Shakyamuni as bodhisattva
Unlike the other bodhisattva's we will learn about, the historical Buddha is not an archetypal bodhisattva but was, rather, a human being, one whose life had a profound impact on human history.
The story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who became Shakyamuni Buddha, has been a prime example for all Buddhist practitioners. The major events of his life in the sixth century b.c.e. are often referred to as characteristic of the lives of all buddhas.
The dramatic story of his life as Siddhartha Gautama, prior to his becoming the Buddha, or Awakened One, in a sense establishes the basic archetype for all bodhisattva practice.
The aspect of the Buddha's life most often recounted is that which took place before his awakening, at which point he became a buddha. As well there are many stories of the Buddha's past lives as a bodhisattva, the Jataka tales.
We will explore five fundamental archetypal elements in the story of Shakyamuni the bodhisattva:
- His choice between worldly or spiritual pursuits
- His awakening to the truth of suffering
- His home-leaving
- His ascetic practice leading to the Middle Way
- His complete enlightenment under the bodhi tree