The Enlightened Among Us

This article caught my eye some time ago and I included the entire piece for my reference. Perhaps because I had never heard of concept of a bodhisattva I found it intriguing and comforting. An enlightened compassionate deity, not a prophet, saint, or priest, that chooses to remain on earth to help us instead of ascending to safety, beauty, and peace. I imagine vast sights and smells of suffering wondering who would choose such a place? Even Jesus wasn’t here that long which only aptly compares if you are a trinitarian.

I live near St. Louis now and will check out the museum piece shown below. This time with mindful insight beyond simple aesthetics.

It also mentions traditions of the bodhisattva influenced Chinese and Japanese literature, specifically citing a massive tome I tried to read called The Tale of Genji. A book written by the 11th-century noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu and considered by many scholars to be the first novel. I am not a student of Asian literature, it was a whim. I was (am) too culturally illiterate to do more than struggle while knowing that I was missing so much more – like a bucket with holes only able to carry a small amount while the bulk is wasted. So, further studies in this direction will be helpful to better appreciate the The Tale of Genji. That is exciting!

Below:from History Today

Bodhisattva, the compassionate Buddhist deity who walks among us.

A bodhisattva is a Buddhist deity who has attained the highest level of enlightenment, but who delays their entry into Paradise in order to help the earthbound.

Seated Bodhisattva, Avalokiteśvara, or Guanyin, China, 11th century. St Louis Art Museum

The bodhisattva, known in Sanskrit as Avalokiteśvara, takes both male and female form and is associated with the qualities of mercy and compassion; its Chinese incarnation, Guanyin – who is always represented as female – translates as the ‘perceiver of sounds’. Guanyin, Buddhists believe, can recognize the cries of all those who suffer on earth and guide them towards salvation.

The earliest source for the doctrines of Avalokiteśvara is in the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, one of the foundation texts of Mahayana Buddhism, which originated in India around the beginning of the first century AD. Other sources claim that the sun and the moon were born of this bodhisattva’s eyes. Ideas and images associated with Avalokiteśvera have been of particular influence on Chinese and Japanese literature, such as The Tale of Genji, written by the 11th-century noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, which tells the romantic, picaresque story of the son of an ancient Japanese emperor. Some scholars have argued that it has claimed to be the first novel.

This statue of Avalokiteśvara, now on display in the St Louis Art Museum, depicts the bodhisattva seated, with legs folded as if meditating. It is made of a single woodblock, decorated with quartz and carnelian, and was made in China at the time of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). Visit original article and comment on History Today