Major Bodhisattvas – Great Enlightenment Beings
Bodhisattvas are the enlightened beings who is on the path of attaining Nirvana, and help all sentient beings to end their sufferings and pain of life. There are numerous Bodhisattvas recorded in the history of Buddhism, and among them Avalokitesvara
A Bodhisattva is an enlightenment beings or someone who is one the path of Awakening. The main goal of Bodhisattva is to attain “Enlightenment” or “Nirvana” and work in order to help or bring all sentient beings to enlightenment or help them end the sufferings of life. Bodhisattva is one of the four sublime states that can be achieved by a human in a life according to Tibetan Buddhism. They are Arhat, Buddha, Bodhisattva, or Pratyekabuddha. There are different meanings and characteristics of Bodhisattva in various tradition of Buddhism. There are numerous transcendent bodhisattvas that are found in Buddhist art, literature and tradition. But there are five bodhisattvas among those numerous Bodhisattva and are deemed most important.
One of the most respected and widely revered Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism, as well as other aspects of Buddhism is Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara can be translated as “The Lord Who Looks Down in Pity” or “The One Who Hears the Cries of the World”.
According to some legends, Avalokitesvara postpones his own Buddhahood in order to help every sentient being on earth exemplifying the true meaning of Bodhisattva. Avalokitesvara is the earthly manifestation of Amitabha Buddha who is believed to be the one who protects the world during the departure of Lord Buddha and until the reappearance of future Buddha. Avalokitesvara represents the power of the Amitabha Buddha and sometimes pictured as the Amitabha’s helper. Avalokitesvara is also known for his thousand hands of Compassion and eye of Wisdom in each palm and thousand heads to hear the cries of sentient beings. Sometimes Avalokitesvara is also known as Thousand Hand Avalokitesvara.
Manjushri is one of the most iconic figures in Mahayana Buddhism and is also known as “Bodhisattva of Great Wisdom”. The Sanskrit name of Manjushri is “Prajna” which means “Gentle Glory”, “Wondrous Auspiciousness”, “He Who is Noble and Gentle”. Manjushri Bodhisattva represents awareness and insight and he realizes the boundless nature of self.
Manjushri is represented as the male Bodhisattva who wields a flaming sword “Vajra Sword of Discriminating Light” in his right hand and wield beautiful blue lotus flower. In Chinese Buddhism, he is one of the Four Great Bodhisattvas. He is also worshipped as “the meditational deity” in Esoteric Buddhism. He is also represented as the one who rest on Lotus flower or riding on a lion and represents nobility and fearlessness.
Samantabhadra is one of the bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism who is associated with Buddhist practice and meditation.Bodhisattva Samantabhadra literally means “Universal Worthy”, “He Who is All-Pervadingly Good”. Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is popularly known as Fugen in Japan, P’u-hsein or Puxian in China. In Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism,Samantabhadra is considered as the primordial Buddha.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is also depicted as the protector of people who teach the Dharma, and is the key figure in the Avatamsaka-sutra. Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is represented as the male (sometimes female bodhisattva ) who ride on the six tusk elephant and carry a lotus or wish fulfilling scroll or jewel.
Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha is one of the four principal bodhisattvas in East Asian Mahayana Buddhismalong with Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara. The term Kshitigarbha literally means “Earth Treasury”, “Earth Store”, “Earth Matrix” or “Earth Womb”. Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva is usually represented as Buddhist monk who is known for his vow to take responsibility to instruct all beings of six realms between the departure of Lord Buddha and the rise of future Buddha, Maitreya. He is also known for his vow to neglect the Buddhahood until all hells are empty. That’s why he is also known as the savior of beings in hell and act as a guide to all deceased children.
Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva is often portrayed as a simple Buddhist monk with shaved head and wields a wish-fulfilling jewel in one hand and a staff with six rings in the other which indicates Bodhisattva protecting all beings of six realms.
Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta is a bodhisattva who is depicted as the one with the power of wisdom and represented in a trinity with Amitabha and Avalokitesvara. The term Mahasthamaprapta literally means “arrival of great strength”, “One Who Has Obtained Great Power”. Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta is one of the eight Great Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism.