Time : Saturday 2pm-4.17pm
Platform : ZOOM Cloud Meeting
Topic of Discussion : THE POWER OF MAKING GREAT VOWS
On 26 September 2020, Guan Yin Citta, Singapore held yet another online English Group Study.
Did you know that diamond proved no match for one’s power of vow?
This week’s session provided an extensive coverage on “The Power of Making Great Vows”. It also shed light on some frequently-asked questions such as the likes of what constitutes a great vow, and the importance of making and fulfilling a vow. The participants were forewarned of making a vow within one’s capacity as there will be consequences for not delivering. On the flip side, the stronger the vows, if delivered, the greater the reward will be.
Master Lu once said our success as individuals is dependent on the power of our vows. A person, who lacks this conviction, will not be able to succeed in anything. In fact, making great vows is one of the three prerequisites – one’s foundation and Dharma cultivation are the other two – to ascend to Bodhisattva’s realm.
The participants gained insights about the sources of the power of vows which arise out of repentance, suffering and compassion. The more one suffers, the stronger his or her power of vows is.
Last but not least, Buddhist friends were reminded of the consequences of breaking one’s vows, which can be likened to failure to keep your promise to Bodhisattva. While remedial action – entailing the recitation of the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance and Little Houses – can be taken to address the breach, we must always make sure a vow is within our capacity. In our spiritual cultivation, we must take our vows seriously and perseverance is key.
Let us now look at some comments from participants:
“Good effort by the facilitators in compilation and delivering the topic. Good learning for me.”
“A good mix of video or audio with sharing of cross references.”
? Join us in our next session
Please contact Loh SX (96978356) / Woan Yi SX (82182248) for more information
⏰ Date and time:
Saturday 3 Oct 2020 (2.oopm – 4.00pm)
Please click here to download the Summary Slides shared during the Group Study:
Buddhism in Plain Terms (Episode 7)
GOOD AND EVIL ARE THE RESULTS OF KARMA
How do we stay away from pain and stop creating negative karma? The key is to make a resolve and great vows. For instances, when natural disaster occurs, your vows could help you eliminate a lot of karmic obstacles.
No matter what happens, I can tell you that reciting the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance can eliminate your negative karma speedily. Therefore, it is important to recite more of the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance, it will keep you in blessed with safety and peace, many people are not aware.
What does it mean to be “blessed with safety and peace”? it is now the Age of Dharma Decline, one of the ways to stay safe and peaceful as a human being living on this planet, is to always admit our flaws and shortcomings. When you encounter any conflict, you should say “I’m sorry, I didn’t do a good job. I’m very sorry”. This is the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance of the Human Realm.
As humans we need to be reasonable. People say, “stop being unreasonable”. Being reasonable is also a way to show politeness. If you apologise often to others, isn’t it one way to keep yourself safe and peaceful? Others will not carry on and your negative karma is eliminated. One needs to observe the precepts well. What does that mean? It means we should discipline ourselves at all times. We need to understand our mind and see our true nature.
People often think they are always right, but they have no idea about the fundamental truth of this world. It is not something based upon argument. Rather, it is based upon a kind of condition, as there is no absolute right or wrong. Everything is due to their conditions.
Many people say, “I have taken refuge in Buddhism”. You can’t regard taking refuge, as making a promise or a commitment. You can’t make it sound like, you are working for Bodhisattvas. This is not how it is. Rather, it is to develop the kindness and compassion in your innate nature.
We make full prostrations to the Buddha every day, our mind is focused when doing so. This way, our mind takes refuge in the Buddha, right? If you are propagating Buddhism every day and helping people and, that is taking refuge in the Dharma, right?
Helping others is a means to putting the Dharma into practice. You are practising the Buddha-Dharma, when people see you, they relate your action to that of the Buddha. This way, you are indeed putting Dharma into action.
How about taking refuge in the Sangha? When you see a monk or a nun set them as your role model. If there are no monastics around, set the Buddha in your mind as your role model. We need to always picture ourselves, as a Buddhist monastic who hasn’t fully renounced the household life.
WHAT ARE WE LEARNING TODAY?
~ What is a ‘Great Vow’?
~ Where Does the Power of Vow Come From?
~ The Importance of Making Great Vows
~ Examples of Great Vows
~ Challenges That Might Arise After Making Great Vows
~ The Importance of Fulfilling Vows
~ The Consequences of Breaking Vows
Master Jun Hong Lu’s related discourses (cross references):
<The Power of Making Great Vows>
General Guides on Making Vows (please follow the links below for detailed info)
Buddhism: Your Questions Answered (171 FAQ) Q&A 89
MAKING VOWS TO HELP PEOPLE BECOME SPIRITUALLY AWAKENED (AN EXCERPT)
- It is considered a great vow to introduce Buddhism to a certain number of people and help them become spiritually awakened within a certain period of time.
- A good way to help people become spiritually awakened is to answer their questions.
- Another good method to help people become spiritually awakened is writing about your own experiences and the insights you have gained.
If you are unsure about the number of people you can help, but possess great resolve, and wish to spread Buddhism and help others become spiritually awakened throughout the rest of your life, then you can make the following vow:
“I, <full name>, vow that for the rest of my life, I will follow the teachings of the Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva and help to save sentient beings from suffering. I will help as many people as I possibly can.”
However, you should always make sure that a vow is within your capacity, because helping “as many people as I possibly can” is a great commitment. Once this great vow is made, you must fully devote yourselves to spreading Buddhism, and you must not pursue personal enjoyment. You must be dedicated to awakening sentient beings spiritually. If an opportunity arises for you to help people become spiritually awakened and you fail to do so, you will have broken your vow. Similarly, if you waste a lot of time, then it is also unacceptable.
