NHÌN TỪ LĂNG KÍNH BỒ TÁT ĐẠO CỦA PHẬT GIÁO:
Bất cứ khi nào tôi giảng về lý tưởng vị tha của vị bồ tát trong các lớp học về Phật giáo, đều không tránh khỏi câu hỏi của nhiều học viên: “Mẹ Teresa có phải là một vị bồ tát hay không?”
Trong ý nghĩ của mình, tôi không cố tình đánh đồng một cách lố bịch các lý tưởng tôn giáo, cụ thể là Thiên Chúa giáo và Phật giáo, mà cốt nhìn ra tính tương hợp, từ những giá trị phát triển tương đồng của đời sống tôn giáo, giữa các nền văn hóa, truyền thống này, rồi liệu một cuộc khám phá như vậy có mang lại những hiểu biết mới, về mặt lý thuyết hay thực tế, về truyền thống tôn giáo hay không.
KARMA LEKSHE TSOMO | UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO: MOTHER TERESA AND THE BODHISATTVA IDEAL | A BUDDHIST VIEW
Whenever I teach about the selfless ideal of the bodhisattva in classes on Buddhism, students inevitably ask: “Is it possible that Mother Teresa was a bodhisattva?”
The question prompted me to reflect on the Buddhist notion of the bodhisattva, the qualities associated with this ideal and whether or not someone outside the Buddhist tradition could potentially fulfill the criteria traditionally required to become one. My intention was not to artificially equate Catholic and Buddhist religious ideals, but to place the highly developed expressions of religious life held by these traditions side by side and explore where the categories cross over and where they do not. For example, if renunciation were used as a primary criterion, how might the analysis help highlight different aspects of this religious ideal as conceptualized and embodied in the Catholic and Buddhist traditions?
The life of the well-known Roman Catholic Sister of Charity, Mother Teresa, has been an inspiration and model for millions of women and men from a wide range of religious backgrounds around the world. Her charity work among the poor is heralded as a classic example of love, expressing the highest ideals of Catholic social teachings. While she used Christian language and grounded her work solidly within her own faith tradition, Mother Teresa’s life of selfless devotion to the poor epitomized compassionate service to humanity in a way that reached beyond the confines of religious categories. Given the fact that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, beatified in 2003, and widely mythologized, it is somewhat surprising to find that her life and her charitable work have received little scholarly attention to date.
In this essay, I offer a Buddhist analysis of the life and social work of this remarkable woman. The central focus of the essay is a comparative analysis of the principles that guide the bodhisattva, the eminently selfless individual in the Buddhist tradition, and the Christian principles that guided Mother Teresa’s selfless service. First, I introduce the life and teachings of the “saint of Calcutta [Kolkata].” Second, I describe the bodhisattva ideal and explain the prerequisites for entering the bodhisattva path. Third, using these criteria as starting points, I assess Mother Teresa’s aspirations and achievements in relation to the aspirations and achievements of the bodhisattva. In this cross-cultural comparison, I investigate the fundamental values and human qualities that emerge in the narrative of Mother Teresa from a Buddhist perspective. A subtext of the essay is the question of commensurability, the extent to which similar concepts in dissimilar contexts can legitimately be compared, and the question of whether such an exploration yields new insights, either theoretically or practically, into either religious tradition.