Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

If you're new to the forum or new to Buddhism, this is the best place for your questions. Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.
Post Reply
User avatar
Mitra-Sauwelios
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:41 pm

Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by Mitra-Sauwelios » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:36 am

What do you guys think of this quote?

"In Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhism, the goal of Buddhist practice is primarily to be reborn infinite numbers of times to liberate all those other beings still trapped in samsāra." (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhicitta#Ideal)

There is no source for this statement.

I find it intriguing, because it implies that there will¹ never be a point at which all beings will be liberated at the same time; if there were, the bodhisattva would not need to be reborn an infinite number of times, but only a finite number.

¹ If it's up to the bodhisattva, at least!

::

(Some more info, which may help understanding where I'm coming from: On April 20 of this year, I wrote elsewhere:
Sauwelios wrote:There is an important strain in Buddhism which holds that a Boddhisattva ranks even higher than a Buddha²--a Buddha being someone who just is in Nirvana, and a Boddhisattva being someone who leaves that height again in order to help others down below to gain Buddhahood themselves. However, the ideal remains the Enlightenment, the Buddhahood, of all sentient beings. This is then inconsistent, as the ideal should rather be the Boddhisattvahood of all sentient beings. But a Boddisattva is someone who strives to further the Buddhahood of all sentient beings. Ergo...

Hedonistic Transhumanism likewise wants the bliss of all sentient beings. This is the "potentially [...] glorious future" such Transhumanists want to follow life's "grim past" (David Pearce, 2011 interview in Manniska Plus magazine). But can the future, however "glorious", ever justify the past for such people? If it can, and the future is as glorious as can be, then if that future eventually comes to an end, as it most probably shall, such people should want the eternal recurrence. But the same compassion that makes them judge that the pleasure of a beast of prey successfully hunting down a prey can never justify the corresponding horrors undergone by its prey must prevent them from feeling that way. Even in their universally shared bliss they would have to dwell on the "grimness" of the past--which would nullify their bliss. Those who do feel that way, on the other hand, will want the future to be the mirror image of the past in all essential respects.
I was reminded of this again two days ago, when I watched this video:

Phowa-Part 6: Amitabha and The Bardo of Becoming

It is said there that Amitabha attained the bliss of Buddhahood, but was then infinitely saddened by the contrast between that bliss and the dukkha in which most beings live. I then thought: if Amitabha's attainment led to that sadness, he didn't really attain bliss now, did he!

I'm just trying to understand what motivates the bodhisattva (and in fact, that Wikipedia quote has really motivated me!), as I've been since 2010, albeit in a Western context until last month: what motivates the genuine philosopher to "go down", to speak with the first word of Plato's Republic? I've had many ideas on this; I'm almost motivated to pursue enlightenment if only to truly understand it! I think one should be motivated by bliss, not sadness, though.

² I suppose I meant "an Arhat".)

Bristollad
Posts: 297
Joined: Fri Aug 21, 2015 11:39 am

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by Bristollad » Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:06 pm

What motivates a bodhisattva? Bodhicitta.
Defined on Study Buddhism (Alex Berzin's website) as:
A mind, accompanied by love and compassion, focused on one's own individual not-yet-happening enlightenment, validly imputable on the basis of the Buddha-nature factors of one's mental continuum, with the intention to attain that enlightenment and to benefit others by means of that attainment.
What do you mean by Buddha, Arhat, Bodhisattva and Nirvana? These are understood and defined differently in different strands of buddhism.

User avatar
KeithA
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue May 24, 2011 11:02 pm

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by KeithA » Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:34 pm

I am no scholar, but I would change "infinite" to "as many times as is necessary" :reading:

_/|\_

User avatar
Mitra-Sauwelios
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:41 pm

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by Mitra-Sauwelios » Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:18 pm

Bristollad wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:06 pm
What motivates a bodhisattva? Bodhicitta.
Defined on Study Buddhism (Alex Berzin's website) as:
A mind, accompanied by love and compassion, focused on one's own individual not-yet-happening enlightenment, validly imputable on the basis of the Buddha-nature factors of one's mental continuum, with the intention to attain that enlightenment and to benefit others by means of that attainment.
What do you mean by Buddha, Arhat, Bodhisattva and Nirvana? These are understood and defined differently in different strands of buddhism.
Well, I'm not talking Theravada here, just Mahayana and Vajrayana. Of course, there's a lot of different strands within the latter two as well. Anyway, what I originally meant when I wrote that piece about Buddhism and Hedonistic Transhumanism is that a Buddha is a being in Nirvana, Nirvana is the bliss of enlightenment, and a Bodhisattva is someone who temporarily backs down from Nirvana to help other beings get there too.

