Like a lighthouse on stormy night, the Bodhisattva of infinite light is a constant reminder that liberation from suffering is possible.

 

By Sensei Alex Kakyuo

In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is a being who has vowed to realize enlightenment in order to save all sentient beings from suffering.

Teachers will often tell stories of Bodhisattvas and their great feats/vows of compassion in order to motivate students and give them an example of enlightened behavior. For example, Amitabha, the Bodhisattva of infinite light, is said to stand at the doorway to paradise; refusing to enter until all sentient beings can enter with him. In contrast, Jizo, the Bodhisattva of hell-beings, spends his days roaming the deepest, most torturous parts of hell. He can leave any time he wants, but he refuses to do so until all of the demons can leave with him.

So we have one Bodhisattva who refuses to enter heaven, and we have another who refuses to leave hell until their misbehaving brothers and sisters can come with them. That, my friends, is called being a team player. But how do we put these lessons into practice?

There’s so much hate in the world, so much needless suffering. It’s almost impossible to browse the internet with out reading about school shootings, environmental destruction, political corruption and a host of other man-made tragedies.

In spite of all this pain, Amitabha refuses to enter heaven, and Jizo refuses to leave hell.

Their actions are noble. But on the surface they also seem incredibly naive. After all, people get sent to hell or denied entry to heaven for a reason. Why would Bodhisattvas postpone their own salvation until other people get their acts together?

That’s a fair question, but the premise is misguided Amitabha and Jizo aren’t postponing their own salvation. Rather, they’re living it exactly where they are.

Buddhism is a religion of personal responsibility.

We’re responsible for our minds. We’re responsible for our actions. We’re responsible for our own liberation from suffering. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path provide a framework which allows us to critically examine our actions, determine which ones cause harm, and learn to make better choices. In this way, it doesn’t matter if we’re in heaven, hell or somewhere in between.

Liberation is always possible because we’re the source of our salvation. Amitabha and Jizo both know this, that’s why they’re happy staying exactly where they are. But more than that, they understand the power that resides in simply setting a good example.

I don’t know what the hell-beings think when they see Jizo walking happily through the halls of the lower realms, flames licking at his feet. I imagine there is a lot of confusion, but I also like to think that there’s a bit of inspiration mixed in there as well. Assuredly, the demons don’t change their ways overnight, but seeing Jizo reminds them that another path—one free of greed, anger and ignorance is possible. Similarly, all sentient beings don’t go tumbling through the door to heaven just because Amitabha is standing next to it.

Like a lighthouse on stormy night, the Bodhisattva of infinite light is a constant reminder that liberation from suffering is possible.

As Buddhists, we have this same power

In a world filled with hate, we can choose to walk with kindness and compassion. We can show mercy when others are cruel. We can give compliments when others shout insults.

And we can show the people around us that another path; one free of greed, anger, and ignorance is possible every time we walk that path ourselves.

 

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall

 

Were you inspired by this post? You might also like:

A Complete Road Map to Awakening: The 10 Perfections.

By Daniel Scharpenburg The teaching of the Six Paramitas was created early in the history of Mahayana Buddhism. Paramita is usually translated as "perfection" and that's how I'm going to translate it. It doesn't mean we do any of this perfectly (obviously) it just...

Right Concentration: Becoming the Path {The Eightfold Path}

    By John Lee Pendall All beings are Buddhas. My thoughts, and the sense of mine-ness, both trail across awareness like feathers drifting a few inches above a trackless beach. All minds are Jah. Footsteps, clips of strangers'...

The Faces of Meditation: Daniel Scharpenburg

  By Daniel Scharpenburg   I suffered from anxiety after I lost my parents as a teenager. Meditation was suggested to me as a way to deal with it. I took to the practice right away. I started learning more about it, wanting to learn some of the context...

This is What Happens When We Stop Creating Stories About Life & Start Living

  By John Author Thinking, thinking, thinking... The gears turning day and night, belching out an incessant spew of cacophonous gibberish. Grinding---grinding away in my cranium, like some rabid little cymbal monkey. Bang! Bang! Bang! There they go, spinning in...

Comments

comments