A bodhisattva is someone who has compassion within himself or herself and who is able to make another person smile or help someone suffer less. Every one of us is capable of this.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
This is the bodhisattva that will be discussed here. To learn about the bodhisattva in its Buddhist origins, refer to online research. There’s a lot available. Some basics will be mentioned. Mostly we’ll look at the bodhisattva as a model and its relevance and power in modernity. And how every single person in ordinary, everyday living can aspire to be sattvic (calm, peaceful, harmonious, good).
Lama Surya Das terms it as backyard bodhisattva:
Bodhisattvas are individuals who exhibit an unusually strong and instinctive tendency to relinquish their own apparent gain and self-interest in order to help others, even if it requires a great deal of effort or abandonment of their own personal agenda. Sometimes they act with exceptional generosity. Other times they demonstrate great patience, profound wisdom, or unimpeachable moral character and ethical integrity. Sometimes it can be just a little unexpected kindness, helpful word, or a smile that expresses the hidden bodhisattva deep within, coming at precisely the right time and place when one is truly in need of a boost.
Bodhisattva (Sanskrit), Bodhisatta (Pali: “one whose goal is awakening”), Bosatsu (Japanese) is one who seeks awakening (bodhi)—an individual on the path to becoming enlightened.
The term ‘bodhisattva’ literally means ‘one who has enlightenment as his/her essence,’ from bodhi (awakening or enlightenment) and sattva (essence). It’s not simply another term for a Buddha, though: a bodhisattva is a being who is destined for enlightenment rather than one who has gained it already. A bodhisattva is also normally thought of as consciously working towards enlightenment: you can’t call someone a bodhisattva just because they might be enlightened in the future if they haven’t started making an effort yet. (Source: clear-vision.org.)
The defining quality of a bodhisattva is compassion. This compassion begins within with wisdom leading to enlightenment, which manifests as compassion without.
Compassion resides in each of us naturally, but we need to create space in our heart and mind for it to be nurtured and to allow it to flower.
— Peggy Rowe-Ward
And what is wisdom?
Information that’s absorbed by a person, understood and internalized becomes knowledge. Wisdom is the application of knowledge that has matured and integrated, that’s become part of a person’s inner knowing.
— Pamir Kiciman, from Wisdom and Compassion as the Path in Reiki
One last definition before we look at Reiki in all of this. Enlightenment. It’s an intimidating concept. For the time being, let’s realize that there are degrees of enlightenment and they’re all valuable and helpful, especially compared to regular states of mental and spiritual torpor.
True enlightenment is nothing but the nature of one’s own self being fully realized.
— Dalai Lama
And there’s this… Makes it relatable:
Enlightenment is like everyday consciousness but two inches above the ground.
— D. T. Suzuki
Tara, Bodhisattva of compassion
The bodhisattava training and process is step by step. It’s the same in Reiki. We’re talking about Usui Sensei’s original intentions with Reiki, which was that the teaching would lead people to their own satori or enlightenment. If you learn Reiki from someone who thinks it’s only hands-on healing, then your experiences and opportunities are going to be limited to that.
Reiki is also full of compassion. Since compassion is wedded to wisdom, Reiki is full of wisdom as well. The details of this are given in the post quoted above: Wisdom and Compassion as the Path in Reiki. It’s a must-read if you want to really understand the depth of what’s being explored here and the depth of Reiki.
The flow of Reiki is the flow of compassion. Whenever Reiki is manifest, compassion is manifest. Nothing extra needs to be done. A Reiki practitioner is always in the great swell of compassion because it’s inherent to Reiki.
This doesn’t mean that one automatically becomes compassionate or embodies it fully. It has to be a conscious process of first recognizing compassion, then mindfully engaging it and letting it inform your life experience, as well as letting it work out all the kinks in the heart center. There’s a constant involvement with compassion and greater and greater allowing of it in one’s life.
Hands-on Reiki is a compassionate experience for practitioner and recipient alike. It’s the loving, kind, nonjudging presence of universal compassion that heals.
Reiki meditations (in Usui’s Japanese teachings) are also an experience where compassion emanates for the practitioner. In either case, compassion is transformative. It leads to personal and spiritual development and healing, if worked with in awareness and appreciation.
Compassion is also the final precept of the Reiki precepts: “Be compassionate to yourself and others.” Coming at the end of the five precepts, it encompasses all that comes before it and takes the principles to new heights. Usui Sensei understood the value, universality and power of compassion.
The light of compassion shines wisely and with timeliness… It shows the family person how to bring peace, wisdom and harmony into the household. It shows the solitary meditator how to relate lovingly yet firmly to the complexities of his or her own mind. It shows the ruler how to govern and the afflicted how to cope with their suffering.
— Ken Holmes
What we have in the bodhisattva model is a willingness to be a community player. A person who’s a healing and awakening presence to all who interact with him or her. This is a way to multiply one’s own spiritual development and the gifts one has received and influence a greater sphere. It isn’t that difficult. It’s simply a matter of sharing the good, empowering and lifting others with it.
As a Reiki practitioner (properly instructed and with a sincere self-practice) healing, light, peace and caring are already being spread. Truly embodying Reiki already facilitates this. When you give Reiki to someone, it becomes quite specific and much more effectual. Becoming proficient in Reiki meditation adds to the multiplier effect because then you’re grounded in wisdom and compassion, operating from a universal source of truth.
The force needed to empower wisdom is compassion. Both wisdom and compassion shift our sense of identity away from ourselves toward the wider human, biotic, and cosmic community to which we belong.
— Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Reiki is a spiritual practice that also heals. As such, it creates needed change and growth in the practitioner. This is initially all internal and continues to be. At a certain point there’s spillover and with Reiki there are particular ways to help heal others with hands-on or nonlocal (distant) sessions. Plus the ability to be a guide for the people around you, with the honing of the truth you interface with every time Reiki meditation is practiced.
Our kids, our community, our society and our Earth are in need of conscious and committed Reiki bodhisattvas! Reiki has the means and built-in functionality to make this happen. Being a a garden-variety bodhisattva, an embodiment of wisdom and compassion is actually intrinsic to Reiki.
In my understanding, the crisis of our age requires that wisdom and compassion jointly acquire an immanent, transformative function that can give a new direction to our collective life.
— Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Authentic Japanese Reiki Master Teacher / Healer at my Oasis Reiki Dojo – Available globally. Meditation, Healing, and Spirituality training and services. Meditation Guide. Intuitive Coach. Spirituality Writer. Photographer. Poet. Artist. Dad. Plant-based.