Author Topic: The Bodhisattva  (Read 6534 times)


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The Bodhisattva
« on: February 03, 2013, 04:06:00 PM »
The bodhisattva—the renowned ideal of Mahayana Buddhism—is not a god or deity but a way of being we can all aspire to. As CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE explains, those who take the bodhisattva vow make one simple commitment: to put others first, holding nothing back for themselves.

The bodhisattva vow is the commitment to put others before oneself. It is a statement of willingness to give up one’s own well-being, even one’s own enlightenment, for the sake of others. And a bodhisattva is simply a person who lives in the spirit of that vow, perfecting the qualities known as the six paramitas [perfections]—generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and transcendental knowledge—in his effort to liberate beings.

Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in. It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility. In fact it means taking a big chance. But taking such a chance is not false heroism or personal eccentricity. It is a chance that has been taken in the past by millions of bodhisattvas, enlightened ones, and great teachers. So a tradition of responsibility and openness has been handed down from generation to generation, and now we too are participating in the sanity and dignity of this tradition.

There is an unbroken lineage of bodhisattvas, springing from the great bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, and Manjushri. It is unbroken because no one in that lineage, through generations and centuries, has indulged himself in self-preservation. Instead these bodhisattvas have constantly tried to work for the benefit of all sentient beings. This heritage of friendship has continued unbroken up to the present day, not as a myth but as a living inspiration.

The sanity of this tradition is very powerful. What we are doing in taking the bodhisattva vow is magnificent and glorious. It is such a wholehearted and full tradition that those who have not joined it might feel somewhat wretched in comparison. They might be envious of such richness. But joining this tradition also makes tremendous demands on us. We no longer are intent on creating comfort for ourselves; we work with others. This implies working with our other as well as the other other. Our other is our projections and our sense of privacy and longing to make things comfortable for ourselves. The other other is the phenomenal world outside, which is filled with screaming kids, dirty dishes, confused spiritual practitioners, and assorted sentient beings.

So taking the bodhisattva vow is a real commitment based on the realization of the suffering and confusion of oneself and others. The only way to break the chain reaction of confusion and pain and to work our way outward into the awakened state of mind is to take responsibility ourselves. If we do not deal with this situation of confusion, if we do not do something about it ourselves, nothing will ever happen. We cannot count on others to do it for us. It is our responsibility, and we have the tremendous power to change the course of the world’s karma. So in taking the bodhisattva vow, we are acknowledging that we are not going to be instigators of further chaos and misery in the world, but we are going to be liberators, bodhisattvas, inspired to work on ourselves as well as with other people.

There is tremendous inspiration in having decided to work with others. We no longer try to build up our own grandiosity. We simply try to become human beings who are genuinely able to help others; that is, we develop precisely that quality of selflessness which is generally lacking in our world. Following the example of Gautama Buddha, who gave up his kingdom to dedicate his time to working with sentient beings, we are finally becoming useful to society.

We each might have discovered some little truth, such as the truth about poetry or the truth about photography or the truth about amoebas, which can be of help to others. But we tend to use such a truth simply to build up our own credentials. Working with our little truths, little by little, is a cowardly approach. In contrast, the work of a bodhisattva is without credentials. We could be beaten, kicked, or just unappreciated, but we remain kind and willing to work with others. It is a totally noncredit situation. It is truly genuine and very powerful.

Taking this Mahayana approach of benevolence means giving up privacy and developing a sense of greater vision. Rather than focusing on our own little projects, we expand our vision immensely to embrace working with the rest of the world, the rest of the galaxies, the rest of the universes.

Putting such broad vision into practice requires that we relate to situations very clearly and perfectly. In order to drop our self-centeredness, which both limits our view and clouds our actions, it is necessary for us to develop a sense of compassion. Traditionally this is done by first developing compassion toward oneself, then toward someone very close to us, and finally toward all sentient beings, including our enemies. Ultimately we regard all sentient beings with as much emotional involvement as if they were our own mothers. We may not require such a traditional approach at this point, but we can develop some sense of ongoing openness and gentleness. The point is that somebody has to make the first move.

Usually we are in a stalemate with our world: “Is he going to say he is sorry to me first, or am I going to apologize to him first?” But in becoming a bodhisattva we break that barrier: we do not wait for the other person to make the first move; we have decided to do it ourselves. People have a lot of problems and they suffer a great deal, obviously. And we have only half a grain of sand’s worth of awareness of that suffering happening in this country alone, let alone in the rest of the world. Millions of people in the world are suffering because of their lack of generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and transcendental knowledge. The point of making the first move by taking the bodhisattva vow is not to convert people to our particular view, necessarily; the idea is that we should contribute something to the world simply by our own way of relating, by our own gentleness.

In taking the bodhisattva vow, we acknowledge that the world around us is workable. From the bodhisattva’s point of view it is not a hard-core, incorrigible world. It can be worked with within the inspiration of buddhadharma, following the example of Lord Buddha and the great bodhisattvas. We can join their campaign to work with sentient beings properly, fully, and thoroughly—without grasping, without confusion, and without aggression. Such a campaign is a natural development of the practice of meditation because meditation brings a growing sense of egolessness.

By taking the bodhisattva vow, we open ourselves to many demands. If we are asked for help, we should not refuse; if we are invited to be a parent, we should not refuse. In other words, we have to have some kind of interest in taking care of people, some appreciation of the phenomenal world and its occupants. It is not an easy matter. It requires that we not be completely tired and put off by people’s heavy-handed neurosis, ego-dirt, ego-puke, or ego-diarrhea; instead we are appreciative and willing to clean up for them. It is a sense of softness whereby we allow situations to take place in spite of little inconveniences; we allow situations to bother us, to overcrowd us.

Taking a bodhisattva vow means that we are inspired to put the teachings of Buddhism into practice in our everyday lives. In doing so we are mature enough not to hold anything back. Our talents are not rejected but are utilized as part of the learning process, part of the practice. A bodhisattva may teach dharma in the form of intellectual understanding, artistic understanding, or even business understanding. So in committing ourselves to the bodhisattva path, we are resuming our talents in an enlightened way, not being threatened or confused by them. Earlier our talents may have been “trips,” part of the texture of our confusion, but now we are bringing them back to life. Now they can blossom with the help of the teaching, the teacher, and our patience. This does not mean that we completely perfect our whole situation on the spot. There will still be confusion taking place, of course! But at the same time there is also a glimpse of openness and unlimited potentiality.

It is necessary at this point to take a leap in terms of trusting ourselves. We can actually correct any aggression or lack of compassion—anything anti-bodhisattva-like—as it happens; we can recognize our own neurosis and work with it, rather than trying to cover it up or throw it out. In this way one’s neurotic thought pattern, or “trip,” slowly dissolves. Whenever we work with our neurosis in such a direct way, it becomes compassionate action.

The usual human instinct is to feed ourselves first and only make friends with others if they can feed us. This could be called “ape instinct.” But in the case of the bodhisattva vow, we are talking about a kind of superhuman instinct which is much deeper and more full than that. Inspired by this instinct, we are willing to feel empty and deprived and confused. But something comes out of our willingness to feel that way, which is that we can help somebody else at the same time. So there is room for our confusion and chaos and ego-centeredness; they become stepping-stones. Even the irritations that occur in the practice of the bodhisattva path become a way of confirming our commitment.

By taking the bodhisattva vow, we actually present ourselves as the property of sentient beings: depending on the situation, we are willing to be a highway, a boat, a floor, or a house. We allow other sentient beings to use us in whatever way they choose. As the earth sustains the atmosphere and outer space accommodates the stars, galaxies, and all the rest, we are willing to carry the burdens of the world. We are inspired by the physical example of the universe. We offer ourselves as wind, fire, air, earth, and water—all the elements.

