vows. There are three prominent contents in the great vows:
          - Wish to attain supreme wisdom
          - Vow to understand all dharmas to save sentient beings,
          - Pray to uphold the True Dharma.
          One prominent meaning in the great vows is that the Bodhisattvas decide not to become Buddhas:
          - If all sentient beings have not yet become Buddhas, then Mahasthama Bodhisattva has not yet become Buddhas
          - If hell is not empty, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has not yet become a Buddha.
          And so, the mind of the aspirant must be extremely great, as sublime as the four great vows of a Bodhisattva as recorded in Dharani Kapa Volume One:
          1- The mind is as wide as the earth to nurture the seeds of the path of sentient beings until Buddhahood is achieved.
          2- The mind is like a bridge, like a boat to bring sentient beings to the other shore, the shore of enlightenment.
          3- The mind is like the ocean, it is to contain sentient beings, nurtures, and helps instill the Dharma in order to be enlightened.
          4- The mind is as wide as space to be large enough to accommodate all things, to be equal, to realize buddha's nature.
          The four great vows are sometimes understood as the bodhisattva precepts, considered the vows for those who practice the bodhisattva path. You, ordinary people, cannot yet be Bodhisattvas, but if you learn to understand and practice, and perform each operation in your daily life in the spirit of Bodhisattva vows, your mind will certainly be developed. Bodhisattva practice is to save sentient beings and is also to save oneself, just as the meaning of the Four Great Vows taught by the Sixth Patriarch:
          - Sentient beings, afflictions, Dharma, and Buddhism are also the self-mind of each person.
          So, on the path of learning and practicing, these four vows have a very deep meaning, you cultivators must not just read them but understand the meaning to remind everyone to advance together.
          1- Boundless sentient beings Vow to save:
There are so many sentient beings that do not count, there are no borders, but you still make a vow to save all of them without leaving a single person, that is, saving them all the time without stopping, and leaving no one behind. Whether it is the sentient beings in the mind or the sentient being outside, they all make a vow to save. Saving sentient beings regardless of number should be called boundless so that you no longer think about who is relative, who is not relative.
          Usually, your mind is very narrow in your ego, so those who are easy to teach will be saved, those who are difficult to teach will not be saved, those close to you will be saved and those who are against you will not be saved. Or just save a moderate number, because thinking that saving many people will be tiring, after doing it for a while, you will feel tired, that is not the bodhisattva's mind. In this spirit, a practitioner must make a vow to save all sentient beings without leaving anyone, so that the vastness of his mind will grow larger and larger. Therefore, each human being, each living being, has the responsibility to save them all. To do this, you must constantly ask yourself, have you fulfilled your responsibilities. You have to reflect on your own. If you only make vows but don't practice, saving sentient beings will only speak out of your mouth.
          The word sentient beings say enough, is due to the conditions that arise. For example, there must be parents, a spiritual consciousness, to be clear, it must be made up of the five aggregates and the seven great aggregates. It was due to coincidence of course it was unreal in nature. As soon as you receive this sambhogakaya, you have experienced countless sufferings. In the sutras, it is often said that there are: Three sufferings and eight sufferings…. Those are the great human woes. Suffering is immeasurable, but you are willing to save all. Salvation means overcoming, sentient beings are boundless, then your vows are also boundless. But you need to understand that, saving sentient beings here, has two meanings:
          - Following the bodhisattva's vows and saving all sentient beings outside, this is easy to understand and see.
          - And also have to be aware of saving sentient beings from your own mind, this you can understand but not, or difficult to see.
Sentient beings in your minds are deluded beings, delusional beings, unwholesome beings, jealous beings, evil beings, those very minds are sentient beings, not other beings. An evil mind that arises is a living being, a delusional mind that arose is a living being, an unwholesome mind that has arisen is a living being, a jealous mind that has arisen is a living being, and an evil mind that has arisen is a living being. All those minds that arise are all sentient beings, saving all those sentient beings, so you are called self-nature and self-saved. That is, you save yourself right in your own nature, not save outside, that's called true salvation.
          Saying that the self-nature is self-satisfied, that is, in the minds of sentient beings with wrong views, afflictions, and stupidity, they will save by the right view. Having had the right view, then use the wisdom of Prajna to defeat stupid and deluded beings. Each time is self-saved, when wrong views come, right views are attained, when delusions come enlightenment when foolishness comes wisdom when evil comes good ones, such conversion is called true salvation.
          If every day you save sentient beings outside, but cannot save sentient beings in your heart, then your vow will not be fulfilled. To save sentient beings in the mind, to save sentient beings outside; If sentient beings in the mind cannot be saved, sentient beings outside can never be saved. Indeed, such as Sentient beings are jealous, sentient beings are angry but you have not completely saved them, but when your jealousy or hatred arises, then you want to hit people, you want to cause trouble with people so what. So say:
          - It is not possible to save sentient beings outside if the sentient beings in your mind have not been saved.