People suffering from a serious or terminal illness can say the following prayer:
“The Greatly Merciful and Greatly Compassionate Guan Yin Bodhisattva, if I, <full name>, can stay alive, I will share my experience with others to demonstrate the benefits of practising Buddhism. Throughout the rest of my life, I will try to help people to have faith in Buddhism, to cultivate, and to believe in Guan Yin Bodhisattva.”
Once again, when making vows, you must ensure that you have the capacity to fulfil them, and not break the vows you have made
Buddhism: Your Questions Answered (171 FAQ) Q&A 41
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO KEEP VOWS (AN EXCERPT)
- If an individual is unable to keep the vows they made to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they are likely to be punished, but it is not always the case. Whether they will be punished or not depends on their motives behind breaking those vows. Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma Protectors have a certain level of understanding and forgiveness towards us.
- If you cannot keep your vows due to natural causes, then you will be forgiven to a certain degree.
If you cannot keep your vows due to personal reasons or human factors, then it is most certain that you would be punished.
If you know your punishment is coming, you must recite the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance to resolve it – there is no other way.
Be mindful and cautious when making vows. You should act in accordance with karmic conditions, and know your capabilities and limitations.
Buddhism: Your Questions Answered (171 FAQ) Q&A 78
MAKING GREAT VOWS AND FULFILLING GREAT VOWS (AN EXCERPT)
- For those who have not practised Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door, they should return to the same temple where they originally made their vows to fulfil them before the statues of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. They fulfil their vows by making incense offerings, making prostrations, making donations, and performing meritorious deeds.
- If you have started practising Guan Yin Citta, that means you have taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and have been following Guan Yin Bodhisattva to cultivate your mind and practise Buddhism.
No matter which temple you previously visited, or which Bodhisattvas you prayed to and made your vows, you can simply pray to the statue of Guan Yin Bodhisattva at home or at your Buddhist friend’s house (if you do not have a Buddhist altar) to fulfil your vows. You should kneel and make a full bow to Guan Yin Bodhisattva, express gratitude to the Bodhisattva at the temple which you originally made your vow. Fulfil your vows simply by carrying out what you previously promised.
WHAT IS A GREAT VOW? WHAT IS CONSIDERED HELPING OTHERS TO BE SPIRITUALLY AWAKENED?
Caller: What is considered a great vow for lay practitioners like us who practise Buddhism at home?
Master Jun Hong Lu: For example, a vow to print Buddhist books, or “I want more people to get to know this dharma door, I want to propagate Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door, and I want more people to recite Buddhist scriptures.” These are all examples of great vows.
Master Jun Hong Lu: Then, “I want to go out to help people to be spiritually awakened”. But this is something to be taken seriously. You have to state your vows, and specify a figure for your vows to be efficacious. Otherwise, it won’t work if you only say it in general context. For example, “I plan to help how many people to be spiritually awakened within a year”, or “I plan to print how many books for complimentary distribution to others”
Caller: But I’m a little worried that if I vow to help a certain number of people but in the end I could not achieve it, what should I do?
Master Jun Hong Lu: It’s similar to your attempts at matchmaking. After introducing your friends, whether the session is successful or not is a different matter, but have you introduced them? When you introduce Buddhism to others, you may have told them, “I have told you about this and you know it now”, however, you would have no control whether they put it into practice. This is how we go about it. Take me as an example, even though I introduce Buddhism to others every day, there are always people who don’t listen to or believe in what I said.
Caller: I thought that we would only be considered to have introduced Buddhism to others when they have started practising Buddhism and performing recitation.
Master Jun Hong Lu: Do you have to guarantee them of having babies when you introduce them? That’s simply absurd! We may be introducing Buddhism to someone, but does he have the karmic affinity to begin with?
Caller: Oh, that’s right. Thank you Master Lu.
An Excerpt from Master Jun Hong Lu’s Guan Yin Hall Discourse (8 February 2020)
What is a Great Vow? I want to make a great vow, “Guan Yin Bodhisattva, I really want to save people all over the world, Guan Yin Bodhisattva, please give me a chance to save more people, please grant me more wisdom and more strength.”
When you are full of unhappiness, jealousy and resentment every day because of saving others, whom can you save?
Can you still emulate Bodhisattva to save others when you can’t even do this? If there’s nothing you can let go of after practising Buddhism, whom can you save? You can’t even save your wife or your family, do you think you can still save other sentient beings?
Those who are determined to make great vows must put all the trivial matters behind. It doesn’t matter if others are being mean to me. No matter how badly others treat me, I just need to be single-minded in saving people. As long as I can save others, even if I am being scolded or criticised by others, let it be. Our personal matters, however serious it is in our eyes, are just trivial matters. Conversely, anything related to Dharma propagation, however minute it may seem, is a matter of the utmost importance (个人的事情再大都是小事，弘法的事情再小都是大事).
HOW TO LIVE UP TO THE ROLE OF A BODHISATTVA? THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MAKING SUCH A VOW AND NOT MAKING SUCH A VOW
Caller: Master Lu, please enlighten us, what are the requirements for someone who wishes to make a vow to live up to the role of a Bodhisattva in this human realm (成为人间菩萨)?
Master Jun Hong Lu: When a person makes such a vow, he already has the power of vow and there’s no need to worry about the requirements. The question is not ‘whether I can live up to the role of a Bodhisattva?’ In fact, when we help others, we are already acting as a Bodhisattva. If you stop doing bad things and dedicate yourself to helping others, aren’t you already living up to the role of a Bodhisattva? Right?
Caller: Oh, that’s right.
Master Jun Hong Lu: When you are helping other people, you are a Bodhisattva. That is for sure. But when you make such a vow, you really need to be diligent, hard-working, and discipline yourself all the time. For those who don’t make such a vow but constantly emulate Bodhisattva’s behaviour, it’s good for them too. The difference is for those who made the vow, they must fulfil it and practise as a Bodhisattva.
