The words of unity and togetherness carry an important message in our current life. Nobody can live by oneself. We all depend on others. When I look at my breakfast plate— orange, milk, coffee, oatmeal, banana, and prunes—I did not grow any of them. Farmers grow them, a factory processes them, and final products arrive at the grocery store. I simply drive to a grocery store and buy what I need. How grateful I am! The farmers do their best to make consumers happy.
Mahayana Buddhism has the same concept. When Sakyamuni Buddha passed away 2,600 years ago, the Buddha appointed no successor and left his followers to interpret the Dharma for themselves. It was inevitable the Buddha’s teaching would develop various traditions. They say that one group (called Mahasanghikas, or universal assembly) started Mahayana Buddhism, which means the big vehicle carrying everyone to spiritual liberation. The goal for Mahayana Buddhism is to pursue the Bodhisattva path and reach the same enlightenment as Sakyamuni Buddha obtained, and guide others to the same. The Bodhisattva is a being who receives awakening by perfecting the practice of benefiting others. The Bodhisattva never becomes content with reaching his or her own enlightenment. The Bodhisattva wants to help others to reach the same enlightenment.
Others’ happiness makes the Mahayana Bodhisattva genuinely happy.Isn’t it a beautiful concept? In the Buddhist cosmology, there are innumerable Buddhas and Buddha lands in this universe. Each Buddha land has one Buddha and many Bodhisattvas to share the Buddha’s teachings with all sentient beings. With Mahayana Buddhism came the concept of Buddha land that does not owe its existence to the benevolence of an all-powerful God or even the grace of a Buddha. Rather, it is the result of eons of striving by sentient beings toward self- purification, by developing themselves to the happiness and well-beings of others. Such an environment creates conditions favorable for all the world’s citizens to follow the Buddha’s way and hopefully we will all attain spiritual liberation. Mahayana Bodhisattvas have the same general vow:
Sentient beings are countless; I vow to liberate them all.
Afflictions are endless; I vow to eradicate them all.
Dharma Doors are measureless; I vow to learn them all.
Buddha’s bodhi is unsurpassed; I vow to attain it.
In our challenging times, we listen and embrace the Bodhisattva’s vow. Living peacefully and helping others in even small ways can be the first steps toward the way of pursing the Mahayana Bodhisattva. Buddha-Dharma is already guiding you on the path.