How do bodhisattvas help people ?

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How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Bohemian Seeker » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:20 am

Hi Folks,

How do bodhisattvas help people ? Do they help people to be more enlightened ? Do they offer help in life ? Why do we need them ?

What is their range of help in our lives ?

Thanks for helping me to explore Buddhism.

Mike

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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:55 am

Well, you could answer in many ways. I daresay a lot of people would talk in terms of heroic tasks and selfless deeds, which is certainly true. But another answer would be, by doing what needs to be done, on behalf of anyone who needs help, at that time, and in that place.

The problem with romanticizing the Bodhisattva is that by picturing them as an exceptional being who is capable of superhuman acts of compassion, we may be creating a division between the Bodhisattva and our human nature, which doesn't seem so capable of such acts. This then becomes a way to actually negate the meaning of the Bodhisattva's intention.

I imagine there are people, like those who serve charities in war-zones, who do actually undertake what we would all consider heroic acts of compassion. But we can also emulate the Bodhisattva's way of life, simply by being helpful, considerate and compassionate to anyone we meet, in any circumstances. And without romancing the idea too much.
He that knows it, knows it not.
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Bohemian Seeker » Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:27 pm

jeeprs wrote:Well, you could answer in many ways. I daresay a lot of people would talk in terms of heroic tasks and selfless deeds, which is certainly true. But another answer would be, by doing what needs to be done, on behalf of anyone who needs help, at that time, and in that place.

The problem with romanticizing the Bodhisattva is that by picturing them as an exceptional being who is capable of superhuman acts of compassion, we may be creating a division between the Bodhisattva and our human nature, which doesn't seem so capable of such acts. This then becomes a way to actually negate the meaning of the Bodhisattva's intention.

I imagine there are people, like those who serve charities in war-zones, who do actually undertake what we would all consider heroic acts of compassion. But we can also emulate the Bodhisattva's way of life, simply by being helpful, considerate and compassionate to anyone we meet, in any circumstances. And without romancing the idea too much.


Thanks a lot Jeeprs, much obliged :-) That sounds good.

So I guess boddhisatvas are with us in our realm. (In Samsara as human beings with human bodies).
Are some others who may live in invisible higher realms involved in a supernatural way with helping people to become enlightened ? I am just wondering why boddhisattvas are not in Theravada, which emphasizes your own efforts only getting you to Nivarna. I mean, why did they delay going to nivarna ? To do practical charitable work, or to help us get enlightened when we ask their help in a supernatural way ? Maybe I have got the wrong end of the stick here. :shrug:

Thanks

Mike
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:05 pm

Here's the place to start.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Way-Bodhisatt ... =santideva

you can do it too.
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:41 pm

Bohemian Seeker wrote:I am just wondering why boddhisattvas are not in Theravada, which emphasizes your own efforts only getting you to Nivarna. I mean, why did they delay going to nivarna ? To do practical charitable work, or to help us get enlightened when we ask their help in a supernatural way ? Maybe I have got the wrong end of the stick here. :shrug:


According to Walpola Rahula and Bhikkhu Bodhi, bodhisattvas are a valid path according to Theravada.
If you take the Madhyamaka view, Nirvana & Samsara are not separate, and the bodhisattva vehicle provides a non-abiding Nirvana.
According to the Lotus Sutra & the Ekayana view, all paths eventually lead to Enlightenment.

The Lotus Sutra also seems to address the idea of Buddhas arriving on certain intervals. For this, see Chapter 12 & the example of the Naga Princess, who instantaneously teleports to some distant land, becomes a man?, sits upon a lotus flower, attains perfect Enlightenment, becomes a SammaSam Buddha, and preaches Dharma. In fact this Chapter seems to address many of the Theravadan restrictions on SammaSam Buddhas: they can be female and they don't need to be human; in other words form is arbitrary, location is arbitrary... There also seems to be a point being made about the time frame required to follow the bodhisattva path in this passage too, that maybe time is arbitrary, and that the bodhisattva path can be instantaneous upon offering over a precious jewel (one's Buddha potential) to the Buddha, but I'm thinking this Princess would've had to have accomplished eons of merit-making in order to have the capacities described in this chapter (she already had perfect conduct & knowledge of former lives for example).

