Monday, 28 March 2011

The Bodhisatva Ideal


 Buddhism it its Therevāda version teaches three ways of liberating oneself, they are called Tividha Bodhi (Three fold Enlightenment), namely
1. ßammA ßambuddha – Full Enlightenment,
2. Paccekabodhi – Solitary Enlightenment
3. årahantabodhi (ßAvakabodhi) – Enlightenment of the worthy One.

In the Mahayana practice, they teach only one way of liberation, that is the full enlightenment. But these traditions maintain the idea that one has to fulfill perfections as an aspirant for enlightenment. That state is called Bodhisatvabhūmi.

According to the µahAyana tradition, the Bodhisatvahood is only second to the Buddha but Therevāda tradition maintains the Bodhisatvahood is the highest way of living next to the Worthy One. As Mahayanists believe, every being is a Bodhisatva or sprout of Buddhahood (BuddhAGkura) beings should live to fulfill the aim of enlightenment and Bodhisatvas first work for the happiness of other beings and for the liberation of them, then attain Nibbāna. In the Theravada tradition the Bodhisatva ideal is more elaborated and emphasized with reference to the Bodhisatva that aspires to become the Buddha.

The BuddhavaMsa explains the story of the aspirant Buddha Gotama and according to that, after the making of first vow to become a Buddha in the future one should get the blessings of other Buddhas to come. Buddha ∂IpaGkAra gave His blessings to ascetic Sumedha – who became the Gotama Buddha, the Buddha later – with the following verse.

Passatha imam tApasaM - jaTilaM uggatApanaM,
aparimeyya ito kappe - buddho loke bhavissati.
                                 (Buddhavaµsa, Sumedhakatha)

=Look at this ascetic, Bearing a turban and practicing seriously,
He will be the Buddha in the world, In an innumerable aeon”.

It is said in the Buddhavaµsa one should have eight special qualities to get the blessings of the Buddha (abhinIhAra) to start with the Bodhisatva practice.

µanussattaM liGgasampatti - hetusatthAra dassanaM,
pabbajjA guNasampatti - adhikAro ca chandatA,
aTThadhammo samodhAnA - abhinīhAro samijjhati.

1.   Being a human being
2.   Being a man
3.   Having enough merits to become an Arahant
4.   Seeing the Buddha alive
5.   Being ordained
6.   Having qualities of attainments (samāpatti) etc
7.   Determination
8.   Will

By coming together of these eight qualities, the wish to become enlightened is fulfilled.

The mental wish for the Buddhahood is called ManopraNIdhi. The verbal declaration is called VakpraNīdhi; conformation of His wish by a ßammA ßambuddha is called ñiyata VivaraNa. In the Therevāda tradition, the Bodhisatva is called Buddha BijAGkUra (seed sprout of the Buddha).

According to Theravada tradition of the Bodhisatva concept, a person has the fortune to become an årahant, in that life itself gives up the opportunity for the sake of suffering beings and wishes to become the Buddha. Out of compassion to the world, he decides to undergo further saMsāric suffering, attaining Nibbāna through årahantship is considered by the Mahayanists to be lower way (HInayAna). Therefore, they recommend the higher way (Mahayana) to live a life of Bodhisatva full of compassion and wisdom until he attains the Buddhahood. According to the Theravada tradition, årahantship also higher for the Worthy One is capable of preaching the dhamma to the others to make them enlightened. 

According to both traditions, the aspirant Buddhas should fulfill the perfections. Ten such perfections are given in the Theravāda tradition. The pAramis should be fulfilled in three levels.

According to BodhicaryAvatAra of ĀcAryashatadeva gives three levels of Bodhisatva’s life

1.   Taking refuge in the Buddha (prArambhaka bhakti prAguNyaya).
2.   Generation of the Bodhicitta (BodhicittuppAda).
3.   Fulfillment of perfections (PAramIta prAguNyaya).

The BodhicaryAvatAra is the best exposition of the Mahayana version of the Bodhisatva and his practice.

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