Bodhisattva (Sanskrit: m., बोधिसत्त्व bodhisattva "enlightened being", from Bodhi "enlightenment" or "awakening" and Sattva "being") is the name given in Eastern teachings to a personality who is animated by an Archangel right into his physical body, often only into his etheric body.
„One who has absorbed the whole of earthly experience, so that he knows of every thing how it can be utilised and has thus become a creator, is called a Bodhisattva, that is, a man who has sufficiently absorbed Bodhi, the Buddhi of the earth, into himself. Then he is ripe to work out of the innermost impulses. The sages of the earth are not yet Bodhisattvas. Even for a sage there are still things in which he is not yet able to find his way. Only when one has absorbed all the knowledge of the earth in order to be able to create, is one a bodhisattva. Buddha, Zarathustra, for example, were Bodhisattvas.“ (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 54)
In Mahayana, "Eight Great Bodhisattvas" are particularly revered. According to Rudolf Steiner, there are twelve Bodhisattvas in all, each of whom has a very specific mission to fulfil in the course of earthly development. Everything they need for this flows to them as substantial wisdom from a thirteenth: the Christ.
„If we take our clairvoyant eye to help us, we see that a Bodhisattva is a human being who is constantly connected with the spiritual world and does not live entirely in the physical world. His beingness is, as it were, too great to find room in a human body; only a part reaches down into the earthly shell, the greater part remains in the higher worlds. Consequently, the Bodhisattva is always in a state of inspiration.“ (Lit.:GA 118, p. 219)
Bodhisattvas rise with their consciousness up to the Buddhi plane, i.e. up to the world of providence. The body through which a bodhisattva works on earth is called the dharmakaya (body of law). A bodhisattva is not only concerned with his own enlightenment, thereby finally entering nirvana, but with all his powers he helps other beings to free themselves from the wheel of rebirths, as is also expressed in the bodhisattva vow recited in many schools of Mahayana Buddhism:
„The number of beings is infinite; I vow to redeem them all.
Greed, hatred and ignorance arise unceasingly; I vow to overcome them.
The gates of Dharma are innumerable; I vow to pass through them all.
The path of the Buddha is incomparable; I vow to realise it.“
A bodhisattva's mission is accomplished when what he has to give has become completely his own human capacity. From then on, he no longer needs to embody himself in a physical body.
„When such a Bodhisattva, through his earlier development, has made a human body so perfect that it can develop abilities for the qualities connected with the Bodhisattva's mission, then he no longer needs to embody himself. Then he floats, promoting and guiding the affairs of men, in spiritual regions and from there works into humanity. And men then have the task of further training what has previously streamed down to them from heavenly heights and to say to themselves: We must now develop in such a way that we train those faculties which we see attained for the first time in the fullest measure in that incarnation which has been attained through the faculties of the Bodhisattva and which has appeared in the Buddha. And how the being who has worked through the ages as a Bodhisattva appears as a human being, even as a full individual human being, where everything has been incorporated into human nature that formerly flowed in from the heights of heaven, to show in an individual human being what the Bodhisattva is capable of, that is to be "Buddha" [...] Therefore the Bodhisattva Being, having become Buddha, may withdraw from earth to certain spiritual heights, may dwell there, and may direct the affairs of humanity from there, where it is still possible only for a certain clairvoyant faculty to see it.“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 37f)
He has become the Buddha, whose consciousness now reaches up to the Nirvana plane and whose body has been transformed into the sambhoakaya (body of completion). After death in this last earthly life, a Buddha only enters into earthly affairs in an etheric or astral form through the so-called Nirmanakaya:
That the nirmanakaya of a Buddha appears as a multiplicity of members is due to an intensification of that splitting of the personality which occurs on the path of initiation, through which thinking, feeling and willing appear more and more as independent entities.
