The Jewel in the Lotus

This morning my partner and I practiced with Slogan 46: Observe these two, even at the risk of your life. The slogan refers to the Refuge and Bodhisattva vows one takes as part of the Mahayana Buddhist path. This slogan led me to recall my experience of taking these vows.

I took the refuge vow in December 2010 during a 28-day meditation retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center in the mountains of northern Colorado. I recall having the feeling that this was a big step for me, actively claiming the identity of “Buddhist.” You may notice I write under the name Jampa Trokpo – this is my refuge name, Tibetan for “Gentle Friend.”

I took the bodhisattva vow the following spring at the Shambhala Center in Boulder, Colorado. This was part of a weekend of study and practice related to bodhicitta (awakened heart). Taking this vow was particularly powerful for me, as the preceptor was one of my beloved teachers from the Master of Divinity program at Naropa University. I felt a strong connection with her, the lineage and the bodhisattva path.

A number of years later, I got the custom-designed tattoo shown at the top of the post. Although it has faded a bit since its creation, it will be with me for all of this lifetime as a constant reminder of the vows I have taken.

  • The lotus flower grows from the mud in the bottom of a pond, blossoming beautifully above the surface of the water. To me this symbolizes the transformation of the mind, which starts out obscured and muddied and reaches toward the open sky to blossom with beauty and clarity. Taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha is the beginning of this path.
  • The jewel is a traditional image for bodhicitta. There is a story about a beggar finding a precious jewel buried in the dust at the side of the road. Likewise, the precious jewel of bodhicitta rests in the dust of our conditioned patterns, waiting to be revealed and shared with others. Taking the vow to be of benefit to all sentient beings is the beginning of this path.