Dong Hung Buddhist Temple
Dharma Discussion Group
June 3, 2014
The Venerable Thay Thanh led the discussion. We will discuss the topic Bodhisattvas in four parts through the month of June: Introduction, Definition, Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra and How to Practice.
“Bodhi” means enlightened or awakened.
“Sattva” means being.
The Mahayana Tradition places much emphasis on the concept of Bodhisattvas. The Theravada Tradition pays little attention to them. In Theravada tradition, Bodhisattvas are considered to be earlier Buddhas. In the Mahayana tradition, Bodhisattvas are separate entities.
The topic of the Large Vehicle traditions and practice and Small Vehicle traditions and practice came up. Thay Thanh encouraged us to not think in these terms. As we are growing American Buddhism we should make our own choices and perhaps combine both traditions.
To illustrate this, he related the story from the Buddha’s time of the two sons who each provide care for one of their father’s legs. One day, the two sons became angry with each other and vented their anger with each other on the leg of the father each one was responsible for. In the end, only the father was hurt. The Buddha taught that a conflict between Buddhist traditions will only hurt the practice of the Dharma.
There are 52 states, or levels, of Bodhisattva. The highest level is at the brink of full Buddhahood. A Bodhisattva is an enlightened being ready to be a Buddha, but one who elects to remain a sentient being helping other sentient beings to learn and practice the dharma.
We touched on the Six Paramitas as the basis of the focus of practice for Bohdisattvas: Generosity, Virtue, Patience, Energy, Concentration and Wisdom. One of the many meanings of the mantra Om Ma NI Pad Me Hum is that each syllable represents one of the Six Paramitas:
OM = Generosity
- MA = Virtue
NI = Patience
Pad = Energy
Me = Concentration
Hum = Wisdom
We spoke about the two Bodhisattvas associated with the Western Pure Land tradition, Mahasthamaprapta (Bodhisattva of the Arrival of Great Strength or Wisdom) and Avalokitesvara (Bodhisattva of Compassion). The symbolism we observe with the images of these Bodhisattvas includes:
Avalokitsvara’s Vase and willow. The vase holds water which represents compassion. A drop of water represents the seed of compassion. The willow represents flexibility.
Avalokitsvara’s Hand. The hand helps all beings see. Each hand has an eye.
The Lotus. A lotus can only grow in mud. The beauty rising from the mud symbolizes impermanence.
Thay Thanh reminded us in closing the night’s discussion that “Every thought is a being.”
June 9, 2014