Recently, I was talking to a friend about my faith practice. I told him that, after much contemplation and meditation, I was taking my Bodhisattva vows.
For Buddhists, Bodhisattva vows are taken after much deliberation, meditation and thought. They are not to be taken lightly, as they are not to be broken. The basis of the vow is to put others before oneself and to help ease the suffering of all. It is a vow to practice compassion, patience, non-attachment and giving with no expectations of return. It is simply to be of service at all times.
Curious, he began asking questions. “What do you have to give up? What do you have to do? What if you break the vows?”
I answered each question with guarded honesty, certain he would find the vows to be too stringent and would argue against my decision.
Instead, he responded with, “So, let me get this straight. If someone asks you for help, and it is within your power to help them, you have to do so? You are to do no harm, whatsoever, to any living thing, if you can at all help it? And if you are attacked, you are not to defend yourself? You are simply to exist to end the suffering of all beings?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He sat for a moment and instead of arguing, he said, “You know, your path is not going to be easy. People will doubt your ability to do this. People will tell you that you are a doormat and to stand up for yourself. People will tell you that you are too nice and you give too much. What you are doing just isn’t done in this society. You are going against everything we teach in America.”
I listened, pausing and finally responding with, “Isn’t this exactly what most religions teach us to do? To help our fellow man, to do no harm, to trust that when we share with one, all benefit? Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek? I am simply following the example set by every major religion and teacher throughout time.”
He said, “Yeah, but look at what we do to those who live the way of complete compassion; Jesus, Gandhi, King, Lennon. I just don’t think we are ready for that kind of love in our society yet.”
As we bid our farewells, I thought, “Maybe, but I am ready.” And then I remembered a poem I read in the fifth grade by Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.”
Maybe that is all I am doing. I am just taking a different road, one less traveled, and like those he mentioned, I may make a small difference in this world, leaving it more peaceful than when I entered.
Diane Sodders, also known as Indira Grace, is one of The Star’s 13 Faith Walk writers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.