There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. ~ Edith Wharton
Honoring our commitments to ourselves and to others is an important part of Buddhist life.The way we do anything is the way we do everything, a good Canadian friend used to say. Many people believe that our word is our bond and that when we choose to consciously follow through in doing the things that we say we will do, we’re building confidence within ourselves, within our families and ultimately within our world. We’re building positive connections with others and we’re building trust.
In Buddhism, our primary commitment is to ourselves and then to other sentient beings. We take The Five Precepts with the intention of establishing a solid foundation in our practice and with the wish to do no harm in any way with our body, speech and mind. We take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha throughout the day.
We honor our teachers and what the Buddha taught by committing to daily meditation, supporting our gurus and temples and by engaging in other virtuous actions and activities. We honor the highest potential in human behavior by rising to the occasion whatever that may happen to be for each of us in any given situation or circumstance on any given day of the week.
Mel Schwartz, L.C.S.W. puts some of what we think know about commitments into proper perspective when he asks “What does the word commitment suggest?”
“It usually evokes a strong sense of intention and focus. It typically is accompanied by a statement of purpose or a plan of action. Very often, we utilize this word in regard to proclamations we may make about the seriousness of our relationships. For example, “I’m in a committed relationship,” or “ I’m completely committed to this relationship.” In such circumstances, what exactly are we saying? We take it for granted that the word or the expression means the same thing to all of us. I can assure you that it doesn’t.”
Too many of us are sometimes far too ready to break off our commitments as soon as the going gets rough. As long as things are going our way according to our wishes and our plans, we’re in. All is right with the world. As soon as something changes, as things always will and do, we’re out of there, just like that! We’re done. See Ya! We’re through! Sadly we are no longer available to explore. To look more closely at what has unfolded, why and what we can potentially learn.
Many people confuse commitment with obigation when in fact they are not the same. With an obligation we may feel obliged to do something we don’t want to do because we have to and that we don’t have a choice. However, with a commitment we always have a choice even when that choice may not seem so obvious at first or seems too hard. Take brushing our teeth for example, many of us do so primarily because we don’t want our teeth to fall out as our parents used to warn. We do so not necessarily because we want to, but because we know that we should. Therefore, in a way we may feel obliged sometimes, especially late at night when we’ve already gotten into bed. On the other hand, when we are committed to cultivating or maintaining good health habits, we may see brushing our teeth along with other basic forms of hygeine as a normal part of our commitment to ourselves. Using our mindfulness we can learn to distinguish the differences between the two.
When we honor our commitments we are honoring all sentient beings including ourselves. We are faithfully committing to saving them however many they may be one being at a time. We are energetically committing to achieving our ultimate goal of waking up this life-time.
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. ~ Jim Rohn