GUIDE TO MAKING VOWS FOR BEGINNERS WHO ARE CRITICALLY ILL / STRICKENED BY CANCER TO HELP RECOVERY
Caller: There is a discourse being disseminated on the internet that goes, “Master Lu advises those with health issues, including critical illnesses and cancer, that if you wish to recover, it is essential to make the following vows:”
1.To be a full vegetarian your whole life
2.To refrain from the act of killing for your whole life
3.To perform the liberation of captives (more than 10,000)
4.To offer 1,000 Little Houses to repay karmic debts
5.To share testimonials to save other sentient beings upon recovery
Caller: May I know if it is alright for Buddhist friends to use the points above as model answer to be disseminated to Buddhist friends who are terminally ill and who have just started on their cultivation journey?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes, they may do so as these are the basic obligations aside from those additional ones that I may have specifically advised others. Once you are stricken with cancer, you will need to do the above. Failure to do so will render the making of any other “Greater” vows worthless.
THE VOWS OF GUAN YIN CITTA DHARMA DOOR CORRESPOND TO ‘THE FOUR GREAT VOWS’
Caller: Master Lu, our Buddhist practitioners seem to be more interested in the “Four Great Vows” as of late, and I am wondering if the vows we are making within the context of Guan Yin Citta have counterparts within the “Four Great Vows?” For example:
- “Sentient beings are numberless, and I vow to save them all,” could correspond to “helping as many people as I possibly can”;
- “Delusions are endless, and I vow to abandon them all,” could correspond to “never backsliding in my cultivation”;
- “The teachings are infinite, and I vow to learn them all,” could correspond to “advancing cultivation single-mindedly and diligently;” and
- “The Buddha Way is inconceivable, and I vow to attain it,” could correspond to “succeeding in our cultivation in this lifetime.”
Caller: Am I correct in my understanding of these connections?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Wow, this girl is quite impressive! It shows great insight to understand the vows in this way, and to act accordingly. You should call in more often and continue to ask intelligent questions such as this one.
Caller: OK, Master Lu, please give me your blessings so that I can get through to your radio program call line more often, is that OK?
Master Lu: OK, you are really quite impressive. There used to be a young man who would frequently call in, and our listeners would really enjoy his questions.
Caller: Yes, that’s right.
Master Lu: Now, you’ll have to follow in his place, OK?
Caller: OK, Master Lu. Please grant me your blessings so that I can get through to your line every time I call.
Master Jun Hong Lu: Sure.
Caller: Great, thank you Master Lu. If we make a vow, for example the vow to save all sentient beings, would it actually be better if we instead vow to “help as many sentient beings as possible?” Because we sometimes fall short in our ability to save every sentient being that crosses our path, as Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva can. Whereas when we vow to “help as many people as I possibly can,” we are speaking in more general and universal terms.
Master Jun Hong Lu: Correct. As long as you have the power of vow, you will succeed, but you will need to go out and act on it.
Caller: Good. Does “vowing to live a celibate life” reflect the vow to abandon all delusions?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes. If you are celibate, then what worries do you have? If you have emotional attachments then you are not living a celibate life. When a Buddhist Master becomes celibate, he no longer has these emotional attachments. He only retains feelings for Buddha, and he abandons all human emotional attachments. Wouldn’t this mean that he had no more worries?
Master Jun Hong Lu: There are always worries and anxieties that exist in the relationship between any two people, because they are entangled in emotions and feelings. You can see this in any person……love and other emotions, these form the ultimate “symphony” of human life, but they muddle up your head and cannot be cleared away! Love is a net, and like a fish you are caught by this net, unable to escape.
< Where Does the Power of Vow Come From? >
Buddhism in Plain Terms Episode 44 (An Excerpt)
So we should understand what is the true meaning of making vows with a heart of repentance (忏悔发愿). By repenting of our own ignorance and non-enlightenment, I vow that I must make every effort to grow my Buddha wisdom. The fact is, when you make a vow after repentance, the power of your vow will be exceptionally strong and efficacious. Therefore, Master is telling you that you must recite the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance before making vows.
THE POWER OF VOWS DERIVES FROM ONE’S SUFFERING AND ADVANCEMENT OF LEVEL OF CULTIVATION
Caller: The power of vows is the foundation for one to become a Bodhisattva or even attain the path of Buddhahood. May I ask Master, where does such power of vows derive from?
Master Jun Hong Lu: The power of vows derives from suffering. The more deeply a person suffers, the stronger his power of vows is. A person will not have the power of vows when he is in good times. What kind of power of vows will he have when he is indulging in food and drinks and pleasure seeking?
Only when one suffers, “I must spare no effort in doing this”; only when he is in poor health, “I must be a vegetarian”; when his relationship breaks down, “I must be a monk”… The power of vows will emerge only when one experiences the suffering in this mortal world. The other possible factor is the advancement in one’s recitation and spiritual cultivation. With that, you will then be able to elevate your state of mind.
THE POWER OF VOWS IS THE KEY TO LEARNING THE DHARMA; HOW TO STRENGTHEN ONE’S POWER OF VOWS
Caller: Master, is the power of vows the key to learning the Dharma? Are we able to better eliminate karmic obstacles and achieve enlightenment if we perform recitation and cultivate our mind with the power of vows? Where does the power of vows come from? How can we strengthen our power of vows?
Master Jun Hong Lu: To begin, the answer to your first question is yes. The power of vows is the most important element when learning the Dharma. A strong power of vows can overcome any obstacle, including those of our mind; the power of vows is actually a type of powerful energy.
You had also asked where the power of vows comes from: it stems from compassion. When a person feels compassion for all sentient beings, and understands that he should feel compassion throughout his life, he will begin to develop the power of vows.
It is not until you feel pity for others that you will realise you should be making a better effort to help them; if you feel pity for the mothers of the world, you will develop the power of vows, and think to yourself, “I need to make money so that I can take care of my mother. She has no money of her own, and spends all of her time and effort taking care for our family.” And so, you will have the power of vows to ensure that your mother is well taken care of, and that she lives a blessed and happy life. Is this the power of vows?
