2018-08-15

Aug 16 - 22

Summer, week 9
"There is nowhere to get. We have already arrived at that place where there is no difference between the sound of a dove -- and a critical voice. Our task to to recognize that we have arrived." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Aug 18, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue & Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu Aug 16 - Wed Aug 22:
  • LovingKindness Sutra, p. 27
  • Guidepost for Silent Illumination, p. 38
  • The Many and the One, p. 60
  • Mind Like the Moon, p. 60
Opening and Closing for Aug 9 - Sep 5:
  • Opening: The Essence of Atonement, p. 8
  • Closing: There is No End, p. 70 + The Four Bohisattva Vows, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Aug 18:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 31, "The Sound of a Dove -- and a Critical Voice," pp. 227-231.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 10, "Unborn Child," pp. 68-73.
Next Book (starts Oct 13): angel Kyodo williams, Radical Dharma

Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple
1030 Pleasant St
Worcester, MA
Thu Sep 20, at 19:00 until Sun Jul 23, at 12:00.
Consider planning to attend! Registration will open six weeks before the event (that is, Thu Aug 9). Check HERE for updates.

This week's:

Raven 66: Too Clever by Half

Sun and moon, mountains and rivers, sticks and stones -- all of them are Buddha-nature. What is this "represent" nonsense? What's the possessive pronoun doing there? I think I'd fly away too, and I don't even have wings. Much.

Case
Owl then spoke up. "Are you saying that her stick represents her Buddha-nature?"
Raven launched herself from her perch without a word and flew out of sight.
Porcupine said, "Don't you see? It's a plain old stick. It doesn't even have a rubber tip."
Owl said, "Sometimes I think I'm just too clever by half."
Verse
"Some teachers say that Zen is hard. I say that Zen is very easy. But we are saying the same thing." -Seung Sahn

Sun and earth make pine and hyacinth, and
The hummingbird outside the window
Beats her wings 80 times a second --
Without trying.
Even my pushing, willful, effort
Arrives and unfolds effortlessly.

I might say,
It is difficult to know the ease of things --
meaning only,
One settles into such knowledge slowly,
And if the thing is kept at.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 65

2018-08-07

Aug 9 - 15

Summer, week 8
"Our lives are absolutely hopeless. That's why they're wonderful. And it's not a big deal." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Aug 11, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo.
See HERE. Morning Zen is cancelled Mon Jul 30 thru Thu Aug 2, and will resume on Fri Aug 3.

Chants
For Thu Aug 9 - Wed Aug 15:
  • An Unending Truth, p. 36
  • Facing Everything, p. 36
  • The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes, p. 37
  • Self and Other the Same, p. 37
  • The Field of Boundless Emptiness, p. 37
Opening and Closing for Aug 9 - Sep 5:
  • Opening: The Essence of Atonement, p. 8
  • Closing: There is No End, p. 70 + The Four Bohisattva Vows, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Aug 11:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 31, "The Fall," pp. 219.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 10, "Unborn Child," pp. 68-73.

Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple
1030 Pleasant St
Worcester, MA
Thu Sep 20, at 19:00 until Sun Jul 23, at 12:00.
Consider planning to attend! Registration will open six weeks before the event (that is, Thu Aug 9). Check HERE for updates.

This week's:
  • Koan: Book of Serenity #18: Zhaozhou's Dog (extended). CLICK HERE
  • Raven Tale: #65: How Do You Account for This? CLICK HERE

Raven 65: How Do You Account for This?

Episode before last, Raven #63, the introduction mentioned Gateless Gate #43: "Master Shoushan held up a stick before his disciples and said, "You monks, if you call this a stick, you are committed to the name. If you do not call this a stick, you are opposing the fact. Tell me, you monks, what will you call it?"

Gateless Gate #44 also deals with a stick -- a staff: "Master Bajiao said to the assembly, 'If you have a staff, I will give it to you. If you have no staff, I will take it away from you.'" Master Wumen (1183-1260) commented on this: "Having it support us, we wade across a river that has no bridge. Having it accompany us, we return to the village on a moonless night. But if you call it a staff, you will go to hell as swiftly as an arrow." In today's episode, Raven echoes Wumen's comment. Yet Raven doesn't seem to mind calling it a stick. Labels are fine -- just don't be attached to them, is all.

