Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Applied Practice and Samantabhadra Bodhisatva

I learned a new word today: praxis - "the practice and practical side of a profession or field of study, as opposed to the theory"

I stumbled across it while looking up information about a Bodhisattva my teacher pointed me towards this morning.

I recently put together a little altar to sit next to my cushion where I sit.  It's not an altar like worship-before altar, the statues don't represent gods or anything. Altar is just a convenient word to use. The statues represent concepts like mascots and are basically just reminders of those concepts.

It started out as just the little Jizo that I made a while back. (I used directions found here using Sculpy instead of clay)  Eventually I wanted to add to it and ended up with this after making a Shakyamuni statue, then a Manjushri, adding it to a Kannon statue I already had to match the statues in the zendo.  The background is a cloth covered screen with rice paper.

One day I made a connection between the four statues I had and the four Bodhisattva Vows.  
  • Beings are numberless, I vow to save them  -> Kannon is the Bodhisattva of compassion
  • Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them -> Manjushri's sword cuts through delusion
  • Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them -> Jizo is the Bodhisattva of travelers and a protector of the Dharma
  • Buddha's Way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it -> The Buddha... well, he is the Buddha, it's his way
This last one didn't really sit well with me, but I figured it was just a connection that I'd made and nothing more.

Telling my teacher this this morning, I got through the first three and she asked me about the fourth.  I'd made a valid connection, but the reason the last never fit right is because there was a Bodhisattva I'd missed.

Samantabhadra (in Sanskrit, Fugen in Japanese) was the missing one from the set known as the Four Great Bodhisattva.  Samantabadra is the Bodhisattva of Practice, the missing piece.  In practice we we become the Buddha Way.  How about that?  The four of them are usually depicted seated around the Buddha.

On this page about Fugen it says:
..in Asia, there is a grouping called the Four Great Bodhisattva, with each of the four symbolizing a specific aspect of Buddhism. They are Kannon (compassion), Monju (wisdom), Fugen (praxis), and Jiz┼Ź (vast patience and salvation from suffering)*
There's that word "praxis." Buddhism is just talk without praxis.  I've experienced that myself over the past ten years.  The practice praxis refers to isn't just sitting, but living the teachings. It is the Buddha's Way. There's no difference in the Buddha's Way between sitting and standing (or walking or lying down...), it's an all the time kind of thing so we vow to become it.

As I've mentioned before, zazen is like exercise.  It loosens us up, stretching and strengthening our "praxis muscles" helping us to manifest the teachings in our daily life.  This isn't a concept I have much trouble with, but it was interesting to have that circle completed for me.

*or by their Sanskrit names: Avalokitesvara (who the Tibetan Buddhists believe the Dalai Lama to be an incarnation of), Manjushri, Samantabhadra, and Ksitigarbha, respectively

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