Master Jun Hong Lu: How does one reach the power of vows of a Bodhisattva? A Bodhisattva sees the pain and suffering in this mortal world through each person who comes to them for guidance, crying and begging; a Bodhisattva’s power of vows arises from the sadness and compassion they feel for other people.
So, when a person develops compassion for others, he will then possess the power of vows. The power of vows arising from compassion (慈悲愿力) relies on the feeling of compassion within oneself, and cannot develop without this feeling. So, when a person becomes compassionate towards others, and feels this compassion consistently throughout the day, he will develop a power of vows, but what exactly is this power of vows?
It is the confidence that you will succeed, and the knowledge of how to achieve your goal…because you feel the suffering of others in your heart!
You’d be hard pressed to find an entrepreneur who didn’t strive for even greater success because of the hardships they had faced on their journey, developing a form of resolve in the process. When he started his career, Sir Li Ka-shing used to work in sales and marketing, and his power of vows developed as he saw the great success that others had achieved and wondered, “Why am I not capable of this?”
Seeing the difficulties that others were facing, and the many who were out of work, he decided, “When I become successful, I will be able to help and support more people.” This is a form of compassion, and it can be thought of as a power of vows; although Sir Li Ka-shing may not have attained the highest level of state of mind, he has shown his power of vows through his compassion, and he found great success. So, the power of vows is truly the foundation for a person’s success.
Caller: OK, I understand now.
< The Importance of Making Great Vows >
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Public Talk, Vancouver, Canada 26 September 2014 (An Excerpt)
As Albert Einstein stated, mass can be transformed into energy, and energy can be transformed back into mass. How does it relate to our cultivation? When a person says, “Today, I feel this power of vow, and I’m definitely going to do a certain thing that I have been wanting to do”, it will transform into a kind of energy. We can transform mass into a body of energy while worshipping Buddha, and then this energy will transform back into mass – this is Einstein’s transformation of energy.
We transform our spirit into the material through our honesty, sympathy, and understanding, by sympathising with other people, and offering our help more often, we will add material substance to our spirit, and be able to overcome many difficulties. The transformation of energy and the strengthening of willpower are achieved through hard work.
You may think, “I will resolve this issue no matter what, I am willing to give everything to send my child to college,” and then stay up late into the night helping your child study, and wake up early the next morning to continue, and this is a form of power. Where does this power come from? Because of your power of vow, you are unwavering in your pursuit of helping your son get accepted into the best high school and college.
The greater one’s ability and energy, the stronger their virtue of magnanimity; and when their magnanimity weakens, their energy will fade along with it. In order to become a successful person, you must first develop the virtue of magnanimity, and to do this you must relinquish all worldly things to the best of yourability, you must abandon things such as worries, troubles, and anger as much as possible, and be comfortable and at ease in the moment.
THE ACT OF MAKING A VOW IS VIRTUOUS
Caller: When we are releasing captive animals, how do we pray to transform our blessings into virtues? Can we say, “May Guan Yin Bodhisattva help me to resolve negative karmic ties, and eliminate my karmic debts. I will perform more virtuous deeds to help more sentient beings, to follow Master Jun Hong Lu to propagate Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door diligently”. Can we say the same after we perform the ‘Practice of Dharma Giving’ (to bestow dharma) or after we introduce Buddhism to the others? Will this help us to eliminate negative karma, gain wisdom and accumulate virtues? Master Lu, please enlighten me.
Master Jun Hong Lu: Please remember this. The act of making such a vow itself has merits and virtues. Let me give you an example. When you see a person drowning in the water, you say to yourself “I must rescue him. I am determined and I must do it”. Then you take off your clothes, change into your swimming suits and get ready to jump in the water. Right at that moment, you realise that the person has already been rescued by someone else. Even though the person isn’t saved by you, don’t you think your action would still earn respect and admiration? (Yes). Haven’t you gained merits and virtues then? (That’s right. Thank you for answering my question).
THE STRONGER THE RESOLUTION THE GREATER THE POSITIVE RETURNS WILL BE.
CULTIVATION IS ABOUT SINCERITY RATHER THAN FORMALISM
Caller: Master, each time when we offer grand incense (大香), how much help would it be in eliminating our karmic obstacles or transforming our destiny?
Master Jun Hong Lu: The question that you just asked is related to math, whereas my teachings are about Buddhist studies. They are entirely different. If one has a strong resolution, the outcome from Buddhism cultivation will be enormous and cannot be measured against the number of incense offered.
Master Jun Hong Lu: A novice monk when performing recitation; will not make it without an intent. Cultivation evolves from our innate heart. Bodhisattva is not attached to the worldly materials and the wellbeing is not measured against how many incense one offers. By doing so, aren’t you treating Bodhisattva as a human?
MASTER LU’S DISCOURSE: THREE CONDITIONS TO FULFIL IN ORDER TO ASCEND TO BODHISATTVA REALM
Master Jun Hong Lu: Please remember, there are three conditions to fulfil in order to ascend to Bodhisattva Realm:
2) Dharma Cultivation;
3) Great Vows.
In fact, this information is considered a mystery of heaven and I have just revealed it today. All the conditions listed are indispensable.
Firstly, great vows: Many Buddhist cultivators lack motivation and hardly progress after practising for some time. Such cultivators will not be able to ascend to higher realm.
Secondly, your current state of cultivation: One must cultivate in a lawful manner without slackening or retrograding in their cultivation, and not turning a blind eye to people who are in mortal danger.
There was a saying in the past, “I just have to discipline myself well…”, does this mean cultivate earnestly?
Let me tell you, refusal to lift your fingers to save someone in mortal danger is a sin. Ignoring the sufferings of people before your eyes and not offering a helping hand is inhumane, and because you do not have a compassionate heart, you will not be able to attain the state of Bodhisattva.
Lastly, foundation: If you do not have a sound foundation, you will never be able to ascend to the upper realms.
CAN MAKING GREAT VOWS HELP TO ELEVATE ONE’S APTITUDE FOR BUDDHISM IN THIS LIFE?
Caller: Can making great vows elevate a person’s aptitude for Buddhism (根器) in this life? Master, please enlighten us.
Master Jun Hong Lu: Of course! It is a remarkable act! In fact, those who are able to make great vows are those who are on an ascending path in terms of their foundation in Dharma practice. I once told you a story about a thief who was looked down by others. One day, when the thief was standing by the river, he saw a girl falling into the water and shouting, “Help! Help!” Unfortunately, no one was willing to jump into the water to save the girl.
In an instant, the thief took off his clothes and jumped into the water and finally rescued the girl. Because of his heroic act of willing to sacrifice himself to save others, no one dared to say that ‘he is a thief’ from then on. So why did I tell you to save people? If you don’t save people, you are just a villain, a mortal who had committed negative karmas in your previous life. When you have saved people in this lifetime, which makes you a Bodhisattva, you will no longer be a villain or mortal. Do you understand?
RESOLVE SERIOUS MATTERS BY MAKING GREAT VOWS AND PERFORMING LIFE LIBERATION
Caller: Master Lu, when we pray for something, which method is more efficacious – through performing the Three Golden Practices (performing recitation, life liberation and making great vows) concurrently, or focussing on either one of the three practices with more intensified efforts?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Generally, it depends. For example, when something serious happens, you must make a great vow and perform life liberation in large quantities. If it is not something very serious, you may just make the general vows.
Master Jun Hong Lu: You have to make a great vow if you encounter serious matters because it will help you to be liberated from the suffering. For example, if you have come near to death, the only way you can do is to make a great vow because nothing else works.
ONE WILL GAIN ABUNDANT BLESSINGS FOR MAKING GREAT VOWS; COMMENDABLE VOWS MAY BE REPEATED EVERY DAY
Caller: Master Lu, you mentioned just now that when we are praying for something important, even though we state our prayer request every day, we still have to make a great vow, right?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes, it is only through making great vows that you are able to receive abundant blessings (大加持). Sometimes, a person’s state of mind will change completely because of his resolution. That is why Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (地藏王菩萨) is known as the Bodhisattva of Great Vows, do you think the vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva are great? Is there anyone who can surpass him?
Caller: That’s right. “I vow not to attain Buddhahood until Hell is empty.” (地狱不空，誓不成佛)
Master Jun Hong Lu: He even saved the evil spirits. Who dares to do so?
Caller: So we should always repeat our great vows on Buddhist festivals and special days, right?
Master Jun Hong Lu: That’s fine. A commendable vow can even be repeated every day. If you are confident of achieving it, when you repeat the vow every day, Bodhisattva will help you every day. It’s as simple as that. For example, you have become a vegetarian, “Guan Yin Bodhisattva, I will definitely persevere in practising vegetarianism.” “Guan Yin Bodhisattva, I will definitely persevere in practising Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door, I will definitely do my best to help others to be spiritually awakened and never retreat from my cultivation”.
Master Jun Hong Lu: This is considered as the power of vows. Bodhisattva will never find it an annoyance when you repeat your vows every day. It’s like a child who tells his mother, “Mommy, I have been a good child today.” The mother will say, “Good child”, and reward the child with food. Her response will still be the same if the child repeats it subsequently. That’s how it works.
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Discourse (Question 57) 15 May 2013
CONQUER THE DEMON ON ONE’S BODY BY MAKING A GREAT VOW
Question: A Buddhist practitioner has a weak constitution. He often experiences sweating and panic attacks in the middle of the night. It is so serious that he is unable to continue with his recitation. He doesn’t know what to do.
Answer: Persevere in recitation as much as he can, and make a great vow in order to stop the harassment of the demon on his body. Be determined that “I must do this!” and the demon will be defeated. If you are still clueless about what to do, then the demon will always be on your body.
WILL MAKING GREAT VOWS HELP TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUR RECITATION?
Caller: Hello, Master Lu. Will our quality of recitation be improved after we have made a great vow?
Master Jun Hong Lu: That’s for sure. Those who have the resolution will advance closer to Bodhisattva, while those who don’t will never be near to Bodhisattva.
Caller: Thank you, Master Lu. In other words, everything is dictated by our faith, determination and action?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes.
< The Power of Making Great Vow >
“Diamond proved no match for one’s power of vow”
“On this path of Buddhism practice, it is inevitable that karmic conditions such as our laziness, karmic obstacles and inopportune moments that obstruct our path of cultivation will result in the decline of our Bodhi-mind. Therefore, you must rely on the power of vow for support and motivation.”
- The vows we make can be big or small
- It is from these vows that one is able to practise forbearance and forge ahead
- Buddhist practitioners must have the courage to transform themselves
< Examples of Great Vows >
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Discourse (Question 256) 17 September 2018
MAY THERE BE MORE PREDESTINED SENTIENT BEINGS WHO ARE ABLE TO HEAR THE BUDDHA’S TEACHINGS
Question: When we pay respect to Bodhisattva, can we make the following prayer: “I wish that there will be more predestined sentient beings who are able to hear the Buddha’s Teachings, abandon sufferings and obtain happiness”. Is it proper to make wishes of this nature or are they considered too great?
Answer: This is an extremely commendable wish that everyone can make.
IT IS A GREAT VOW TO SAVE SENTIENT BEINGS BY EMULATING THE GREAT COMPASSION AND GREAT WISDOM OF GUAN YIN BODHISATTVA
Caller: Master Lu, is making a vow to save sentient beings by emulating the great compassion and great wisdom of Guan Yin Bodhisattva (做观世音菩萨的千手千眼) a great vow?
Master Lu: Yes. But remember this, if you are a good person, Bodhisattva will be filled with Dharma bliss when you make this vow. However, if you break your vow, the Dharma protectors will punish you for that.
