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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 79 SO FAR, I’VE MADE TWO VOWS that have changed my life. One was related to my Buddhist practice—to become a bodhi- sattva. The other was to become a wife. A bodhisattva is a person who vows to help all beings reach enlightenment, no matter how many lifetimes it might take. This vow is obviously not made lightly; it comes after many hours of meditation practice and a formal commitment to Buddhism. Serious contemplation and study are required to get even a glim- mer of the deeper meaning of this vow and its complexities. (For example, you vow to love everyone, even people you don’t like.) A wife’s vow is also not made lightly. It comes after having found someone you really, really like to talk to and also to touch. It’s made after serious contemplation of the likelihood you’ll find anyone better, might otherwise grow old alone, and how cute you’d look in a bridal gown. A bodhisattva chooses to be of ser- vice. A bride picks out china patterns for dinner service. It so happened that I prepared to take both these vows at around the same time. While bride-me was shopping for dress- es, arguing with her parents, and falling prey to panic attacks, bodhisattva-me was studying the six transcendent actions and contemplating the suffering of all sentient beings. Both are vows to love (all beings in one case and a single be- ing in the other) and it may seem that the bodhisattva vow is the really hard one. But after ten years, I can tell you that the real test of bigheartedness started with the latter proposition. Marriage is the perfection of what love aimed at, ignorant of what it sought. – RALPH WALDO EMERSON When my boyfriend asked me to marry him, I didn’t exactly gush yes. I sort of tried to break up with him. He wanted to deepen our relationship and I just wasn’t sure. Sure I loved Duncan, but my divorced girlfriends had loved their boyfriends too. Clearly love was no basis for marriage. Then what was? It had to be about more than wearing a silly dress, waving a wedding ring around, and being all, “Oh it’s my day.” I told him I needed time to think it over and wanted to spend a month apart. I planned to search my soul, ponder the question deeply, and meditate a lot. I didn’t really know if I was cut out for marriage. I prized my solitude tremendously, maybe above ILLUSTRATIONSBYANDRÉSLOB My Vows Love all beings? Love even one? Either way, your heart breaks open. Susan Piver ponders the choiceless choices. JULY 78-99.indd 79 JULY 78-99.indd 79 4/25/08 12:05:16 PM 4/25/08 12:05:16 PM