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Refuge vows

I am really interested in taking refuge vows. I've been very interested n Buddhism for quite sometime and over the past 2 years, I have read many books on the topic, practiced meditation, and have attended classes at my local Shambahala Center and attended a meditation retreat. There is an Acharya coming to my town to give Refuge Vows in about 4 weeks. He was here last summer but I knew I wasn't ready at that time. Anyway, my boyfriend, who has already taken refuge vows years ago, (and already taken Bodhsittva vows already as well) is kind of making me feel like I'm second guessing myself about it.i think he wants me to realize that taking these vows are no joke and that by taking refuge vows, I'm declaring that I'm a Buddhist and that I'm now taking refuge in xyz. I think he feels that I should practice being a Buddhist more and practice living a Buddhist life FIRST before I take the vows. He doesn't think that taking the vows without already seriously practicing isn't suddenly gonna make me super Buddhist by just simply taking the vows. While I understand this concept, for some reason I just want him to be happy for me and let me have my own path. He feels that before he took his vows that no one really took the time to explain to him what refuge vows meant so he doesn't want me to go into this uninformed and blindsided as he was. In the process of him being "helpful", I feel judged and discouraged. No I don't meditate everyday, yes I have a glass of wine sometimes and no im not perfect. I still want to be a Buddhist though. What are your thoughts? Try living like a Buddhist first and then take the vows? Or take the vows and begin my path. I don't know what to do. Now I'm just pissed off to be honest and crying and now I don't want to take the vows. I don't know what to do. I appreciate how seriously my boyfriend takes this. But now I just don't feel like I should take the vows. Help.

Comments

  • If you don't mind my asking, which center are you thinking about taking vows at? I took Refuge a while back with Shambhala.

    Anyway, your boyfriend cannot decide if you're ready or not. That's up to you. If you feel that you are ready, then I would suggest doing it. People who take such things too seriously really need to, as @fredrica put it, get of their high horse.
    riverflowJoyfulGirl
  • The vows can only be YOUR aspiration-- no one else's--and so no one can tell you when you are ready-- only you can make that decision. You shouldn't let anyone dictate to you when you should-- or should not-- take refuge. External factors shouldn't be a part of that decision.

    A question to ponder: To whom are you making the vow?

    You are making it first of all to (1) yourself, to your life as you live it. More deeply, you also make the vow to (2) the Buddha in you. You also make the vow to (3) your own practice as you currently understand it, and you make the vow to (4) your fellow practitioners who need your support (just as you need theirs). And insofar as your life is intimately intertwined with all other beings, you make the vow to (5) all beings in all space and all time. But first and foremost, you begin with yourself, where you are at this moment. Without beginning by doing it for yourself, the vows benefit no one, including yourself.

    When two people marry, they exchange vows to one another. Does this mean they are the perfectly happy married couple? No. But it does mean that they aspire to love one another in their own imperfect way.

    The vow is like the pole star which gives direction, an orientation to return to again and again.

    The vow is a gateway, a beginning. If you could only make the vow after you had things down pat, so to speak, why would anyone need to bother with vows?

    But if you do not feel ready to take the vows, then don't do it. It doesn't sound to me that your boyfriend is being acting very skillful or compassionate to you. He should be more supportive of you rather than making a beautiful vow into something painful.
    JeffreyKundocvalueInvincible_summer
  • It sounds like you have plenty of experience in Buddhism, and are not going into it blindly.
    That type of personal commitment is for your life, no one else.
    Boyfriends come and go.
    riverflow
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    @LoveWins -- Just my point of view: Spiritual endeavor is composed 100% of advertising. Robes, temples, texts, chants, incense, statues, rituals, vows, whatever -- all advertising that individuals choose to inspect, accept, reject, implement or approach in whatever way.

    To call all this advertising is not to denigrate it ... it's just advertising after all. Some advertising is taken seriously. Some not. Which is which is up to the individual. The advertising simply points the way. It is individuals who follow that way. And it is individuals, in the end, who answer the single question that makes much sense:

    Advertising for what?

    All of that is by way of saying, if you want to take vows, then take them. If they help you strengthen your way, take them. If you're afraid of failing to live up to them, don't be: Anyone who ever took vows fell short at one time or another ... fell short, got up, and continued to do his or her best ... and probably failed again ... got up again ... etc.

    It's your choice, your vow, your life and your advertising.

    But advertising for what?

    Best wishes.
  • No, I don't think he's being an asshole, I think he just wants me to be clear about what I'm getting into. But I thought that I was clear. Now I feel like maybe I'm not. I think he really does care and doesn't want me to just take the vows and not be committed to the practice as I'm sure a lot of people do. I'm not sure how we got lost in translation though. I don't know how him being helpful and me ending up crying got crisscrossed. I'm not even sure why I felt all defensive about the information he was offering. It's not like he was saying anything wrong. @ robot, no, I do not have plenty of experience in this outside of the books I've read and understanding/practicing meditation ( which I don't do as often as I should). I think he looks at the vows as a mere formality once you have already started doing the practice. I don't know. Now,I'm just confused. Maybe if I knew more or studied more or practiced more then there wouldn't be anything that anyone could say to me to make me waiver in my decision. As for now, I'm just going to make a commitment to myself to practice more regularly. I guess just taking vows isn't gonna suddenly make me practice more if I'm not already doing it. Thank you all very much for your comments.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I think I get your point, Genkaku, although I'm not sure that I would use the term "advertising".

