Though the Christian and Buddhist spiritual traditions came into being from radically different cultural and philosophical places at different historical moments, this Bodhisattva’s Wish by the 8th-century writer Shantideva seems relevant at the approach to Easter. Clearly, the intention behind the Christian paschal mystery expressed in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus is — from a certain vantage — not so different from the motivation behind the Buddha’s pursuit of enlightenment and the desire of the Bodhisattvas to forgo their own release from suffering until all beings attain liberation. In both spiritual traditions there is an awareness that such a journey of transformative discovery entails sacrifice and mystery.
While the title Bodhisattva is never used in the Christian scriptures, it conveys something of the mystery Christians honor in Jesus. Likewise, the Christian title of Soter (σωτήρ) describes something of the mystery of those Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who offer their own lives for the spiritual benefit of others. Soter, Buddha, and Bodhisattva could all be described as a heroic spiritual Friend (Mithras).
While each title-role has its own context-specific significance and therefore is not, sensu strticto, interchangeable with a title-role of another spiritual tradition, Soter, Bodhisattva, and Mithras are all considered heroic beings who freely assume an urgent salvific spiritual task for the sake of others; consequently they are celebrated, remembered, and imitated by the communities that honor them. Or to put it another way: they dedicate and sacrifice their lives for the benefit of others who, in turn, dedicate and sacrifice their lives for the benefit of one another.
It’s useful to recall the many points of commonalty among our planet’s various spiritual, religious, social activist, philosophical, and humanitarian traditions. We needn’t be surprised that these traditions are interrelated, since all human beings, across time and place, experience the same fundamental conditions of impermanence, dissatisfaction, suffering, and mortality, as well as the desire to overcome or pass beyond those realities.
March 29, 2017
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The Bodhisattva’s Wish
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind, obtain an ocean of happiness and joy
For as long as they remain in cyclic existence, may their mundane happiness never decline, and may all of them uninterruptedly receive waves of joy
May those feeble with cold find warmth, and may those oppressed with heat be cooled by the boundless waters that pour forth from the great clouds
May all animals be free from fear of being eaten by one another
May the hungry ghosts be as happy as the people of the northern continent
May the blind see forms, may the deaf hear sounds, may pregnant women give birth without any pain
May the naked find clothing, the hungry find food: may the forlorn find new hope, constant happiness and prosperity
May all who are sick and ill quickly be freed from their illnesses, and may every disease in the world never occur again
May the frightened cease to be afraid and may those bound be free; may the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another
May all travelers find happiness everywhere they go, and without any effort may they accomplish whatever they set out to do
May those who sail in ships and boats obtain whatever they wish for, and having safely returned to the shore may they joyfully reunite with their relatives
May the troubled wanderers who have lost their way meet with fellow travelers, and without any fear of thieves and tigers, may their going be easy without any fatigue
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses, the children, the aged, the unprotected, those stupefied and insane, be guarded by beneficent celestials
May pregnant women give birth without any pain, just like the treasury of space, and without it being the source of dispute or harm, may they always enjoy it as they wish
May all embodied creatures uninterruptedly hear the sound of Dharma issuing from birds and trees, beams of light, and even space itself
May celestials bring timely rains so that harvests may be bountiful
May kings act in accordance with Dharma and the people of the world always prosper
May no living creature ever suffer, commit evil or fall ill: may no one be afraid or belittled or their minds ever be depressed
May beings not experience the misery of lower realms, and may they never know any hardships.
With a physical form superior to the gods, may they swiftly attain Buddhahood
For as long as space endures and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide to dispel the misery of the world
May all the pains of living creatures ripen solely upon myself, and through the might of the Bodhisattva Sangha, may all beings experience happiness