|Chinese||菩提薩埵（菩薩）, 菩提萨埵（菩萨） |
(Pinyin: pútísàduǒ (púsà) )
(Jyutping: pou4 tai4 saat3 do3))
|Korean||보살, 菩薩 |
([kraoh kəmo caik])
(byang chub sems dpa)
|Glossary of Buddhism|
In the Early Buddhist schools as well as modern Theravada Buddhism, a bodhisattva (Pali: bodhisatta) refers to anyone who has made a resolution to become a Buddha and has also received a confirmation or prediction from a living Buddha that this will be so.
In Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva refers to anyone who has generated bodhicitta, a spontaneous wish and compassionate mind to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Bodhisattvas are a popular subject in Buddhist art.
Early Buddhism and the Nikāya schoolsEdit
In early Buddhism, the term bodhisatta is used in the early texts to refer to Gautama Buddha in his previous lives and as a young man in his current life in the period during which he was working towards his own liberation. During his discourses, to recount his experiences as a young aspirant he regularly uses the phrase "When I was an unenlightened bodhisatta..." The term therefore connotes a being who is "bound for enlightenment", in other words, a person whose aim is to become fully enlightened. In the Pāli canon, the bodhisatta is also described as someone who is still subject to birth, illness, death, sorrow, defilement, and delusion. Some of the previous lives of the Buddha as a bodhisattva are featured in the Jataka tales.
According to the Theravāda monk Bhikkhu Bodhi, the bodhisattva path is not taught in the earliest strata of Buddhist texts such as the Pali Nikayas (and their counterparts such as the Chinese Āgamas) which instead focus on the ideal of the Arahant.
The oldest known story about how Gautama Buddha becomes a bodhisattva is the story of his encounter with Dīpankara Buddha. During this encounter, a previous incarnation of Gautama, variously named Sumedha, Megha, or Sumati offers five blue lotuses and spreads out his hair or entire body for Dīpankara to walk on, resolving to one day become a Buddha. Dīpankara then confirms that they will attain Buddhahood.
The path is explained differently by the various Nikaya schools. In the In the Buddhavaṃsa, a 1st-2nd century BCE Sri Lankan Theravāda work, after receiving the prediction, Gautama took four asaṃkheyyas (‘incalculable aeons’) and a hundred thousand, shorter kalpas (aeons) to reach Buddhahood. Early Buddhist authors saw this story as indicating that the making of a resolution (abhinīhāra) in the presence of a living Buddha and his prediction/confirmation of one's future Buddhahood was necessary to become a bodhisattva. According to Drewes, "all known models of the path to Buddhahood developed from this basic understanding."
The Sarvāstivāda school had similar models about how the Buddha Gautama became a bodhisattva. They held it took him three asaṃkhyeyas and ninety one kalpas (aeons) to become a Buddha after his resolution (praṇidhāna) in front of a past Buddha. During the first asaṃkhyeya he is said to have encountered and served 75,000 Buddhas, and 76,000 in the second, after which he received his first prediction (vyākaraṇa) of future Buddhahood from Dīpankara, meaning that he could no longer fall back from the path to Buddhahood. Thus, the presence of a living Buddha is also necessary for Sarvāstivāda. The Mahāvibhāṣā explains that its discussion of the bodhisattva path is partly meant to “stop those who are in fact not bodhisattvas from giving rise to the self-conceit that they are.”
- Natural (prakṛti), one first plants the roots of merit in front of a Buddha to attain Buddhahood.
- Resolution (praṇidhāna), one makes their first resolution to attain Buddhahood in the presence of a Buddha.
- Continuing (anuloma), one continues to practice until one meets a Buddha who confirms one's future Buddhahood.
- Irreversible (anivartana), at this stage, one cannot fall back.
The Sri Lankan commentator Dhammapala in his commentary on the Cariyāpiṭaka, a text which focuses on the bodhisatta path, notes that to become a bodhisatta one must make a valid resolution in front of a living Buddha, which confirms that one is “irreversible” (anivattana) from the attainment of Buddhahood. The Nidānakathā, as well as the Buddhavaṃsa and Cariyāpiṭaka commentaries makes this explicit by stating that one cannot use a substitute (such as a bodhi tree, statue or stupa) for the presence of a living Buddha since only a Buddha has the requisite knowledge for making a reliable prediction. This is the generally accepted view maintained in orthodox Theravada today. The idea is that any resolution to attain Buddhahood may easily be forgotten or abandoned during the aeons ahead. The Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw (1846–1923) explains that though it is easy to make vows for future Buddhahood by oneself, it is very difficult to maintain the necessary conduct and views during periods when the Dharma has disappeared from the world. One will easily fall back during such periods and this is why one is not truly a bodhisatta until one receives recognition from a living Buddha.
