endless vow

Sometimes I get depressed because I don’t think I’m a very good Buddhist. I’m prone to melancholy and quick to anger. I believe in universal love and forgiveness, but can’t seem to put these beliefs into practice. I’m not good in crowds and some would say I’m antisocial. I received the precepts, one of which says to refrain from alcohol, but I love beer. Another says I shouldn’t kill, but I just ate Russian wild boar at a charity fundraiser a few hours ago. I want to be at ease among all people, responding directly to anyone I meet with an open, wakeful, nonjudgemental mind, but can’t. I feel like a real misanthrope at times. I tell myself that I love to be alone, and like Thoreau, would say that I’ve never met a companion as companionable as solitude. But maybe this is just fear speaking. If only everyone were like me, I think, then life would be so easy. How childish this sounds. I know that committed practice is my only way out of this cycle of negative thoughts and I keep saying to myself that tomorrow I’ll really start practicing, that I’ll set aside time each day for zazen. But I can’t wake up at 5 am, splash cold water on my face, and sit. It’s just not in my constitution. At night, after the kids are in bed, all I want to do is sit on the couch with a beer and watch baseball. So here’s another excuse…I’ll really start practicing when baseball season is over. Yeah, right…see you in October. Just one more excuse, one more delay. But when will I finally wake up? I ask myself. Always tomorrow, comes the answer. Right now I’m concentrating on the teachings of Bodhidharma. I wonder how I would act if this towering figure were standing right before me, with his bulging eyes, bushy beard, and countenance that demands I stop wasting time and wake up now! I realize that every day we must renew our vow to wake up, to become buddhas, to save all beings. Not even every day, but every minute, every second we must make this vow, endlessly for thousand of kalpas, until we achieve liberation. This sounds really hard, when I think about it. Like Bodhidharma’s disciple Hui-k’o, sometimes I feel like I’d cut off my arm to have my mind pacified. Where is Bodhidharma when I need him? All I really want is to be completely present in this wonderful moment, without obsessing about the past, or projecting into the future. I have to keep making this vow.


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