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:

Sticks & Stones May Break Bones, But Words Can Hurt Us Too

  By John Pendall   American Buddhists, well, we tend to botch Right Speech. We tend to use our words carelessly, like casually dropping warheads into our neighbors' swimming pools. Words are a powerful medicine, but like any medicine, they can also be poisonous....

Compassion for Those That Have Been Discarded

  By Sarit Z. Rogers I spent the morning with murderers, thieves, the abused, the wounded, the lost, and the discarded. I was teaching yoga with my best friend, an offering we make monthly at a women’s prison. We don’t get monetary...

Laboratory Buddhism: The Middle Way Between Dogma & Science.

  By John Author Test tubes, beakers, bubble bubble, gurgle gurgle, buzz, sizzle, ZAP! A crazy-haired, wild-eyed eccentric in a lab coat hopping manically from station to station. That's my modus operandi. Only the laboratory is the meditative mind, and the experiment...

Because Self-Growth is Never Complete.

  By Kristen Maciejowski  Samsara in Buddhism, very simply put, is the circle of life, death and rebirth. The continual grasping and pushing away throughout this cycle is what Buddhists believe ultimately causes us suffering. The aim of Buddhism is to relieve not the...

Comments

comments

Sensei Alex Kakuyo

Columnist at The Tattooed Buddha
Sensei Alex Kakuyo is a former Marine, author, and Buddhist teacher in the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism. He teaches a nonsectarian approach to the Dharma, which encourages students to seek enlightenment in everyday life.

You can follow him by visiting his blog, The Same Old Zen and on Twitter: @sameoldzen
(Visited 887 times, 1 visits today)