View Full Version : Four Great Vows ... and their many variations...

09-12-2007, 10:49 PM
Hellos to All:
Keith started a different forum off with a translation of the Four Bodhisattva Vows (the Four Great Vows). Jundo in one of his posted comments also expressed an interest in various translations.

I thought I'd start this forum here where we could 'park' the translations we come across, for those interested in this kind of thing and so inclined (it might be helpful to also include with the Four Great Vows, the source of the particular translation).

From Jiyu Kennett's book Selling Water by the River this rendtion of the Four Great Vows:

I vow to save others endlessly,
I vow to cease from desire for eternity,
I vow to study the Dharma for ever,
I vow to perfect Buddhism in all lives and in all worlds.

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From Sitting Frog Sangha:

Beings are numberless; I vow to save them all.
Obstacles are countless; I vow to overcome them all.
Dharma gates are limitless; I vow to enter them all.
The Buddha Way is endless; I vow to follow it.

(Translations from Japanese by Dogo Barry Graham)

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From Sangha of the Compassionate Heart

However innumerable all beings are,
I vow to save them all

However inexhaustible my delusions are,
I vow to extinguish them all

However immeasurable the Dharma Teachings are,
I vow to master them all

However endless the Buddha Way is,
I vow to follow it completely

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09-13-2007, 12:05 AM
The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them;
greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them;
Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake them;
Buddha's way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully

from "Taking the Path of Zen" by Robert Aitken Roshi

09-13-2007, 04:04 AM
Here is the translation my local Zen Center uses:

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddhas way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

Clearly this bears a resemblance to the Sitting Frog Sangha translation, but I thought the closing phrase "I vow to become it" gave it a different flavor.

09-13-2007, 05:25 AM
Hi everyone:

Here's one Steve Hagen (a great teacher) got from the SFZC:

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them
The Dharmas are boundless, I vow to master them
The Buddha's Way is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it

He doesn't care for all the I's in that, so here is his version:

To save all sentient beings, though they are numberless
To end all desiring, though desires are endless (or inexhaustible)
To learn the Dharma, though the Dharma is boundless
To realize the Buddha Way, though it is unattainable

He said he's not sure he's happy with that either, but likes it better than the first.

"#$%! stones and bamboo. I eagerly await first reports of someone experiencing enlightenment after getting smacked in the face with a car's airbag."

09-14-2007, 02:40 PM

Thank you for starting this!

There is something I like about all the various translations that you all have posted. While this one isn't a translation the 4 Great Vows per se (they are actually a variation of the 4 Noble Truths), the Ordinary Mind School (co-founded by Joko Beck) chants this after Zazen:

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering
Holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream
Each moment life as it is, the only teacher
Being just this moment, compassionís way

Iíve always liked that. I think we Treeleafers have a lot to choose from to form our own variation on the 4 Great Vows.

Now how about the various translations on the Verse of the Kesa and 16 Precepts! :D


09-14-2007, 04:32 PM
You're kidding, aren't you? We've only scratched the surface for the variations on the 4GV!!!


09-14-2007, 08:21 PM

Oh, I know. Just meant we're off to a great start.