Because of this, it was and remains a common practice in Theravada to attempt to establish the necessary conditions to meet the future Buddha Maitreya and thus receive a prediction from him. Theravada literature and inscriptions report the aspirations of monks, kings and ministers to meet Maitreya for this purpose. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933), and U Nu (1907–1995) both sought to receive a prediction from a Buddha in the future and believed meritorious actions done for the good of the Dhamma would help in their endeavor to become bodhisattas.
Over time the term came to be applied to other figures besides Gautama Buddha in Theravada lands, possibly due to the influence of Mahayana. The Theravada Abhayagiri tradition of Sri Lanka practiced Mahayana Buddhism and was a very influential tradition until the 12th century. Kings of Sri Lanka were often described as bodhisattvas, starting at least as early as Sirisanghabodhi (r. 247-249), who was renowned for his compassion, took vows for the welfare of the citizens, and was regarded as a mahāsatta (Sanskrit mahāsattva), an epithet used almost exclusively in Mahayana Buddhism. Many other Sri Lankan kings from the 3rd until the 15th century were also described as bodhisattvas and their royal duties were sometimes clearly associated with the practice of the Ten Pāramitās. In some cases, they explicitly claimed to have received predictions of Buddhahood in past lives.
Theravadin bhikkhu and scholar Walpola Rahula stated that the bodhisattva ideal has traditionally been held to be higher than the state of a śrāvaka not only in Mahayana but also in Theravada Buddhism. He also quotes the 10th century king of Sri Lanka, Mahinda IV (956-972 CE), who had the words inscribed "none but the bodhisattvas will become kings of a prosperous Lanka," among other examples.
But the fact is that both the Theravada and the Mahayana unanimously accept the Bodhisattva ideal as the highest...Although the Theravada holds that anybody can be a Bodhisattva, it does not stipulate or insist that all must be Bodhisattva which is considered not practical.— Walpola Rahula, Bodhisattva Ideal in Buddhism
Jeffrey Samuels echoes this perspective, noting that while in Mahayana Buddhism the bodhisattva path is held to be universal and for everyone, in Theravada it is "reserved for and appropriated by certain exceptional people." Paul Williams writes that some modern Theravada meditation masters in Thailand are popularly regarded as bodhisattvas.
In Mahāyāna BuddhismEdit
Mahāyāna Buddhism is based principally upon the path of a bodhisattva. According to Jan Nattier, the term Mahāyāna ("Great Vehicle") was originally even an honorary synonym for Bodhisattvayāna, or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle." The Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra contains a simple and brief definition for the term bodhisattva, which is also the earliest known Mahāyāna definition. This definition is given as the following.
Because he has enlightenment as his aim, a bodhisattva-mahāsattva is so called.
The earliest depiction of the Bodhisattva path in texts such as the Ugraparipṛcchā Sūtra describe it as an arduous, difficult monastic path suited only for the few which is nevertheless the most glorious path one can take. Three kinds of Bodhisattvas are mentioned in the early Mahayana texts: the forest, city, and monastery Bodhisattvas - with forest dwelling being promoted a superior, even necessary path in sutras such as the Ugraparipṛcchā and the Samadhiraja sutras. The early Rastrapalapariprccha sutra also promotes a solitary life of meditation in the forests, far away from the distractions of the householder life. The Rastrapala is also highly critical of monks living in monasteries and in cities who are seen as not practicing meditation and morality. The Ratnagunasamcayagatha also says the Bodhisattva should undertake ascetic practices (dhutanga), "wander freely without a home", practice the paramitas and train under a guru in order to perfect his meditation practice and realization of prajnaparamita. These texts seem to indicate the initial Bodhisattva ideal was associated with a strict forest asceticism.
Mahāyāna Buddhism encourages everyone to become bodhisattvas and to take the bodhisattva vows. With these vows, one makes the promise to work for the complete enlightenment of all sentient beings by practicing the six perfections. Indelibly entwined with the bodhisattva vow is merit transference (pariṇāmanā).
In the Lotus Sūtra, life in this world is compared to people living in a house that is on fire. People take this world as reality pursuing worldly projects and pleasures without realizing that the house is ablaze and will soon burn down (due to the inevitability of suffering). A bodhisattva is one who has a determination to free sentient beings from samsara and its cycle of death, rebirth and suffering. This type of mind is known as the mind of awakening (bodhicitta).
