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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 53 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. And a bodhisattva is simply a person who lives in the spirit of that vow, perfecting the qualities known as the six paramitas [perfections]—generosity, dis- cipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and transcendental knowledge—in his effort to liberate beings. Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in. It means we are willing to take on greater re- sponsibility, immense responsibility. In fact it means tak- ing a big chance. But taking such a chance is not false her- oism or personal eccentricity. It is a chance that has been taken in the past by millions of bodhisattvas, enlightened ones, and great teachers. So a tradition of responsibility and openness has been handed down from generation to generation, and now we too are participating in the sanity and dignity of this tradition. There is an unbroken lineage of bodhisattvas, springing from the great The Bodhisattva The bodhisattva—the renowned ideal of Mahayana Buddhism—is not a god or deity but a way of being we can all aspire to. As CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE explains, those who take the bodhisattva vow make one simple commitment: to put others first, holding nothing back for themselves. bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, and Manjushri. It is unbroken because no one in that lineage, through generations and centuries, has indulged himself in self- preservation. Instead these bodhisattvas have constantly tried to work for the benefit of all sentient beings. This heritage of friendship has continued unbroken up to the present day, not as a myth but as a living inspiration. The sanity of this tradition is very powerful. What we are doing in taking the bodhisattva vow is magnifi- cent and glorious. It is such a wholehearted and full tradition that those who have not joined it might feel somewhat wretched in comparison. They might be en- vious of such richness. But joining this tradition also makes tremendous demands on us. We no longer are intent on creating comfort for ourselves; we work with others. This implies working with our other as well as the other other. Our other is our projections and our sense of privacy and longing to make things comfort- able for ourselves. The other other is the phenomenal world outside, which is filled with screaming kids, dirty dishes, confused spiritual practitioners, and assorted sentient beings. Left: Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion