Time to start thinking seriously about starting in on a pile of firewood, chopping and stacking is in order; it was very brisk this morning. One of the things I like about this region is that at some point in middle August the first big hint of Autumn is literally in the air. Lots of things need to be organized, in a few days I’m going north to St. Maries, ID to attend a Renewal of Vows ceremony with the sangha from Sandpoint and other parts of Idaho Panhandle.
That ceremony is just as the name indicates. The Vows are those of the Taking of the Precepts at Jukai, a weeklong retreat with 5 ceremonies that culminate in a lay person’s formally vowing to try one’s best to live through the guidance of the Precepts, and the Ordination vows of the monks.
It’s a time to look carefully at how one is doing with the Precepts in one’s daily life. That can be and, perhaps should be, discomfiting when one sees where improvements can be made either by seeing some habits that are unhelpful for the first time or, for the 5,000th time. Habits that need some attention or change of outlook, or restraint and refraining from indulging in some thoughts, speech and actions.
My definition of unhelpful is any mode of thought, behavior or activity, that causes separation from oneself and other beings, or from that which I sense to be at the Heart of All.
In the monasteries the monks do this ceremony every two weeks!
I was so glad to hear that, because it seemed to bring into perspective that the training done by either lay people or monks is very difficult. It may appear different in circumstance but it is the same for all classes of Buddhist (Female and male monks, and female and male laypeople, in no order of hierarchy), trainees/practitioners. If this Zen Buddhist activity were easy, if any deep spiritual searching were easy, there would be standing room only at all places where meditation is practiced.
That is not the case though, because many good-hearted people approach religious practice with good intentions, it’s very difficult to sustain the effort. Our energies get diverted in a variety of ways, and it’s natural to stop doing things that don’t have a fairly quick result to show for effort.
Oh, well. Human beans.
I’ve had my own struggles with consistency in my practice and will have them again. That is not a problem, because I can start afresh every day.
Nothing is lost when I start afresh,
A journey is not hindered because
I rest and gather my self in.
Look at the map and directions,
Re-pack my load, discard the
Unnecessary; wait for the storm to
Clear and, just get up, and go. Again.
Below is one formulation of the Precepts that I like…