What’s all this talk about Buddhism, Bodhisattvas and vows? How does being a Bodhisattva lead toward enlightenment? I hear these terms thrown casually out of inquiring mouths, but decided to research the answer – and in the process I learned a great deal about what it means to truly care about other people.
A Bodhisattva is motivated by pure compassion and love. They strive to become Buddha-like, which means, quite simply – humanistic. “Bodhisattva” is a Sanskrit term which translates as: Bodhi [enlightenment] and sattva [being]. Becoming a Buddha means helping others. A Bodhisattva will experience all types of suffering to help others. In Shakyamuni Buddha’s “Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines” it says: “I will become a savior to all those beings, I will release them from all their sufferings.”
But a bodhisattva is described differently in the “Never Disparaging” (20th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. According to the sutra, he lived after the death of a Buddha named Awesome Sound King, in the Middle Day of that Buddha’s teachings. Buddhism was not all that popular in those days, and arrogant monks commanded great power. This bodhisattva’s practice consisted of addressing anyone he came in contact with by saying, “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you’re all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood.”
The sutra describes his practice as follows: “This monk did not devote his time to reading or reciting the scriptures, but simply went about bowing to people.” What does this mean you? Well, people attacked and chided him with stones, but he held everyone in high regard because of their inner potential to become Buddhas.
That’s why he got the name Never Disparaging. Toward the end of his life, he heard the Lotus Sutra that had been preached by the Buddha Awesome Sound King, and embraced it fully. As a result, he purified his six sense organs and extended his life span by “two hundred ten thousand million nayutas of years,” preaching the Lotus Sutra to countless millions of people.
The people who slandered Bodhisattva Never Disparaging had a change of heart and began to follow him. But since they were enmeshed in anger and held grudges against him, they ended up suffering for two hundred million kalpas (life cycles) by not encountering a Buddha of any kind. Instead, they were relegated to dwelling in the hell of incessant suffering. Once they paid their karmic debt/dues, they were rewarded by being in the presence of Never Disparaging who led them toward supreme enlightenment. In the “Never Disparaging” chapter, Shakyamuni illustrates that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is actually his other identity from a previous lifetime.
The story of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging illustrates how we can attain enlightenment through opposing circumstances – connecting with the correct teaching by opposing or slandering it.
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