March 6 : The Great Aspirations of Bodhisattvas

Sometimes you read sutras that say Bodhisattvas will remain in samsara until it ends. Some people conclude that Bodhisattvas do not want to attain full awakening and want to stay in samsara forever. But this is not correct because Arya Bodhisattvas have incredible renunciation and the best way for them to benefit sentient beings is to attain Buddhahood as quickly as possible. Statements like these are meant to show the degree of their compassion and the extent they cherish others, which is so strong that they would be happy to forgo their awakening if it would benefit others. Such statements also refer to the samsaric universe of other sentient beings. From the Mahayana perspective, Bodhisattvas have purified aggregates that enable them to manifest in the polluted world of sentient beings to guide and help us, whilst not being polluted by it themselves. 

We also may wonder why we are praying, “May all their negativities ripen upon me, and may I give them all my virtue,” when we cannot take on anybody’s karma according to the law of karmic cause and effect. The real purpose of this verse is to strengthen our compassion and love for sentient beings so that there is absolutely no hesitation on our part to help when we encounter situations where we can do something. This verse will immediately ring in our minds if we are close to realising emptiness on the Path of Seeing and are tempted to attain our liberation and just be done with it. 

It is important to remember that these aspirations give us the highest standards for how we ultimately want to be, so we should not compare ourselves to them and conclude they are impossible or useless since we are so far off from the goal. The verses are said in this way, so we imprint the Bodhisattva ideal in our minds again and again, which makes it much easier to adhere to them and not get sidetracked along the path. 

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