So you are always ready to save sentient beings, but closest to the sentient beings in your mind, you have to try to save it first, then save the sentient beings outside. Saving sentient beings in the mind is the true salvation, so the Sixth Patriarch said:
          - Self-nature of boundless sentient beings vow to save.
          2- Endless Afflictions Vow To cut Off:
First, afflictions are things that confuse, upset, and restlessness, causing discomfort in the mind. It means that when your mind is insecure, like angry or jealous of someone, the fire of anger rises to your head, creating an extremely uncomfortable psychological state. Defilements in general include two things: Basic afflictions and dependent afflictions or secondary afflictions. One of these two types of afflictions has a very deep root that is difficult to get rid of, that is the Basic affliction or illusion from thought, which consists of 6 things: greed, hatred, delusion, pride, doubt, and wrong view.
          As for the type of afflictions that are easy to eliminate, that is Depending on Afflictions or Secondary Afflictions: including 20 things:
01. Impatience or anger, 02. Hatred or resentment, 03. Hypocrisy or concealment, 04. Stinging talk or worry, 05. Envy or jealousy, 06. Stinginess, 07. Deceit or manipulation, 08. Duplicity or unduly flattering, 09. Hurting others or destructive, 10. Arrogance or conceitedness, 11. Shamelessness, self-shameless, or having no shame of self, 12. Recklessness, or having no shame of other people, 13. Fluctuations, or instability of mind and body, 14. Torpidity or drowsiness, 15 Unbelief or faithlessness, 16. Indolence or laziness, 17. Thoughtlessness, uninhibitedness, or lack of self-mastery, 18. Senselessness, 19. Uncollected state or unsteadiness, 20. Inaccuracy of knowledge, or do not understanding in a proper manner
          In addition, there is a Delusion of Dust and Sand, a Delusion of Ignorance.
          Second, it is illusions, that is shadows, it appears and it passes and disappears, it does not last. So it is clearly emptiness.
          Many afflictions have no end, but you take an oath to eliminate them, that is to generate a large and steadfast mind that does not retreat, goes on and on and on. When there is still defilement, it is still necessary to cut it off, not get discouraged, not give up, or just cut a little and then save it.
          Because bodhisattvas clearly know defilements, understand the nature of afflictions, that is, Nirvana. That is, afflictions that do not have a real nature are afflictions or do not have a fixed nature as afflictions, so no matter how deep the affliction is, it is still clear that it is emptiness. And since it is emptiness, it can be changed, not afraid of not ending. This is a belief, a strength to let you continue to practice. There are many people who practice for many years but still have not gotten rid of their afflictions, the reason is that when you have not yet practiced, you will see that there are no false thoughts, but when you sit down to meditate, you will have delusions. Then the question:
          - Why do you sit in meditation and see delusions?
          As I have mentioned above, basic and dependent afflictions have many different manifestations, so normally you never notice, so you don't know what kind of afflictions you are having present in your mind, so you don't see delusions. But when meditating, your mind is now quiet, only then will you see false thoughts arise. That is why the more you meditate, the more defilements and delusions you see. But you don't need to be afraid, because when you see false thoughts, that means your mind is already concentrated, so you can see false thoughts, not by sitting in meditation but by having many delusions.
          Those who practice without eliminating or transforming afflictions are indeed not Buddhist practitioners. Because, the Buddha, the reason became a Buddha, was because he had eliminated all ignorance and afflictions. Due to the end of ignorance and afflictions, his mind was completely quiet, pure, clear, and became a Buddha. Because he was fully enlightened, people called him Buddha.
          It is up to you to get rid of defilements and not. If you don't practice, it's like having food but not eating, you will forever be hungry. That's why the Sixth Patriarch teaches you to use the wisdom of your own self-nature to get rid of false thoughts.. etc. To get rid of all those minds is called:
          - Self-mind of sentient beings boundless afflictions vow to be cut off.
          3- The Buddha's Dharma is immeasurable, vowing to learn:
          According to the sutras, the Buddha's practices include:
          - Eighty-four thousand methods
          The number of eighty-four thousand cultivation methods refers to a large number, that a practitioner vows to practice and learn. Although there are many cultivation methods, just choosing one practice and then practicing for achievement is the achievement of all. But here it is said that a person who vows to learn and practice to the end does not miss any dharma, that is, not afraid of much, not afraid of difficulties, not just study a little halfway and then stop. Furthermore, this vow speaks of your boundless diligence. In fact, no matter how much the Buddha's Dharma is if you understand it carefully, it's also from the heart. Dharma is also born from the mind, but immeasurable Buddha dharmas also arise from the mind, called:
          - Because sentient beings have eighty-four thousand afflictions, the Buddha taught eighty-four thousand Buddha-dharmas to deal with them.