Case
At that same assembly, Mole said to Raven, "Turkey tells me that Grandma doesn't lock her place and that folks are free to wander in and out. They eat her food and mess up her carpet. She doesn't seem to be protective or possessive at all. Yet she snatched away her stick when you went after it. How do you account for this?"
Raven said, "It guides her along to Vinecot on a moonless night. It helps her cross the creek when the bridge is broken down."
Mole subsided.
After a moment, Woodpecker asked, "You mean when push comes to shove, there are certain things that she won't share?"
Raven said, "Stick."
Verse
Myriad the mystery that supports and guides
That surrounds like peripheral vision
That smiles from the shadows and sometimes laughs
That writes the truths and publishes
Under pen-names.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 64

2018-07-30

Aug 2 - 8

Summer, week 7
"It's important to remember that we're not fixing anything. We're not trying to be different from who we are. In fact, practice is simply retrning to that which we always are." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Aug 4, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo.
See HERE. Morning Zen is cancelled Mon Jul 30 thru Thu Aug 2, and will resume on Fri Aug 3.

Chants
For Thu Aug 2 - Wed Aug 8:
  • Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage, p. 16
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for Jul 12 - Aug 8:
  • Opening: Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 7
  • Closing: Your True Self Is the World, p. 70 + Wake All Beings, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Aug 4:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 30, "The Natural Man," pp. 208-18.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch 9, "The Path of Compassion," pp. 62-67.

Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple
1030 Pleasant St
Worcester, MA
Thu Sep 20, at 19:00 until Sun Jul 23, at 12:00.
Consider planning to attend! Registration will open six weeks before the event (that is, Thu Aug 9). Check HERE for updates.

This week's:
  • Koan:  Book of Serenity #18: Zhaozhou's Dog (extended). CLICK HERE
  • Raven Tale: #64: Can't Have That. CLICK HERE

2018-07-29

Raven 64: Can't Have That

Disciple Porcupine fails as master Raven did. How many different ways do they think there are to call a stick a stick?

Case
That evening Raven took her perch and said to the assembly, "Grandma came to see me today. She held out her stick and asked me what it was. I went to take it in my talons, but she pulled it away and said, 'It's mine. You can't have it.' How would you respond if she asked you what it is?"
The assembly was silent. Porcupine curled up and raised his spines.
Raven said, "Can't have that, either."
Verse
Standing, sitting, lying, walking
Amid the colors, shapes, sounds, smells,
The feels of things,
A kind of Heisenberg Principle
Slips between naming and having.
What is named is ungraspable.
What is grasped is unnameable.
God's dice rolling always
Everywhere.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 63

2018-07-23

Jul 26 - Aug 1

Summer, week 6
"Transformation arises from a willingness that develops very slowly over time to be what life asks of us." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Jul 28, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Terry Truta

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo.
See HERE. Morning Zen will be cancelled on Mon Jul 30 thru Thu Aug 2.

Chants
For Thu Jul 26 - Wed Aug 1:
  • Genjokoan 4, p. 43
  • Yuibutsu Yobutsu 2, 3, 4, p. 46
Opening and Closing for Jul 12 - Aug 8:
  • Opening: Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 7
  • Closing: Your True Self Is the World, p. 70 + Wake All Beings, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Jul 28:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 29, "Transformation," pp. 202-07.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch 8, "The Jewelled Necklace," pp. 56-61.

Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple
1030 Pleasant St
Worcester, MA
Thu Sep 20, at 19:00 until Sun Jul 23, at 12:00.
Consider planning to attend! Registration will open six weeks before the event (that is, Thu Aug 9). Check HERE for updates.

Koan of the Week: Gateless Gate #1: Zhaozhou's Dog. CLICK HERE.

Raven Tale of the Week: #63: The Stick. CLICK HERE.

Book of Serenity 40

142
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #40
Yunmen's "White and Black"

Personnel
  • Yunmen Wenyan (Ummon Bunen, 864-949, 13th gen.)
  • Yuezhou Qianfeng (Esshu Kempo, 831?-??, 12th gen.)
Wansong's Preface
When the wheel of activity turns, the wisdom eye is still bewildered.
When the jewel mirror opens, not the tiniest speck of dust adheres.
When the fist opens, nothing drops to the ground.
Being in accord with things, one knows the right moment.
When two swords cross, how will they interplay?
Case
Yunmen asked Yuezhou, “May I ask for your answer" [or "your instruction"]?
Yuezhou said, “Have you ever come to this old monk or not?”
Yunmen said, “If so, I must say I was too late.”
Yuizhou said, “Is that so, is that so!”
Yunmen said, “I thought I was Marquis White, but I find that you are Marquise Black.” [Marquis White and Marquise Black are noted thieves in Chinese folklore. Marquise Black, a female thief, seems to have been the cleverer of the two.]
Hongzhi's Verse (Wick trans, with Cleary trans in italics)
Bowstring and arrow-notch interlock.
   Bowstring and arrow-notch interlock,
The net's jeweled knots reflect each other.
   Jewels in the net face each other:
A hundred bull's-eyes shot with not an arrow lost
   Shooting one hundred percent bullseyes, no arrows are wasted;
Myriad shapes are perceived with ray after ray unhindered.
   Unifying all the various reflections, each light is without impediment
Obtaining the dharani of words, dwelling in the samadhi of play.
   Attaining total mastery of words and phrases,
   Dwelling in the meditation of roaming at play:
How subtle it is! The seeming and the real intermingled.
   Subtle is the interplay therein of relative and complete --
How surely it's thus! Everywhere to be oneself.
   It is necessary to be like this, free in all ways.

Blue Cliff Record 95

141
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #95
Changqing and Baofu Discuss Buddha's Words

Personnel
  • Baofu Congzhan (Hofuku Juten, 868?-928, 13th gen.)
  • Changqing Huileng (Chokei Eryo, 854-932, 13th gen.)
Yuanwu's Preface
Do not remain where Buddha is; if you do horns will grow on your head.
Run quickly past the place where there is no Buddha, if not, weeds will grow like a jungle.
Even if you are entirely naked and absolutely bare, and the unhindered interpenetration of mind and circumstances is attained, you still cannot avoid resembling the fool who watched the tree stump to catch a hare.
Now tell me, what are you do do in order to be free from these faults?
See the following.
Case
One day Changqing said, "Even if you argue that an arhat [one who has reached the spiritual dimension without any traces of "the three poisons": covetousness, anger, folly] still possesses 'the three poisons,' don't argue that the Tathagata has two sorts of language. I do not say the Tathagata has no language but that he does not have two languages."
Baofu said, "What is the Tathagata's language?"
Changqing said, "How can a deaf person hear?"
Baofu said, "Now I know that your language belongs to the second level [you are speaking from a secondary principle]."
Changqing said, "What is the Tathagata's language?"
Baofu said, "Have a cup of tea."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Clear trans in italics)
Who speaks from the first, who from the second principle?
   Head number one or number two --
Dragons do not lie in puddles;
   A reclining dragon does not look to still water.
Where dragons lurk,
   In the negation, waves settle wit the moon;
Waves arise when no wind blows.
   In the affirmation, waves rise without wind.
Oh! you Ryo Zen monk,
   Zennist Changqing, Zennist Changquing --
You've bruised your head on the Dragon Gate.
   You've failed to pass the dragon gate.

Blue Cliff Record 23

140
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #23
Baofu Points to Myohocho

Personnel
  • Baofu Congzhan (Hofuku Juten, 868?-928, 13th gen.)
  • Changqing Huileng (Chokei Eryo, 854-932, 13th gen.)
  • Jingqing Daofu (Kyosei Dofu, 868-937, 13th gen.)
Yuanwu's Preface
Jade is tested by fire, gold by a stone, a sword by a hair, water by a staff.
In Zen training the degree of one's attainment and one's progressis known by one's words and phrases, one's attitude and actions, one's coming and going, one's asking and responding.
Tell me, how will it be done?
See the following.
Case
Once Baofu and Changqing went out on a picnic in the hills.
Baofu, pointing with a finger, said, "Right here is Myohocho [the summit of the Mystic Peak, or the Peak of Wonder].
Changqing said, "Exactly. But, it's regrettable."
(Xuedou commented saying, "What's the use of making an excursion with these fellows today?"
He also said, "Hundreds and thousands of years from now, I don't say that there will be none like him, only that there will be very few.")