    I have never publicly taken refuge vows, although I have frequently done it in my practice. I guess I like to think of Buddhism this way: What if one was alone on a desert island or alone in a jungle. One could not do those public things -- wear official robes, visit temples, read texts, burn incense, focus on statues, etc. Yet one could still be a Buddhist.

    And yet, that's not to say that ritual and temple objects have no role in Buddhism. I see them as anchors to, perhaps, make one's focus more mindful.
    Kundo
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    make one's focus more mindful.
    @vinlyn -- Good advertising, I'd say. :)
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I guess I just don't get your use of the word advertising. :)
  • howhow Veteran
    A vow, like our practice, is just the prioritizing of one thing over another.
    If your teacher or peers opinions of you are important, then a public vow (great advertizing) can carry more weight than a private one.
    KundocvalueInvincible_summer
  • It can be meaningful and appropriate to wait to take vows until you understand what it means. Vows mean that you will have to step up and follow the path whole heartedly. It means that the mandala will call you to be true to it. That's unbelievably brave to take refuge. My teacher also says it makes sense to take the vows (on the contrary) because the right intention will eventually bring you when you do understand what the vows mean.
  • You can take vows by yourself according to the Lam Rim all encompassing text, the Jewel Ornament of Liberation. If you want me to hand type that section of the book shoot me a PM.
    Kundo
  • JainarayanJainarayan Veteran
    edited October 2013
    I'm curious; are these the vows (I like Sanskrit ;) )?

    Buddhaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
    Dharmaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
    Sanghaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

    I go to the Buddha for refuge.
    I go to the Dharma for refuge.
    I go to the Sangha for refuge.

    I've recited them but I don't know if they had any "power" or effect because I hadn't resolved to take refuge; I assumed that one has to do it with resolve. However, someone told me once that even by expressing an interest in Buddhism, studying it and wanting to apply it to life, one automatically takes refuge without reciting the vows.

    Btw, I do take the Five Precepts very seriously. I don't drink or do drugs (ever); I don't fool around on my partner (though I often have "bad thoughts"); I don't steal or try to cheat; and so on.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited October 2013
    @Jainarayan, Hmm I would think your word of truth would make refuge powerful. But if you break your word of truth you have to start all over again getting it back. When your word is broken you should start again with small things.

    Keeping your word is part of right intention and right (joyous) effort.
    riverflowKundocvalue
  • JainarayanJainarayan Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Thanks @Jeffrey, though I'm not sure I understand "word of truth"... does that mean "resolve" and/or adherence to the Five Precepts? Does that mean that if I slip up in them I basically "repent", to coin a phrase? Oh yeah, and if I resolved to live by the Five Precepts, then by default I've taken the vows without speaking the words? Sorry to be such a dense noob.
  • It means if you say something you do it. Your word of truth could be to yourself or another. Even if you say your going to eat less sugar if you swear you are going to do it that is your word of truth. Breaking it in ANYthing weakens the word even if it has nothing to do with Buddhism.

    Word of truth comes even before refuge, but it is seemless with refuge.

    But we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves because we are bound to break it sometimes. But then we have to get back to it. An example in my life is how I meditated every day for 11 months and then broke it one day. The next day(s) it was hard to get back on the horse because I had already broken my word.
    riverflowcvalue
  • Ah! I got it now. Thanks @Jeffrey. :) It's that simple. I tend to over-think things. :wtf:
  • @Lovewins,

    According to what I was told/taught, to take refuge simply meant to make a conscious, personal 'commitment' to learning and living the Dharma. It did not need to be a 'public' declaration or entail any fancy shmancy ceremony or rituals; however, if one was a member of a formal group or temple/sangha and they did have ceremonies and rituals for refuge- well, that's all well and good. But it wasn't really 'necessary' otherwise...

    I've never heard, read or been told that there was any sort of "probationary period" before taking refuge, which is kind of what your BF is suggesting. Taking refuge can be the very first step along the path once you've decided to 'become' a Buddhist....


    From the website: http://www.rigdzindharma.org/refuge.html

    "Taking refuge is the first step on the Buddhist path, when a person wishes to become a Buddhist. It often occurs as a natural outgrowth of learning about Buddhism and reflecting on what the teachings really mean in light of our human condition. It represents turning toward a genuine spiritual path that can be of benefit not only to ourselves but to others as well."
    riverflow
  • There are pluses and minuses to both ways.
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran
    Namaste @LoveWins,

    I find it ironic that he has taken the vows AND the Boddhisattva vows, yet is going against them by his attitude and behaviour to you.

    My friend, if you feel in your heart you are making the right decision to take these vows, then take them. No one - including us or your teacher, should dictate to you when the time is right.

    In metta,
    Raven
    MaryAnneChazriverflow
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran

    No one - including us or your teacher, should dictate to you when the time is right.