Eighty-four thousand afflictions come from the mind, and the cultivation methods come from the mind. Because sentient beings have innumerable minds, there are innumerable dharmas to eliminate the innumerable minds of sentient beings. If you realize your own mind, that's the original dharma. If you study and practice that dharma right away, you'll instantly master every dharma and every dharma comes from that mind, nothing else, so you're not afraid of not learning over
         Cultivators, especially monastics, no matter how difficult it is, you must definitely learn. If you learn to understand the Dharma, your practice will be right and you will really understand the way of practice. Otherwise, even if you have practiced for a long time in the religion, you are still a country person. A Chinese Zen master, he reminds us that:
          - If a person leaves the home life, but the teachings have never been taken to heart, how can the profound morality be enlightened?
          In this teaching of the Patriarch, I think, whether you are a monastic or a layperson, you must also be aware that you should make efforts to study and learn the true Dharma according to the Buddha's teachings. Only then can you save yourself and save people from confusion, darkness, and suffering. On the path of cultivation and learning, you must often think:
          - What have I contributed to Buddhism? Is it possible to make Buddhism flourish?
          Having continuously thought like that, the vow:
          - Endless Dharma vow to study
          Is to see your own nature, and often practice the Dharma, which is called true learning. Learning here is learning right in your own nature, that is, learning what method to realize your own nature, not learning anything else outside. Therefore, the Sixth Patriarch said:
          - Such is the self-nature method of vowing to learn.
          4- Unsurpassed Buddhism vows to become:
Enlightenment in Buddhism is the unsurpassed state and you are committed to achieving it. That is to practice vowing straight to Buddhahood, so even if you go through countless lives of hardship, you are still determined to practice to the extreme, not just cultivate to achieve a few small results like Srota- apanna, which is the first of the four saints, is enough, if you think like that, your mind is still small.
          The spirit of the Buddha is equal because all sentient beings have Buddha nature, that is, all sentient beings can become Buddhas, so the Buddha clearly said:
          - I am the Buddha who has become, and you are the Buddha who will become.
          This is also the wish of the Buddha when appearing in this world as the Lotus Sutra said:
          - I appear in this world for the purpose of showing all sentient beings or teaching all sentient beings to enlightenment and penetrating the Buddha's knowledge to become a Buddha.
          The Buddha's aspiration is to help all sentient beings realize the Buddha's knowledge and understanding in you in order to attain enlightenment and live like a Buddha, not to teach you to practice and then kneel at the Buddha's feet. Buddha is very egalitarian.
          If a cultivator understands this, then you will have strong faith and determination to practice until the day you become a Buddha. When you understand like that, you don't have to worry about not being able to practice, because it's within your power. There is only one thing that you have to dare to forget your delusional crazy ego.
          Buddhahood is the aim of the cultivator. To attain Buddhahood, you need to practice in the right direction. Buddha-nature is the pure and clear awareness that everyone has. If you don't have Buddha-nature, how can you practice to attain Buddhahood? Buddha-nature is like rice or fire in a tree. Because rice is available, you cook it into rice; Because there is already fire in the tree, it is only when you brush the tree that it emits fire.
Therefore, you must be sure that, if you put in the effort to practice in accordance with the process of cultivation as taught by the Buddha, you will surely one day attain Buddhahood. That's something you have no doubt about. Just afraid that you will go in the wrong direction, not according to the Buddha's teachings, you will fall into the wrong path. Therefore, as a Buddhist practitioner, you need to be careful while practicing. Deeper understanding, you will see clearly, that the meaning of becoming a Buddha is in your own mind and not elsewhere. For that reason, the Sixth Patriarch said:
          - Self-nature of sentient beings Buddha vows to become.
          Aspiration is a wish in which there must be practice. If not, then that wish is just a wish, not thought of in vain. By studying the Way, you clearly understand that this insanity caused by stubborn delusions is not real, so you are confident that you can eliminate it so that you can become a Buddha. It's not far away, nothing is difficult, just enough faith. Therefore, cultivation is to develop the mind to practice until becoming a Buddha, not to practice to be reborn in heaven or to practice to experience some results for fun. The person who generates such a mind is the one who generates a vast mind, without borders, so-called the vows are deep and thick.
          The profound meaning of the four great vows is very deep, helping cultivators get rid of all ideas of opposites, discrimination, inside and out to live fully with true light. When you are awake, you have to stay awake forever, keep your mind firm, go forward and never retreat, and always open your mind wide. That is, transform the narrow sentient being's mind back to the Buddha's mind. Through this transformation, you will forget the low, selfish habits because of the ego, so the more you practice, the more spacious your mind will rise.
          If you are a person who understands the Way well, then the more you open your mind, develop your Bodhi mind, and then widely communicate it to society, the brighter the light of Buddha Dharma will be and the world will be less miserable...
          To propagate the Buddhadharma is to help people in this world practice the true path. Guiding people to practice the path of liberation is the mission of monastics and laypeople, and that route is through the bodhisattva practice. Therefore, it is necessary to have a noble, solid, and long-term aspiration to study. Those four great vows are based on the teaching principles of the Four Noble Truths, or in other words, it is the application of the Buddha's spirit of turning the wheel of dharma through the practice of the Four Noble Truths. In order to save sentient beings' suffering, you make a vow:
          - Boundless sentient beings vow to save. That is the first great prayer.
          The second noble truth, the cause of suffering is defilement and craving; so you make a vow:
          - Endless affliction vows to eliminate. That is the second great prayer.
          The third Noble Truth, which is the content of the Buddha's teachings, is to teach sentient beings, so you make a vow:
          - Dharma-method boundless vows to learn. That is the third great vow.
          The fourth noble truth, is the state of Nirvana liberated, Buddha realized, is the result of cultivation; so you make a vow:
          - Unsurpassed Buddhism vows to be. That is the fourth great prayer.
          By making the four great vows, you quickly destroy your own narrow-mindedness, so these four great vows are methods to help you practice diligently, an exercise for cultivators, not just reading in the rite of recitation. Having understood this well, every time you say these four great vows, you will find it very meaningful.
          In short, the profound meaning of the four great vows is, first of all, to realize that life is suffering and to vow to save boundless sentient beings. From the point of view of cultivating the mind, this means saving the concept of sentient beings in the mind. Mindfulness of sentient beings means the concept of craving and attachment leads to samsara. Samsara is the content of suffering in the three realms of the six paths. A student of the Way needs to transform that mind into a mind of liberation. That is the spirit of self-interest, while the spirit of benefit for others is to promote the spirit of teaching sentient beings. If you yourself wish to be free from samsara, then you also wish all sentient beings to be free from samsara. But in order to fulfill the spirit of boundless sentient beings, you need to practice compassion and wisdom. If you are not virtuous enough, you will not be able to fulfill that noble purpose. Like a person who enthusiastically jumps into deep water to save someone who is about to drown but can't swim, both of them eventually drown. In Mahayana teachings, it is emphasized that if you want to teach others, you must first practice cultivation yourself. If you don't practice on your own, but advise others to practice, it won't be effective. Saving boundless sentient beings is the achievement of boundless merit and wisdom.
          Realizing the nature of defilements, practitioners vow to eliminate and guide others to practice. Mahayana Buddhism concretizes the method of eliminating defilements through the teachings of the Six Paramitas: Generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom. Practicing these six dharmas has the ability to cut off endless defilements. The nature of craving always tempts people, who are deeply aware of craving, the more persistent suffering is, and trying to practice, will eliminate defilements. When you cut off a part of afflictions, you will realize a part of liberation. Afflictions are the burden of a traveler in the desert, and when the burden is removed, the traveler can walk leisurely.
         Only by practicing will you cut off defilements and cravings to attain Nirvana. Mahāyāna Bodhisattva, because he was restless about the path of learning and saving birth, made a vow:
          - The Buddha's Dharma is immeasurable and vows to study.
          This dharma is not only limited to the practice methods of Buddhist schools, but Mahayana Buddhism also emphasizes the doctrinal importance of The five sciences, which are:
          - The learning of communication: The ability to be fluent in the language, words,
          - The learning of technology: The ability to be proficient in professions, mathematics, science, literature, and philosophy in foreign languages.
          - The learning of medicine or the knowledge of Curable diseases: The ability to understand Medicines, and methods of treatment.
          - The learning of Logic and Science: The ability to be fluent in the real, fake, right, wrong... is the ability to reason, and explain.
          - The realization of the inner Truth: Ability, clear knowledge, including the experience of practicing the Three Tripitakas of Buddhism.
          Therefore, the idea of studying is always attaching life to the cause of spreading the Dharma. People who have a great vision, use skillful means to spread the Buddhadharma, so it is necessary to study a lot and understand widely; should not be subjective, consider the Dharma you practice as important, the other method is not important.
          Buddha is the one who has attained perfect Nirvana, for the sake of self-realization and enlightenment for people to achieve perfect enlightenment. According to Mahayana, in order to realize Buddhahood, one must practice the Bodhisattva path. It is for that reason that vows:
          - Unsurpassed Buddhism vows to have become.
          If you don't have firm aspirations, when you encounter obstacles, your initial mind will turn back.
          This is the quintessence of Mahayana teachings, through the means of cultivating and saving sentient beings without leaving the heart of the Buddha Dharma.
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