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Bodhi

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Bodhi (Pali and Sanskrit. Lit. awakening. Trans. enlightenment) is a title given in Buddhism to the specific awakening experience attained by the Indian spiritual teacher Gautama Buddha and his disciples. It is sometimes described as complete and perfect sanity, or awareness of the true nature of the universe. After attainment, it is believed one is freed from the cycle of Samsāra; birth, suffering, death and rebirth.

Bodhi is attained only by the accomplishment of the Paramitas (perfections), when the Four Noble Truths are fully grasped, and when all karma has reached cessation. At this moment, all greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), delusion (moha), ignorance (avijjā), craving (tanha) and ego-centered consciousness (attā) are extinguished. Bodhi thus includes anattā, the absence of ego-centeredness.

Certain Mahayana Buddhist sutras stress that Bodhi is always present and perfect, and simply needs to be "uncovered" or disclosed to purified vision. Thus the "Sutra of Perfect Awakening" has the Buddha teach that, like gold within its ore, Bodhi is always there within the being's mind but requires the obscuring mundane ore (the surrounding defilements of samsara and of impaired, unawakened perception) to be removed. The Buddha declares:

"Good sons, it is like smelting gold ore. The gold does not come into being because of smelting ... Even though it passes through endless time, the nature of the gold is never corrupted. It is wrong to say that it is not originally perfect. The Perfect Enlightenment of the Tathagata [Buddha] is also like this."

Similar doctrines are encountered in the Tathagatagarbha sutras, which tell of the immanent presence of the Buddhic Principle (Buddha-dhatu/ Buddha-nature) within all beings. Here, the Tathagatagarbha (Buddha-Matrix) is tantamount to the indwelling transformative and liberational power of Bodhi, which bestows an infinitude of unifying vision. The Buddha of the Surangama Sutra states:

"My uncreated and unending profound Enlightenment accords with the Tathagatagarbha, which is absolute Bodhi, and ensures my perfect insight into the Dharma realm [realm of Ultimate Truth], where the one is infinite and the infinite is one."



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Queen Maya holding the branch of a Bodhi tree, during the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, Gandhara, 2-3rd century CE.

The Bodhi tree is a specimen of the Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa) in what is now the town of Bodhgaya. It was while sitting in meditation under this tree that Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened. In the legends of Mahayana Buddhism, it was said that Queen Maya held a branch of one of these trees while resting in Lumbini Garden and her son, Siddhartha, was born.

Contents

Modes of Enlightenment

Pacceka-Bodhi (Pratyeka)

Those who obtain enlightenment through self-realisation, without the aid of spiritual guides and teachers, are known as pratyekabuddhas. According to the Tripitaka, such beings only arise in ages where the dhamma has been lost. Their skill in helping others to obtain enlightenment is inferior to that of the arhats. Many pratyekas may arise at a single time.

Sāvaka-Bodhi (Arhat)

Those who study under spiritual teachers and achieve enlightenment in this world are known as Arhats. Such beings are skilled at helping others to reach enlightenment as they may draw on personal experience.

Sammā-Sambodhi (supreme Buddha)

These are perfect, most developed, most compassionate, most loving, all knowing beings who fully comprehend the dhamma by their own efforts and wisdom and teach it skillfully to others, freeing them from Samsāra.

See also


Literature

The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment (State University Press of New York, 1999), tr. by A. Charles Muller

The Surangama Sutra (B.I. Publications, Bombay 1978), tr. by Lu K'uan Yu

External links

ja:菩提 ko:보리 (불교) zh:菩提

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