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Buddhadharma : Fall 2016
44 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2016 ejO McMullen is a Soto Zen priest and head teacher of Buddha eye temple in eugene, Oregon. he trained in japan under joshin Keira roshi. VeneraBle PannaVatI is a nun in the theravada tradition and cofounder of embracing Sim- plicity hermitage in hendersonville, north Carolina. anne KleIn (rigzin Drolma) is a professor of religious studies at rice university and cofounder of Dawn Mountain, a nyingma center in houston. (LEFT—RIgHT):EVANkAUFMAN,MARgARETJANSSENkESANgyANgCHEN,JEFFHAFFNERPHOTOgRAPHy uDDhADhARMA: We often speak of bodhisat- tvas and the bodhisattva path as being out- side of Theravada practice and tradition. We pit bodhisattvas against arhats and leave it at that. How do you understand the notion of the bodhi- sattva in terms of the Theravada? VENERABLE PANNAVATI: We shouldn’t think in terms of Theravada versus Mahayana or Vajrayana, or arhat versus bodhisattva. When we start dividing in this way, we get into dogma. But the Buddha was talking about actual organic experience. He said, how do we know a baker? A baker bakes. How do we recognize a bodhisattva? A bodhisattva shows concern for the world and responds to that concern with powerful words and actions. Throughout the Theravada teachings, the Buddha is showing us how he responds to suffering in the world. He asks his disciples, “For what reason do you leave your home and go into the homeless life?” Then he answers his own question: to be a refuge. You’re a bodhisattva when you embark upon the bodhi- sattva path; that’s what the Buddha taught. There’s no way to be enlightened without recognizing our universal nature, our interconnectedness with every- thing. In that interconnectedness, we experience the pain, confusion, and neediness of others, and as we develop our skillfulness, we automatically respond to that suffering as we would respond to our own, with compassion and with power. BuDDhADhARMA: How would you define a bodhisattva? ANNE KLEIN: A bodhisattva is someone whose pur- pose is to benefit others in every possible way, especially to free them from ignorance and from bondage to a sense of self. In the early Buddhist tradition, the arhat known as Gautama Buddha was of course a bodhisattva, so Mahayana absolutely recognized that bodhisattvas are very important in the early foundational Buddhist traditions. The four immeasurables, the boundless states that are a key means of cultivating bodhicitta in the Mahayana, were deeply practiced in the early Buddhist tradi- tions and are part of Theravada to this day. About five hundred years after the Buddha’s time, two seemingly contradictory ideas of bud- dhahood developed. The Buddha becomes a more mythological figure with powers of extraordinary perception and the ability to appear in many differ- ent places at once. At the same time, the belief that anyone—male or female, monastic or layperson— could attain buddhahood arose. This democratized the potential for practitioners in relationship to these increasingly superhuman depictions of the Buddha. The Mahayana idea that everyone can become that kind of buddha—or a bodhisattva, someone who is capable of benefitting all beings— is a different idea about what human beings actu- ally are and what consciousness actually is. (Previous page) Mechanical Avalokitesvara, 2011 To see Wong Zi Won's sculptures in motion, visit the Table of Contents for this issue at lionsroar.com