He who aspires to attain Samma Smabuddhahood is called a Bodhisattva.
This Bodhisattva ideal is the most refined and the most beautiful
that is ever presented to this ego-centric world, for what is nobler
than a life of service and purity.
Those who, in the course of their wanderings in Sansara, wish to
serve others and reach ultimate perfection, are free to follow the
Bodhisattva Ideal, but there is no compulsion that all must strive
to attain Buddhahood, which, to say the least, is practically impossible.
The Pali term Bodhisattva is composed of Bodhi which means wisdom
or Enlightenment. Its Sanskritised form should be Bodhisakta, but
the popular term is Bodhisattva which means a being aspiring to
become a Buddha. This term is generally applied to any person who
is striving for Enlightenment, but in the strictest sense of the
term, it should be applied only to those who are destined to become
supremely Enlightened Ones.
In one sense all are potential Buddhas. It should be noted that
Buddhists do not believe that there lies dormant in all a Divine
spark that needs development for they deny the existence of a GodCreator,
but they are aware of the innate possibilities and the creative
power of man.
Buddhism denies too the existence of a permanent soul that transmigrates
from life to life acquiring all experiences. Instead of an unchanging
soul, the socalled essence of man, it posits a dynamic life flux
where there is an identity in process. A Bodhisattva need not necessarily
be a Buddhist. Just as we find everloving Bodhisattvas amongst Buddhists
today, though probably unaware of their lofty aspirations, even
so they may be found amongst other religionists as well. According
to Buddhism there are three classes of Bodhisattvas, namely; Intellectual
Bodhisattvas (Pannadhika), Devotional Bodhisattvas (Saddhadhika)
and Energetic Bodhisattas (Viriyadhika). These three kinds of Bodhisattas
correspond respectively to Nana Yofi, Bhakti Yogi, and Karma Yogi
of the Hindus.
The intellectual Bodhisattvas are less devotional and more energetic;
the devotional ones are less energetic and more intellectual; the
energetic ones are less intellectual and more devotional. Seldom,
if ever, are these three characteristics harmoniously combined in
one person. The Buddha Gotama is cited as one belonging to the intellectual
group. According to the books the intellectual ones attain Buddhahood
within a short period. The devotional ones take a longer time, and
energetic ones take the longest time. The intellectual Bodhisattvas
concentrate their attention more on the development of wisdom and
on the practice of meditation than on the observance of external
forms of reverence. They are always guided by reason and accept
nothing on blind belief. They make no self-surrender, and are not
slaves either to a book or to an individual. They prefer meditation
in lonely solitudes. With silent peaceful thoughts radiating from
their solitary retreats, they morally help the suffering humanity.
The element of piety - Saddha or trustful confidence - is predominant
in the devotional Bodhisattas. With Saddha as their playmate they
achieve their goal. Those Bodhisattvas would take a keen interest
in all forms of reverence and so forth. The image2 of the Buddha
is a great inspiration to them.
It should be understood that Buddhists do not worship an image.
They pay their respect to what it represents and reflect on the
virtues of the Buddha. The more they think of the Buddha the more
they love Him. This is the reason why Buddhism does not denounce
these external forms of reverence (amisapuja) though undoubtedly
the practice (patipattipuja) is more commendable and indisputably
superior. Dry intellect has to be combined with Saddha to obtain
satisfactory results. Excessive Saddha too, has to be restrained,
at times, by wisdom. The energetic ones always seek opportunities
to be serviceable to others. Nothing gives them greater delight
than active service. "For them work is happiness and happiness
is work". They are not happy unless they are active. As King
Siri Sangabodhi of Sri Lanka said, "bear this body of flesh
and blood for the good happiness of the world". This spirit
of selfless service is one of the chief characteristics of all Bodhisattvas.
With relentless energy they work, not as slaves but as masters.
They crave not for fame or name. They are interested only in the
doing. It is immaterial to them whether others recognize their service
or not. They are utterly indifferent to praise or blame.
They forget themselves in their disinterested service to others.
They would even sacrifice their lives if such action would save
another's life. The compassion of a Bodhisattva consists in realizing
the equality of oneself with others (para-atma-samata) and also
the substitution of others for oneself (para-atma-parivartana).
When he so regards his feelings of egoism fade and he makes no difference
between himself and others. He returns good for evil, and helps
of his own accord the very persons who have wronged him, for he
knows that the strength of a religious teacher is his patience.
"Being reviled, he reviles not; being beaten, he beats not;
being annoyed, he annoys not. His forgiveness is unfailing even
as the mother earth suffers in silence all that may be done to her."