I don't think any Mahayana-ist would tell one not to strive for Enlightenment, many of the paths are specifically described as "direct" or "in this lifetime".
At the very least, growing the aspiration to attain Buddhahood & to help ease the suffering of all sentient beings is a more skillful motivation than just looking to escape one's own suffering, the Pali Suttas state as much.
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Bohemian Seeker » Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:25 pm

Thanks Guys, much appreciated.

Mike
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Will » Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:34 pm

Helpful people who have not taken a vow to bring to buddhahood all beings over countless lifetimes are only that, helpful people.

Bodhisattvas can do many ordinary helpful tasks, but their main focus is on encouraging the selfless nature of our minds to come forth and control our selfish tendencies.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Bohemian Seeker » Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:32 pm

Will wrote:Helpful people who have not taken a vow to bring to buddhahood all beings over countless lifetimes are only that, helpful people.

Bodhisattvas can do many ordinary helpful tasks, but their main focus is on encouraging the selfless nature of our minds to come forth and control our selfish tendencies.


Thanks Will,

Aha, I see. They are physical people in samsara, who vow to stay in samsara in almost endless lifetimes till all beings are enlightened thru non-supernatural means, such as example and teaching, I guess. I dont know why, but I thought they were like gods in a highter realm inspiring us as we pray to and connect with them.
Maybe that is Tibetan, I dont know.

So anyone with the right motivation towards Buddahood can do it, I guess.

Best wishes

Mike
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:29 pm

Bohemian Seeker wrote:
Will wrote:Helpful people who have not taken a vow to bring to buddhahood all beings over countless lifetimes are only that, helpful people.

Bodhisattvas can do many ordinary helpful tasks, but their main focus is on encouraging the selfless nature of our minds to come forth and control our selfish tendencies.


Thanks Will,

Aha, I see. They are physical people in samsara, who vow to stay in samsara in almost endless lifetimes till all beings are enlightened thru non-supernatural means, such as example and teaching, I guess. I dont know why, but I thought they were like gods in a highter realm inspiring us as we pray to and connect with them.
Maybe that is Tibetan, I dont know.

So anyone with the right motivation towards Buddahood can do it, I guess.

Best wishes

Mike


Sounds like you're talking about the Mahasattvas...
In which case, they're probably not what you think they are...
I would recommend trying to read into metaphor, if you try to read this stuff like a newspaper, you're probably going to miss the point.
Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor wrote:Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:46 pm

Good observation on Will's part - my interpretation was very 'naturalistic', that is, interpreting the Bodhisattva idea in naturalistic terms as 'altrusitic action' exemplified in many different types of people and ways of life. However the traditional teachings do of course interpret it more formally in line with the Buddhist understanding of the Bodhisattva. But I do see examples of people who, whilst they may not have any connection with Buddhism, act altruistically or selflessly to benefit other - even animal welfare workers! - and I can't help but think of them in those terms.

(Which reminds me - there was a very moving story last year of a man by the name of Lawrence Anthony, known as 'The Elephant Whisperer", who had helped African elephants, and also helped elephants stranded in the Baghdad zoo during the Iraq war. He was said to have extraordinary empathy with elephants. When he died in March 2012, elephants turned up outside his house in Africa to mourn him. Nobody could explain how they knew about his death, as many had trekked for long kilometers to stand there in vigil outside of his house for two days. There's an account here.)
He that knows it, knows it not.
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Quiet Heart » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:13 am

:smile:
How do they help?
Sometimes the same way a father helps his son learn to ride a bike.
The child keeps falling down, but the father picks him back up, gets him back on that bike, and steadys him until he starts off again.
That's what wise mothers and fathers do for their children.
And that's what wise teachers due for their students.
And maybe, just maybe, Bodhisattvas.
Do you see?
:smile:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
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The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Techno Yogi » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:35 am

Bohemian Seeker wrote:I dont know why, but I thought they were like gods in a highter realm inspiring us as we pray to and connect with them.
Maybe that is Tibetan, I dont know.


