Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


The Sacred Vow

At our innermost core, we are our will. Attention and intention, actions, choices and decisions, love and compassion all emanate from will. As such, will defines our true spirit and our relationship with the spiritual. So the purification and strengthening of will form the heart of our path.

One time-honored method for work on will consists of making and keeping vows, solemn and sacred vows that we inevitably carry through, come what may. At the outset, it behooves us to understand that vows bring us into direct relationship with God, deriving their sacredness thereby. If we imagine God as a mountain of purpose, the Purpose behind the universe, we will not be far from the truth. In making a vow, we partake in that immense Purpose by infusing an aspect of our own life with a definite purpose, that of keeping the vow. As befits any action relating us to the Divine, we treat a vow with the utmost respect and care.

What vow to make? Like New Year’s resolutions, a vow should neither be too easy nor too difficult: the former has little value and latter leads to the disaster of a broken vow. Vowing not to get angry is a recipe for failure, beyond our capacity. A true vow should never be broken, although it may well incorporate a time limit. For example, we might vow to perform or to refrain from some action every day for the next month.

Furthermore, the specifics of the vow must yield clarity. Vowing not to get angry can only lead to confusion. “I didn’t yell, but I felt perturbed. Was that anger?” Better to vow some easily verifiable, outward action. A well-chosen vow will exercise our will and stretch our being in a steady and meaningful way.

When to make a vow? Timing can help. Consider choosing a propitious moment for making the vow: New Year’s, our birthday, a holy day in our religion, winter or summer solstice, a new moon, an extraordinary event like a marriage, a birth, or a death. Besides choosing a suitable time, we need to prepare inwardly for the act of making the vow. Meditation, fasting, and prayer can help establish the appropriate attitude within us, reflecting the seriousness and sacredness of entering into the vow.

The making and keeping of vows strengthens our spirit, creates positive self-confidence, diminishes attachment and clinging, organizes our energies, develops our soul, unifies our will, and serves the Sacred. A completed vow increases both our freedom and our potential to play a more useful role in the drama of the evolving world. But we must not take a vow lightly. The utility of a vow grows in direct proportion to the wholeheartedness and resoluteness of our commitment to it.


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