Caller: I understand now.
TO NEVER RETREAT FROM ONE’S CULTIVATION IS A GREAT VOW, AND A LACK OF DEDICATION IS A BREAK OF VOWS; THE POWER OF VOW IS A DISPOSITION, AND ONE CANNOT MAKE A VOW TO GAIN THIS POWER
Caller: In one of your radio programs, Master Lu said that vowing to never retreat from our cultivation is one of the great vows. I’d like to ask Master Lu, would someone be subject to a more stringent watch by the Dharma Protectors after making this vow? In the past, Master Lu had said that laziness is equivalent to retreating from one’s cultivation; does this mean that a lack of dedication constitutes a break of vow?
Master Jun Hong Lu: A lack of dedication is a break of vow. Once you have the power of vow, you must continue to work as hard as possible! Whether or not you succeed in the task at hand, as long as you put forth effort, you will make progress.
Caller: I understand. Is this true for all Buddhist practitioners, or are there other factors to consider?
Master Jun Hong Lu: If you do not have the power of vow, then how can you make any vows? You cannot make a vow to gain this power, because a vow can only be made if you have the power of vow in the first place.
Caller: OK. How many karmic obstacles would be eliminated by making these vows?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Are you trying to make a deal?
Caller: I’m sorry, Master Lu.
Master Jun Hong Lu: With something like this, results cannot be measured by any scale. The power of vow is a disposition, it is an energy, and it does not have any form of ‘measurement’ to speak of.
Caller: I’m sorry, Master Lu. Thank you for answering my questions.
MAKING A VOW TO PERFORM LIFE LIBERATION CONSTANTLY IS A GREAT VOW
Caller: Hello, Master Lu. You mentioned that we can make a vow to perform life liberation constantly. What does it specifically mean by ‘constantly’? Is it by doing it intensively and continuously in a month, or every day without fail?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Both are fine. The same holds true even if you do it on a yearly basis. The more meritorious deeds you perform, the more merits you will gain, and vice versa. You can also perform life liberation once in the morning and once in the afternoon, which is also considered ‘constantly’. It’s just a matter of concept.
Caller: I see. Is making a vow to perform life liberation constantly also considered a great vow?
Master Jun Hong Lu: That’s for sure. When you say, “I will perform life liberation for the rest of my life,” that is also a resolution – a great vow indicating that you want to save sentient beings throughout your life. Whether you want to abstain from the act of killing, perform life liberation, make vows or recite Buddhist scriptures, these are all considered strong resolutions.
Master Jun Hong Lu’s World Buddhist Fellowship Meeting (Q&A Session) – Melbourne, Australia 7 December 2019 (Question 32)
HONOUR THE MASTER AND REVERE HIS TEACHINGS (尊师重道)
Question: Master, recently in your radio program, you mentioned that the Disciple’s Code of Conduct is a representation of a disciple’s resolution. In that case, does that mean that there is no need for disciples like us to specifically make vows to honour our Master and revere his teachings?
Answer: One should honour one’s master and revere his teachings and this resolution should be repeated every day. The more you repeat such a vow, the more meritorious blessings you will amass.
This is just like how humans need to take their meals every day. Would you say that you wouldn’t need to eat today just because you have eaten yesterday and the day before? (I would still need to.) The same goes with brushing your teeth. (Yes.)
What about recitation, do you need to do it daily? Hence, the same goes with repeating your resolution to honour your master and revere his teachings. (Yes. Thank you Master Lu.)
ADVANCING ONE’S CULTIVATION SINGLE-MINDEDLY AND DILIGENTLY IS A PREREQUISITE FOR THE VOW OF SUCCEEDING IN SPIRITUAL CULTIVATION IN THIS LIFETIME AND THE VOW OF CELIBACY
Caller: If we make a vow to succeed in spiritual cultivation in this lifetime or to lead a celibate life, is it necessary to advance our cultivation single-mindedly and diligently?
Master Jun Hong Lu: That’s for sure.
QUESTIONS REGARDING THE VOW OF CELIBACY
Caller: Master Lu has mentioned that the vow to lead a celibate life is even greater than the vow to succeed in one’s cultivation in this lifetime. Master Lu has also mentioned that before succeeding in our cultivation, karmic obstacles will come to fruition within a period of three to five years; when it comes to the vow of celibacy, how long will it take for karmic obstacles to surface?
Master Jun Hong Lu: This depends on the extent of your karmic obstacles; if they are large, they might come to fruition immediately following your vow, and if small they may gradually fade away without ever surfacing.
Caller: Is this still based on each individual’s situation?
Master Jun Hong Lu: It largely depends on the size of your karmic obstacles, and it is also important that you must not commit any further sins.
Caller: Is it true that when making a vow of celibacy, one must also vow to succeed in his cultivation in this lifetime?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Those who make a vow of celibacy are clean, so they would be foolish not to make a vow to succeed in their cultivation in this lifetime. Because they are clean, they possess the qualifications to make this vow, which can eliminate many karmic obstacles!
Caller: I understand now, thank you Master Lu.
IS IT A GREAT VOW TO STOP WATCHING MOVIES, DRAMA SERIES AND ENTERTAINMENT NEWS?
Caller: A Buddhist practitioner has made a vow to stop watching movies, drama series and entertainment news, is it considered a great vow? Will there be any merit for doing so?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes, performing any good deed will help one to amass merits.
IT IS A GREAT VOW TO RECITE AT LEAST 10,000 TIMES OF BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES
Caller: In a radio program on 19 May, Master advised a Buddhist practitioner to recite 10,000 times of the Heart Sutra to eliminate lumps. Is this applicable to all?
Master Jun Hong Lu: It is not really applicable to all, but there is a point in doing so. Generally speaking, it means that your karmic obstacles will be significantly eliminated as long as you make a great vow. Reciting 10,000 times of Buddhist scriptures is essentially a great vow. It signifies a resolution because most of the time people won’t recite this much.
