What is a bodhisattva? A scholar of Buddhism explains


PTI, Oct 8, 2022, 10:34 AM IST

Credit: The Conversation

“Bodhisattva” is a key idea in Buddhism. The word is constructed from the Sanskrit root bodhi, meaning “awakening” or “enlightenment”, and sattva, meaning “being”.

The core meaning of the word is “a being who is on the way to becoming enlightened”.

As I explain in my book “Buddhism: A Guide to the 20 Most Important Buddhist Ideas for the Curious and Skeptical”, the word bodhisattva is understood in divergent ways by different groups of Buddhists.

Who is a bodhisattva? In Theravada Buddhism, which is most prevalent in Southeast Asia, the term is exclusively used to refer to Siddhartha Gautama, as the Buddha was known before he became enlightened.

In this school of thought, the word bodhisattva can also refer to Gautama in one of his previous rebirths as he worked toward enlightenment through numerous lifetimes as animals, people or other types of beings.

According to legend, Gautama was born as the crown prince of a kingdom in far northeastern India, but he gave up his throne and all of his riches in order to pursue enlightenment.

Eventually, he fulfilled his destiny and transitioned from a being who is on the way to becoming awakened to a fully enlightened person – in other words, a Buddha.

Fight back against disinformation. Get your news here, direct from experts In Mahayana Buddhism, practised widely in East and Central Asia, the term bodhisattva can be used in a similar way.

However, this form of Buddhism says that there are many more than just one Buddha; indeed, the ultimate goal of all true believers of Mahayana is to become a Buddha themselves. Most serious followers of this path take the bodhisattva vow to become recognised as bodhisattvas.

Additionally, in Mahayana belief, there are certain highly evolved bodhisattvas who have been practising Buddhism for so many lifetimes that they have become superhuman divine beings.

These so-called “celestial bodhisattvas” are said to have accrued immense merits and powers. However, they have intentionally chosen to delay becoming Buddhas in order to dedicate themselves to compassionately helping others.

Why do bodhisattvas matter? Some of the most famous advanced bodhisattvas, such as Avalokitesvara, Ksitigarbha, Manjusri, Samantabhadra, and Vajrapasi, are regularly prayed to and given offerings.

Texts and mantras associated with most of them are regularly chanted in temples around the world. Devotees hope that the bodhisattvas, in their infinite compassion, will hear these calls and respond by sending blessings of health, good fortune and happiness.

Buddhists believe that celestial bodhisattvas reside in heavenly realms called Pure Lands located in faraway dimensions of the cosmos.

The bodhisattva Maitreya, for example, is said to currently live in the Tusita Heaven, where he is awaiting rebirth as the next Buddha of our world.

Because they can manifest in different bodies simultaneously, bodhisattvas can also appear on Earth disguised as humans, animals, or other types of beings. For example, Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is a manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, called Chenrezig in Tibetan, who regularly comes to earth to spread his message of compassion among humanity.

By Pierce Salguero, Associate Professor of Asian History and Religious Studies, Penn State Philadelphia, Oct 8 (The Conversation)

Udayavani is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest news.

Top News

Court rejects Prajwal Revanna’s anticipatory bail plea

World’s hottest day record broken in 24 hours

‘Trust deficit between farmers, govt’: SC proposes panel to talk to protesters at Shambhu border

Intention was to kill me, my family members: Salman Khan’s statement in charge sheet

MUDA ‘scam’: BJP to hold “day-and-night” dharna in Karnataka Assembly, Council

Shirur landslide search ops: Missing truck found submerged in Gangavali River

Got raw deal in budget, no point in attending NITI Aayog meeting, says Deputy CM Shivakumar

Related Articles More

Common signs of an unhealthy gut and tips to address them

Mangaluru: ‘Online stock market’ fraud cases rise; residents lose Rs 20 crore in 6 months

One small update brought down millions of IT systems around the world. It’s a timely warning

Stepping stones for wildlife: how linking up isolated habitats can help nature thrive in our cities

Brief Journey of the Olympics: From 1896 to 2020

MUST WATCH

Brahma Kumaris

Tapta Mudra Dharana

Banana Farming

Aghnashini River

Dr. Rajkumar


Latest Additions

Nita Ambani re-elected unanimously as IOC member

Court rejects Prajwal Revanna’s anticipatory bail plea

World’s hottest day record broken in 24 hours

Heavy rain: Two-day school holiday declared in 6 taluks of Belagavi

Kharge’s ‘mataji’, ‘pakoda-jalebi’ jibe at FM as he raises alleged discrimination against states in Budget

Thanks for visiting Udayavani

You seem to have an Ad Blocker on.
To continue reading, please turn it off or whitelist Udayavani.