Introductions to the principle Bodhisattvas

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva – Quán Thế Âm Bồ Tát

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva was the first disciple of the Buddha Amita in the Pure Land of the West. He is known as the ‘Buddha of Compassion’. The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. His name, in Sanskrit, means ‘Lord who looks down’, and is often translated as Observer of the Sounds of the World or Contemplator of Self-Mastery. In China and its sphere of cultural influence, Avalokiteśvara is depicted in a female form known as Guan Yin. She is commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy who, in the spirit of great compassion, vows to reach out for the salvation of all sentient beings. As the regarded of world’s sufferings, all sentient beings who call upon her name will be heard and be liberated from suffering. She had reached a state of utmost freedom without hindrance in respect of wisdom and actions. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is one of the most popular and important Bodhisattvas worshiped by Buddhists around the world.

Please click The Universal Door of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva to learn more about the Bodhisattva, as Shakyamuni Buddha praised his great compassion and power.

Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva (Great Strength Bodhisattva) – Đại Thế Chí Bồ Tát

Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva was the second disciple of the Buddha Amita in the Land of Utmost Bliss. He is also called Boundless Light, because the light emanating from his entire body illuminates the worlds of the ten quarters, making them shine like purple-gold. This light can be seen by anyone who has a close karmic relationship with him. Even if one sees the light emanating from only one pore of his skin, one can perceive the pure and glorious lights of the innumerable Buddhas of the ten quarters. He has great power to illumine all beings with the light of wisdom in order to deliver them from the three evil realms. It is for this reason that he is also called Possessed of Great Power.
“The heavenly crown of this bodhisattva is adorned with five hundred jewelled lotus-flowers, each having five hundred jewelled pedestals. On each pedestal appear the pure and resplendent lands of the Buddhas in the ten quarters with all their boundless and glorious features.
“The mound on his head, shaped like a lotus-bud, has a jewelled vase in front. This is suffused with various lights which reveal all the activities of the Buddha. The rest of the characteristics of his body are exactly the same as Avalokiteshvara’s. When this bodhisattva walks, all the worlds in the ten quarters shake. Wherever the earth trembles, five hundred kotis of jewelled flowers appear, each as beautiful and brilliant as a flower in the Land of Utmost Bliss. When this bodhisattva sits down, all the seven-jewelled lands, from that of the Buddha Golden Light in the nadir to that of the Buddha King of Light in the zenith, tremble simultaneously.
(Excerpted from the Contemplation Sutra)

The Three Saints (Sages) of the West – Tây Phương Tam Thánh

This is the well-known depiction of the Buddha Amita (middle), the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (left of Amita Buddha), and the Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta (right of Amita Buddha). The Bodhisattvas assist the Buddha Amita in teaching the Dharma in the Western Pure Land.
Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (Earth Store Bodhisattva) – Địa Tạng Vương Bồ Tát

The Earth Store Bodhisattva is often referred to as the Bodhisattva of the Hell beings, because of his vow not to achieve Buddhahood until all Hells are emptied. Usually depicted as a monk with a nimbus (halo) around his shaved head, he carries a staff to force open the gates of Hell and a wish-fulfilling jewel to light up the darkness.

Sangharama Bodhisattva – Già Lam Thánh Chúng Bồ Tát

Before becoming a Bodhisattva, Sangharama Bodhisattva was once a general under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. His name was Guan Yu (Guan Gong). He played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the Kingdom of Shu, of which Liu Bei was the first emperor.

During his years as General under Liu Bei’s reign, General Guan Yu had fought many battles and defeated many great warriors during the Three Kingdoms era. Then, near the end of the Three Kingdoms period, General Guan Yu lost his battle due to a surprised attack by Lu Meng’s forces from the rear. He was captured and beheaded by Sun Quan, lord of the Wu Kingdom. His spirit roamed the land, crying “Give me back my head!” Thus he came to Yuquan Hill outside Dangyang County (present day city of Dangyang, Hubei), where he met the same monk who saved his life at the temple outside Sishui Pass many years ago during his journey to reunite with Liu Bei. The monk said to Guan Yu’s spirit, “Now you ask for your head, but from whom should Yan Liang, Wen Chou, the guardians of the five passes and many others ask for theirs?” The spirit was enlightened and dissipated. It henceforth often manifested itself around the hill and protected the people in nearby villages. A temple was then built by the people on the hill to worship him.

During the last decade of the 6th century, during the Sui Dynasty, a temple named Yuquan Temple was built. Accordingly, it was to the first reverence of the Yuquan Temple, the spirit of General Guan Yu manifested itself and requested entrance into Buddhism. One of the temple halls, named Sangharama Hall, is dedicated to General Guan Yu.

Because of his nobility, uprightness, integrity, loyalty and bravery, Sangharama Bodhisattva is widely regarded as the Guardian Bodhisattva of the Brave, Loyal and Righteous.

(Sangharama Bodhisattva’s historical legend can be read in details in the famous novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which recounts a time of great distress and chaos of the Han Dynasty, 202 B.C)

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