Later, they reported to Jingqing about it. Jingqing said, "If it weren't for Changqing's remark, the field would have been littered with skulls."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Clear trans in italics)
This is Myohocho! Now weeds grow rampant.
   On the solitary summit of the mystic peak, the weeds are wild.
You see it clearly, but to whom could you impart it?
   Clearly it is brought up, to be imparted to whom?
If you, O Changqing, didn't discriminate,
   If not for Changquing's discerning the real point,
May would never know, and their skulls would litter the field.
   Skulls would litter the ground, but how many would know?

2018-07-21

Raven 63: The Stick

We've seen Turkey just once before, in #38, wherein she asked, "why don't you have more songbirds in your community?" Raven offered, "Maybe they're content to inspire us from the trees." Turkey then  asked how the songbirds can be inspired, and Raven answered, "Make sense."
Here we learn that Turkey has been hanging out around Grandma's house -- and that Grandma knows a thing or two about animals -- and Zen.
Grandma seems to know about an episode from the life and teachings of Shoushan Xingnian (926-993), as related in Case #43 of The Gateless Gate, compiled by Wumen Huikai in 1228:
"Master Shoushan held up a stick before his disciples and said, "You monks, if you call this a stick, you are committed to the name. If you do not call this a stick, you are opposing the fact. Tell me, you monks, what will you call it?"
Shoushan's disciple, Shexian, legend has it, grabbed the stick, broke it in two, threw it on the ground, and shouted, "What is this?" Similarly, in Gateless Gate #40, Baizhang Huaihai (720-814), "took a water jug, put it on the floor, and said, 'You may not call this a water jug. What will you call it?'" Guishan Lingyou (771-853) responded by kicking over the water jug and leaving. Here's Wumen's verse on Case #43:
"Holding up a stick,
He issues the order to kill and to give life;
When adhering and opposing interweave,
Even Buddhas and patriarchs beg for their lives."
Shexian's and Guishan's responses -- as well as Master Raven's in the case below -- are essentially the same. Can you show a different way of being neither committed to the name nor opposed to the fact?

Case
Grandma had been living at Vinecot for as long as anyone could remember. She was white-haired and bent, and walked with a stick. She was a friend of Turkey, who had free run of her house.
One day she came to see Raven who promptly flew up into the Assembly Oak. “Come down here, Raven Roshi,” she said. “I want to talk to you.”
Raven flew down before her and observed, “We understand each other.”
“Oh,” said Grandma, “I’ve been living in the forest for a while. I just pay attention to what I hear. There’s a certain frequency.”
“For us, too,” said Raven.
Grandma said, “I didn’t come to see you to gossip about communication.”
Raven drew herself up. “I’m forgetting my manners,” she said, bowing. “I’m pleased to meet you. You have come quite a long way. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?”
Grandma held out her stick and said, “I just wanted to ask you what this is.”
Raven let out a croak and flew at the stick. Grandma pulled it away and said, “It’s mine. You can’t have it.”
Raven said, “Is that so? I see. I see.”
Verse
A stick is not a stick
When it is just a stick.
In the dawning light --
The call to breakfast.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 62

2018-07-12

Jul 12 - 25

Summer, weeks 4 and 5
"The choice is stay stuck and continue to suffer -- or to find the courage to change....We begin to see that if we refuse to do battle here, we do harm to life. We have to make a choice between living a dramatic but self-centered life and a life that is based upon practice." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Jul 14 and Sat Jul 21
10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY
On Sat Jul 14: Practice to be led Terry Truta
On Sat Jul 21: Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen: Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE. Morning Zen at the Basement Zendo is canceled on Mon Jul 16 through Fri Jul 20. Morning Zen will resume on Mon Jul 23.

Chants
For Thu Jul 12 - Wed Jul 18:
  • Song of Realizing the Dao, p. 31
  • Fukanzazengi, p. 45
  • Menju, p. 50
For Thu Jul 19 - Wed Jul 25:
  • Genjokoan 1, 2, 3, p. 41
Opening and Closing for Jul 12 - Aug 8:
  • Opening: Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 7
  • Closing: Your True Self Is the World, p. 70
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Jul 14:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 27: "The Six Stages of Practice," pp. 187-192.

Reading for Sat Jul 21:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 28: "Curiosity and Obsession," pp. 193-201.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 7: "White Elephant Prize," pp. 49-55.

