The Way of the BodhisattvaPosted: June 29, 2012
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.”