Did Jesus Embody the Qualities of a Bodhisattva?

Some call Jesus a mystic with his level of spiritual power and awareness.

Which is very similar to spiritual enlightenment.

Despite his spiritual insight and connection, or maybe because of it, he gave himself to work of compassion and mercy with those who suffered.

But can we call Jesus a Bodhisattva?

Jesus shares many qualities with a Bodhisattva, but describing him solely as one may hinder our understanding of him within his historical context.

Primarily because of his Jewish religion.

I am not saying you cannot be a Bodhisattvas because you are a Jew.

But Jesus was highly involved in the Second Temple Jewdiusm. He lived his life in such a context. Expressing his spirituality as he understood it from the Torah.

Secondly, this one is a little more trivial, but he is lacking in a vow.

To be a Bodhisattva, you must take a vow. A vow that you will work for the liberation of others. That others will also achieve enlightenment as you have.

We have no record that Jesus took such a vow.

Yes, you could say he did. It just wasn’t recorded, but an argument from silence is always weak. We are better off assuming he didn’t because if he was acting as a Bodhisattva and his disciples followed him as such. I think they would have recorded this important event, so we to could follow in his ways.

But before saying Jesus wasn’t a Bodhisattva, we should understand better what a a Bodhisattva is. Then what did Jesus have in common with them?

What is a Bodhisattva?

A Bodhisattva, in the Buddhist tradition, is a being who seeks enlightenment not only for their own benefit but for the welfare of all sentient beings. The term comes from the Sanskrit words “bodhi,” which means “awakening” or “enlightenment,” and “sattva,” which means “being.”

Have evolved to the point that they could become Buddha but are delaying so that they can help others.

bodhisattva definition

The bodhisattva’s path is one of great compassion and self-sacrifice. It involves the practice of various perfections (paramitas), including generosity, morality, patience, effort, meditation, and wisdom. This path is not easy. It requires tremendous dedication, discipline, and time—often said to be countless lifetimes.

One of the defining characteristics of a bodhisattva is the Bodhisattva Vow: a promise to delay their own final, complete enlightenment until they have helped every single being on earth achieve the same state. This is a profound expression of altruism, as the bodhisattva willingly takes on the suffering of others and forgoes their own liberation for the sake of all beings.

Notable examples of bodhisattvas include Avalokiteśvara, Kṣitigarbha, Mañjuśrī, Samantabhadra and Vajrapāṇi. Avalokiteśvara is known for his infinite compassion, and Manjushri is known for his wisdom.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is considered a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, embodying his compassion in his teachings and actions.

At its core, being a bodhisattva means living with great compassion and wisdom, striving to alleviate suffering, and working for the benefit of all beings. It is a noble path that, while challenging, can bring immense joy and fulfillment.

Did Jesus Live Like a Bodhisattvas?

One could potentially write an entire book exploring the similarities between Jesus and Bodhisattvas. Considering the broad definition of a Bodhisattva as an enlightened being who selflessly aids others, parallels can be drawn to Jesus and his compassionate nature.

But here, we are going to focus on 2 main characteristics of a Bodhisattvas in relation to Jesus.

Delaying Exaltation to Help Others

Looking over the life of Jesus, it is clear that he is beyond human.

His command of nature, performing miracles, and connection with God are at an entirely different level of existence.

One could reason that Jesus remained on the earth despite this level of enlightenment to help others till he was finally exalted after his death when he ascended into heaven (Lk. 24:51, Mk.16:19, Acts 1).

And he is still helping others while he resides in “heaven,” as many still pray to him and seek his guidance and help.

The other world aspect is hard to comment on because we simply know so little about it, and the limits of historical research do not allow us to venture into the spiritual realm for evidence.

But we can focus on the short few years between Jesus’ baptism and his ascension into heaven.

At Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit ascended on him and the voice (God) speaking from heaven of his son. It is clear that at that moment, Jesus had made some sort of spiritual breakthrough to an entirely different level.

He did not immediately leave, but after going into the wilderness for further spiritual testing, he began his ministry of compassion to those around Galilee.

Ministry of Compassion and Mercy

This ministry of compassion was both of mercy in healing those who were suffering from disease and even as simple as feeding the hungry, for they would not faint from hunger.

We are even told in the story of the feeding of the 5 000 that Jesus fed them because he had compassion on them (Matt. 14:13–21, Mk. 6:31–44, Lk 9:12–17, Jn.6:1–14). Clearly, compassion was a dominant theme of his ministry and later life.

Twice, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 in Mathew, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

In Mathew 9, its in regards to eating with tax collectors and sinners.

Later in chapter 12, it is in regard to his disciples picking grain on the sabbath.

Not to get into each story, but clearly, mercy was important to Jesus. Mercy and compassion.

But I came across this quote when researching.

“Externally, there is no way to tell whether someone is or is not a bodhisattva,”

Study Buddhism

Leaving me questioning if we can even make an assessment about Jesus.

Yes, we know he lived the later part of his life on a much higher level of spiritual enlightenment.

Yes, we know that those years were years of mercy and compassion.

But does that make Jesus a Bodiastttve?

Resources

  • https://theconversation.com/what-is-a-bodhisattva-a-scholar-of-buddhism-explains-189366
  • https://www.historytoday.com/archive/foundations/what-bodhisattva
  • https://studybuddhism.com/en/essentials/what-is/what-is-a-bodhisattva

Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

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