Caller: I got it, so that’s the point.
Master Jun Hong Lu’s World Buddhist Fellowship Meeting (Q&A Session)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 18 October 2019
Question: Recently many Buddhist practitioners have made vows to recite 10,000 times of the Mantra to Untie Karmic Knots, praying to resolve the karmic conflicts of a specific matter. (Yes) If a 13-year-old child is willing to recite 10,000 times of the Mantra to Untie Karmic Knots by reciting 49 or 108 times of this mantra every day, without any prayer request, is that okay?
Answer: It is best not to do so. If you recite 10,000 times or make a great vow to resolve a specific matter, that is fine because it serves a specific purpose. However, if you recite this amount without a specific prayer request, it won’t solve the problems.
Remember this, there must be a targeted purpose for reciting 10,000 times of the mantra. For example, you cannot get along with a colleague and you say, “Guan Yin Bodhisattva, I make a vow to recite 10,000 times of the Mantra to Untie Karmic Knots to resolve my karmic conflicts with him”. Very soon, upon completing the recitation, your karmic conflicts with him will be resolved.
If you recite the 10,000 times on a general basis without any specific purpose, let me tell you, you might not be able to retain the merits gained through your recitation. Do you understand? (Ok, I understand now.)
Master Jun Hong Lu’s Q&A Session with Buddhist Friends, Brisbane, Australia 16 June 2018
CIRCUMSTANCES THAT CALL FOR AND THINGS TO TAKE NOTE OF IN MAKING A VOW OF 108 TIMES EIGHTY-EIGHT BUDDHAS GREAT REPENTANCE
Question: Master Lu, you mentioned before in one of the radio programs that for the recitation of Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance, it is better for us to make a vow to recite a specific number of the mantra. Under what circumstances should we make such a vow as compared to the usual practice of reciting the mantra five times on a daily basis?
Answer: It is alright to make a vow of 108 times when you feel sad or terrible and that when you know you have committed a grave mistake that is unpardonable. Today, let me share with you something new.
When you come across a serious matter that calls for your repentance, you may make a great vow and proceed to perform its recitation. In this case, you need not limit your recitation to seven times daily; however, do not recite more than 21 times.
I wish to remind you that you should never casually make such vows. Do it only when you feel that you needed to sincerely repent in every way as you are weighed down with sadness, and you felt that you had let somebody down. Otherwise, making such vow is a definite no-no.
< Challenges that might arise after making Great Vows >
CIRCUMSTANCES THAT AFFECT A PERSON’S IN REALISING HIS VOW
Caller: Master Lu, what are the circumstances that could affect a person in realising his vow?
Master Jun Hong Lu: When the person making the vow has too many distracting thoughts! A person whose mind wanders restlessly cannot focus in their thoughts. Fundamentally, they are not capable of carrying out the tasks they would like to achieve. Hence, they hinder their own chances of inhibiting the realisation of their vows.
Caller: I understand.
BY MAKING A GREAT VOW, PAST KARMIC OBSTACLES WILL SLOWLY BEGIN TO REVEAL THEMSELVES
Caller: Master Lu, you asked a caller to repent during one of your radio programs, and he has also said of himself, “It will take my entire lifetime for my own karmic obstacles to clear, at which point I will follow Guan Yin Bodhisattva to heaven; so, I want to eliminate my karmic obstacles, and I am currently dedicating myself to practising forbearance and forging ahead.” Master Lu had said that this was a great vow. I’d like to ask if this vow is similar to the vow to succeed in one’s cultivation in this lifetime, in that karmic obstacles will reveal themselves within five years?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Yes, they will. After you have made a great vow, the many karmic obstacles formed through your past actions will slowly begin to reveal themselves.
HOW TO OVERCOME HINDRANCE AFTER MAKING GREAT VOW
Caller: After a person makes a great vow, he will be endowed with the blessings from Bodhisattva and Dharma protectors. At the same time, it will also be accompanied by varied hindrances and assessments. How do we persist firmly onto the vow and remain unperturbed by external disturbances? Master Lu, please enlighten us on this matter?
Master Jun Hong Lu: How to hold firmly to vow? Time …. give it time. Time is the anchor for a person with great vow but not for those with weak vow. Understand?
Caller: Understand. Thank you, Master.
Buddhism in Plain Terms Episode 73
WHEN YOU FIRST BEGIN TO MAKE YOUR GREAT VOWS, ALL OF YOUR BAD HABITS AND WEAKNESSES WILL BE EXPOSED
The most difficult phase throughout your journey of learning the Dharma will actually be the very beginning. No doubt you will start off with the strongest determination, but this feeling will gradually fade away.
When you first begin to make your great vows, all of your bad habits and weaknesses will be exposed; the worries and angers that you hold deep within will be revealed naturally, you will be faced with a great many difficulties, and you might feel like giving up. This experience is similar to a marriage, in that an unmarried person may long to marry and have a family, only to have his karmic obstacles reveal themselves shortly after marriage, causing him a great deal of anxiety and ultimately creating a rift in the marriage because of his selfishness.
Therefore, there is a Buddhist saying, “Starting off with the right intentions will ultimately lead to the success in cultivation.”(初正则终修)
We must understand that the initial aspiration in our journey into Buddhism is very important, because as long as our intentions are pure, our perseverance will ultimately guide us to the success in cultivation along the Buddhist path.
< The Importance of Fulfilling Vows >
Buddhism in Plain Terms Episode 1
WHEN THE THOUGHT ARISES, SO DOES KARMA
There are many people whom you think do not have the power of vows. They do. But where is it? It resides within one’s mind. It’s not something to brag about; it is when you make the hard efforts behind the scenes and walking on the path of fulfilling your vows. Hence, when you have the power of vows, you must also take action. Only when you do so, you shall be accomplished in your spiritual cultivation (修成正果).
Buddhism in Plain Terms Episode 52
“Beginning today, I want to begin learning how to attain the state of awareness of a Bodhisattva, so that I can be accomplished in my spiritual cultivation in the future.” You need to have the power of vow. If you say that you want to help others, be compassionate towards others, and help others to achieve their spiritual awakening, when you repeat these things and yet sleep in late every day, unwilling to wake up early to perform your recitation, how many Little Houses and Buddhist scriptures can you recite in a day? In that case how can you help others?
You should know that helping others will require you to give everything of yourself, including your valuable time for rest and fun, and your compassion.
You have to even forgo the comfortable and easy life that you desire, before you are able to develop the power of vow. Sometimes it can be difficult to practise what you preach, and with cultivation, merely saying that you are cultivating does not make it so; you must also have a dedication to performing meritorious deeds(功德心).
Your power of vow must be backed by this strong dedication, “Today, I am going to fulfillthis vow no matter what, I am going to perform meritorious deeds, I am going to be compassionate towards all sentient beings.” Otherwise, you are simply not fulfilling your vow, rendering you unable to accumulate merits and virtues.
So, in terms of this realm of existence, Buddhism actually tells us that we need to have insight, that we need to see the truth and understand the reality of our world as we are fulfilling our vows; once we have an understanding of the good and evil within our world, we are fulfilling our vows.
< The Consequences of Breaking Vows >
AFTER MAKING A GREAT VOW, THE BODHISATTVA WILL HELP YOU ACHIEVE SUCCESS; BUT WHAT HAPPENS AFTER BREAKING A VOW?
Caller: The son of a Buddhist practitioner is taking his high school exams, and the father has made a vow with Bodhisattva, saying, “I vow to become a vegetarian if my son does well on his exams.” He said this while kneeling in front of an altar. The son ended up doing extremely well on his exams, but now the father has become hesitant to fulfill the vow he made. If he does not fulfill his vow to become a vegetarian, that is if he breaks the vow he had previously made, how bad will this be for him, and for his son?
Master Jun Hong Lu: This is not just a minor mistake – this father has deceived the Bodhisattva. If he does not fulfill this vow, I can tell you, he will get cancer. Situations such as this one, where the Bodhisattva has been clearly deceived, are taken very seriously.
Caller: Master Lu, you say that he will get cancer, does it mean that you are able to feel his energy field, or are you saying that he will be directly afflicted?
Master Jun Hong Lu: The reason I have brought this up is because I have seen it happened in the past, in a similar case. And the person was not asking to help his son, but rather himself, and he vowed, “If I succeed in this matter,” whatever it may have been, “then I vow to….” Then, after he had achieved the result he desired, he became hesitant and no longer wanted to fulfill the vow he had made. He later got cancer. So, now you understand the seriousness of this matter. First of all, he deceived the Bodhisattva; secondly, he deceived himself; and thirdly, he intervened with the laws of cause and effect. It is through the help of the Bodhisattva, and through his power of vow, that he was able to achieve what he desired; did he believe that he had made these accomplishments completely on his own?
A matter such as this causes intervention with the laws of cause and effect, and its karmic obstacles will not be borne by the Bodhisattva, nor by the Dharma Protectors; the punishment will be dealt to you, do you understand this?
Caller: I understand. The mother says that the son spends all of his time playing on his phone, yet he still performed extremely well on his exams, even outperforming kids who are normally better students.
Master Jun Hong Lu: The father assumed that his son’s results were achieved without the help of the Bodhisattva, that they were due solely to his son’s talents, and this way of thinking will bring him a great deal of trouble.
Caller: Master Lu, you said that he will be punished by getting cancer, but why is his punishment so severe?
Master Jun Hong Lu: It’s very simple. If he would have deceived a fellow human, should his punishment have been less severe?
Master Jun Hong Lu: But since he deceived the Bodhisattva?
Caller: Oh, the Bodhisattva is Buddha, Light of Proper Dharma Tathagata (正法明如来), who can’t be deceived.
Master Jun Hong Lu: That is correct. Would you dare to deceive the Bodhisattva? Let me ask you, if you were to deceive a normal human and then the Bodhisattva, would the Dharma Protectors punish you in a similar way for each offence?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Of course the punishments would be different. For instance, if you were to deceive a frail old man, and cheat him out of his money, when it came out that you had done this, everyone would condemn you and the society would despise you; if instead you were to deceive a different person, the reaction might not be so severe……do you understand the point I’m making?
Caller: Yes, I understand.
THE RECITATIONS OF EIGHTY-EIGHT BUDDHAS GREAT REPENTANCE AND LITTLE HOUSES AFTER BREAKING A VOW
Caller: For a Buddhist practitioner who dreamt that he has broken a vow and needs to reciteLittle Houses, Master Lu mentioned that, “The number of Little Houses that are required may differ in each case, but this is the correct method. After breaking a vow, 100 or more Little Houses must be offered. If you have broken a vow, and you know that you have made a mistake and you don’t want to be punished, you should recite 108 Little Houses.” I’d like to ask Master Lu, what is the reasoning behind this?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Reciting 108 Little Houses is a way to repent after you have broken a vow. It is a way to make up for your sins through performing meritorious deeds following your repentance. Liars and braggers are despised by others.
Caller: I understand. So how many times of the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance he should recite for breaking a vow, which correspond to the 108 Little Houses?
Master Jun Hong Lu: You would need to perform a lot of recitations, at least three sessions of 108 times of Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance would be needed.
Caller: Is it true that the karmic obstacles formed by breaking a vow will be eliminated by performing recitations of Little Houses andEighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance?
Master Jun Hong Lu: Let me ask you, do clothes that have been washed still have traces of dirt?
Master Jun Hong Lu: OK, but you can say that any traces that are left can no longer be seen. So, even if the results of a past mistake can no longer be seen, when that mistake is made again, will the results once again become visible?