„Hence it is in all spiritual training of the Rosicrucian that one looks up with deepest veneration to those ancient initiates who preserved the ancient wisdom of Atlantis: to the re-embodied Scythianos, in him one saw the great venerated Bodhisattva of the West; to the respective embodied reflection of the Buddha, whom one likewise venerated as one of the Bodhisattvas, and finally to Zarathas, the re-embodied Zarathustra.“ (Lit.:GA 113, p. 192)
Since individualities are named here whom Rudolf Steiner also calls masters in other places, one may well assume that the twelve masters of wisdom and of the harmony of the sensations are the same circle of initiates.
Bodhisattvas differ from the sages of the Earth in that they have absorbed the whole of earthly experience and thus the Buddhi of the Earth. Such Bodhisattvas were, for example, Buddha or Zarathustra:
„One who has absorbed all earthly experience, so that he knows of every thing how it can be utilised and has thus become a creator, is called a Bodhisattva, that is, a man who has sufficiently absorbed Bodhi, the Buddhi of the Earth. Then he is ripe to work out of the innermost impulses. The sages of the Earth are not yet Bodhisattvas. Even for a sage there are still things in which he is not yet able to find his way. Only when one has absorbed all the knowledge of the Earth in order to be able to create, is one a Bodhisattva. Buddha, Zarathustra, for example, were Bodhisattvas.“ (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 54)
In a lecture given in Lugano on 17 September 1911, masterhood and buddhahood are also equated and at the same time it is stated that this goal is only a higher stage of what every human being can achieve - at least in principle - through appropriate spiritual development:
„The Bodhisattva who became the Buddha was born into the royal house of Suddhodana and became the Buddha in the twenty-ninth year of his life, which means that he then no longer needed to be incarnated afterwards. When such a being, a Bodhisattva, becomes Buddha or Master, it means an inner development, only a higher one, which every human being can go through. An esoteric training of the human being is only a beginning of what leads to becoming a Buddha. It has nothing to do with what happens around people. Such people appear at certain times to bring the world forward. But these are different events from the Christ event. Christ had not come over from another human individuality, but Christ had come over from the macrocosm, while all Bodhisattvas have always been connected with the Earth.“ (Lit.:GA 130, p. 22)
- Rudolf Steiner: Foundations of Esotericism. CW 93a. Vera Compton-Burnett (Translator), J. Compton-Burnett (Translator). Rudolf Steiner Press 2019. ISBN 978-1855845619; eBook ASIN B08P63G6TR rsarchive
- Rudolf Steiner: The East in the Light of the West. CW 113. Translated by Harry Collison. Anthroposophic Press 1940 rsarchive
- Rudolf Steiner, Catherine E. Creeger (Translator), Robert A. McDermott (Introduction): According to Luke: The Gospel of Compassion and Love Revealed. CW 114. Steiner Books 2001. ISBN 978-0880104883 rsarchive
- Rudolf Steiner, Christian von Arnim (Translator): The Christ Impulse: And the Development of Ego-Consciousness. CW 116. Rudolf Steiner Press 2015. ISBN 978-1855844063; eBook ASIN B07N9ZP15H rsarchive
- Rudolf Steiner: Grundelemente der Esoterik, GA 93a, Dornach (1987) English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Der Orient im Lichte des Okzidents, GA 113 (1982), ISBN 3-7274-1130-9 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Das Lukas-Evangelium, GA 114 (2001), ISBN 3-7274-1140-6 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Der Christus-Impuls und die Entwicklung des Ich-Bewusstseins, GA 116 (1982), Erster Vortrag, Berlin, 25. Oktober 1909 (Die Sphäre der Bodhisattvas) English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Die tieferen Geheimnisse des Menschheitswerdens im Lichte der Evangelien, GA 117 (1986) English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Das Ereignis der Christus-Erscheinung in der ätherischen Welt, GA 118 (1984) English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Das esoterische Christentum und die geistige Führung der Menschheit, GA 130 (1995), ISBN 3-7274-1300-X English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Zur Geschichte und aus den Inhalten der ersten Abteilung der Esoterischen Schule 1904 bis 1914, GA 264, Dornach (1987) English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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