This post is part of a 5-week series in relation to the Five Bodhisattvas and a Reflection Group I put together and am part of with a few sangha friends of mine.
Bodhisattva literally means “enlightened being.” The Plum Village chant book defines it as such: One committed to enlightening oneself and others so that all may be liberated from suffering.
In our practice tradition, we are especially urged not to regard the bodhisattva’s as external separate entities but more as qualities in which to actively cultivate within our own self, for the benefit of all beings. While the Bodhisattva’s are mentioned as actual human beings – and disciples of the Buddha – in the sutras, we are encouraged to see them as representing skill-sets and capabilities in which to hone and sharpen in our own life.
We read and reflect on one bodhisattva at a time for one full week and then answer three reflection questions each Sunday, which we email out to the group of participants.
These are the bodhisattvas in the order most commonly encountered in our tradition:
Avalokiteshvara: Bodhi. of Great Compassion
Manjushri: Bodhi. of Great Understanding
Samantabhadra: Bodhi. of Great Action
Kshitigarbha: Bodhi. of Great Aspiration
Sadaparibhuta: Bodhi. of Never Disparaging
This last week was week #3.
Here is the verse, my journal entries, and my answers to our group reflection questions for Samantabhadra:
We invoke your name, Samantabhadra. We aspire to practice your vow to act with the eyes and heart of compassion, to bring joy to one person in the morning and to ease the pain of one person in the afternoon. We know that the happiness of others is our own happiness, and we aspire to practice joy on the path of service. We know that every word, every look, every action, and every smile can bring happiness to others. We know that if we practice wholeheartedly, we ourselves may become an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for our loved ones and for all species.
This is the bodhisattva I resonate with personally the most. This is the bodhisattva of Great Action, and I often refer to myself humorously as a Woman of Action.
There are so many lovely lines in the verse – and I find the especially lovely because I’ve personally encountered and experienced them in my life. I am someone who puts great emphasis on practicing joy on the path of service. And in doing so, I’ve seen firsthand how true it is that the happiness of others is my own happiness; how every word/look/action/smile can bring happiness to others; and how when I practice wholeheartedly, I am able to becomes an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for others.
For me, cultivating joyful-based actions is my highest and most important aspiration on my path of practice. When I set my compass in this direction, I see clearly the ripple effects that occur as a result, everywhere I go.