Bohemian Seeker wrote:
I am just wondering why boddhisattvas are not in Theravada, which emphasizes your own efforts only getting you to Nivarna. I mean, why did they delay going to nivarna ? To do practical charitable work, or to help us get enlightened when we ask their help in a supernatural way ? Maybe I have got the wrong end of the stick here.
According to Walpola Rahula and Bhikkhu Bodhi, bodhisattvas are a valid path according to Theravada.
If you take the Madhyamaka view, Nirvana & Samsara are not separate, and the bodhisattva vehicle provides a non-abiding Nirvana.
According to the Lotus Sutra & the Ekayana view, all paths eventually lead to Enlightenment.
The Lotus Sutra also seems to address the idea of Buddhas arriving on certain intervals. For this, see Chapter 12 & the example of the Naga Princess, who instantaneously teleports to some distant land, becomes a man?, sits upon a lotus flower, attains perfect Enlightenment, becomes a SammaSam Buddha, and preaches Dharma. In fact this Chapter seems to address many of the Theravadan restrictions on SammaSam Buddhas: they can be female and they don't need to be human; in other words form is arbitrary, location is arbitrary... There also seems to be a point being made about the time frame required to follow the bodhisattva path in this passage too, that maybe time is arbitrary, and that the bodhisattva path can be instantaneous upon offering over a precious jewel (one's Buddha potential) to the Buddha, but I'm thinking this Princess would've had to have accomplished eons of merit-making in order to have the capacities described in this chapter (she already had perfect conduct & knowledge of former lives for example).
I don't think any Mahayana-ist would tell one not to strive for Enlightenment, many of the paths are specifically described as "direct" or "in this lifetime".
At the very least, growing the aspiration to attain Buddhahood & to help ease the suffering of all sentient beings is a more skillful motivation than just looking to escape one's own suffering, the Pali Suttas state as much.