Some living in the west may find the idea of holding vows strange, but we have many vows in our everyday culture. In school we say the pledge (or vow) of allegiance, Doctors take the Hippocratic oath, when we marry we take vows, many groups and clubs ask for vows, we often make personal vows of achievement and goals. And many of us will take religious vows of some kind in our lives.
My family’s moral code
When I was a boy my father taught us the code for the men in our family; we didn’t steal, we didn’t lie, we always helped the less fortunate, you never hit a woman and never hit a man when he was down. My grandfather passed this down to my father and he to us, they where our family vows. This noble tradition of living a “code of conduct” sadly is vanishing in the world.
Vows serve a great purpose
When in a moment of clarity we see the right direction, path or decision for our lives, we decide to take-on or create a framework conducive to these objectives. So that behaviors and choices within this framework function effortlessly, effectively and efficiently. So when we are in difficult and unclear moments we can rely upon this framework of ethical boundaries.
Simply said: Vows keep us headed in the right direction and make for easier lives
There are many levels of Buddhist vows
The common 5 precepts
· No killing
· No stealing
· No sexual misconduct – dealing with inappropriate sex
· No lying
· No intoxicants – no alcohol or drugs of any kind
Common types of vows
· One day – 8 vows, the 5 common precepts plus, not eating after noon, not to use high or expensive beds or seats, not wearing jewelry, perfume, make-up, avoiding non-dharmic singing, dancing or playing music.
· Householders – the 5 common precepts, Celibacy can be added
· Novice monks and nuns – 36 vows
· Fully ordained monks – 253 vows, there are a handful more vow for nuns, which where added for additional protection of nuns
Bodhisattva vows – 46 vows, the very highest level of vows
Tantric vows – 10 vows, of a very special and secret nature