To Be a Bodhisattva

enlightenment

Would you be in any way offended if I said that you seem to me to be in every way the visible personification of absolute perfection?” ― Oscar Wilde

William K. Ferro here, loving life deeply in every moment…Noble Nature, I salute you!

I’m a big fan of a secular version of the Bodhisattva Vow: To attain ultimate enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is a being whose very nature is enlightenment. This can be imagined in natural or supernatural terms according to personal preference. My own orientation is a wholly natural one.

Here’s the Bodhisattva Vow, translated from the Sanskrit:

“Sentient beings innumerable, I vow to save.
Delusive desires inexhaustible, I vow to break.
Dharma beyond measure, I vow to learn.
Enlightenment without limit, I vow to attain.

As long as space endures,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain,
And dispel the miseries of the world.”

When Oscar Wilde has one of his characters say to another, “Would you be in any way offended if I said that you seem to me to be in every way the visible personification of absolute perfection?” it’s reminiscent, perhaps, of the mechanism by which the Bodhisattva idea got its start. It’s the notion that there are indeed people who seem to embody the traits that the vast majority of civilized people find most admirable: love, compassion, generosity, kindness. One would be hard pressed to find any serious philosophical school, any decent religion, any coherent life stance, that fails to honor these characteristics.

How lovely as well that an orientation toward other people, an awareness of the well-being of other conscious creatures, is built right into the Vow. The enterprise on which the would-be Bodhisattva is embarking is a program of enlightenment “for the benefit of all sentient beings.” What a gorgeous idea!

Image courtesy of Wonderlane

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