A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life
Compassion is the guiding principle of the bodhisattvas, those who vow to attain enlightenment in order to liberate all sentient beings from the suffering and confusion of imperfect existence. To this end, they must renounce all self-centered goals and consider only the well-being of others. The bodhisattvas' enemies are the ego, passion, and hatred; their weapons are generosity, patience, perseverance, and wisdom. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is considered to be a living embodiment of this spiritual ideal. His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama presents here a detailed manual of practical philosophy, based on The Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicharyavatara), a well-known text of Mahayana Buddhism written by Shantideva. The Dalai Lama explains and amplifies the text, alluding throughout to the experience of daily life and showing how anyone can develop bodhichitta, the wish for perfect enlightenment for the sake of others. This book will surely become a standard manual for all those who wish to make the bodhisattva ideal a living experience.
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Although the particulars in places may not mesh perfectly with me, I really like the concept of a bodhisattva. I think it would be neat to try to be a bodhisattva without embracing Buddhism entirely. On page 94, the Dalai Lama says the human body is just waste. Marvin Olasky criticizes such a depiction of the human body in a book reviewed below. I think Olasky may have a point when he suggests that the human body is something much more magnificent and amazing than that. The Dalai Lama says “Once mature, it [the body] is made up of blood, flesh, organs, and bones….Why then are we not repelled by the body, which is wholly made up of disgusting elements?” Because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On page 106-107, he expounds on ideas which seem very similar to the servant leadership philosophy, a concept derived from Christianity. This would be one example of what the religious scholars consider to be the similarities across the religions, especially when folks compare Buddhism to Christianity. On page 107, he suggests that treating others well will give one the karma to “be reborn as kings and leaders”. In other parts in this book, he condemns fame, leadership, and power, so exalting the reward would seem to contradict his ideas, though he does say that our good deeds should not be done with the idea we will get a better future life plight. I found disturbing that the Dalai Lama considered one possible punishment for bad behavior in this life is to be born as mentally disabled in a next life. Some people say being mentally “disabled” is not really a punishment since, sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise and least of all, there are advantages to most every situation. In the above reviewed audio tape by the Dalai Lama, he states that abortion might be justified if the child would be handicapped! Abominable!!! One of the big themes of this book, and Buddhism in general is the idea of “there is no self” or at least we should not recognize the self. I am not sure this is preferable. Ayn Rand’s Anthem offers a different perspective, as they say, about the evils of a society where people lose the self. That book made its point on my brain and in this matter; I think Rand’s way is preferable to the Buddhist way.
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An easy to read commentary on the essential Guide To The Bodhisattva's Way of Life. HIghly recommend it!
The Way of the Bodhisattva
The Benefits of Bodhichitta
Offering and Purification
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