The Bodhisattva of Compassion

Yesterday I learned about Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. This particular bit about, Chenrezig, one of the forms of the bodhisattva stood out to me:

The bodhisattva vowed to clean up samsara once and for all. He put in a heroic effort. He thought he’d done it. But when he turned around again, the mess was back, unapologetically.

Chenrezig was so devastated by his failure to fix things that he shattered into a thousand pieces… What to do when even a bodhisattva of compassion can’t bear it any longer?

The story takes an instructive term. Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light, comes down from his Pure Land and converts Chenrezig’s thousand shattered pieces into a thousand arms (plus eleven heads, so he can look in all directions). I find it hugely instructive that Amitabha gives Chenrezig a thousand tools and says, Hey, keep going.

Chenrezig’s thousand arms are a token expression of the patience and fortitude essential to the bodhisattva vow. As our world prepares to blow itself apart yet again, Chenrezig becomes more than just a symbol; the bodhisattva is an absolute necessity, a guide and refuge.

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Published by

Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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