In the Pure Land of Amitabha, Amida Buddha, all the beings are either shravakas or bodhisattvas.

Shravaka – the word literally means a listener or a hearer – shravakas are those who hear the Buddha, who hear the Buddha’s call and who are deeply touched, delighted and just want to go on hearing the Buddha’s call. The word is often translated as disciples. The shravakas are those who are quite content to be practitioners of the faith. Members of Amida Shu are shravakas. They will go to the Pure Land.

Bodhisattvas are those who hear the Buddha’s call and are inspired by it to go forth and help and save other beings.

So, these two, shravakas and bodhisattvas, are the two principle ways of practicing Buddhism.

I’ll say a little bit more about bodhisattvas. The idea of a bodhisattva: bodhi means the right vision, the enlightened vision. So, in this sense you can say the bodhisattva is somebody who is inspired by the vision. Sattva means a being, but a being especially in the sense of the spirit of a person. So, these are spirited people - people of courage, people of faith - who are inspired by the vision given by the Buddha; and they want to give it away, they want to give it to others.

Bodhisattvas are inevitably on the path to becoming Buddhas themselves. It may take a long time, many lifetimes, but because the seed of faith has been planted, it will grow and grow and it will spread its roots and it will send up shoots, it will gradually take over their life.

Because the bodhisattva has a basically altruistic attitude, they become eloquent, they become skilled in conveying the Dharma in ways that are adapted to the people that they minister to.

Bodhisattvas have great versatility. In the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva he talks about how a bodhisattva is willing to be anything, to be whatever, whatever a person needs, “I’ll be that for them,” he says; and in this sense it means what they need in order to progress on the spiritual path, in order to find and deepen their faith.

Bodhisattvas serve innumerable Buddhas. There are Buddhas everywhere and bodhisattvas serve them. Bodhisattvas help all those who are intent on fulfilling the Buddha’s intention. So, they are great assistance to those who teach the Dharma, to the Buddhas in all worlds. This is the offering that they make.

It is said that bodhisattvas have reached the other shore. The other shore, pâramitâ, is a turnaround, a turnaround of attitude. We can have simple generosity (dāna) or we can have dāna pâramitâ. Dāna pâramitâ is the generosity of the bodhisattva. It is the Generosity of a point of view of a person who is not making merit for themselves, but is simply immersed in the Buddha’s way to such an extent that generosity is completely natural to them. They have a sense that there is no giver and no gift because it’s just completely natural. This is pâramitâ.

So, shravakas and bodhisattvas go to the Pure Land.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much



In our zoom meeting yesterday, Iris gave us a talk about the work of Ahangamage Tudor Aryaratne who I think of as one kind of bodhisattva.  More information about the Sarvodaya Movement:

Recently we had a talk from Yaya de Andrade who has also done much bodhisattva work in various parts of the world.

The video of Yaya de Andrade can now be accessed via my web site at



The Sarvodaya Shramedana Movement in Sri Lanka was founded by Aryaratne (b.1931).

The founding principle was, following the Buddhist view of karma, that one should reap the results of one’s actions, not be trapped by one’s birth position.  The whole movement has therefore been about positive and constructive action, especially with a view to emancipating the outcaste and low caste people and to fostering inter-religious harmony in communities.

This has led to many initiatives:

  • Peacemaking - as a bottom up process that requires constant effort
  • Non-separation - projects to get people to study each other’s languages
  • Micro-financing - to develop small scale craft work
  • Education - to build a sense of mutual respect and non-violence
  • Work projects - to fulfil basic needs - education, food, housing

There is here a belief that fulfilling basic needs will eliminate conflict.

The theory of bottom-up peacemaking rests on the idea of three “circles”

- 1st Circle:  Transformation of the individual.  Stress on Buddhist ethics.  Right speech. Non violence. Abstinence from intoxicants. etc.  The main principle here is non-attachment.

- 2nd Circle: Transformation of the family. Empowerment of women.  Avoidance of alcohol.  Ending domestic violence.  Main principle: selflessness.

- 3rd Circle: Transformation of community.  Working in the villages, first to live with and learn from the local people and then to gradually introduce small schemes of improvement that may spread. Also, to encourage inter-faith services and inter-communal activities and co-operation. To obtain a collective commitment to practical community development.

Two examples:

- Developing home gardening for food production with a surplus that can be taken to market.  This also helps to empower women who take the lead in local horticulture. 

- "Generation to generation project": exchange of skills between grandparents and adolescents.  The elders pass on their craft skills and the youngsters teach computer skills

Aryaratne’s take on the Brahma Viharas

Metta Kindly & respectful thought Dana
Karuna Constructive action Right speech/action
Mudita Happy outcomes Right livelihood
Upeksha       Non-possessiveness about results      Honouring everybody     

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