Bodhisattva

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 29, 2022, 6:58

The simplest definition of Bodhisattva is a person who turns their life direction towards Buddha. It is said that these people achieve a high level of enlightenment but postpones their entry into paradise to assist earthbound people. Bodhisattva is a prominent concept in Buddhism which indicates the achievement of a mindset just like Buddha. They attain the image of someone with compassion who renounce their salvation and devote their energy toward removing the suffering of living beings. According to historical facts, many Bodhisattvas are generally depicted with elegant jewellery, garments, and graceful postures. A Bodhisattva takes a vow to let go of their individual enlightenment on the path to helping others.

The Path To Bodhisattva

The Buddhist people follow the Bodhisattva path as a systematic guide that leads to their development. The path involves practising Buddhahood, a combination of some special vows, the six Paramita (perfections), and ten bhumi stages. The Mahayana literature clearly outlines this path in great detail.

The Vows Of Bodhisattva

Centrally, Bodhisattva vows indicate delaying the nirvana unless all living beings have been liberated of their suffering. One needs to take a formal vow which signifies their entry into the path of Bodhisattva. The Mahayana texts illuminate the fourfold vows, along with several other vows. While there may be some variations between these vows from one country to another, there are ten very important ones enlisted in them.

  • Causing no harm to any living being
  • Not taking that which is not given
  • Not engaging in any type of sexual misconduct
  • Not to misuse speech
  • Not taking any intoxicants
  • Not gossiping about the faults and misdeeds that others have
  • Not praising own self
  • Not disregarding those who are in need
  • Not to harbour anger towards others
  • Not criticizing the Three Jewels (I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma; I take refuge in the Sangha)

These vows are encouraged to produce good karma and avoid negative results.

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Six Perfections

The Paramita of the six perfections is another important practice of the Bodhisattva. These are six qualities that lead to the path of enlightenment.

  1. Dana: It implies forming an attitude of generosity and detaching oneself from the virtues of own wealth. The teachings of Dharma are among the few prized possessions that a true Bodhisattva needs to give away generously.
  2. Sila: This quality aims to develop a calm mind undisturbed by guilt and negative mental dispositions.
  3. Ksanti: This quality seeks to collect patience, which brings good merit and prevents the ill effects of negative actions.
  4. Virya: It aims to develop energy, diligent effort, and vigour since the path to attaining Bodhisattva is long.
  5. Dhyana: This quality aims to strengthen the practice of meditation and concentration.
  6. Prajna: This quality aims to realize the greatest truth, which is the unity of all things and achieving wisdom.

Significance Of Bodhisattva

The Mahayana path in Buddhism places Bodhisattva at the centre of its practices. The followers of Bodhisattva receive an outlet that helps them develop according to its practices and achieve enlightenment. Bodhisattva is a doctrine based on the Mahayana model, which engages in such a form of Buddhism that encourages stopping the suffering in the world.

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FAQs on Bodhisattva

Q.1. What are the ten stages in Bodhisattva?

The ten bhumi is directly related to the Paramita and includes Pramudita, Vilmala, Prabhakar, Arcismati, Sudurjaya, Abhimukhi, Durangama, Acala, Sadhumati, and Cloud of Dharma. At the last stage, a Bodhisattva attains the image of a Buddha, and it is believed that they possess eternal wisdom.

Q.2. Name an important Bodhisattva.

Guanyin is one of the most important Bodhisattva, meaning ‘Perceiver of all Sounds.’ The Bodhisattva is depicted as a female with a lotus in her hand.

Q.3. What are the beliefs of the Mahayana Buddhists regarding celestial Bodhisattvas?

According to the beliefs of the Mahayana Buddhists, these Bodhisattvas are progressive beings, unbound by the sufferings of life and death but are still not completely enlightened as Buddha.

Q.4. Discuss the origins of the concept of Bodhisattva.

There is some discrepancy among scholars regarding the exact origins of Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. However, as per the findings of the Mahayana sutras, the concept of celestial Bodhisattva seems to have been established by the start of the 2nd century.