Lesson
8

Extending Compassionate Action

2 of 6

Models of compassion

Bodhisattvas are models who exemplify compassionate lives dedicated to eradicating suffering in the world. When we talk about the ideal of the bodhisattva, we are also talking about how ordinary people—with this body, this mind, this life, these problems—can actualize generosity and wisdom here and now.

May I purify oceans of lands, liberate oceans of beings, observe oceans of truths, plumb oceans of knowledge, perfect oceans of practices, fulfill oceans of vows, and serve oceans of Buddhas. As long as the Earth exists, as long as all beings exist, as long as acts and afflictions exist, so long will my vow remain.

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Samantabadhra, one of the principal bodhisattvas in the Asian Buddhist pantheon, makes this stunning vow.

Samantabhadra is traditionally depicted astride a majestic six-tusked white elephant, seated cross-legged on a luxuriant lotus saddle. The bodhisattva's expression is always serene, but his elephant often seems to be grinning. Samantabhadra personifies "action conforming to reality or, broadly speaking, the active aspect of bodhisattvahood and Buddhahood." That is, he represents enlightened compassionate action.