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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bodhisattva

Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Theravada Buddhism
The term Bodhisatta (Pali language) was used by the Buddha in the Pāli Canon to refer to himself both in his previous lives and as a young man in his current life, prior to his enlightenment, in the period during which he was working towards his own liberation. When, during his discourses, he recounts his experiences as a young aspirant, he regularly uses the phrase "When I was an unenlightened Bodhisatta..." The term therefore connotes a being who is "bound for enlightenment," in other words, a person whose aim is to become fully enlightened. In the Pali Canon, the Bodhisatta is also described as someone who is still subject to birth, illness, death, sorrow, defilement and delusion. Some of the previous lives of the Buddha as a bodhisattva are featured in the Jataka Tales.
In the Pāli Canon, the Bodhisatta Siddhartha Gotama is described as thus:
before my Awakening, when I was an unawakened bodhisatta, being subject myself to birth, sought what was likewise subject to birth. Being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, I sought [happiness in] what was likewise subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement.
—Ariyapariyesana Sutta
While Maitreya (Pali: Metteya) is mentioned in the Pāli Canon, he is not referred to as a bodhisattva, but simply the next fully-awakened Buddha to come into existence long after the current teachings of the Buddha are lost.
In later Theravada literature, the term bodhisatta is used fairly frequently in the sense of someone on the path to liberation. The later tradition of commentary also recognizes the existence of two additional types of bodhisattas: the paccekabodhisatta who will attain Paccekabuddhahood, and the savakabodhisatta who will attain enlightenment as a disciple of a Buddha.

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