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May 22, 2017

We Need More Bodhisattvas.

 

“Few of us are satisfied with retreating from the world and just working on ourselves. We want our training to manifest and be of benefit. The bodhisattva-warrior, therefore, makes a vow to wake up not just for himself but for the welfare of all beings.” ~ Pema Chödrön

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A bodhisattva is one whose aspiration is to attain buddhahood (enlightenment) for the benefit of all sentient beings. Although the concept comes from Mahayana Buddhism, I believe bodhisattvas can come from any, or no, faith tradition.

Bodhisattvas are healers. Compassionate, kind, real, patient, mindful, and intelligent.

As bodhisattvas, we take vows—we set the intention of serving others. We aspire to be of benefit to all beings, including ourselves.

A lofty goal, right? As Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal suggests, rather than thinking of the bodhisattva concept as some huge ideal, we can think of it as the only thing we can do.

There are famous bodhisattvas like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa, but the beauty of the bodhisattva  is that it is available to each one of us. There are countless souls working anonymously, right now, for everybody’s liberation and enlightenment. Will we join their ranks?

Here are some of my own favorite renditions of the bodhisattva vows. If they resonate, write them down on a piece of paper and post them in your house where you will see them every day.

The traditional vows:

Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken with them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is insurpassable; I vow to become it.

From Pema Chödrön’s The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times:

Throughout my life, until this very moment, whatever virtue I have accomplished… I dedicate to the welfare of all beings.

May the roots of suffering diminish. May warfare, violence, neglect, indifference, and addiction also decrease.

May the wisdom and compassion of all beings increase, now and in the future.

May we clearly see all the barriers we erect between ourselves and others to be as insubstantial as our dreams.

May we appreciate the great perfection of all phenomena.

May we continue to open our hearts and minds, in order to work ceaselessly for the benefit of all beings.

May we go to the places that scare us.

May we lead the life of a warrior.

The Dalai Lama’s explanation:

The vow of the bodhisattva is that she will not go into Nirvana until every single suffering being has entered Nirvana. One has to understand what this means.

Our awakening is not a personal triumph. We do not have to win a spiritual sprint. We are one mind. Awakening is to penetrate more and more deeply into this truth.

The world is alive. And as long as there is suffering then this living whole is shattered. Whether it is my suffering or the suffering of another, when seen from the perspective of the bodhisattva makes no difference, because, seen from this perspective there is no “me” or “another.”

“Although the Bodhisattva saves all sentient beings, there are no sentient beings to save.”  The Diamond Sutra

These vows are practiced in three ways: Restraint from harmful actions. Doing wholesome deeds. Working for the benefit of others.

How can we cause no harm in our actions? What kind deeds can we do for someone today? How are we working for the benefit of our fellow beings? As Martin Luther King put it, “The most important question is—what am I doing for others?”

The world wants—and needs—more bodhisattvas.

Inquire within. Are you up to the task?

~

Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Image: Whereisciao/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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Andrew Sanders May 22, 2017 7:35pm

O my... o myy.... does anyone know where a real buddhist family is located my self practice just came to an end i need a teacher asap kinda if its ment to be it will be i do not worry i just hope

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom.

She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala!