Using the links below, you may choose to skip to any of the Bodhisattvas. Or continue to follow the links at the bottom of the page to meet each one in turn.
Before we continue our tour and
pilgrimage, we need to address a larger issue: just what is a Bodhisattva?
Like many of Buddhism's main
teachings, this is a slippery subject. In Southern Buddhism (also called
Theravada) the term "bodhisattva" is used of Prince Siddhartha,
before he attained Enlightenment and became the Buddha. So in that
sense, a bodhisattva is a kind of "Buddha-to-be."
In the Mahayana schools,
however, the question becomes more complex. At its root, the term means
anyone who has taken the Bodhisattva Vows. This may leave you with the
impression that you can simply stand down at the Main Gate, say the Vows, and
be a Bodhisattva. This is true in one sense-but don't expect anyone to
start making statues of you right away! However, it is common practice
around the Temple for people to thank one another for a kindness by saying,
"Thank you so much! You're a real Bodhisattva!" So in
this everyday way, all who engage in Mahayana Buddhism are Bodhisattvas,
pursuing the Bodhisattva Ideal.
Generally, though, the term is
used for an exalted class of Bodhisattvas, also called "Mahasattvas"
or "celestial Bodhisattvas." There are generally considered to
be about ten of these; the list varies in different traditions, but the Five
in our Bodhisattva Hall are included in virtually every list. You will
often hear Bodhisattvas being compared to Christian saints: they once dwelled
on Earth, they are now in a Heaven-like place, they assist those who call on
them, etc. But, as always, we must be careful not to confuse categories
from different traditions. In any case, these Bodhisattvas are thought
of as helpers to those of us still struggling along. They have all vowed
not to attain Enlightenment until all sentient beings are ready to be
Enlightened, so they are dedicated to helping us achieve that goal.
In one sense, there are not
different "classes" or "types" of Bodhisattvas. We
are all of the same "type," but are on different stages of the Path
(called Bhumi). There are ten such stages, and the celestial
Bodhisattvas are simply at a further point on the Path. What unites us
is primarily the Vows, and the practice of the Six (sometimes Ten)
Perfections. All Bodhisattvas seek perfection in the following areas:
generosity, morality, patience, energy (or effort), meditation, and wisdom.
The more "perfected" a Bodhisattva is in these areas, the further
she or he is along the Bodhisattva Path.