Aug 01 2023

Hogen Bays – In this passing moment

Published by at 8:54 am under Poetry

In this passing moment
by Hogen Bays

“In the presence of Sangha, in the light of Dharma,
in oneness with Buddha — may my path
to complete enlightenment benefit everyone!”

In this passing moment karma ripens
and all things come to be.
I vow to choose what is:
If there is cost, I choose to pay.
If there is need, I choose to give.
If there is pain, I choose to feel.
If there is sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning — I choose heat.
When calm — I choose peace.
When starving — I choose hunger.
When happy — I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it is my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is — I respond to what is.

This life is as real as a dream;
the one who knows it cannot be found;
and, truth is not a thing — Therefore I vow
to choose THIS dharma entrance gate!
May all Buddhas and Wise Ones
help me live this vow.

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by Ales Dusa /

There’s something both delightful and deeply challenging about this vow poem.

The entire poem is summed up at the beginning:

I vow to choose what is

You would think the unavoidable nature of “what is” makes a statement like this meaningless, but the human mind is not entirely sane. It often chooses fantasy and imaginings, shoulds and coulds, possibilities and even impossibilities over what is. Very few of us truly dwell in reality. Rarely do we fully experience the moments of our lives.

What is it that we are straining for as we constantly lean away from “what is”? What do we think is missing that we need? We don’t need someone else’s life. We don’t need a perfect marriage, better finances, or a better place in society. We don’t even need to be a saint living in the mountains. What’s missing is ourselves. What we really need is to stand in our own shoes, to be utterly ourselves. We need that missing ingredient—being present. We need to live, with honesty and an open heart, the life that already moves through us.

When starving–I choose hunger.
When happy–I choose joy.

When we are hungry, can we choose anything other than hunger? When happy, isn’t joy automatic? The truth is that we constantly choose. Ask yourself, how often do we really sit with our hunger and sorrow? How often do we allow ourselves to dance with the joy bubbling up inside us? How often do we notice these things at all?

The power of a practice like Zen is that it defines the human journey, not as escape, but as coming home, of settling into ourselves and being present with the present. It challenges us to actually live the moment that continuously arrives and passes and renews itself.

By making this journey to “what is,” we finally meet ourselves and learn what this amazing thing is that we call life, with all its rich, joyful, painful, and transitory beauty.
May all Buddhas and Wise Ones
help me live this vow.

Recommended Books: Hogen Bays

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Morning Dewdrops of the Mind: Teachings of a Contemporary Zen Master Path to Bodhidharma

Hogen Bays

United States (Contemporary)
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Hogen Bays is co-abbot of the Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon.

More poetry by Hogen Bays

Share this page ~

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Hogen Bays – In this passing moment”

  1. Claudiaon 01 Aug 2023 at 12:04 pm

    What does “karma ripens” mean to you?

  2. marrobon 02 Aug 2023 at 5:00 am

    Thanks for another gem, Ivan.
    Just reading Hogen Bays’ words & your comments seems tp
    lighten the sense of ‘strain’ floating all around these days.

    It’s funny Claudia asks about ‘karma ripening’.

    Neil Douglas-Klotz is a Bible scholar who looks at the
    words Christ said in Aramaic because it’s the language
    people spoke in the Middle East at the time.

    In “The Hidden Gospel” he makes the point that
    in Aramaic the word ‘good’ means ‘ripened’, as in the
    parable of the ripened fruit. In other words there
    are degrees of ‘being ripened’ as opposed to good and bad.

    This brings about a shift in perception and judgement….at
    least it does for me.

    That’s what ‘karma ripens’ would mean to me, Claudia..
    a maturing into a deeper awareness of meaning in my circumstances.

  3. Carolon 06 Aug 2023 at 10:38 am

    I vow to choose what is – Thank You Hogen Bays.

    And for your commentary, Ivan – Thank You.

    And for your comments Claudia and Marrob Thank You.

    I have learned much!!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply