The Buddhist concept of bodhisattva is quite complex and varies somewhat in different traditions. But this is a blog, not a dictionary, so I’m not getting into detailed definitions.
What I want to share is my experience of one of those moments when learning about another tradition suddenly sheds light the tradition I come from. I was reading Buddhism by Denise Cush (a book targeted at A level students when published in 1994) on the topic of the Bodhisattva. I read:
‘The infinite compassion of a bodhisattva means that he or she puts the happiness of all beings in the universe before his or her own, not resting until every being in the universe is saved. In order to accomplish this, he or she is willing to suffer anything, even if it means giving up his or her life over and over again.’
Suddenly, it occurred to me that if I viewed Jesus as a bodhisattva, this shed a new light on his crucifixion and, perhaps, his resurrection. A being of such compassion that he would suffer anything, even laying down his life. In that moment it showed me that there could be a reason for the crucifixion. It was another step on the way to a deeper understanding of who and what Jesus was and/or is, whether or not his story is historically true. I don’t necessarily think of Jesus exclusively as a bodhisattva, but I still find this way of viewing him helpful at times.
As a Buddhist I aspire to follow the path of a bodhisattva, as a Christian I try to follow the example of Jesus, as a Quaker I attempt to take heed of the ‘promptings of love and truth’ which I trust as ‘the leadings of God’. I find all these approaches compatible. I often find that one approach sheds light on another and helps me to see my way forward.