In Buddhism, to become Enlightened is to become a Buddha. The Buddha is one who understands the true nature of life and is no longer bound by the illusions and cravings of normal existence. No longer bound to existence, the Buddha need not be reborn into the world of suffering. Rebirth can be understood as the repetition of reincarnation, or more figuratively, as the moment to moment rebirth of the illusionary ego.
A Bodhisattva is a being who seeks Enlightenment not only for self, but for others. One might seek nirvana to be free from the unpleasantness of the cycle of births and deaths, but the Bodhisattva chooses not to be released from the cycle before all beings are released from suffering.
It is as if a firefighter in a burning building with a group of people knows the way to safety, but will not save him or herself until all in the building are safe. And the firefighter knows there will always be another fire and more people and animals to lead to safety.
Just as there have been many Buddha’s, there have been, and are, many Bodhisattvas. Not being bound by the clutching of ego, the Bodhisattva may be an unassuming person. He or she may be emptying the trash where you work, or may be feeding the homeless at a shelter. Or maybe the Bodhisattva is among the homeless in the shelter. Perhaps the Bodhisattva is a preacher, or an artist, or a comedian. They might even be lawyers or politicians. They will be people who bring more light into the world, more love, more wisdom. They are the world’s heroes of compassion.
We too can awaken from our illusionary existence and pick up the compassionate challenge of Bodhisattvahood. We can choose to commit ourselves to full Enlightenment for the sake of others. We can choose to seek the knowledge and wisdom necessary to slip beyond our limited ego. We can choose to learn the ways of right living. We can choose to increase awareness of our actions and motivations. We can seek to live in compassion.
Meditate on the all seeing, all-helping, all compassionate Bodhisattva. Form a perception of this archetypal being filled with kindness, always merciful, ever helpful.
Meditate on the seed of the Bodhisattva that lives in your heart. Become more aware of your own qualities of kindness, mercy, and helpfulness. Nurture that seed. Let it grow.
Practice treating those around you as if they were holy beings in disguise.
© 1999-2003 Tom Barrett