Raven Tale: Emptiness
One day, to explore widely the surrounding districts, Xuansha leaves the mountain. He stubs his toe on a stone. Bleeding and in great pain, Xuansha reflects, “They say this body is not real existence. Where does the pain come from?” --Dogen

A Few Things Real and Unreal

Phlogiston, unicorns, Manti Te'o's girlfriend;
Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, Celie;
Nations, governments, laws,
Punishment, the stock market, hospitals;
Freedom, unselfish actions, God;
Joy, kindness, wisdom.

Planets and atoms;
Death and love;
Julius Caesar and the neighbor's dog;
Thou and I;
Denali and Mt. McKinley.

The larch in the backyard;
The stone on the ground waiting to meet Xuansha's or Samuel Johnson's foot;
The pain that followed when it did.

All are real, and real the same way;
All unreal, the same way as real.

2018-07-11

Raven 62: Emptiness

What's all this folderal about emptiness anyway? Isn't the whole thing, well, empty? OK, so, it has no basis. The thing is, nothing does. Y'know? So don't lose an opportunity to laugh!

Case
At a Tallspruce party, Porcupine cornered Raven and said, "I wanted to tell you that I've found that there is no basis for emptiness."
Raven looked startled, then she and Porcupine burst into laughter.
Verse
One day, to explore widely the surrounding districts, Xuansha leaves the mountain. He stubs his toe on a stone. Bleeding and in great pain, Xuansha reflects, “They say this body is not real existence. Where does the pain come from?” --Dogen

A Few Things Real and Unreal

Phlogiston, unicorns, Manti Te'o's girlfriend;
Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, Celie;
Nations, governments, laws,
Punishment, the stock market, hospitals;
Freedom, unselfish actions, God;
Joy, kindness, wisdom.

Planets and atoms;
Death and love;
Julius Caesar and the neighbor's dog;
Thou and I;
Denali and Mt. McKinley.

The larch in the backyard;
The stone on the ground waiting to meet Xuansha's or Samuel Johnson's foot;
The pain that followed when it did.

All are real, and real the same way;
All unreal, the same way as real.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 61

2018-07-06

Jul 5 - 11

Summer, week 3
"Every second we spend in that nondual experiencing transforms our life. We can't see the transformation because there is no drama in it. Drama is always in our self-centered mental creations. There is no drama in good sitting." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Jun 30, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Meredith Garmon.

Morning Zen: Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu Jul 5 - 11:
  • Observing the One Who Is Dim and Dull, p. 19
  • Realizing the Zen Way, p. 19
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for Jun 14 - Jul 11:
  • Opening: Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 7
  • Closing: A Blessing for the Journey, p. 81
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 26: "Listening to the Body," pp. 181-184.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 6: "Beneath a Rose-Apple Tree," pp. 41-48.

Raven Tale: Saving the Many Beings
I tell you my failures lie piled at my feet
And thick to the horizon in all directions,
Thinner in spots, or more transparent.
It is a landscape of lapses.
Were you accessory to some of them? I don't know; it's possible I suppose.
I say each one fulfills the vow.
Each one breaks it.
Each one whispers vigilance.

Raven 61: Saving the Many Beings

We haven't heard from Mallard since #27, when she asked, "Aren't we wasting time just sitting here while the Blue Planet goes to hell?" Good question, Mallard. And what has happened on our blue planet in the months since we read Mallard asking that? What have you been doing while the Blue Planet goes to hell? Mallard, it seems, has been studying the Four Bodhisattva Vows:
Beings are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.
The "Sixth Ancestor" to which Mallard refers was Hui-neng Duck (638-713). But tell me, is it possible to fulfill a vow to save all the beings? Is it possible to fail to fulfill it? But if you can't fail to fulfill it, how is there meaningful content to the vow? Hint: Yes, the vow does have meaningful content. So how do you fulfill it?

Case
Mallard appeared in the circle after a trip and asked, "The first of our vows is to save the many beings. You told us that the Sixth Ancestor said this means, 'You save them in your own mind.' Is that all there is to fulfilling this vow?"
Raven said, "Completely fulfilled."
Mallard said, "But what then?"
Raven said, "Not just your skull."
Verse
I tell you my failures lie piled at my feet
And thick to the horizon in all directions,
Thinner in spots, or more transparent.
It is a landscape of lapses.
Were you accessory to some of them? I don't know; it's possible I suppose.
I say each one fulfills the vow.
Each one breaks it.
Each one whispers vigilance.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 60