The bodhisattva is which an individual takes a vow that they will not reach ultimate enlightenment while others are still around so that everyone can reach nirvana\enlightenment. There have been many bodhisattvas in the world since The Buddha, and perhaps before him as well. A primary example is Jesus, as he arguably traveled throughout the east during those missing twenty or so years of his life, well at least according to the novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. In which Jesus travels to the East with his friend, Biff and is taught Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, from the Three Wise Men. Yet this is not entirely accurate as Jesus and Buddhism didn’t exist at the same time, but it tries to explain similarities within Christianity and the Eastern religions. Jesus is like the bodhisattva in that he stayed around after he died and still taught us how to live.
Everyone can feel like a bodhisattva we all want so much to help everyone succeed and we want to stick around and be there for the others when they struggle. At least that’s what I get from the bodhisattva ideal. The Bodhisattva is like the boatman, Vasudeva, in Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha Vasudeva, is a teacher that help Siddhartha reach final enlightenment, and when Siddhartha reaches enlightenment the teacher leaves, goes out into the woods to die. This really seems to me like Yoda in Return of the Jedi, as when Luke returns to learn about the ways of the force, we see that Yoda is dying and he says “there is another” as he disappears, similar to Buddha. The Star Wars film saga is drenched in Eastern Philosophy and is where many have gleaned what little they know about eastern religions.
True Bodhisattvas are only those select few that are celebrated in China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Japan. But everyone is really called to be a bodhisattva, no matter what you do or how you do it. Everyone one is really looking at those younger people (those still stuck in Samsara) but you see that you don’t want to leave these people and so you stick around and help them out in whatever way possible and try to and get everyone to the final location.
This is why it is a shame whenever someone dies, as that is one person less that can help bring us all to enlightenment. Wither or not they are arhats, I have no clue but as you see the fragility of life you want some closure and this is why I see everyone as a bodhisattva, as that old adage says it takes a village to raise a child, so we need everyone to work together to get to this final enlightened state.
Having become an Arhat, a fully enlightened individual, perhaps, but not everyone wants to be a happy little arhat. People mean the world to each other and this need is only amplified with a death be it a close family member or someone in the public eye. People need other people to survive in this world in the Thornton Wilder play Our Town they say that “it isn’t natural to be lonesome” this is why we need to be bodhisattvas to everyone. We need to help others so that they can achieve what we have, and all join hand in hand and celebrate that oneness.
We need to be more open to people to let them into our lives and not worry what other people say, about our friends and acquaintances. The less and less we need to rely on ourselves for anything the more bodhisattva we become providing direction, wisdom and advice to all that are out there searching for that final enlightenment. We need to be willing to sacrifice ourselves to others to make things work.
This seems to be something that I really came to the conclusion about this year. To be helpful to everyone you have to cause pain to some people, I might have caused some issues but that is the real only way that everyone can be a bodhisattva to someone else. This is what the bodhisattva ideal means to me. The more you give the more love you get back in return, even if it seems like a bad thing at beginning, look for the silver lining and hopefully you will find that it is not as bad as you first thought it would be. I hope that I am someone’s bodhisattva, and can guide them at some point in their life be it at a minor rough spot in their life or a life altering experience. As soon as someone knows you, you have changed their life, for the better or worse that if not up for me to tell. This shows that we are bodhisattvas even without thinking about it.