and who would finally enter that state after
(Being of Wisdom) is the basic distinction between the old sects and the new,
which came to be known as Mahayana. Faith in the Bodhisattvas and the
help they afforded was thought to carry many beings on the road to bliss,
whereas the older school, which did not accept the Bodhisattva ideal, could
save only a few patient and strenuous souls.
There have been many famous Bodhisattvas in Buddhist tradition, the
majority of whom are legendary, although a historical basis does underlie
some, such as Samanta-bhadra and Vimala-kirti. A few Bodhisattvas were
moved by compassion and renounced eternal bliss in order to return to the
earthly sphere to instruct the unenlightened. Other Bodhisattvas are believed
to dwell in a state of beneficent meditation in quiet mountain solitudes, and
send forth powerful thought forces which influence man to follow the right
path. In Tantrik Buddhism the Bodhisattvas are allowed saktis or consorts
and are treated as gods and goddesses.
The major Bodhisattvas are named below:
1. Amitabha (boundless light) is the guardian of the West. He
established a ‘Pure Land’ called Sukhavati for the salvation of man,
entry into which required only faith in and surrender to him. This
doctrine forms the subject of a famous Mahayana sutra called the
Sukhavati-vyuha. Amitabha has a sakti or consort named Pandara.
2. Avalokitesvara (watchful lord), also called Padmapani (lotus-bearer),
whose attribute is compassion, which reaches down even to Avichi,
the lowest Buddhist purgatory. His heaven is Akanishtha, and his
sakti is Tara. Avalokitesvara is given a female form in China and
3. Manjusri (charming) represents the wisdom-aspect of the Buddha
principle. He stimulates the understanding, and with his naked sword
destroys error and falsehood.
4. Vairochana (illuminant) is regarded as the dharmakaya aspect of
Buddha. He is the guardian of the centre, and his sakti is Marichi.
5. Samanta-bhadra (instantly auspicious), also called Chakrapani
(wheel-bearer), figures prominently in the Gandha-vyuha Sutra as the
altruistic monk who taught the young Sudhana the ten vows of the
bodhisattva’s life. He is believed to have been a real person.
Lesser Bodhisattvas are: