Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lama Surya Das: The Bodhisattva's Vow

"Bodhisattva (Skt; Pali, Bodhisatta). The embodiement of the spiritual ideal of Mahayana Buddhism, in contrast to the earlier Arhat ideal advocated in the Hinayana. Bodhisattva literally means 'enlightened being' but the correct Sanskrit derivation may be 'bodhi-sakta' meaning 'a being who is oriented towards enlightenment'. The ideal is inspired by the lengthy career of the Buddha before he became enlightened, as described in the Jatakas. A Bodhisattva begins his career by generating the aspiration (prajnidhana) to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all beings, often in the form of a vow, which according to many Mahayana texts is often accompanied by a prediction of success (vya-karana) by a Buddha. He then embarks on the path leading to enlightenment (bodhi) by cultivating the Six Perfections (sad-paramita) and the four means of attracting beings (sam-graha-vastu) over the course of three immeasurable kalpas. The spiritual progress of a Bodhisattva is usually subdivided into ten stages or levels (bhumi). Many Mahayana sutras state that a Boddisattva foregoes his own final enlightenment until all other beings in samsara have been liberated, or else describe a special form of nirvana, the unlocalized nirvana (apratistha-nirvana) by virtue of which a Bodhisattva may be 'in the world but not of it'. Earlier Mahayana sutras are specific in their belief that a Bodhisattva can only be male but later texts allow the possibily of female bodhisattvas."
-- Damien Keown --
("Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism")
"How," asks best-selling author, Lama Surya Das, "do we apply impeccable intentions to the mundane, dog-eat-dog world that we perceive around us?"
"A real Bodhisattva," he notes, "has pure intentions toward everyone and everything. There is no selfishness, no neurosis, no rough edges and no hidden agendas. This is the ideal we strive to cultivate when we take the Bodhisattva's selfless altruistic vow. This is what we are hoping to achieve as we work on ourselves and set about purifying our intentions."
"Our internal thoughts and intentions ideally could reflect a purity of heart and a sincere sense of interconnectedness with all humanity," Surya Das points out. "Our lives can reflect generosity, tolerance, hope, forgiveness, honesty and commitment. This is true," he notes, "whether we're thinking about the survival of the rain forest, the person in the next room, or the snail struggling across a blacktop driveway."
However, he cautions the would-be post-modern Bodhisattva, "(s)ometimes its easier to feel this high-minded purity of intention toward the world as a whole than it is toward those in your own immediate environment."

[Lama Surya Das, "Awakening the Buddha Within," pages 146-147.]

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Below, Lama Surya Das reads the Bodhisattva's vow from his book: "The Mind Is Mightier Than the Sword".

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