Chapter 25: The Bodhisattva

Down the Rabbit HoleMost are familiar with Matthew 7:1 which says: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Companion to this self-explanatory saying is the one found in Matthew 6:22, which says: "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" Jesus here is talking about perception and suggesting that we must go past our judgment of others, beyond forms and that which we think is righteous. And if our eyes judge, if our eyes determine according to our own measure that we must turn away from this person because she is an adulteress or this other person because he is a homosexual, then we may perhaps be robbing ourselves of a potential slice of wisdom or joy, which may be gained through our interaction with them. We will have been caught up with our own blindness and unable to see past the forms, past the veil of what we have determined to be proper morality, to a certain truth that is being revealed; therefore, we must pluck out our eye that judges and offends us so that we may behold the truth. This idea is echoed in Matthew 18:9, which says: "And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire." The point is that the ideals of morality, to a certain degree, change from generation to generation. For example, during the times of Jesus, it was a sin even to speak God's name, a sin punishable by death. We no longer adhere to this practice in the 21st Century. In summary, these passages just quoted do not primarily address behavioral or social concerns of morality, as it is often accepted in orthodox Christianity, but rather an attitude or awareness that is directed on the individual's consciousness or illumination thereof.

In Buddhism, the name Bodhisattva is given to people like Jesus; they are beacons for the Kingdom of the Father. By definition, a Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who out of compassion forgoes "entering into eternal bliss", forgoes "returning to the Father" and willingly participates in the pains of the world in order to help others. This type of being is one who, having made the psychological leap beyond the world, knowingly and intentionally continues to suffer the pains of the world so that he may help others. But such an act is seen as sacrifice only from the perspective of one who is not a Bodhisattva. That is to say, from the Bodhisattva’s perspective, the sacrifice is not sacrifice at all but another blissful aspect or indulgence in the fullness of life. The savior then is never one who sets out to save the world. Rather, it is a label imposed upon a sage who becomes immersed in that Landscape. By the virtue of his own journey to the Father, the sage helps the world and is labeled by those on the outside as a savior. From the ordinary perspective, the Bodhisattva is the shepherd who will lay down his life for his flock (John 10:11). In Philippians 2:5 we read: "Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." No better words could describe a Bodhisattva. In fact, all human beings can be seen as potential Bodhisattvas, whether they know it or not. Although many of them do not know it, oftentimes they indirectly help others to greater knowledge of themselves, whether through “good” or “evil” works.

Before his awakening, the sage feels alienated, as an outsider. There is at first the crushing force of the world upon his shoulders as he trudges through the streets. The world would have nothing to do with him; it would call for his crucifixion. It would beat him with lashes and make him drink sour wine. But after having surrendered his vision of life, his deity and his spiritual riches, he sees Creation in an entirely different light. In fact, Creation becomes a clear reflection of himself. He is that beauty which he perceives and the radiance of the Father is in everything. The world is transcended, even with its hostile nature, wars and contradictions. It becomes a divine playground where all things are interconnected, through and beyond the drama of suffering. Now he can look with playfulness and wisdom at the world and see that, insofar as it does not recognize the presence of the Father, it is in the clutches of its own alienation. It becomes a divine playground for the sage where he can play out life with zeal and passion inflected through pain and ecstasy, which are necessary for the show to go on. He truly recognizes the futility in judging others and comes to see that everyone on this world stage has his or her part to play, from the judge, to the juror, from the criminal to the saint, from the artist to the critic. Unlike the majority, he no longer identifies himself with the role that he plays. He no longer thinks that he is the role. Very few realize that the character they play on the world stage is separate from the actor who is beneath the mask. Jesus, standing in front of Pilate as he was about to be condemned, knew that he was sharing in a divine play that was written by his own greater hand. In John 19:10 we read: "Then said Pilate unto him, 'speak not unto me? Know you not that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you?' Jesus answered, 'you could have no power at all against me, except it were given to you from above.'" Jesus had within him all the potential of a great world leader or ruler. He had the potential to hold Pilate's position or even that of emperor if he had chosen to invest in the world, for his own benefit. We know this because of the temptations that the devil metaphorically bestowed upon him prior to his ministry. In Matthew 4:8 the devil offers Jesus dominion over the whole world if only Jesus were to bow to him. On the contrary, Jesus denies himself, gives up his life for his authentic humanity and therefore for all of humanity. He had become master of a world that is spread out upon the earth and yet beyond the sight of men. He had gained his life. Jesus had a role to play in Pilate's world just as Pilate had his to play as well. And Jesus knew that, in another time or another place, the roles or masks could have been easily reversed. It is Jesus who gave Pilate his infamous role in the “history books” or the Gospels. Jesus in fact gave rise to Pilate as much as Pilate had a hand in the life of Jesus. They both come together. Jesus recognized the divine, poetic play of sheer life in the world taking on certain forms on the world stage. This quality of consciousness is that of the Kingdom of the Father. And this also can be interpreted as the meaning of reincarnation in the East. Reincarnation is a metaphor for the recognition that we are all physical reflections or aspects of the one Dynamic and Whole Movement, manifested in multiplicity. The life that is in “the other”, reflected in the world, has the same source as the life that is in me; therefore, reincarnation refers to the dance of life, the exchange of worldly masks or roles, so to speak, between all those who are on the world stage. But the underlying Life or Impulse is always one and the same.

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