Now from what I've read in the last month or so, an arhat is someone who has reached Buddhahood, in the sense I formerly meant it, whereas a bodhisattva is the stage beyond arhathood, but before Buddhahood in the sense of the Nirvana of all beings. Also, an arhat can mean someone who has been brought to the beginning of the bodhisattva stage by a Buddha (this is the Śrāvakayāna), and a Buddha is then someone who has reached that point on his own, i.e. without the aid of a Buddha or bodhisattva. Such a Buddha may then in turn teach others (a sammāsambuddha), or not (a pratyekabuddha).¹ I'm sure there are many other variations, but these seem to me the most basic.

The issue I have may perhaps be worded as follows: if one only reaches ultimate enlightenment in the enlightenment of all beings, how can one know whether working toward the enlightenment of all beings is really wise?

¹ Compare: "Socrates prescribes the limits of the philosopher's new responsibility to return to the cave: only those philosophers whose cities have seen to their philosophical education are duty-bound to return; only philosophers raised by the city built in speech [i.e., Plato's ideal state] have such a duty. Philosophers who grew up of their own accord as if by grace or chance against the will of the city have no duty to go down. [...]
But just here, at the crucial elaboration of what is arguably the most important theme of the Republic, the relationship between the philosopher and the city, an odd contradiction has occurred. The one voicing the command 'You must go down' and limiting it to philosophers raised by the city in speech is Socrates, a philosopher who grew up by grace or chance against the will of the city. But if he now says, 'You must go down', 'I went down' was what he first said, the very first word of the Republic. The command at the center was fulfilled by the one issuing it in the first word and first deed of his narrative. Why has Socrates, that wild growth of philosophy, gone down?" (Source: Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times: A Study of Bacon, Descartes, and Nietzsche, pp. 127-28.)

User avatar
Mitra-Sauwelios
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:41 pm

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by Mitra-Sauwelios » Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:13 am

KeithA wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:34 pm
I am no scholar, but I would change "infinite" to "as many times as is necessary" :reading:

_/|\_
Well, for me that would take away the best part: the suggestion that even infinitely many rebirths would be a blessing if spent on trying and liberating others; that such a rebirth is not a burden at all, but on the contrary! that it's not even a necessary evil, but a boon!--perhaps even the greatest of boons... I mean, isn't Amitabha a Buddha, and isn't Buddhahood the greatest of boons? Mustn't even his sadness be a great joy? Doesn't he enjoy his Passion by turning his tears into music? Compare: "Even the deepest melancholy of such a Dionysus¹ still becomes a dithyramb[.]" (Source: Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, "Thus Spake Zarathustra", section 7 Cf. Thus Spake Zarathustra, "The Great Longing".)

¹ Dionysus the Boddhisattva, like Osho's Zorba the Buddha?

User avatar
SunWuKong
Posts: 238
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia
Contact:

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by SunWuKong » Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:18 am

Mitra-Sauwelios wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:18 pm


The issue I have may perhaps be worded as follows: if one only reaches ultimate enlightenment in the enlightenment of all beings, how can one know whether working toward the enlightenment of all beings is really wise?

I don't think that's the question. I think the question is should i take the car keys and book? Or should i deliver the car as promised? Who are all these sentient beings, and why would i be interested in enduring an infinite number of lifetimes for their benefit? The point of all this is that there are no separate selves...
"Cast off body and mind" (身心脱落 shēn xīn tuō luò)

User avatar
KeithA
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue May 24, 2011 11:02 pm

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by KeithA » Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:58 am

Mitra-Sauwelios wrote:
Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:13 am
KeithA wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:34 pm
I am no scholar, but I would change "infinite" to "as many times as is necessary" :reading:

_/|\_
Well, for me that would take away the best part: the suggestion that even infinitely many rebirths would be a blessing if spent on trying and liberating others; that such a rebirth is not a burden at all, but on the contrary! that it's not even a necessary evil, but a boon!--perhaps even the greatest of boons... I mean, isn't Amitabha a Buddha, and isn't Buddhahood the greatest of boons? Mustn't even his sadness be a great joy? Doesn't he enjoy his Passion by turning his tears into music? Compare: "Even the deepest melancholy of such a Dionysus¹ still becomes a dithyramb[.]" (Source: Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, "Thus Spake Zarathustra", section 7 Cf. Thus Spake Zarathustra, "The Great Longing".)

