RELIGION: The meaning of Life

Eric Watt Forste (
Tue, 11 Feb 1997 11:09:13 -0800

Gregory Houston writes:
>Would you mind posting the Four Vows Eric?

Hmm. Can you say "decontextualize"? What the hell, I can play
recombinant memes.

This is quoted from,
which is just the first URL that popped up off of Altavista. I've seen
better translations, but without the context of the Mahayana Buddhist
tradition, none of the translations is going to make sense anyway.
Remember that although in English it sounds like New Age gibberish, in
the language that it's translated from, this stuff is technical jargon.

1. To take across the numberless living beings
2. To cut off the endless affliction
3. To study the countless Dharma doors
4. To realize the supreme Buddha Way

I will add a few comments, though it's rather blasphemous of me to
do so since I haven't taken these vows and thereby, by my own
standards, am not a Mahayana Buddhist. "Dharma doors" generally
seems to mean something like "aha" experiences or epiphanies, the
really big "aha" experiences apparently being satori. My understanding
of these vows is that they represent the declaration of ambitions
that are impossible to fulfill, or that will take eternity to
fulfill. It seems to me that these are the right kinds of ambitions
to have if one is serious about living forever. Also, "to take
across" is a technical term meaning to bring to full enlightenment;
since the vow specifies the numberless living beings and not just
the numberless sentient or sophontic beings, this could be interpreted
as a Brinesque call for universal Uplift (except Buddhists don't
necessarily oppose cryptography ;) or perhaps a Hansonian
saving-the-world. In any case, it's obvious that a person taking
the above vows is not in any sense "stepping off" of any Wheels.

If there are any real Buddhists on the list, and I'm making a hash of
things here, please correct me. Thanks.

The Buddhists that I like best tend to keep quiet about their religion,
are good at having fun and appreciating stuff, tend to be studious, and
like to party. I think that Joko Beck is my current favorite Buddhist
writer, though the first thing any Zen book should tell you is that you
can't get Zen out of a book.

Once upon a time, religion was an off-limits topic on this list (because
of the Great Witch War). Perhaps we should invoke this rule on some of
Eliezer's posts. ;)

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++