Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Path of the Bodhisattva

Any one of a thousand paths may lead us to the Dharma gate, but once we cross the threshold there is but one; that is the path of the Bodhisattva. This is not to say that the ways of the Bodhisattva are not just as numerous as the paths leading to the Dharma Gate, but rather to say; it is crossing this threshold that makes us a Bodhisattva.

The term Bodhisattva literally means Awakening Being, and refers to someone who has committed themselves to the path of awakening. Once we decide to become Awakening Beings we are but one step away from becoming Bodhisattvas and once we make that step we are instantaneously transformed.

When our thoughts, words and actions are directed from the perspective of awakening, our direction becomes clear. The threshold of the Dharma Gate comes into existence out of our sincere intentions and crossing the threshold happens the moment our intentions become our practice. It is through this practice that our path becomes the path of the Bodhisattva.

We say in the Bodhisattva’s Vow that; Dharma gates are boundless; we vow to enter them all, and we understand that this means that every opportunity is an opportunity to enter the Dharma gate. As Bodhisattvas, we come to see all situations as continuing opportunities to approach life from the perspective of an Awakening Being. Thus it is through our continual reentering that our commitment to the Bodhisattva's path is perpetually renewed.

Each line of the Bodhisattva’s Vow represents another aspect of the inexhaustible approaches through the Dharma Gate. First we say; Beings are numberless; We vow to save them, knowing full well that we cannot possibly save every sentient being, because like life's situations, we never encounter them all. Just as every one of us encounters situations in life differently, we also encounter the lives of other beings differently.

Through our practice of valuing all life, we come to understand that life is the source of consciousness, not just human life, but all life. All living things possess consciousness and are inseparably linked to all other living things in this web of life. Every living thing lives within the continuous cycle of birth and death, where the remains of one become the nutrients of the other. This is the fuel of consciousness, we cannot escape the fact that we are what we eat. Thus as Bodhisattvas, we must approach every living thing with the deepest reverence and respect. To strive to save all beings is to endeavor to minimize the suffering in this life and to help others awaken to the importance of this.

Second we say; Delusions are inexhaustible; we vow to end them. Just as in the case of life’s situations we have endless opportunities to surpass our ignorance. We never really know everything for certain, so we are always struggling to understand the world through the eyes of awakening. Every thing we do not understand is an obvious opportunity to enter the Dharma Gate, but then again, so is everything we think we do understand. This is because everything is constantly changing, including ourselves. Thus with no fixed point of reference, everything we know must be subject to constant review. What we believed as true yesterday, is not necessarily so true today.

We conclude the Bodhisattva’s Vow by saying: The Buddha's way is unsurpassable; we vow to attain it. As Awakening Beings, we know full well, that the challenges in our lives will never end and that our journey on the Bodhisattva’s path is itself the journey of our lives. Through our practice, we come to realize that becoming Buddhas, that is to say; becoming fully awakened beings, is the purpose of our lives, and that the Buddha’s unsurpassable enlightenment is simply the process of our awakening to this fact.

Thus, once we enter the Dharma gate we have committed ourselves to the Bodhisattva's path and although this path may diverge a thousand different ways, it always brings us to the same place, the place of Awakening. The thousand arms and the thousand eyes that are commonly depicted on the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, not only represent the infinite compassion that he/she has for us, but also represent the infinite opportunities that will open to us on our journey along the Bodhisattva's path.

Though sentient beings are numberless; we shall strive to save them. Though delusions are inexhaustible, we shall strive to end them. Though Dharma gates are boundless; we shall strive to enter them. And although the Buddha's way is unsurpassable; we shall always strive to attain it.

May each of us experience our awakening for the benefit of all beings.

1 comment:

  1. Drinking posts like drinking tea.
    One vow, one sip of tea.
    Beings on the way to awakening.