| He who aspires to attain Samma
Smabuddhahood is called a Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva ideal
is the most refined and the most beautiful that is ever presented
to this ego-centric world, for what is nobler than a life
of service and purity.
Those who, in the course of their wanderings in Sansara,
wish to serve others and reach ultimate perfection, are free
to follow the Bodhisattva Ideal, but there is no compulsion
that all must strive to attain Buddhahood, which, to say the
least, is practically impossible.
In one sense all are potential Buddhas. It should be noted that
Buddhists do not believe that there lies dormant in all a Divine
spark that needs development for they deny the existence of
a GodCreator, but they are aware of the innate possibilities
and the creative power of man.
The Pali term Bodhisattva is composed of Bodhi which means
wisdom or Enlightenment. Its Sanskritised form should be Bodhisakta,
but the popular term is Bodhisattva which means a being aspiring
to become a Buddha. This term is generally applied to any
person who is striving for Enlightenment, but in the strictest
sense of the term, it should be applied only to those who
are destined to become supremely Enlightened Ones.
Buddhism denies too the existence of a permanent soul that
transmigrates from life to life acquiring all experiences.
Instead of an unchanging soul, the socalled essence of man,
it posits a dynamic life flux where there is an identity in
process. A Bodhisattva need not necessarily be a Buddhist.
Just as we find everloving Bodhisattvas amongst Buddhists
today, though probably unaware of their lofty aspirations,
even so they may be found amongst other religionists as well.
According to Buddhism there are three classes of Bodhisattvas,
namely; Intellectual Bodhisattvas (Pannadhika), Devotional
Bodhisattvas (Saddhadhika) and Energetic Bodhisattas (Viriyadhika).
These three kinds of Bodhisattas correspond respectively to
Nana Yofi, Bhakti Yogi, and Karma Yogi of the Hindus.
The intellectual Bodhisattvas are less devotional and more energetic;
the devotional ones are less energetic and more intellectual;
the energetic ones are less intellectual and more devotional.
Seldom, if ever, are these three characteristics harmoniously
combined in one person. The Buddha Gotama is cited as one belonging
to the intellectual group. According to the books the intellectual
ones attain Buddhahood within a short period. The devotional
ones take a longer time, and energetic ones take the longest
time. The intellectual Bodhisattvas concentrate their attention
more on the development of wisdom and on the practice of meditation
than on the observance of external forms of reverence. They
are always guided by reason and accept nothing on blind belief.
They make no self-surrender, and are not slaves either to a
book or to an individual. They prefer meditation in lonely solitudes.
With silent peaceful thoughts radiating from their solitary
retreats, they morally help the suffering humanity.
The element of piety - Saddha or trustful confidence - is
predominant in the devotional Bodhisattas. With Saddha as
their playmate they achieve their goal. Those Bodhisattvas
would take a keen interest in all forms of reverence and so
forth. The image2 of the Buddha is a great inspiration to
It should be understood that Buddhists do not worship an
image. They pay their respect to what it represents and reflect
on the virtues of the Buddha. The more they think of the Buddha
the more they love Him. This is the reason why Buddhism does
not denounce these external forms of reverence (amisapuja)
though undoubtedly the practice (patipattipuja) is more commendable
and indisputably superior. Dry intellect has to be combined
with Saddha to obtain satisfactory results. Excessive Saddha
too, has to be restrained, at times, by wisdom. The energetic
ones always seek opportunities to be serviceable to others.
Nothing gives them greater delight than active service. "For
them work is happiness and happiness is work". They are
not happy unless they are active. As King Siri Sangabodhi
of Sri Lanka said, "bear this body of flesh and blood
for the good happiness of the world". This spirit of
selfless service is one of the chief characteristics of all
With relentless energy they work, not as slaves but as masters.
They crave not for fame or name. They are interested only
in the doing. It is immaterial to them whether others recognize
their service or not. They are utterly indifferent to praise
They forget themselves in their disinterested service to others.
They would even sacrifice their lives if such action would
save another's life. The compassion of a Bodhisattva consists
in realizing the equality of oneself with others (para-atma-samata)
and also the substitution of others for oneself (para-atma-parivartana).
When he so regards his feelings of egoism fade and he makes
no difference between himself and others. He returns good
for evil, and helps of his own accord the very persons who
have wronged him, for he knows that the strength of a religious
teacher is his patience.
"Being reviled, he reviles not; being beaten, he beats
not; being annoyed, he annoys not. His forgiveness is unfailing
even as the mother earth suffers in silence all that may be
done to her."