For past few months; thanks to a friend; I have been attending meditation sessions conducted by a group of passionate practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.
I came across a term known as "Bodhisattvas". Quite intrigued ; i was keen on knowing who are these people. Post discussions with senior teacher; i realised that the above words of Songyal Rinpoche holds value. The world seriously requires Bodhisattvas to heal the pain & suffering that is prevalent due to civil wars, racism, terrorism, economic disparity among others.
I shall try & explain who Bodhisattvas are & why we must practice Bodhisattva way of life.
What is a Bodhisattva way of life?
The human heart is capable of both great compassion & empathy and also violent brutality. The ability to direct the orientation of our heart distinguishes us from other animals.
One often hears examples of how parents sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of a child’s well being, or act of kindness between strangers. Yet the same heart can harbor rage, bigotry, resentment and self-deprecation; which is on a rise like terrorism, wars in Middle East, hate crimes which have affected millions globally.
It is the simple orientation of our hearts that ultimately determines whether we create societies characterized by joy and dignity or crippled by conflict, fear and despair. This orientation can be brought about by following Bodhisattva way of life.
A bodhisattva is literally a living being (sativa) who aspires to enlightenment (bodhi) and gives ray of hope to those who are suffering by reaching out and removing pain through compassion and actions. By doing so; Bodhisattvas’ renounce their own salvation and immediate entrance into nirvana.
President Ikeda mentions that to be a good human being; one must practice Bodhisattva way of life by relentless giving light of hope & compassions by actions to people who are suffering. A Bodhisattva realizes that any happiness we alone enjoy is incomplete and we must devote ourselves to removing others' suffering. Those in this state find their greatest satisfaction in altruistic behavior. The predominant characteristic of a bodhisattva is therefore compassion.
For the followers of Nichiren Buddhism, Bodhisattva practice is based on concept of "practice for oneself and others." The core of practicing for oneself is the recitation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo along with key passages from the sutra. The purpose of this practice is to revolutionize one's inner life, to develop the qualities of the Buddha: courage, wisdom, compassion.
Many people initially practice Buddhism by the desire for personal happiness, to overcome illness or other difficulties. As their life-state expands, they develop a deeper compassion & empathy for other people’s happiness.
Bodhisattvas are thus naturally engaged in society, actively struggling both to change themselves and make the world a better, more humane place for all people. This chanting of chapters from Lotus sutra along with prayers helps us to be valuable participants in society, and to contribute as much as possible to their family, workplace and community.