Beings are numberless. I vow to save them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable; I vow to become it.
These vows, which are chanted at the end of Zen lectures, express the fundamental intentions of Zen practice. They elevate our day-to-day activities and provide a larger context in which to live. Though these statements appear lofty and impossible, they act as a target, a set of goals to strive for, a direction in which to point our intentions. Though Zen is very practical by nature, it also has a way of challenging us to aim very high and not to be limited by conventional ideas of what is possible. Expressing these intentions makes ordinary activity extraordinary.
Sometimes as I am preparing for my workday I chant a variation of the Buddhist lecture chant:
The needs and problems of people are endless; I vow to find ways to meet their needs and solve these problems.
Daily work problems are inexhaustible; I vow to solve them.
Opportunities for practicing and creating healing at work are boundless: I vow to discover them.
Opportunities for inspiring others and transforming our world are everywhere: I vow to act on them.
The vow to meet the needs of people. The essence of my work is to deliver services that help people see the world a little differently, to open people to new ways of thinking, and to help people communicate directly and compassionately. Focusing on the needs of people is basic to all business.
The vow to solve all problems. We are never finished solving problems. There is no starting or ending point. The moment one issue is resolved, it is time to focus on the next one. Every problem presents an opportunity. Every opportunity presents additional problems and challenges.
Practicing and creating healing at work. Everywhere we look there are problems, pain, and suffering. At each moment we have the chance to be present, to practice at work, and to be fully ourselves. Nothing is stopping us from being open, honest, and vulnerable at work and from meeting others at a deep and intimate level.
Opportunities for inspiring others and transforming our world. There is no end to what we can discover about ourselves. Our bodies, minds, and spirit have no boundaries. Our work provides endless opportunities for self-discovery and growth and for inspiring others. By deeply touching the people we come into contact with at work we can help the world become a place of generosity and peace and move it away from greed and conflict.
The concept of making a vow, or holding a very deep intention, is quite foreign to most business environments. I would argue that we actually are making vows all the time, but are usually not completely aware of the vows being made. Generally, making money to support ourselves and our families is a key motivator, usually followed by our desire to do a good job or to do something useful and fulfilling.
Making vows taps into the deeper stream of our lives, and is not generally used in relation to our changing, external circumstances. A vow is a promise, a statement of intention and of commitment that we make to ourselves. Although they are internal, sometimes we make our vows more public by sharing them with our spouse, family, or closest friends.
What are your vows and deepest, most fundamental intentions at work?
What do you want to accomplish during your brief time on this planet?
What kind of work do you believe you were meant to do?
What are your vows in terms of meeting people, addressing problems, looking for opportunities for growth, and for self-discovery at work?