A few years ago I read the following quote from Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, a famous Japanese zen buddhist master of the 20th century:
”In the deepest sense, even the Bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteshvara) might be said to be attached to compassion, otherwise he would be a buddha, free of all attachments.*”
*quote from The Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau
Wikipedia gives the following definition of bodhisattva plus categorises three kinds of them:
”In Buddhism, bodhisattva is the Sanskrit term for anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish and a compassionate mind to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.”
bodhisattva - one who aspires to become buddha as soon as possible
and then help sentient beings in full fledge;
bodhisattva - one who aspires to achieve buddhahood along with other
bodhisattva - one who aspires to delay buddhahood until all other
sentient beings achieve buddhahood. Bodhisattvas like Avalokiteśvara
and Śāntideva are believed to fall in this category.
Bodhisattvas going up the hill
By bodhisattvas who are on their way towards the top of the hill, I mean samsaric beings who are still bound by their dualistic vision but who have the motivation and make efforts to become fully realised buddhas for the benefit of all beings, in this, past or future lives.
Bodhisattvas coming down the hill
As Yasutani Roshi and the third category of mahayana bodhisattvas in the Wikipedia article describe, some bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara are said to not have attained buddhahood but are still making their way up the hill towards it while simultaneously answering to the cries of those who suffer below them. This would mean that bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Mahasthamaprapta, Akasagarbha, Ksitigarbha and so on, are still subtly deluded with an impaired vision,. This would make them samsaric beings.
It has always made sense to me to turn for example towards Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of compassion, to receive his blessings and assiatance but it never made sense to me that he would still be a deluded being, more or less like me. At some point I started feeling that there must be some misunderstandings in this view. I would never take refuge in samsaric beings, regardless how subtle their delusion was. Neither would I recommend it to anyone.
One of my criticisms towards Tibetan buddhism and it's high lamas, who extremely rarely actually are living buddhas, is that their followers should not take refuge to lamas who aren't buddhas for certain. Doing this keeps the wheel of samsara spinning and is an impediment for actualisation of the buddhist teaching. If we don't know whether or not one's guru is a buddha or not, we need to find out to be sure. If we don't have ways of finding out, we have to start from the beginning and start thinking about it constructively. This matter cannot be left on faith. I encourage people to study the dharma and to revere and respect their teachers but not taking refuge in samsaric beings. The Open Heart Bhumi Model and it's analytical application reveals what the actual level of anyone's attainment is.
If bodhisattvas were buddhas in the making, they would also have to take refuge in buddhas and mahasiddha gurus, just like us ordinary samsaric beings. This doesn't make much sense.
My understanding is that sambhogakaya bodhisattvas, bodhisattvas of the energetic realms (deities), are fully enlightened buddhas who have gone up the hill to the top and then returned back down to reside on certain areas of the mind (ref. to Bodhisattva Bhumis) to help those who are trapped in the wheel of confusion and ignorance. For this reason bodhisattva deities are actually buddhas who have chosen to do their work from the bodhisattva bhumis (1-10), relating to the vast range of energy centers, that is, the mind of man (sem) and the various realms that can be accessed from each of these centers.
Thank you for reading.
Bows to the Five Jewels.
- Kim, 8.6.2017