A commonly repeated misconception in Western literature is that bodhisattvas delay their own liberation. This confusion is based on a misreading of several different scriptural concepts and narratives. One of these is the Tibetan teaching on three types of motivation for generating bodhicitta. According to Patrul Rinpoche's 19th century Words of My Perfect Teacher (Kun bzang bla ma'i gzhal lung), a bodhisattva might be motivated in one of three ways. They are:
- King-like bodhicitta - To aspire to become a Buddha first in order to then help sentient beings.
- Boatman-like bodhicitta - To aspire to become a Buddha at the same time as other sentient beings.
- Shepherd-like bodhicitta - To aspire to become a Buddha only after all other sentient beings have done so.
These three are not types of people, but rather types of motivation. According to Patrul Rinpoche, the third quality of intention is most noble though the mode by which buddhahood actually occurs is the first; that is, it is only possible to teach others the path to enlightenment once one has attained enlightenment oneself. The ritualized formulation of the bodhisattva vow also reflects this order (becoming a buddha so that one can then teach others to do the same). A bodhisattva vow ritual text attributed to Nāgārjuna, of the second-third century CE, states the vow as follows: "Just as the past tathāgata arhat samyaksambuddhas, when engaging in the behavior of a bodhisattva, generated the aspiration to unsurpassed complete enlightenment so that all beings be liberated, all beings be freed, all beings be relieved, all beings attain complete nirvana, all beings be placed in omniscient wisdom, in the same way, I whose name is so-and-so, from this time forward, generate the aspiration to unsurpassed complete enlightenment so that all beings be liberated, all beings be freed, all beings be relieved, all beings attain complete nirvana, all beings be placed in omniscient wisdom." 
Another reason for the misconception that a bodhisattva "delays" liberation is that a bodhisattva rejects the liberation of the śravaka and pratyekabuddha, described in Mahāyāna literature as either inferior (as in Asaṅga's fourth century Yogācārabhūmi) or nonexistent (as in the Lotus Sūtra). That a bodhisattva has the option to pursue such a lesser path, but instead chooses the long path towards buddhahood is one of the five criteria for one to be considered a bodhisattva. The other four are: being human, being a man, making a vow to become a buddha in the presence of a previous buddha, and receiving a prophecy from that buddha.
The six perfections that constitute bodhisattva practice should not be confused with the actual acts of benefiting beings that the bodhisattva vows to accomplish once he or she is a buddha. The six perfections are a mental transformation and need not actually benefit anyone. This is seen in the story of Vessantara, an incarnation of Śākyamuni Buddha while he was still a bodhisattva, who commits the ultimate act of generosity by giving away his children to an evil man who mistreats them. Vessantara's generous act causes indirect harm, however, the merit from the perfection of his generosity fructifies when he attains complete enlightenment as Śākyamuni Buddha.
According to many traditions within Mahāyāna Buddhism, on the way to becoming a Buddha, a bodhisattva proceeds through ten, or sometimes fourteen, grounds or bhūmis. Below is the list of the ten bhūmis and their descriptions according to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, a treatise by Gampopa, an influential teacher of the Tibetan Kagyu school. (Other schools give slightly variant descriptions.)
Before a bodhisattva arrives at the first ground, he or she first must travel the first two of five paths:
- the path of accumulation
- the path of preparation
The ten grounds of the bodhisattva then can be grouped into the next three paths
- bhūmi 1 the path of insight
- bhūmis 2-7 the path of meditation
- bhūmis 8-10 the path of no more learning
The chapter of ten grounds in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra refers to 52 stages. The 10 grounds are:
- 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 bhūmi the bodhisattvas practice all perfections (pāramitās), but especially emphasizing generosity (dāna).
- Stainless: In accomplishing the second bhūmi, the bodhisattva is free from the stains of immorality, therefore, this bhūmi is named "stainless". The emphasized perfection is moral discipline (śīla).
- Luminous: The light of Dharma is said to radiate for others from the bodhisattva who accomplishes the third bhūmi. The emphasized perfection is patience (kṣānti).
- Radiant: This bhūmi it is said to be like a radiating light that fully burns that which opposes enlightenment. The emphasized perfection is vigor (vīrya).
- Very difficult to train: Bodhisattvas who attain this ground 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 (dhyāna).
