Bodhisattva

Buddha in ContemplationA bodhisattva is anyone who is motivated by great compassion and has generated a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Bodhisattva refers to the ultimate state a human can achieve in life, one embracing self-sacrifice and morality for the sake of others.

The Buddha used the term to refer to himself both in his previous lives and as a young man in his life prior to his enlightenment, in the period during which he was working towards his own liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. During his discourse when he recounts his experiences as a young aspirant, he regularly used the phrase, “When I was an unenlightened “bodhisattva,” indicating a being who is “bound for enlightenment” – that is, a person whose aim is to become fully enlightened through his own efforts and insight without a teacher to point out the Dharma (duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’) – but as yet has not attained that ultimate goal and is still subject to birth, illness, death, sorrow, defilement and delusion.

According to tradition, on the way to becoming a Buddha, a bodhisattva proceeds through ten grounds or “bhumis.” They are presented here in approximate translation from the original Buddhist nomenclature:

Great Joy: It is said that being close to enlightenment and seeing the benefit for all sentient beings, one achieves great joy, hence the name. In this bhumi, the bodhisattvas practice all perfections especially emphasizing generosity.

Stainless: In accomplishing the second bhumi, the bodihisattva is free from the stains of immorality, which is the reason this bhumi is named “stainless.” The emphasized perfection is moral discipline.

Luminous: The third bhumi is named “luminous” because for a bodhisattva who accomplishes this ground, the light of Dharma is said to radiate for others from the bodhisattva. The emphasized perfection is patience.

Radiant: The fourth ground is called “radiant” because it is said to be akin to a radiating light that fully burns that which opposes enlightenment. The emphasized perfection is vigor (defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions).

Very difficult to train: Bodhisattvas who attain this fifth bhumi strive to help sentient beings attain maturity, and do not become emotionally involved when such beings respond negatively, both of which are difficult to do. The emphasized perfection is meditative concentration (In this state, the mind has become firm and stable and the ability to concentrate is greatly enhanced).

Obviously Transcendent: By depending on the perfection of wisdom, the bodhisattva does not abide in either samsara or nirvana; ergo this state is “obviously transcendent.” The emphasized perfection is wisdom.

Gone afar: Particular emphasis is on the perfection of skillful means to help others to reach a goal – often the goal of enlightenment.

Immovable: The emphasized virtue is aspiration. This, the “immovable” bhumi is the stage at which one becomes able to choose his place of rebirth.

Good Discriminating Wisdom: The emphasized virtue is power.

Cloud of Dharma: The emphasized virtue is the practice of primordial wisdom.

After the ten bhumis, according to Mahayana Buddhism, one attains complete enlightenment and becomes a Buddha.

It’s not enough just to know the definition of bodhisattva. What’s much more important is to study the actions of a bodhisattva and then to behave like one yourself. Thus, regarding the question “What is a bodhisattva in current terms, in the here and now?” we can define a bodhisattva as one who acts as a true adult. Individuals who are called adults grow up and become an adult, but spiritually too many people never mature to adulthood. They don’t behave as adults in their daily lives. Conversely, a bodhisattva is one who sees the world through adult eyes and whose actions are the actions of a true adult. That is really what a bodhisattva is. With this definition, it makes it so much easier to take on the characterization of “Bodhisattva” and is certainly a state of being to which we can all aspire!

 


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Spirit guided us to this special place which centuries earlier was used by ancient people as a ceremonial site. We were guided by Spirit to open the Center at this place which is now the heart of spirituality in Sedona.

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Center for the New Age
341 State Route 179
across from Tlaquepaque
Sedona, AZ 86336-6111

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