¹ Dionysus the Boddhisattva, like Osho's Zorba the Buddha?
Hmmm....well, infinite rebirths would be endless samsara. So no, that doesn't sound very great to me. The direction of the Bodhisatva is to save all beings, and then fulfill the ultimate aim of our practice, which is annutara samyak sambodhi. I do agree that enduring the rebirths with some sense of equanimity would indeed be a blessing. But, being satisfied at the point? I don't suspect that's correct situation, correct function and correct direction.
:coffee:

User avatar
Mitra-Sauwelios
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:41 pm

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by Mitra-Sauwelios » Sat Dec 23, 2017 2:02 am

SunWuKong wrote:
Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:18 am
Mitra-Sauwelios wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:18 pm
The issue I have may perhaps be worded as follows: if one only reaches ultimate enlightenment in the enlightenment of all beings, how can one know whether working toward the enlightenment of all beings is really wise?
I don't think that's the question. I think the question is should i take the car keys and book? Or should i deliver the car as promised? Who are all these sentient beings, and why would i be interested in enduring an infinite number of lifetimes for their benefit? The point of all this is that there are no separate selves...
Is it then that, say, the sentient being Amitabha attained the insight that there are no separate selves--that he is the infinite whole, so to say--, and then saw that a significant part of the whole still lacked this insight? So that "his" full liberation would involve no less than the liberation of all parts of the whole?

The issue I have with this is that the whole is not its parts. The whole is always pure freedom, light, bliss etc.; it's just that its parts, on the level where they think of themselves as separate, are ensnared, benighted, suffering etc. The suffering of the parts is part and parcel of the bliss of the whole. I think.

muni
Posts: 4374
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by muni » Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:12 am

Is it then that, say, the sentient being Amitabha attained the insight that there are no separate selves--that he is the infinite whole, so to say--, and then saw that a significant part of the whole still lacked this insight? So that "his" full liberation would involve no less than the liberation of all parts of the whole?
Hello and good day!
I throw two cents in. When nature of mind is realized ( Amitabha) all are free because there is not any longer the idea of being there other solid suffering ones. Amitabha is not thinking Oh I have realized or recognized my nature but those others, those fools there not! What?

But even awakening is ( Amitabha), there are still many dreams playing in nature, these are still there (us), being convinced to be solid beings with our suffering experiences in an outside world which is completely apart from 'us or our mind' and so on itself just as 'we'. By that a variety of suffering. Awaken nature discerns this dreamstate and guide in accordance with what is necessary to awaken as for as possible. Gratitude!
I guess I misunderstand parts. There are no parts, levels as Nature, or?
When you recognize the essence of enlightenment is present in all sentient beings, it is effortless to develop familial affection towards them. Guru Rinpoche.

User avatar
Vasana
Posts: 1472
Joined: Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:22 am

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by Vasana » Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:02 am

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche from 'As it is Vol 1'.

'For sentient beings in general, there is no end to samsara. But for each sentient being individually, there is an end. Because when we recognize mind essence and become stable in that, the very root of further samsaric existence has been exhausted. For the individual sentient being, samsara does end. But for sentient beings as a whole, there is no end to samsara.'


From certain Buddhist cosmological p.o.vs as far as I understand, the universe is cyclical and arises from latent traces. In that way, samsara may have 'dormant phases' when these cycles complete but it never actually ends even if individual mindstreams can all hypothetically be liberated from samsara.

I think this and the concept of time and timelessness is one of the topics we can only really know for ourselves and for certain when we have a high realization.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

User avatar
Mitra-Sauwelios
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:41 pm

Re: Can all beings ever be liberated? The motivation of the bodhisattva.

Post by Mitra-Sauwelios » Tue Dec 26, 2017 3:01 am

Vasana wrote:
Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:02 am
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche from 'As it is Vol 1'.

'For sentient beings in general, there is no end to samsara. But for each sentient being individually, there is an end. Because when we recognize mind essence and become stable in that, the very root of further samsaric existence has been exhausted. For the individual sentient being, samsara does end. But for sentient beings as a whole, there is no end to samsara.'

From certain Buddhist cosmological p.o.vs as far as I understand, the universe is cyclical and arises from latent traces. In that way, samsara may have 'dormant phases' when these cycles complete but it never actually ends even if individual mindstreams can all hypothetically be liberated from samsara.

I think this and the concept of time and timelessness is one of the topics we can only really know for ourselves and for certain when we have a high realization.
Very interesting! And I think this also touches on KeithA's and muni's posts. All sentient beings or mindstreams sooner or later reach nirvana, but never all at the same time. This means there must be an infinite number of mindstreams, or (in other words) the same mindstreams or similar sentient beings recur eternally (compare the Buddha's explanation of how there can be reincarnation without (transmigration of) souls: there is no discernible difference between the flame on a candle that keeps burning, the flame(s) on a candle that's extinguished and then kindled again, and the flame that's transferred from one candle to another of the same type).

::

As for anuttara samyak sambodhi: I really like the sound of that. And, being somewhat of an amateur etymologist, I'd translate it as "unsurpassable correct coillumination" (the "co-" in "coillumination", like the "cor-" in "correct", being the intensive prefix "com-", which in its non-intensive sense means "together, with"). I understand how sambodhi does not already imply anuttara, for there might in theory be something higher than even complete enlightenment (namely, something other than enlightenment); but is not complete enlightenment by definition already correct? How could there be something more correct?

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests