A Vow – a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment,serving two quite different purposes. One is to prove something to others (just to strengthen the argument). Another one is to make a solid foundation for a personal change in a certain way. How valid is making vow? Does it work? We will discuss here only the latter – a Vow as a mean for a personal change, to assist us to achieve a wanted state.
Let’s consider some diverse samples of vow.
- An alcoholic, frustrated with his addiction, gives a vow to stop drinking.
- A dedicated disciple of a Yogi vowing to follow his teacher all his life.
- The Buddhist, Yoga or Christian monk giving a vow of celibacy.
- A little girl vowing to never leave alone her favorite doll.
Before we analyze the examples, let us consider one of the main properties of a human being.
We are constantly changing. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Every moment of our lives we are a a total result of the many previous years and a total change in our physical structure. We, adults, today are completely different from what we were 10 or 20 years ago… Every cell of our body is new. Most people change their view of life and even life principles many times in 10 to 20 years. Some change their religion, occupation, style of cloths, style of cars, friends, etc.
If we understand that what we are today is not what we were in the past and we will not be in the future the same what we are today, then the question should be asked:
Who vows on who’s behalf?
As you are today, with your current set of beliefs, ideas, mindset, you can only vow for what you are today. But you are, as you are today – only for today!
You cannot make vows for somebody whom you don’t know… You should not make vow for you of tomorrow who is not the same as you of today!
Each day we must be ready for a total change. Any time somebody assumes he/she is completely prefect, his/her development stops right there and regression will start. Being ready for a total change means that you do not know who you become next (and also when will this change take place).
Whence, understanding this impermanence, we cannot make vows for somebody of tomorrow whom we do not know…
Now, let’s consider our above examples.
Vow of alcoholic – This surely is not enough for a change and in most cases this alone will hardly work. The alcoholic makes vow in a state of ultimate commitment to the right course. At this moment we can say – it already works. Yet, if no other measures taken, most probably, in a few days (or even in few hours) his mind state will change to a … previously accustomed to. If he fails in this, this failed attempt (the vow), will be another “proof” for a drunkard in that “nothing works”, hence bringing him down even more…
A Yogi disciple – the commitment is based on the moment he is committed to a great course. This state of mind is a current moment, which is, though came up as a result of his previous life and previous search for Truth, yet, it is a CURRENT MOMENT nonetheless. And as such cannot apply to the individual under other circumstances when this state of mind changes. When it changes – the vow becomes only a bondage, not a helper. In all ashrams of India there were always a number of new disciples who dropped from the course and left the ashram. One can see that those who stayed and persisted in their course, did so NOT BECAUSE of the vows, but because of who they are – the commitment would be followed with or without a vow – it’s a persistent state of mind which did not change over time as they, the individuals, changed themselves.
A Buddhist, Yogi or Christian monk making a vow of celibacy – brings a logical question – why is it that for some this vow worked while for others did not? What is a role of vow in working versus non-working in each case? Since the medieval times we read about cases of many monks and nuns breaching the vow of celibacy with a big woe from religious society, while in India such incidents are not considered as public offense but rather a normal development of a private life ending with disciple leaving the ashram for a life of a householder. Just as a nun may be tempted to join a monastery as a result of being alienated from society or having a tragedy in personal life, so she may be put in different circumstances when incident arise giving her a chance to fulfill her old desires (for marriage for example). Such incident would change her mindset and her vow in this case would be only a bondage, not a helper.
In all those cases a vow is made based on the current state of mind, therefore, a perceived “success” or “failure” of a vow is nothing but a result of the direction taken by a personal development of individual “vow maker”. If a “new” man shares the same attitude and beliefs with the “old” man who has taken a vow, he is on the same course, whence it seems that “vow works”. If a “new” man replaces his mindset, his “vow” becomes a bondage only on his continuing development and most probably it will have to be discarded. Why? Because the “new” man did not make that vow…it was “old” man who made it for himself…
But the best example to understand the role of vow on the life of “vow maker” is the last example of a girl wanting to never depart from her favorite doll…
40 years old woman was browsing through the old stuff in the attic of the house of her late parents where she grew up. She stumbled over the chest of old toys which she recognized immediately with all the memories arising along with them. A particular warm feeling rose with that special doll she found, she remembered relating to that doll as if it were a living girl…She suddenly remembered a vow made regarding that doll and she smiled… how sweet… Feeling herself somehow still committed to that doll (if nothing else, then at least in the sense of commitment to that small girl who loved this doll), woman brought this doll to the Salvation Army, hoping that, may be, her lovely doll will have another chance to be loved daily by yet another child…
This last case applies not only to a child-turning adult, but to all adults… who are always children at any stage in life, in forever growth…