“We are the authors of our own destiny; and being the authors, we are ultimately, perhaps frighteningly, free.” - Śāntideva
Waking up to the NAP
I recall first learning about Bodhisattvas during a field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, some years ago. I was a student teacher at the time and the museum guide was showing our group a number of artfully carved statues from East Asia. Several of the more graceful figures he identified as Bodhisattvas. The guide informed our group that Bodhisattvas are highly regarded in the Buddhist tradition. They are beings that have attained enlightenment but postpone Nirvana in order to guide others to their own enlightenment.
I found both the concept and the statues beautiful. I do not completely understand the nature of Nirvana, but given the serene depictions of Buddha in the hundreds of pieces of art I have seen, it must surely be something wonderful.
The elimination of suffering is central to Buddhism, and Nirvana is the state of liberation from this suffering. It is said that Buddha was one who awoke to the reality of this world and the nature of suffering and spent the remainder of his life sharing this knowledge with others. Like Buddha, Bodhisattvas are compassionate teachers. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with", and these guides, by postponing entry into Nirvana, are in essence sharing in the pain of others with the ultimate goal of liberating all beings from suffering.
Like the Bodhisattvas of the past, a growing number of people have awoken to the reality of this world. Guided by the Non-Aggression Principle, they have been liberated from the illusions of authority and aggression. They understand the foundational violence of the State. This foundational violence causes needless suffering through war, unjust incarcerations and the tremendous waste of resources. This is an observable reality that somehow remains hidden to the vast majority of people.
Rather than living in ignorance and fear, we who yearn for peace embrace knowledge and compassion. We seek peace, liberty and the free and voluntary exchange of goods, services, and ideas.
In the "City of Brotherly Love" I discovered the Bodhisattvas. It seems appropriate for me to continue their tradition, to educate, to liberate and to minimize, if not eliminate, the suffering we see all around us.
Guanyin-Bodhisattva: Baltimore Museum of Art; Padmasambhava, Demon-Taming Teacher: Freer Museum, Washington D.C. Photos by Andrew Lesko, with modifications.