It's hardly Tibetan, at least not exclusively. Have you ever heard of Guan Yin/Kannon/Kwan Um/Quan Âm?

Image

Visit a non-Tibetan Mahayana temple and you are bound to find images of her along with other Bodhisattva like Ksitigarbha, etc, as well as the pantheon of Buddhas.

Bodhisattvas are definitely objects of veneration in the Mahayana tradition. Whether they are seen as deities or archetypes or symbols is a subject of much debate and contention.

Regardless of how you view them, devotional practices have tangible benefits and are a major part of many Mahayana traditions.
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby lobster » Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:46 am

Bohemian Seeker wrote:How do bodhisattvas help people ? Do they help people to be more enlightened ? Do they offer help in life ? Why do we need them ?

What is their range of help in our lives ?


The lowest form of helper is the information provider, the good neighbour. A good or inspiring person. Most teachers, monks and practitioners try and provide this level of service.

The next level is more subtle, it encourages or enables our development without a recognisable form.

You should align with the obvious level, which may develop a perception of the more subtle. :twothumbsup:
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Will » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:49 am

While there are bodhisattvas in the flesh, the greatest are not. Here is a little about these Eight Great bodhisattvas:

http://www.lionsroar.name/the_8_bodhisattvas.htm
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby Bohemian Seeker » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:58 am

Thanks Guys, that is food for thought.

:smile:

:namaste:
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Re: How do bodhisattvas help people ?

Postby dude » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:40 pm

Bodhisattvas help people (and other living beings). That's all there is to it. When you save a person from drowning or rescue an injured animal, you are acting as a Bodhisattva, and your state of life is that of a Bodhisattva. These are called provisional Bodhisattvas.
Bodhisattvas of the Law, or mahasattvas, are living beings who have accumulated merit in past lives by performing acts of loving kindness for other living beings in past lives. They (we) have gained enough to merit to hear the Law in this life, and the capacity to understand and accept it.

jeeprs comments are instructive and much appreciated. I concur with everything said above.
"The problem with romanticizing the Bodhisattva is that by picturing them as an exceptional being who is capable of superhuman acts of compassion, we may be creating a division between the Bodhisattva and our human nature, which doesn't seem so capable of such acts. This then becomes a way to actually negate the meaning of the Bodhisattva's intention."
This is right on the money. There is no essential difference between an ordinary human being and a buddha, or for that matter, a bodhisattva, a god, or a living being in the hell realms. We are all manifestations of the All in All, expressions of the life force of the universe. From the perspective of "things as they really are," there is no difference or separation between an individual living being, the buddhas, or other manifestations of life.
Will's comments about the One Vehicle, which reveal the means for making the final step from the Bodhisattva to Buddha, are even more important, and also greatly appreciated. This is the true intention of all the teachings of all the Buddhas in the universe.
The Buddhas, the world-honored ones, wish to open the door of the buddha-wisdom to all living beings, to allow them to attain purity. That is why they appear in this world. They wish to show the buddha-wisdom to living beings, and therefore they appear in the world.
- Lotus Sutra
Kudos also to lobster, who has concisely explained the way of practice :
"You should align with the obvious level, which may develop a perception of the more subtle."
By contemplating what is right in front of us in the light of the Buddha's teachings and deepening our understanding, we develop the capacity to perceive progressively higher truths.
I am greatly encouraged by such a sincere question, and renewed in my determination. You have inspired me to redouble my efforts.
May all living beings know happiness and the causes of happiness
- Metta Sutra
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