Becoming a Bodhisattva

In an increasingly interdependent world our own welfare and happiness depend on many other people. Other human beings have a right to peace and happiness that is equal to our own; therefore we have a responsibility to help those in need. Many of our world's problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a human family.”   … Dalai Lama

Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit term which encompasses two words...Bodhi which means enlightenment, and Sattva which means being.  In Tibetan Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is anyone who is motivated by compassion and seeks enlightenment not only for him/herself, but also for everyone. 


Most people are self-motivated and work only to solve his/her own problems, while keeping others’ problems a distance second. While we may learn about difficulties in other parts of the world/country/city/neighbourhood, we are still primarily interested in our own.  In addition, if we do consciously work an act of kindness, it is often accompanied by an expectation of a thank you 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.   Indeed, The Buddha has been quoted as saying “I will become a savour to all those beings, I will release them from all their sufferings.” Interestingly, this intention is present in most world religions – including Christianity. Jesus Christ was a true Bodhisattva.


Beginning the journey of becoming a Bodhisattva is the way of enlightenment. If we can be of aid to others, this is the path. The path is laid out for us in the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism in the Six Perfections. They are as follows:


1. Generosity                               2. Ethics                                          3. Patience

4. Effort                                             5. Concentration             6. Wisdom

Do the Six Perfections sound familiar?!  If we look to the yogic teachings of Patanjali, there they are! 


1. Ahimsa, typically translated as non-violence and inflicting no harm, can be extrapolated out to the very opposite of violence – to sharing, caring, generosity and love.


2.  Satya – truth in word and thought.  Asteya – not stealing, and non-coveting that which is not ours.  Santosha – satisfaction with what one has. Are these qualities not Ethics?!


3 and 4.  Tapas – austerity and associated observances for body discipline and mental control...Patience and Effort.


5. Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana – the 3 steps to meditation. Concentration.


6.  Svadhyaha -  The study of scripture and the search for God and the soul.  Wisdom.


Here are some questions to ask ourselves during meditation.

1.  How can I become more generous? In my thoughts, words, actions? Is it possible to control materialistic tendencies and to work toward being kinder to others? How is it possible to share what I know about yoga and the teachings so that people are able to help themselves?


2.  How can I refrain from doing harm to myself, and all those around thoughts, words and actions?  In every way?  Do I know the difference between what is absolutely right, and what is absolutely wrong?


3.  How can I develop more patience? Patience it an the antidote to anger.   In Chandrakirti's 'Supplement to the Middle Way' he writes: "Anger 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. “


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 .


4.  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 (Tamas – inertia and lack of effort/laziness) is a huge fault that curtails effort. Tapas is the discipline that moves us forward! Our effort is needed NOW!


5.  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 – while you are doing it - you avoid many frustrations.


6.  Wisdom, the sixth perfection, is said to be the root of all great qualities we can cultivate in this life. The Buddhist texts emphasize two vital subjects when it comes to knowledge – selflessness and impermanence.  When we have clear understanding of impermanence, that everything is changing, that everything begins, is, and then ends, that all in the physical world and all living beings are created by the mind, only then will we have ‘wisdom.’  This clarity of mind then brings about all the other 5 perfections. 


A Bodhisattva is often likened to a lighthouse on a stormy, dark sea.  Is there anyone in your life who has been – or is - a Bodhisattva for you? Are you a Bodhisattva?!  Can you BE a Boddhisattva?!


The above was prepared with notes from  Many Thanks!


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