After you have left home, you should make vows to spur yourself on in cultivation. Making vows reminds you to correct your faults and strive towards goodness. If you don't make vows, you cannot cultivate; you'll be like a tree that blossoms but doesn't bear fruit.
If you have made vows, you should review them every day, so that you can remember what you ought to be doing. Then your vows will not be in vain. You won't forget them, and you won't be cheating yourself or others. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past attained supreme enlightenment because they made earnest vows; the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the future will also attain supreme enlightenment as a result of making vows.
The Buddha is very wise, while we are extremely stupid. And so we want to learn from the Buddha's great wisdom. We want to take the Buddha's mind as our own, and his vows as our own. We should constantly harbor boundless kindness, compassion, joy, and renunciation—the Four Boundless Qualities. We must endure what is difficult to endure and practice what is hard to practice. If we want to obtain a response, we must be honest in all we do. Our vows have to be sincere and whole-hearted. We cannot cheat people or covet empty glory. I hope everyone takes note of this!
As a result of his forty-eight great vows, Amitabha Buddha realized the Land of Ultimate Bliss. He can gather in living beings and enable them to leave suffering, attain bliss, and end birth and death. We should emulate the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, and make vows. Only then can we attain Buddhahood.
If we have faults, we should earnestly change them and repent in front of the assembly. If we try to cover them up, they become offenses. If we follow along with our faults and bad habits, we turn away from enlightenment and join with defilement. If we change our faults and strive to be good, we turn away from defilement and join with enlightenment. By making vows, we can avoid offenses and mistakes. By repenting, we can eradicate our offenses and mistakes. It is said, "Great offenses which fill the skies are eradicated in a single repentance." Starting today, we should become new people. An ancient virtuous one said:
Regard the events of the past
as if you had died yesterday.
Regard the events of the future
as if you were born today.
Making vows and repenting are actually very similar in meaning.
If we can bravely correct our faults, admit our mistakes, and face reality, we will pass the test and not be influenced by circumstances. We should not be too deeply attached to our opinions and our ego. We should realize that our enlightened nature is true, perfect, and radiant, devoid of faults and bad habits.
A talk given on September 19, 1983