But it is necessary and very important to avoid idiot compassion. If one handles fire wrongly, he gets burned; if one rides a horse badly, he gets thrown. There is a sense of earthy reality. Working with the world requires some kind of practical intelligence. We cannot just be “love-and-light” bodhisattvas. If we do not work intelligently with sentient beings, quite possibly our help will become addictive rather than beneficial. People will become addicted to our help in the same way they become addicted to sleeping pills. By trying to get more and more help they will become weaker and weaker. So for the benefit of sentient beings, we need to open ourselves with an attitude of fearlessness. Because of people’s natural tendency toward indulgence, sometimes it is best for us to be direct and cutting. The bodhisattva’s approach is to help others to help themselves. It is analogous to the elements: earth, water, air, and fire always reject us when we try to use them in a manner that is beyond what is suitable, but at the same time, they offer themselves generously to be worked with and used properly. 

One of the obstacles to bodhisattva discipline is an absence of humor; we could take the whole thing too seriously. Approaching the benevolence of a bodhisattva in a militant fashion doesn’t quite work. Beginners are often overly concerned with their own practice and their own development, approaching Mahayana in a very Hinayana style. But that serious militancy is quite different from the lightheartedness and joy of the bodhisattva path. In the beginning you may have to fake being open and joyous. But you should at least attempt to be open, cheerful, and, at the same time, brave. This requires that you continuously take some sort of leap. You may leap like a flea, a grasshopper, a frog, or finally, like a bird, but some sort of leap is always taking place on the bodhisattva path.

There is a tremendous sense of celebration and joy in finally being able to join the family of buddhas. At last we have decided to claim our inheritance, which is enlightenment. From the perspective of doubt, whatever enlightened quality exists in us may seem small scale. But from the perspective of actuality, a fully developed enlightened being exists in us already. Enlightenment is no longer a myth: it does exist, it is workable, and we are associated with it thoroughly and fully. So we have no doubts as to whether we are on the path or not. It is obvious that we have made a commitment and that we are going to develop this ambitious project of becoming a buddha.

Taking the bodhisattva vow is an expression of settling down and making ourselves at home in this world. We are not concerned that somebody is going to attack us or destroy us. We are constantly exposing ourselves for the benefit of sentient beings. In fact, we are even giving up our ambition to attain enlightenment in favour of relieving the suffering and difficulties of people. Nevertheless, helplessly, we attain enlightenment anyway. Bodhisattvas and great tathagatas in the past have taken this step, and we too can do so. It is simply up to us whether we are going to accept this richness or reject it and settle for a poverty-stricken mentality.



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Re: The Bodhisattva
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 01:28:20 PM »

However innumerable sentient beings are, I vow to influence those seekers who have planted the causes and conditions along the path in succeeding to achieve it.
However inexhaustible the defilements are, I vow to contribute in extinguishing them.
However immeasurable the dharmas are, I vow to master them.
However unattainable the Way is, I vow to attain it.

It should be brought to the attention of all those who may be so interested that the nature of Bodhi (Enlightenment) is attained in the same manner by both men and women. There are not even slight differences in this connection, neither in the method nor in the quality of attainment. The Buddha discovered that gender is of no importance for the aim of freedom. For example, a female saint at the level of an Arahat or a female being striving after sainthood is in no way subordinate to a male saint or male follower of the Buddha or visa versa. It is not possible to declare a higher or more important equality of the sexes.

According to the teachings of the Buddha, there exists no practical difference between the sexes. Man and woman are equal in their dependence upon each other and in their clinging which must be overcome (Angutara-Nikaya I,1). Man and woman are equal in the rights and duties of their partnership, as the Buddha described it for lay followers in the famous sermon to Singalako. Thus stated, for male or female, the Four Bodhisattva Vows, their importance, meaning, and execution, are the SAME in any and all cases.


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Re: The Bodhisattva
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2013, 10:09:32 AM »
A friend of mine walks up to the nurses station in the hospital and the nurse there is wearing a button that says "I'm number 2".

My friend asks, "who's number one?" The nurse replies, "you are!"


