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Thinking About Taking the Refuge Vow? Be Brave Cause Ain’t Nobody Gonna Tell You What To Do!
Submitted by Meredith Arena on Mon, 4/2/2012, 7:00am
Before I took the refuge vow in 2009, I asked Ethan if he thought that I should do it. I was hoping he would tell me what to do. He did discuss the issue with me, but he would not tell me what to do. I did take the vow and have never regretted it.
The desire to be told what to do in my case was a need to have my decision validated by someone I respect. We often seek validation for our acts. We may seek it in the form of approval, but also in the form of disapproval. Both validate and solidify the act, reminding us that we are here, that our acts have meaning. In meditation we notice how we try to validate our thoughts. In post meditation, i.e. LIFE, we see how we try to justify all our actions. I have always made my own rules, but I was looking for a teacher to tell me what to do or at least to tell me it was the "right" thing to do. Why didn't I have the confidence to decide for myself.
It turns out; taking the vow is about making my own rules, using the framework of the five precepts. But now I have "vowed" to try to follow these rules and at the same time to evaluate their meaning at any moment. It is the opposite of seeking validation from others about my decisions, but it also binds me to others, which is a scary thing in an individualistic society. My own well-being is not separate from the well-being of all beings.
I decided to take the Refuge vow. I use the vow to remind myself what is important to me. If at times I resist skillful actions or I see that I am planting unwholesome seeds, I am my only judge. I cannot hide from that. I don't think there is a God; I am alone to make my decisions and my actions matter. Being an only child, this sometimes feels lonely. I am becoming independent in a way that many belief systems may not cultivate, while I am simultaneously becoming collective in a way our Western society does not support. The Buddhist practices require one to think for herself, to remember that being alive is a responsibility.
LISTEN, whether you take the vow or not, you probably won’t be struck by lightening if you go home with that married guy or if you yell “Fuck you!” from your bicycle. You will probably just feel icky and maybe eat a pint of ice cream afterwards. You will be the judge. You may however shock yourself when you remember to ask the check out person at Trader Joe’s how they are feeling and you really listen to their answer. You may be surprised when you don’t make out with that girl who is more into you than you are into her. You may notice that you have more space to listen to that very needy friend when they are whining again. You may see that you aren’t such a bad person after all. You may have energy to go for a run. You may have the ability to sit down and tolerate your jealousy rather than write a vengeful e-mail. You may just notice the dust slowly clearing from your eyes and that that the result of working with your mind is that you can see more clearly.
Buddhist practice is nuanced and beautiful. It resists dogma and dullness, it is challenging. True practice is never ever exclusive, so I invite you to take the Refuge Vow in April at The Interdependence Project. And, I promise you absolutely nothing. Except maybe a doorway to yourself; colorful, gigantic, infinitesimal, curious, critical, lazy, manic, indecisive, stubborn. Free.
Ain’t nobody gonna tell you what to do.
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