Buddha & Bodhisattvas
Sakyamuni Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. After 500 previous incarnations, Sakyamuni finally attained to the state of Bodhisattva, was born the son of Suddhodana, of the kshatriya caste, ruler of Kapilavastu. In the search for truth, he left home, severely disciplining himself and became an ascetic. Finally at the age of 35, under a tree, he realized that the way of release from the chain of rebirth and death lay not in asceticism but in moral purity through wisdom and compassion – the “middle way.” He founded his community on the basis of poverty, chastity, and insight or meditation, and it became known as Buddhism.
The Buddha of boundless light or life. An imaginary being unknown to ancient Buddhism, possibly of Persian or Iranian origin, who has become the most popular divinity in the Mahayana Teaching. His name indicates an idealization rather than a historic personality, the idea of eternal light and life. The origin and date of the concept are unknown, but he has always been associated with the west, where in his Pure Land, Sukhavati, he receives with unbounded happiness those who call upon his name. This is consequent on his forty-eight vows, especially the eighteenth, in which he vows to refuse Buddhahood until he has saved all living beings to the Pure Land, except those who had committed the five unpardonable sins, or are guilty of blasphemy against the faith.
Maitreya, “The Friendly and Benevolent One” or “One who possesses loving-kindness” is widely adored by the Chinese Buddhists for his willingness to grant help to those who direct their minds towards him. He is also known as Ajita, ‘the Unconquered’ and ranks equally with the other great Bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samanthabadra, Mahasthamaprata, and Ksitigarbha. As the next Buddha-to-be, he alone enjoys the distinction of being the only Bodhisattva recognized and popularly accepted by both Mahayana and Theravada countries.
Mahavairocana (Sanskrit name) is a Buddha honored by the esoteric school of Buddhism. The name has three meanings:
(1) Elimination of darkness by total illumination. The light of the wisdom of the Buddha constantly illuminates everywhere, irrespective of inside or outside, day or night.
(2) Success in all affairs. The light of wisdom illuminating the whole universe will develop equal infinitely good qualities in all sentient beings and warrant full success in all excellent affairs in and beyond this world.
(3) Light of eternity. The light of the wisdom of the Buddha will not be reduced by ignorance, nor be increased.
BHAISAJYA GURU means Medicine Buddha, who heals all diseases, including the disease of ignorance. His image is often at the left of Sakyamuni Buddha, and he is associated with the East.
Avalokitesvara (Sanskrit name) is commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy who, in the spirit of great compassion, vows to reach out for the salvation of all sentient beings. She and Mahasthamaprata Bodhisattva, being the left and right hands of Amitabha (Buddha of boundless light and life) are jointly referred to as the three Saints of the West. As the regarded of world’s sufferings, all sentient beings who call upon her name will be heard and be liberated from suffering. She had indeed reached a state of utmost freedom without hindrance in respect of wisdom and actions.
Ksitigarbha (Sanskrit name), is the Guardian of the Earth. He vowed to save all sentient beings in the six realms of existence. According to the Ksitigarbha-Sutra, Ksitigarbha should have achieved Buddhahood but in order to devote himself to educate and save all sentient beings, he is willing to remain in the status of Bodhisattva. The Sutra mentions that those who chant his name in great faith, give offerings, or worship his portraits or statues will be relieved from all sorrows and sufferings. They will not regress into evil realms but will be rewarded with ten or twenty-eight kinds of benefits. Ksitigarbha is one of the four most renowned Bodhisattvas in Chinese Buddhism.
MANJUSRI (Budhisattva of Wisdom)
Manjusri (Sanskrit name) is one of the four most renowned Bodhisattvas in Chinese Buddhism. Manjusri and Samantabhadra, being the left and right hands of Sakyamuni Buddha (the founder of Buddhism) represented Buddha-wisdom and Buddha-discernment respectively. He is often depicted riding on a lion, symbolizing strength and courage.
Samantabhadra [Sanskrit name] is one of the four most renowned Bodhisattvas in Chinese Buddhism. Manjusri, often depicted riding on a lion and Samantabhadra, riding on a white elephant, served on the left and right sides of Sakyamuni Buddha [ the Founder of Buddhism] respectively. In the Avatamsaka-Sutra, Chapter 40, the Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra were recorded. The tremendous credits of these vows were explained, and all sentient beings, following the guidance of Samantabhadra will be able to reborn in Amitabha’s Western Pureland after death.