The Goal of Mahayana Buddhism
Who is Bodhisattva?
Bodhisattva, in Mahayana Buddhism, one who practices with the vow and motivation to put others before oneself, which may include forgoing enlightenment until all others have achieved it. In other Buddhist schools, the term is often used to refer specifically to the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, before his enlightenment.
What is the Bodhisattva vow?
The bodhisattva vow is the commitment to put others before oneself. It is a statement of willingness to give up one’s own well-being, even one’s own enlightenment, for the sake of others.
It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility. Responsibility to help other sentient beings. There is tremendous inspiration in having decided to work with others. We no longer try to build up our own grandiosity. We simply try to become human beings who are genuinely able to help others; that is, we develop precisely that quality of selflessness which is generally lacking in our world.
In order to drop our self-centeredness, which both limits our view and clouds our actions, it is necessary for us to develop a sense of compassion.
Usually we are in a stalemate with our world: “Is he going to say he is sorry to me first, or am I going to apologize to him first?” But in becoming a bodhisattva we break that barrier: we do not wait for the other person to make the first move; we have decided to do it ourselves.
Millions of people in the world are suffering because of their lack of generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and transcendental knowledge. The point of making the first move by taking the bodhisattva vow is not to convert people to our particular view, necessarily; the idea is that we should contribute something to the world simply by our own way of relating, by our own gentleness.
Taking a bodhisattva vow means that we are inspired to put the teachings of Buddhism into practice in our everyday lives. A bodhisattva may teach dharma in the form of intellectual understanding, artistic understanding, or even business understanding. So in committing ourselves to the bodhisattva path, we are resuming our talents in an enlightened way, not being threatened or confused by them.