Resolutions for Oneself and the World

Resolutions are a compass, steering one towards the right path. Learn about Master Cheng Yen’s vows and prayers for the world.

Making resolutions is a powerful practice that can benefit others as well as motivate our own selves. With the wellbeing of everyone in this world at heart, Dharma Master Cheng Yen always makes three year-end resolutions:

May all minds be purified, may there be peace in the community, and may there be no disasters in this world.

At the same time, Master Cheng Yen also makes three ongoing personal resolutions for herself:

I will not pray for health, I only hope to have a spirit filled with wisdom and acuity. I will not seek to have everything go as I want, I only wish for perseverance and courage. I will not look for fewer responsibilities, I will only ask for greater strength.

The depth of dedication and wisdom within these three vows, or prayers – as
as explained below by Master Cheng Yen – can truly inspire us all.

Throughout my life, I have always had three daily prayers. First, I pray not for a healthy body, but for a clear mind. As the years go by, our bodies undergo aging and finally death, but our wisdom-life is everlasting. If we don’t quickly develop our wisdom-life and strengthen our aspirations, then our wisdom won’t grow. Thus, I don’t ask for good health, but for a mind of clarity and wisdom, without discursive thoughts. This is my first prayer.

Second, I pray not for everything to go my way, but for perseverance and courage. In life, nine things out of ten don’t go according to our wishes, so why do we try to force things to go our way? As ordinary beings, it’s our expectations and desires that cause suffering and afflictions. When things don’t go as we wish, we must persevere; this is a skill we have to master. We must also keep up our courage. We shouldn’t easily become disappointed or discouraged when we don’t get what we want. If we constantly let ourselves be defeated, won’t we remain powerless our whole lives? Therefore, we shouldn’t ask for everything to go according to our wishes. Instead, we should always reflect on ourselves to see if we have perseverance and courage.

It is precious to be born as a human being. The Buddha tells us that over millions of kalpas (“eons” in Sanskrit), it’s difficult to attain human form even once. We may wonder whether, in the past, we were born in the three evil realms. Have we suffered in hell? Have we been born in the animal realm, suffering from ignorance and being killed by humans? Or have we been tormented in the realm of hungry ghosts? The Buddha-Dharma tells us that these three evil realms are filled with unbearable suffering. This is truly frightening! Therefore, we must work hard to cultivate ourselves.

Being born as humans, we have the opportunity to witness all kinds of wholesome and unwholesome lives. When we see someone doing good, we have to ask ourselves, do we rejoice at this? When we see others do good deeds, we’re filled with respect and joy. However, we shouldn’t only rejoice in their good deeds, but should also get involved ourselves. If we’re able to do this, we’ll feel very fortunate to have been born human. When we see others do good deeds, we’ll joyfully praise them and gladly join them in the work of helping to relieve the suffering of sentient beings. As we help those who suffer fulfill their needs, we can realize that we have more than enough. Since we have more than we need, we have the power to help others meet their needs and overcome their obstacles. Then the happiness we feel is due not only to taking joy in other people’s merits, but also due to being filled with Dharma-joy ourselves. This is something that’s possible only in the human realm.

Since we’ve been born as humans, how can we not make good use of our life? We need to seize our time in this life and take good care of our thoughts. I often say, “Seize the moment and sustain your aspirations forever.” At every moment, we have to be mindful of our thoughts; when a good thought arises, no matter how brief it is, we must take hold of it and sustain it forever. Moment by moment, time passes us by and thoughts keep arising. Therefore, we must have perseverance; we must always sustain our good and virtuous thoughts and put our love into action by helping others. This is spiritual cultivation.

Furthermore, we mustn’t be afraid of taking responsibility. We’re all fortunate enough to have been born into this world, so aren’t the matters of this world everyone’s responsibility? Yet one person’s strength alone isn’t enough. If everyone made the aspiration to be a Bodhisattva [who works for the enlightenment of all, not just themselves, and vows to save all sentient beings from suffering], and put the Buddha’s teachings into practice, the collective strength would be tremendous. Therefore, my third prayer is not for lighter responsibilities, but for greater strength. I hope that we can purify people’s hearts and inspire people’s love. The world is vast and there are countless sentient beings. If everyone can join together in the same aspiration, our love can reach every corner of the world. Then, there’s no limit to the good that can be accomplished.