Arhats And Bodhisattvas: Compassion To Self And Other

Life can be seen from a number of differing perspectives. But, when one looks around at the world they live in, and sees the great amount of suffering around them and inside them, they are usually gently guided towards a path of higher principles. In these higher principles, there is an immense amount of joy and compassion to be found. It is a glimpse of ascension to a fully enlightened state of consciousness.

This path is also known as “arhat”. One who has personally obtained liberation from any type of suffering. Sounds impossible? But, likely it is only our thoughts that make it seem that way. This is the supreme quest for any mystic to reach such equanimity in themselves. The arhat is often represented as the one who ‘retreats from the world’, in favor of residing in a steady, blissful state of ecstasy.

But, then there is the path of a “bodhisattva”. One who vows to assist all sentience obtain enlightenment. These beings resemble those who do everything they can to spread wisdom, and compassion to those that need it. The difference in the two paths is an interesting thing to consider. For the bodhisattva focuses on assisting all to enlightenment, the arhat is focused only on assisting their own self.

The path of the arhat may sound selfish, but really it is one and the same thing. For only in our self can we create the greatest change. The only body you have true dominion over, is your own. Thus, the nearest thing to helping the world, is helping yourself to be free of the negativity within the world; and if one person can be taken out of the equation of suffering, it uplifts creation. However, this isolation can be dangerous, as it can lead one to believing themselves enlightened when they still have hidden negativity to understand.

For the bodhisattva, it is a bit different. Helping others is the path of enlightenment. It is often the case that helping others allows us to quell the shadow within us, that constantly beckons us to a less than preferable state of being. Doing this as a type of practice of patience and compassion, can actually be very fun and useful in raising our vibration to higher planes. But, as all things, has its trap as well. Because it can often be the case where you need to help yourself far more than others— not doing so, can result in being less than helpful. Such as a cup that is only half full. If you pour it within other cups that need it, yours will be just as empty as theirs. Which is why before we do anything at all, we have to make sure our cup is overflowing. It only makes sense to give to others when we have more than we could possibly give.

To me, these two paths are highlighting the waves and troughs of our life. Some of us are individuals that need to help others more in our life, and some of us are types of individuals that need some kind of hermitage in the mountains (or at least just a bit more alone time in nature). In this way, we can finely attune our path to the varying needs over the shifting sands of our life.

Accommodate yourself. Sense your feelings, true. See in what way you can best help others. Is it in helping yourself? Or is it in helping yourself by helping others?

To this extent, our path towards Enlightenment is unique unto ourselves.

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