The Bodhisattva reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Table of contents
1 Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism
2 Bodhisattvas in Theravada Buddhism
3 Specific bodhisattvas
4 External link
5 References

Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism

In Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva (Sanskrit: a person Sattva who is bent on and striving for Enlightenment Bodhi) has the compassionate determination to aid all beings on their quest for the highest state of development, full enlightenment of a Buddha. This type of motivation is known as Bodhicitta.

Remaining in this world of uncontrolled rebirth (cf. Wheel of Life), this individual has taken the bodhisattva vows not to pass into Parinirvana until all other beings have achieved Nirvana.

According to the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, on his/her way to becoming a Buddha, the bodhisattva proceeds through ten (sometimes fourteen) grounds or bhumi.

Before a bodhisattva arrives at the first ground, he or she first must travel the first two of the five paths (marked also with the syllables from the heart sutra that represents each path):

  1. the path of accumulation (gate)
  2. the path of preparation (gate).

The ten grounds of the bodhisattva then can be grouped into the next three paths
  1. Bhumi 1 the path of insight (paragate)
  2. Bhumi 2-7 the path of meditation (parasamgate)
  3. Bhumi 8-10 the path of no more learning (bodhi)

  4. 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 virtues (paramita), but especially emphasizing generosity.
  5. Stainless
    • In accomplishing the second bhumi, the bodhisattva is free from the stains of immorality, therefore, this bhumi is named 'Stainless'. The emphasized virtue is moral ethics.
  6. Radiant
    • The third bhumi is named 'Radiant', because, for a bodhisattva who accomplishes this bhumi, the light of Dharma is said to radiate from the bodhisattva for others. The emphasized virtue is patience.
  7. Luminous
    • This bhumi is called 'luminous', because it is said to be like a radiating light that fully burns that which opposes enlightenment. The emphasized virtue is perseverance.
  8. Very difficult to train
    • Bodhisattvas who attain this 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 virtue is meditative concentration.
  9. Obviously Transcendent
    • "By depending on the perfection of wisdom awareness, he [the bodhisattva] does not abide in either samsara or nirvana, so it is 'obviously transcendent'". The emphasized virtue is wisdom.
  10. Gone afar
    • Particular emphasis is on the perfection of skillful means, or upaya-kaushalya, [to help others].
  11. Immovable
    • The emphasized virtue is aspiration.
    • This, the 'Immovable' bhumi, is the bhumi at which one becomes able to choose his/her place of rebirth.
  12. Good Discriminating Wisdom
    • The emphasized virtue is strength.
  13. Cloud of dharma
    • The emphasized virtue is the practice of primordial wisdom.
  14. Buddhahood
    • After the ten bhumis, according to Mahayana Buddhism, one attains complete enlightenment and becomes a Buddha.
    • According to Mahayana tradition, Arhats have purified their stains and all emotional afflictions, but have not yet attained complete, unsurpassable enlightenment, or buddhahood.

The list of ten bhumis and their descriptions are from The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, a treatise by Gampopa, an influential character of the Kagyu tradition.

A bodhisattva practices several virtues, called the paramitas. These are often listed as the perfection of:

When becoming liberated from uncontrolled rebirth, the bodhisattva becomes like an Arahant (sometimes spelled Arhat), but rather than moving into Nirvana, remains in the world to lead other beings to liberation and enlightenment.

Bodhisattvas in Theravada Buddhism

In Theravada Buddhism, the Bodhisattva (Pali) is an aspirant striving for Enlightenment, so that once Awakened, he or she may efficiently aid other beings with the expertise of supreme Enlightenment. In the holy Tipitaka, Siddhattha Gotama's life experience as a bodhisattva before Buddhahood is recorded in the texts of the Jataka. Lay Buddhists of Theravada seek inspiration in Gautama's skill as a good layman in these texts (which account not only tells of his historical life, but many previous lives). Believed by some to be presently acting as a bodhisattva, is Maitreya (Pali: Metteyya), known as the future Buddha to be who is said to be currently residing in the Tusita world awaiting rebirth.

Specific bodhisattvas

Various traditions within Buddhism believe in certain specific bodhisattvas. Some bodhisattvas appear across traditions, but due to language barriers may be seen as separate entities. For example, Tibetan Buddhists believe in Chenrezig, who is Avalokitesvara in India, Guan Yin in China, and Kannon in Japan. A modern bodhisattva for many is the 14th Dalai Lama, considered by many followers of Tibetan Buddhism to be an incarnation of that same bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Bodhisattvas are a popular subject in Buddhist art.

Partial list of bodhisattvas

External link