The Way of the Bodhisattva

In Eastern philosophy, the definition of a Bodhisattva is one who has realized (the source of) his or her true nature and who deliberately came back to the marketplace for the sake of helping others have the same realization. The Bodhisattva returns from the inward quest with a vital boon that enables him or her to do so: the skill to point to the gateless gate to the transcendent realm of our true nature, which is blissfully aware ‘being-ness’ (‘sat-chit-ananda’).

All pointers to the gateless gate come in the form of self-sufficient and self-referencing symbols (‘things-in-themselves’), since they must suggest THAT which cannot be grasped by the intellect, because IT transcends all conceptual pairs of opposites. A Bodhisattva, therefore, is somebody who intuitively knows how to understand and to use transcending symbols to render an intuitive realization of the numinous. These symbols are transmitted in the form of words (e.g. poetry or prose), objects (e.g. sculptures, pictures, etc.), sounds (e.g. music, spoken or sung words, etc.), performance acts (e.g. rituals, dance, etc.) or through a certain way of interacting with the world. The Bodhisattva, thus, is either an artist or a mystic who is able to create ‘new’ and/or to use ‘established’ symbols to the transcendent (or, more rarely, someone who has become a living symbol to the transcendent him- or herself).

The Boddhisattva Way of the Artist
This type of Bodhisattva has a special, artistic talent. Any true artistic activity is self-sufficient and self-referencing, that is, it is engaged in not for the pursuit to harvest any possible fruits of it, but completely for its own sake. Artistic activity, thus, is a transcending symbol in itself. By following the ‘bliss’ that the engagement in true artistic activity renders, the ‘artistic’ Bodhisattva is gradually able to refine it so that its (unintended) artistic ‘product’ becomes itself a symbol carrying the transcendent message of the Absolute into the Relative. Whenever we stand in ‘aesthetic arrest’ (James Joyce) beholding a piece or a performance of art, we are participating in the divine that the transcendent symbolism of the artistic arrangement has evoked in us (if you don’t know what I am talking about you may be more of the naturalistic kind, that is, more prone to aesthetic seizures evoked by nature, for example, when watching a beautiful sunset, flowers, or the stars at night, etc.).

The ‘artistic’ Bodhisattva has been given the gift of being able to uncover his or her true nature from very early on in his or her life. However, because ‘access’ is dependent on an activity, it is dis-continuous, turning him or her into an everlasting ‘bliss-follower’ with all the (sometimes painful) challenges and confusions that such a lifestyle may provide.

The Bodhisattva Way of the Mystic
This type of Bodhisattva does not have a special artistic talent to ‘access’ his or her true nature, and, probably because of that, has always had a strong yearning to discover the ‘Truth’ since something seemed to be ‘missing’. The ‘mystic’ Bodhisattva, thus, needed to painfully and gradually uncover his or her ‘source’ through the study, enactment and practice of established spiritual symbols (e.g. reading ‘holy’ scriptures, engaging in rituals, practicing prayer or meditation, etc.). Once having truly realized the reference of these symbols, though, (s)he is finally ‘free’ to use them (or even create ‘new’ ones) to ‘teach’ the next generation of ‘seekers’.

Although, the ‘mystic’ Bodhisattva usually goes through quiet an ordeal to realize his or her true nature, the realization is sustained since it is not dependent on a certain activity but known to be the causeless manifestation of the divine within.

The Reference of the Way
‘Sat-chit-ananda’ (a.k.a. Buddha-nature), our true nature, is what prevails when the mind is in non-disalignment with what ‘is’, neither seeking anything different from the ‘Now’, nor trying to escape from it.
Such an ‘unwavering’ mind is the product of an engagement in a (truly) artistic activity or the beholding, enactment or practice of a transcendent symbol. To keep the mind ‘unwavering’, though, there has to be an intuitive understanding of the reference of these symbols, which is just THIS, that is ‘Now’.

“Live life as life lives itself.”
~Zen

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4 Comments on “The Way of the Bodhisattva”

  1. David Ashton says:

    Glad to have come across your blog – I’ll be back to explore more! My understanding may be naive, but I see the bodhisattva path as a sincere intention to live for the sole purpose of relieving suffering/ignorance regardless of whether our insight is clear or cloudy. Clarity will come in due course but suffering will not wait.

    • Hi David. Appreciate your commenting. You are of course right. What I wanted to point out, though, is that there are two kinds of suffering. One is the classical kind which we are all familiar with through the work of the Mother Theresa’s of this world. Compassionate people like her help alleviate poverty-induced suffering. Once, people raise above the economic poverty level, though, their suffering is mostly of the psychological/ spiritual kind. Spiritual poverty is a lack of access to the spiritual dimension of life due to the ignorance about one’s own nature, which is ‘One’ with everythings nature. The sense of separation that the illusion of an independent self creates leads to fear which our minds restlessly try to minimize by seeking to control, manage, improve, dominate ourselves and our environment. The more fearsome we are, the more of this seeking there will be. The more of this seeking there is, the less we will be able to rest in the spiritual realm of the present-moment. A Bodhisattva, to me, thus, is whoever has the skill to help get someone access to the present-moment, which is the realm where our mind-induced suffering is alleviated. So, for example, if you know how to guide through an established spiritual ritual ‘correctly’ (e.g a meditation or yoga-session), people will get this access and you could be considered a Boddhisattva. Best, eotA

  2. Monica Dayakar says:

    BEAUTIFUL…!!! And the clip…being one with nature,is being one with yourself. Gentle or harsh,the beauty and the ugliness, the soaring heights and the lowest depths, the brilliant light and the depths of darkness….. I am all of this…..
    Thank you


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