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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the nature of the connections between contemporary understandings of the bodhisattva path as socially engaged, and the canonical Mahāyāna tradition in India—the Ugraparipṛcchā-sūtra and the works of Śāntideva. These canonical treatments of the bodhisattva’s career are compared with a contemporary understanding as reflected in the commentary on Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra by Pema Chödrön. This analysis reveals distinct visions of the bodhisattva, from the Ugra’s elite superhero, to Śāntideva’s saintly bodhisattva, to the modern view of the bodhisattva as social activist. The career of the bodhisattva is furthermore shown to involve a range of types of social engagement. While the canonical texts support the ideal of imbuing all daily activities with an altruistic motive, as well as endorsing selfless service to meet the needs and wants of sentient beings, only the contemporary reading of the bodhisattva path advocates social action to address systemic causes of collective suffering.

Keywords: bodhisattva, bodhisattva path, Engaged Buddhism, Ugraparipṛcchā, Śāntideva, Pema Chödrön

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