    But we dictate to each other all the time. Even in telling LoveWins that her boyfriend is full of shit and she should do what she wants.

    Isn't it possible that in coming here and posing her question in the first place, that she is inviting the rest of us to dictate our feelings on the matter?

    How do we know that her boyfriends not right? Have you never met someone who perhaps should have waited a while before taking refuge?

    Telling her to follow her heart is no different from telling her to ignore her boyfriend.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited October 2013
    A boyfriend that wasn't as much of a dick as I was in my first 20 relationships would say
    "I don't know honey, What would you like to do?"
    riverflowlobsterInvincible_summer
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited October 2013
    @Chaz,

    Wouldn't you agree that making suggestions, exploring options, offering different avenues of thinking about something, and then advising someone to weigh all those options and decide what is right for them, is not exactly 'dictating' to someone what they should do?
    I see a big difference between dictating and offering advice or explaining how things look from other perspectives (ours), and then telling a person to choose what's good for them without judgment or coercion.

    Edited to add: Actually, from what @Lovewins says, it's her boyfriend who's doing the 'dictating'....
    lobsterEvenThirdriverflow
  • howhow Veteran
    edited October 2013
    @LoveWins
    Well I re read your opening post and now wonder if this is just part of a normal relationship exchange where he is telling you of his own changes in understanding and you are vacillating about something you now are not sure of.
    You not being sure is nothing to blame on anyone else as it can simply be just what it is. You not being sure is also not a sign of a lack of commitment.

    I would take the truth of where you really are to be more representative of following the Buddha's teachings than pretending to be something that you currently are not. (Certain about taking them)

    I'd say that although you may take the refuges later, you are already acting like you've taken them.


    Please allow me to remove my reference to your boyfriends possible dickery.
    JeffreyEvenThird
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Chaz said:



    Telling her to follow her heart is no different from telling her to ignore her boyfriend.

    Namaste @Chaz,

    Actually I disagree with that because I'm giving her my opinion as asked. If she chooses not to follow, I won't tell her she is wrong and I won't put a guilt trip on her.
    Have you never met someone who perhaps should have waited a while before taking refuge?
    Actually I have - me. But you know something? It helped me focus more seriously on the Buddha's teachings and live more mindfully in the present moment. Yeah I should have waited, hindsight is always 20/20. But I think it's worked out pretty dandy since those closest to me have commented favourably on me since then. *shrugs*

    In metta,
    Raven
    EvenThirdMaryAnne
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    Some people say the refuge vows on a regular basis as part of their practice... I don't get why it's such a big deal.
    lobsterMaryAnnehow
  • I've never seen the point of taking vows. You either follow the path or you don't.
    lobsterMaryAnne
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    poptart said:

    I've never seen the point of taking vows. You either follow the path or you don't.

    I pretty much agree. That's why I took the vows to myself. I'm the only one I have to answer to if I fulfill my beliefs.

    Pomp is a part of all religions. It has a function, and is inspiring to some (perhaps even most) people. But it is not the core of a religion. It's the window dressing.

    lobsterMaryAnneEvenThirdInvincible_summer
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Vows empower you. Especially if you give them to another because then you are accountable to someone else. It's kind of like an exercise partner, but that analogy only goes so far. So if you always exercise on Tuesday night with a friend and then you miss then, well, we know that the other person is going to question you.

    Also see where I talked (posts up screen) about 'the word of truth' above which is important!!!! to right effort (joyous) and right intention.
  • LoveWins said:

    I am really interested in taking refuge vows. I've been very interested n Buddhism for quite sometime and over the past 2 years, I have read many books on the topic, practiced meditation, and have attended classes at my local Shambahala Center and attended a meditation retreat. There is an Acharya coming to my town to give Refuge Vows in about 4 weeks. He was here last summer but I knew I wasn't ready at that time. Anyway, my boyfriend, who has already taken refuge vows years ago, (and already taken Bodhsittva vows already as well) is kind of making me feel like I'm second guessing myself about it.i think he wants me to realize that taking these vows are no joke and that by taking refuge vows, I'm declaring that I'm a Buddhist and that I'm now taking refuge in xyz. I think he feels that I should practice being a Buddhist more and practice living a Buddhist life FIRST before I take the vows. He doesn't think that taking the vows without already seriously practicing isn't suddenly gonna make me super Buddhist by just simply taking the vows. While I understand this concept, for some reason I just want him to be happy for me and let me have my own path. He feels that before he took his vows that no one really took the time to explain to him what refuge vows meant so he doesn't want me to go into this uninformed and blindsided as he was. In the process of him being "helpful", I feel judged and discouraged. No I don't meditate everyday, yes I have a glass of wine sometimes and no im not perfect. I still want to be a Buddhist though. What are your thoughts? Try living like a Buddhist first and then take the vows? Or take the vows and begin my path. I don't know what to do. Now I'm just pissed off to be honest and crying and now I don't want to take the vows. I don't know what to do. I appreciate how seriously my boyfriend takes this. But now I just don't feel like I should take the vows. Help.

    You can live the life of a Buddhist without taking a vow. Live right, walk the middle path. You just have to be true to yourself. That is even if you are taking wines.
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