- Obviously Transcendent: By depending on the perfection of wisdom, [the bodhisattva] does not abide in either saṃsāra or nirvāṇa, so this state is "obviously transcendent". The emphasized perfection is wisdom (prajñā).
- Gone afar: Particular emphasis is on the perfection of skillful means (upāya), to help others.
- Immovable: The emphasized virtue is aspiration. This "immovable" bhūmi is where 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 bhūmis, according to Mahāyāna Buddhism, one attains complete enlightenment and becomes a Buddha.
With the 52 stages, the Śūraṅgama Sūtra recognizes 57 stages. With the 10 grounds, various Vajrayāna schools recognize 3–10 additional grounds, mostly 6 more grounds with variant descriptions.
Some sutras said a beginner would take 3–22 countless eons (mahāsaṃkhyeya kalpas) to become a buddha. Pure Land Buddhism suggests buddhists go to the pure lands to practice as bodhisattvas. Tiantai, Huayan, Zen and Vajrayāna schools say they teach ways to attain buddhahood within one karmic cycle.
Various traditions within Buddhism believe in specific bodhisattvas. Some bodhisattvas appear across traditions, but due to language barriers may be seen as separate entities. For example, Tibetan Buddhists believe in various forms of Chenrezig, who is Avalokiteśvara in Sanskrit, Guanyin in China, Gwan-eum in Korea, Quan Am in Vietnam, and Kannon in Japan. Followers of Tibetan Buddhism consider the Dalai Lamas and the Karmapas to be an emanation of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Kṣitigarbha is another popular bodhisattva in Japan and China. He is known for aiding those who are lost. His greatest compassionate vow is:
If I do not go to the hell to help the suffering beings there, who else will go? ... if the hells are not empty I will not become a Buddha. Only when all living beings have been saved, will I attain Bodhi.
The place of a bodhisattva's earthly deeds, such as the achievement of enlightenment or the acts of Dharma, is known as a bodhimaṇḍa, and may be a site of pilgrimage. Many temples and monasteries are famous as bodhimaṇḍas. Perhaps the most famous bodhimaṇḍa of all is the Bodhi Tree under which Śākyamuṇi achieved buddhahood. In the tradition of Chinese Buddhism, there are four mountains that are regarded as bodhimaṇḍas for bodhisattvas, with each site having major monasteries and being popular for pilgrimages by both monastics and laypeople. These four bodhimandas are:
- Mount Putuo: Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva
- Mount Emei: Samantabhadra Bodhisattva
- Mount Wutai: Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva
- Mount Jiuhua: Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva
4 Great Bodhisattvas (in Chinese Buddhism)
四大菩薩. (菩薩 is short for菩提薩埵)
In this order: Compassion, Wisdom, Vow and Practice.
悲 智 願 行
1, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva 觀世音 菩薩 short: 觀音 菩薩
Stands for Great Compassion.
2, Manjusri Bodhisattva 文殊師利 菩薩 short: 文殊 菩薩
Stands for Great Wisdom.
3, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva 地藏 菩薩
Stands for Great Vow.
4, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva 普賢 菩薩
Stands for Great Practice.
Standing bodhisattva. Gandhāra, 2nd-3rd century.
Mural of bodhisattvas. China, Tang Dynasty, 7th-9th century.
Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva. Japan, 9th century.
9th century CE Srivijayan art, Chaiya, Surat Thani, Southern Thailand.
Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. India, 11th-12th century.
Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva. China, 13th century.
Youthful Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva silver statue. Java, 9th century Indonesia.
Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva crossing the sea. Japan, 14th century.
Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva. Japan, 15th century.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. Japan.
Maitreya Bodhisattva. Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh, India.
Shrine with an Image of a Bodhisattva. Brooklyn Museum.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bodhisattva.|
- The Ethical Discipline of Bodhisattvas, by Geshe Sonam Rinchen (Tibetan Gelug Tradition)
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- The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas online with commentaries.
- The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, all-in-one page with memory aids & collection of different versions.
- Audio recitation of 'The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas' in MP3 format (Paul & Lee voices).
- What A Bodhisattva Does: Thirty-Seven Practices by Ngulchu Thogme with slide show format.
- Access to Insight Library: Bodhi's Wheel409
- Arahants, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by Bhikkhu Bodhi
- The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravāda Theory and Practice by Jeffrey Samuels
- Online exhibition analyzing a Korean Bodhisattva sculpture
- Buddhanet.net Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
- Sacred visions : early paintings from central Tibet, fully digitized text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art libraries