We should see everyone as Bodhisattvas [as some might be];
and only we alone as truly ordinary beings.
[so as to be humble and diligent in learning from all].
– Master Yinguang
(Manifestation of Mahastamaprapta Bodhisattva)
A common question asked by fellow Buddhists is this – ‘If, as the Buddha taught, there are countless enlightened beings already, why are they not more readily guiding us towards enlightenment?’ And if they are doing so now, shouldn’t we all be enlightened in a jiffy? However, there is still so much suffering in our world due to the lack of enlightenment. The truth is, the fully enlightened, having perfect compassion, are already doing their best to help us in the moment, as according to our karmic affinitties and spiritual capacities. This begs the same question – Shouldn’t we all be enlightened in a jiffy? What’s taking so long? The answer is simple – us! Due to our lack of diligence in Dharma practice, we are still unenlightened. It is pointless to put our responsibility of advancing towards enlightenment in the hands of the enlightened because we ourselves need to walk the path that they point.
The Buddha did instruct the enlightened to manifest with as many skilful means as possible, even as ordinary people, to inspire us to realise the Dharma, especially during our time, which is far from his, which means there is a much greater propensity for us to forget or neglect his teachings. The catch is that due to our ignorance, most of them will not be recognised. Also due to our ignorance, even if they are to reveal their identities, we would find their claims hard to believe, and are likely to slander against them, thus creating much negative karma. When disbelief worsens, out of compassion, they might not even manifest. Also to avoid attention on their identities instead of their teachings, these Bodhisattvas only disclose proof of their attainments on the brink of their passing to inspire faith in the Dharma as a final lesson.
Conversely, the Buddha predicted that there will be those who lie about having realised various attainments in order to attract devotees to make offerings to them. This also means that those who claim to be Bodhisattvas yet stay alive indefinitely to indulge in worldly wealth, fame and power are tricksters – who often market themselves as supreme or near supreme beings based on egoistic self-praise. It is actually great wisdom that true Bodhisattvas never reveal their true identities way before departure. If they did, anyone else, including demons, can likewise claim to be ‘true Bodhisattvas’ and further confuse us with their false teachings. It is worth noting that even tulkus or recognised reborn masters never endorse claims that they are manifestations of Bodhisattvas – even when their devotees sincerely think so! –– Shen Shi’an: http://facebook.com/shenshian
Even if the fully enlightened are not among us,
there are those who are more ‘enlightened’ than us.
If you think you should be enlightened already,
you are definitely not enlightened yet,
as enlightenment is a state of clarity; not uncertainty.