Excerpt From Chozen Roshi's Book, Jizo Bodhisattva:
Chapter twelve, PRACTICING WITH JIZO
Chapter Twelve, continued
The Earth Store Sutra tells of ordinary human beings becoming
bodhisattvas through the power of their vows. My teacher talked
often about the importance of making vows. It took me many years to
understand that vows are at the core of practice, actually are the
"nuclear" core of the energy pile that is our life. An interviewer
once asked Maezumi Roshi if Buddhists believed in something like a
soul that continued after death. Maezumi Roshi said, "No. It is the
vow that continues." A vow is like a seal that imprints itself on
the wet clay of another emerging life, but it is more than a passive
seal. It has a propelling energy. It proples us into the search for
an end to suffering and into finding ways to help each others.
Finally, when all the various schemes we have developed to do those
things fail, it propels us into
All Buddhist practices involve
vows. At the Zen Center we chant the Four Great Bodhisattva Vows
Beings are numberless, I vow to free them.
inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
Dharma gates are
boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I
vow to embody it.
Over the years we have chanted vows like these hundreds,
thousands of times. It does not matter if the vows where made when
we where half-asleep or if we didn't quite understand them. We have
made these promises and now the jig is up, the promissory note is
due. This explains the common feeling people have. " I don't know
why I practice, I just have to." "Something is compelling me to do
this practice." The ongoing vow operates below the conscious mind.
It is very important to shape and say our vows. Maezumi Roshi
recommended starting each day with vows. There are many possible
vows.They can be a simple. "I vow to do what I can to relieve
suffering." "I vow to do what needs to be done to awaken fully, even
if I'm afraid at times." "I vow to open my mind and hands and let go
of what needs to be dropped for me and others to be free." Vows can
be formal and part of a ritual. They can be simple and spontaneous.
What is important is to vow. At that piont the things that are
needed for the vow to be fulfilled begin to flow toward
Jizo Bodhisattva is called the
King of Vows. When we call upon the power of Jizo we are calling
upon the power in each one of us that is always urging us in the
direction of fulfilling our life vow or purpose. For all of us the
fundamental vow is actually the same, to uncover and embody our
innate wisdom and compassion. For each of us the specific situation
that helps us with the uncovering and the embodying is different. It
could be having a difficult child, caring for an elderly parent,
working an extra job to earn money for retreats, or driving a city
bus in a poor part of the city. When we are in the midst of these
specifcs, we often lose track of our larger purpose. We get angry or
impatient and we feel like we are failing. This is the time to call
upon Jizo Bodhisattva.
CALLING UPON JIZO BODHISATTVA
The Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra tells of the benefits of
calling on Jizo for help.
There are people who have insufficient clothing and food, who are
sick and fall into bad luck, whose families quarrel, whose relatives
are scattered, whose sleep is poor because of nightmares. If they
hear the name or see an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva and recite
his name with sincerity and respect ten thousand times, these
problems will disappear. Their needs will be supplied and they will
become peaceful and happy even in their dreams.
If men or women
must enter mountain forests, cross over rivers, or seas, or travel
an dangerous roads in order to earn a living, or because of the
public good, or because of urgent matters of life and death, they
should first recite the name of Earth Store Bodhisattva a full ten
thousand times. The ghosts and spirits of the ground they pass over
will surround and protect them as they walk, stand, sit, and lie