Monday, August 3, 2009

Mahayana and the Bodhisattva

"Mahayana is not content to make us mere transmitters or "hearers" of the teachings of the Buddha..."
Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, by D.T. Suzuki

Many who ponder the Way, or the ideas of Eastern thought, particularly Buddhism make the assumption that it is a belief, a practice, a way that originates in the Far East. Yet nothing is further from the truth. Buddhism is, in its origins, a faith coming directly to the East and later, to the world from India. Via the ancient trade routes, such as the Silk Road, travelers brought their ideas, goods, technology and culture to the Far East, especially to China in the central and northern regions where the earliest Buddhism is to be found. It later spread to the south and more deeply into Asia.

Thus to be clear, the earliest forms such as Cha'an and Mahayana
spring directly from their Indian neighbors and at times, even in modern practice, strongly resemble Yogi Hinduism. Mahayana remains the parent of most, if not all, modern forms of Buddhism now practiced.

It is important to recall this lineage
from which the Way descends to practitioners of today. This important point even makes it possible to consider aspects of Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and even orthodox Christian beliefs. The author of the book considered here, Suzuki, does indeed make references to these other ways of seeing; he does not exclude them in the endeavor towards enlightenment.

Many writers of Buddhist topics will expound at length on "sentient beings,"
an imperfect way to describe the Buddhist notion of emptiness and perfect knowledge. Perhaps English lacks the precise Pali word or view to illustrate the notion that everything depends upon everything else; that as everything is in some form joined to everything else, there is a "vivification" (Suzuki's word) of all matter.

Yet we are cautioned not to become attached to notions;
they are only for learning. Once learned, they, and even the Buddha's words, are of no use or substitution for the real, experienced way. So it may be said that the one who desires perfect knowledge, perfect insight is the Enlightened one. He practices to free himself of all worldly cares and sufferings.

Mahayana teaches the purification of self
for the aid and enlightenment of others. Practitioners live in the world as it is; they do not avoid the ills or negatives of the everyday world. In other words, Bodhisattvas find their Way in everyday life and work in which they are purified, offering their presence for the benefit of all.

Suzuki further describes the Mahayana Bodhisattva as such:
"The Bodhisattva is a personification of love and sympathy, which freely issues from the font of his inner will. He gathers the clouds of wisdom and virtue, in which he manifests himself in manifold figures; he produces the lightnings of Buddhi, Vidyas... shaking the whole world with the thunder of Dharma, crushing all the evil ones; pouring forth the showers of good law, he quenches the burning flames of ignorance..."

This passage alludes to what has been thought to be the ideal life held out by Mahayanists... They are not content to make us mere transmitters or "hearers" of the teachings of the Buddha. We are inspired to the noblest heart of Shakyamuni, in full recognition of the human soul... it seeks to develop all the "possibilities of our soul-life, which by our strenuous efforts will one day be realized even on this earth of impermanence.' 'We, as individual existences, are nothing but shadows...

We, as mortal beings, are nothing more than thousands of dusty particles, haphazardly scattered about" in the winds of karma; when we unite in the love and intelligence of the Dharmakaya, we are Bodhisattvas... and can overcome the overwhelming blast of ignorance... acts of loving kindness will lead to Bliss, to the whole community to which he belongs.

"Because a stream of love flows from the Bodhichitta (Intelligence-heart), fed by the inexhaustible spring of Dharmakaya." Ignorance leads only to egotism, hatred, avarice, disturbance, and universal misery. Bodhisattvas dwell, in varying degrees, in the stream of Dharmakaya, the body of love, the Universal One.

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