A Lama was once asked, 'what should I tell someone that expresses concern about becoming a doormat if they apply the instructions on exchanging self with others?'

The Lama replied, "may I become a doormat for the benefit of all sentient beings."


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Re: The Bodhisattva
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2013, 10:56:59 AM »
We always seem to look at ourselves or putting ourselves bigger than anything in this world. Out of ignorance we also thought that being happy is thru self-cherishing and eventually lead us to become more selfish and misery. We often heard most of the older which we knew seems to realize the importance of famliy and health value rather than material. Out of the sudden the importance of status and money were no longer there. Why is that so? Can this be realize as young as we can? I really hope all sentient beings to be able to receive Dharma from the very young age.

Since beginningless time we sentient beings have been thinking only about one life and of ourselves alone. In this way countless eons have passed. During that time our thoughts and wishes have been only for happiness and yet never, not even for an instant, have we found the happiness to satisfy our desires. Instead, we have helplessly experienced and will continue to experience every possible unwanted suffering from the Hell of Respite up to the Peak of Existence for eons and eons. All this time, we have been without protection, without guidance, with no gain or benefit for oneself and others. At no time have we risen out of this desperate situation. Not knowing the causes of happiness and suffering we engage in wrong practice, falling prey to unwanted suffering, and have not attained our desired goal of happiness. In the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life it says:

Although we wish to be free of suffering,
we run toward the causes of suffering.
Although we wish for happiness,
with ignorance we destroy it
as if it were our enemy.

As this quote points out suffering is a result of misunderstanding what is to be eradicated and what is to be cultivated. Therefore, without letting ourselves fall under the influence of the old mind that thinks only of this life and only of ourselves, we should now transform our way of thinking. Concerning this bad attitude of cherishing oneself alone Panchen Lozang Chokyi Gyaltsen says in the Guru Puja:

This chronic disease of cherishing ourselves
is the cause of unwanted suffering.
Seeing this, we hold it in contempt and as worthy of blame.
Bless us to destroy the demon of selfishness.

In the same text he says:

Self cherishing is the road to every trouble.

In the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life it says:

Thinking of our ourselves is the doctrine of the devil.

Tenzin K

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Re: The Bodhisattva
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2013, 05:12:26 PM »
By entering the Bodhisattva way, the mind must become enlightened. And so the training begins by generating the 6 Perfections.

The 6 Perfections:

The 6 Perfections are:
1] generosity
2] ethics
3] patience
4] effort
5] concentration
6] wisdom.

Generosity - How does one become more generous? Is it possible to rid oneself of materialistic tendencies, selfishness and a desire to want to be kind to others and give to those who lack? Being able to provide for people by starting a business and then hiring those who need jobs would be profitable not only for yourself but for those who were previously unemployed. Volunteering your time and talents to those who need them is also a way of cultivating generosity. To share Buddhist teachings so people are able to help themselves and in turn, others, is the finest gift you can offer. You have created a positive ripple effect. The ripples of the teachings will travel far and wide to allow many to be assisted.

The attitude behind your generosity is of the utmost importance; giving with anger or the desire for payment isn't a good motivation. But if you have a humble motivation to help, then you're on your way to become a Bodhisattva.

Ethics - Knowing the basic difference between right and wrong is imperative to generating the 6 Perfections. To practice the perfection of ethics means to refrain from doing harm to yourself and all those around you. Killing, sexual misconduct, consuming harmful substances such as alcohol or drugs, being deceitful, and using abusive language must be avoided. All harmful actions are caused by a mind that harbors them, therefore it's highly important to be mindful of all your thoughts.

Patience - A lack of patience is prevalent in today's society and this will change if we want to evolve into a Bodhisattva. Patience is the antidote to anger. In Chandrakirti's 'Supplement to the Middle Way' he writes: "It makes us ugly, leads to the unholy, and robs us of discernment to know right from wrong." When we become angry, our body stiffens, our blood pressure rises, our breathing is impaired, as is our reason. Far too many people languish in prisons due to a few seconds when they went out of control and their anger harmed someone. Anger directed at oneself can result in suicide. Anger causes wars of all sizes.

Patience creates a joyousness within us. Our features become relaxed and we can look many years younger. We are then tolerant and happy and much further along the path of becoming a Bodhisattva.

Effort - Enthusiastic effort is necessary if you want to achieve anything, but for something as noble and challenging as joining the ranks of the Bodhisattvas, effort is definitely a requirement. Who doesn't want their efforts repaid instantly? However, the way of the Bodhisattva is arduous and requires virtues that many of us currently lack. Laziness is a huge fault that curtails effort. Tomorrow never comes so your effort is needed NOW!

Concentration - Developing a calm mind through meditation will sharpen our concentration. Being able to focus single-pointedly on one object with a non-wavering mind will be a great advantage. The calm-abiding mind develops clairvoyance and abilities to heal ourselves and others. When radiating inward and outward calm, you'll become like a lighthouse in a stormy night. You'll inspire others with your strong mental capabilities and they in turn will want the inner peace that you have found for yourself. Concentration is a form of mindfulness. This means that when you pay unwavering attention to what you're doing, you avoid many frustrations. Lack of mindfulness in the kitchen might result in burning a casserole, which not only wasting the ingredients, but twice as much time will be spent cleaning up the mess. Not practicing mindfulness when driving causes accidents. As Lama Tsong Khapa writes in his 'Summary of the Stages of the Path': "Concentration is a king with dominion over the mind, once placed, immovable like the king of mountains."

Wisdom - Wisdom is the root of all great qualities we can cultivate in this life. As the Sixth Perfection, it is the total of the other five. Meditation on wisdom is essential for entering into the stages of being a Bodhisattva. Buddhist texts emphasize two vital subjects when it comes to knowledge""selflessness and impermanence. Everything changes constantly. One day you leave work at 5:30, the next day it's 5:45. Nothing is fixed; it's variable. As for selflessness, we must first discover the location of the self. Is it in the body? If so, where""the mind? The physical world and all living beings are created by the mind. As we are the results of our past actions, so is the world we live in. Since there are places on earth that are like heaven, those areas where so much virtue has settled that people travel great distances to see such wonderful locations. Conversely, the hellish regions are dense accumulations of non-virtue and evil thrives there, keeping people captive to the negative states of consciousness.

To become a Bodhisattva is to be fearless. There is no aversion for those who are hostile and there is no obsessive clinging to those who are closest to us. There is no possessiveness, only love, compassion and discernment into the nature of reality.

Santideva, the 8th century Bodhisattva wrote a book entitled 'Bodhisattvacharyavatara,' which is one of the most important texts that students of Tibetan Buddhism study. The title has been translated into 'A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life' and is written in verse form. While there are only 10 chapters, dealing with the 6 perfections as well as developing the spirit of awakening, in chapter 10, verse 55 the entire essence of the meaning of Bodhisattva is beautifully expressed:

"For as long as space endures

And for as long as living beings remain,

Until then may I too abide

To dispel the misery of the world."


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Re: The Bodhisattva
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2013, 06:58:02 AM »
Becoming a Bodhisattva is a huge step in helping not only oneself, but also every other sentient being, both seen and unseen. Most people are self-motivated and work primarily to solve their own problems, keeping others a distant second. Should someone do an act of kindness, repayment is generally expected whether in the form of a thank you and/or further praise.

A Bodhisattva is motivated by pure compassion and love. Their goal is to achieve the highest level of being: that of a Buddha. And their reason for becoming a Buddha is to help others. The Bodhisattva will undergo any type of suffering to help another sentient being, whether a tiny insect or a huge mammal. In Shakyamuni Buddha's 'Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines' it states: "I will become a savior to all those beings, I will release them from all their sufferings." If this sounds familiar to anyone not acquainted with Buddhism, then we only need to think of the example of Jesus Christ, a true Bodhisattva.

When someone first enters the way of the Bodhisattva, they develop Bodhicitta, or, mind of enlightenment. Even as a person strives towards such an exalted goal, they feel as though they are limited by the fact that they, too, are suffering. So that they can be of aid to others, they decide to become Buddhas for a Buddha is capable of unlimited compassion and wisdom. Also, Buddhas are able to relate to all others at whatever level is needed. To those of lesser intelligence, a Buddha will use simpler words; and to those of great intelligence, a Buddha can explain answers in a more exalted language.

The following is a partial list of bodhisattvas, respected in Indian, Mongolian, Tibetan, Japanese and Chinese traditions.

•   Akasagarbha - The Bodhisattva of infinite happiness generated by helping countless numbers of sentient beings.
•   Avalokitesvara - The bodhisattva of compassion, the listener of the world's cries who uses skillful means to come to their aid; the most universally acknowledged Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. Known as Guan Yin in East Asia, Chenrezig in Tibet, and Migjid Janraisig in Mongolia.
•   Ksitigarbha - The bodhisattva of the beings suffering in hellish realms, or the bodhisattva of great vows.
•   Mahasthamaprapta - Represents the power of wisdom, seen on the left of Amitabha in Pure Land Buddhism.
•   Maitreya - The bodhisattva to be reborn and to become enlightened, thus succeeding Gautama Buddha in the future. Known for his benevolence.
•   Manjusri - Bodhisattva of keen awareness and wisdom.
•   Nagarjuna - The founder of the Madhyamaka (Middle Path) school of Mah?y?na Buddhism.
•   Ni? - Two strong guardians of the Buddha, standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in Japan and Korea under the appearance of frightening wrestler-like statues. They are manifestations of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani.
•   Padmasambhava - Most associated with Tibetan Buddhism and Bhutanese Buddhism. The Nyingma school regards Padmasambhava as a second Buddha.
•   Samantabhadra - Represents the practice and meditation of all Buddhas.
•   Sangharama - Only revered in Chinese Buddhism-Taoism, Sangharama refer to a group of devas who guard Buddhist monasteries and the faith, but the title is usually referring to the legendary Chinese military general Guan Yu, who became a Dharmapala through becoming a Buddhist and making vows.
•   Shantideva - Eighth century scholar; wrote about Bodhisattvas.
•   Sitatapatra - The goddess of the White Parasol and protector against supernatural danger.
•   Skanda - A Dharmapala who guards the Dharma, with links to Vajrapani and is somewhat the direct forbear to Murugan, a Hindu deity. Primarily worshipped in Chinese Buddhism.
•   Supushpachandra - Mentioned in Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way Of Life.
•   Suryavairocana - One of two attendants of Bhaisajyaguru Buddha.
•   Tara - Female bodhisattva, or set of bodhisattvas, in Tibetan Buddhism. She represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. Also a manifestation of Avalokite?vara.
•   Vajrapani - An early bodhisattva in Mahayana and the Chief Protector of the Buddha and earthly Bodhisattvas. Also linked to Seishi Mahasthamaprapta and Nio Kongo Rikishi and said to wield the power of all five Tathagathas.
•   Vasudhara - Bodhisattva of abundance and fertility. Popular in Nepal.


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Re: The Bodhisattva
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2013, 05:32:23 AM »
Anyone who is motivated by compassion and seeks Enlightenment not only for himself/ herself but also for  everyone is a Bodhisattva.
They are motivated by pure compassion and love and their goal is to achieve the highest level of being: that of a Buddha.
Th e Bodhisattva will undergo any type of suffering to help others,Whether a tiny insect or a huge mammal.
Buddha is capable of unlimited compassion and wisdom and able to relate to others at whatever level is needed.By entering the Bodhisattva way,the mind become Enlightened.And so the training begins by generating the 6 perfections,generosity,ethics,patience,effort,concentration and wisdom.
To become a Bodhisattva is to be fearless.There is no aversion for those who are hostile and there is no clinging to those matters to us.There is no possesiveness,only love, compassion and discernment into the nature of reality.