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Resolutions and Vow

This time of year as we enter the dark, there is light but we do not call it light. In many ways we fall in a conundrum of letting-go versus attaining. Some people take a categorical inventory which may produce — New Year’s Resolutions. This cultural context is played out in all social institutions, financial accountability, health, religious traditions, educational system differentiations, family gatherings, interrelationships: out with the old and in with the new. A resolve moves upon the land.

This being seasonal we wait for the “ripe-time” to declare it/them. It is a declaration made in the spirit of mass acknowledgement. Safety in numbers, the time has arrived to declare I will change:

Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, hoping to spark positive change. The recurring themes each year include a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances, and learning new things for personal and professional development. Chances are, more than a couple of the top 10 most common resolutions will look familiar to you:

  1. Exercise more

  2. Lose weight

  3. Get organized

  4. Learn a new skill or hobby

  5. Live life to the fullest

  6. Save more money / spend less money

  7. Quit smoking

  8. Spend more time with family and friends

  9. Travel more

  10. Read more

Despite the best of intentions, once the glow of a fresh new year wears off, many people struggle to make good on their plans. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46% of people who made New Year’s resolutions were successful. That means over half of the people who set a goal for the new year will fail!

Vows, on the other hand I suggest is willingness transformed into daily action. Intertwined in everyday life, they are the embodiment of behavior. A Bodhisattva is constant vowing and vowing is constant being and doing. The important difference between resolution and vow is between reaching a goal (desire) and living the moment (right action).

When vows are taken in Soto Zen Buddhism they have the context of affirmation and negation. They speak to support by not destroying. Vows are always in motion as attainment may ebb and flow. We get up eight after falling down seven. Living among vow-takers builds affinity and a harmonic course of palable momentum. This is wonderfully captured by the Zen Community of Oregon:

In vow we meet the moment and it is us, a bunch of conditions and variables sorting themselves in a manner that is less needy of annual overalls. Moment by moment means moment is the child of moment. Vow is being here and now to create the there and then… which is the here and now…



Kan-ze-on praise to bud-dha

All are one with bud-dha

All a-wake to bud-dha

Bud-dha dhar-ma sang-ha

E-ter-nal joy-ous self-less pure

Through the day Kan-ze-on

Through the night Kan-ze-on

This mo-ment a-rises with mind

This mo-ment it-self is mind

Kan-ze-on na mu butsu

yo butsu u in yo butsu u en

bup po so en jo raku ga jo

cho nen Kan-ze-on

bo nen Kan-ze-on

nen nen ju shin ki

nen nen fu ri shin

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