Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

“What do we mean by bodhisattva? Bodhi means enlightenment, the state devoid of all defects and endowed with all good qualities. Sattva refers to someone who has courage and confidence and who strives to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Those who have this spontaneous, sincere wish to attain enlightenment for the ultimate benefit of all beings are called bodhisattvas. Through wisdom, they direct their minds to enlightenment, and through their compassion, they have concern for beings. This wish for perfect enlightenment for the sake of others is what we callbodhichitta, and it is the starting point on the path. By becoming aware of what enlightenment is, one understands not only that there is a goal to accomplish but also that it is possible to do so. Driven by the desire to help beings, one thinks, For their sake, I must attain enlightenment!”

 Seated Bodhisattva, China, Eastern Wei Period, circa 530 c.e., limestone. From the White Horse Monastery in the Henan Province. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Seated Bodhisattva, China, Eastern Wei Period, circa 530 c.e., limestone. From the White Horse Monastery in the Henan Province. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Kosho Uchiyama Roshi

Question: In modern-day terms, what is the significance or meaning of bodhisattva? We can read the old mythological stories about bodhisattvas, but what connection do they have with us today?

Uchiyama Roshi: A bodhisattva is an ordinary person who takes up a course in his or her life that moves in the direction of buddha. You’re a bodhisattva, I’m a bodhisattva; actually, anyone who directs their attention, their life, to practicing the way of life of a buddha is a bodhisattva. We read about Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) or Monju Bosatsu (Manjushri Bodhisattva), and these are great bodhisattvas, but we, too, have to have confidence or faith that we are also bodhisattvas.

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