The Bodhisattva Ideal
According to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the Bodhisattva ideal is at the core of Mahayana Buddhism. And at its core is bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment not only for oneself but also for the benefit and liberation of all sentient beings.
The Bodhisattva Path
At the heart of the Bodhisattva ideal lies an unwavering commitment to compassion and selflessness. Bodhisattvas dedicate their lives to alleviating the suffering of others and working towards their enlightenment. They embody qualities such as loving-kindness, wisdom, and altruism, recognizing that true spiritual growth lies in serving others. Their ultimate goal is to attain Buddhahood, the state of complete awakening, in order to guide and benefit all sentient beings on their journey to liberation from suffering.
The Role of Bodhicitta
The bodhisattva is the being who has the quality of bodhicitta. According to Lama Yeshe, ” I think it is absolutely essential for us to have loving kindness towards others. There is no doubt about this. Loving kindness is the essence of bodhicitta, the attitude of the bodhisattva. It is the most comfortable path, the most comfortable meditation.” Without bodhicitta, “For some reason good meditation and its results – peacefulness, satisfaction and bliss – just don’t come.”
Bodhicitta is the commitment to dedicate one’s life. It grows from loving kindness and compassion into the desire to free all beings from suffering, even those who are extremely harmful or who consider us as enemies.
In his 8th century Bodhicaryavatara, Shantideva wrote:
Those who long to transcend the hundreds of miseries of existence, who long to relieve creatures of their sorrows, who long to enjoy many hundreds of joys, must never abandon bodhicitta. When bodhicitta has arisen in him, a wretch, captive in the prison of existence, he is straightway hailed son of the Sugatas [the Buddhas], to be revered in the worlds of gods and men.
The 14th Dalai Lama says bodhicitta is:
the aspiration to bring about the welfare of all sentient beings and to attain buddhahood for their sake – is really the distilled essence, the squeeze juice, of all the Buddha’s teachings, because ultimately, the Buddha’s intention is to lead all sentient beings to perfect enlightenment.
Compassion in Action
Bodhisattvas actively engage in compassionate actions to benefit others. They work to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of sentient beings. Whether it is offering material support, providing comfort to the afflicted, or teaching the path to liberation, their compassionate activities extend to all realms of existence. They see every being as interconnected and strive to create a more harmonious and compassionate world through their selfless deeds.
The Bodhisattva’s Qualities
The Bodhisattva ideal emphasizes cultivating qualities that contribute to the welfare of others. Compassion, loving-kindness, wisdom, and altruism form the foundation of their character. By developing these virtues, Bodhisattvas become beacons of inspiration, radiating love and understanding to all beings they encounter.
The Bodhisattva ideal calls upon individuals to embody compassion in action. It is a path that transcends self-centered pursuits and invites one to work tirelessly for the welfare and enlightenment of all sentient beings. By embracing the Bodhisattva ideal, we can contribute to a more compassionate and interconnected world.