Mojo Jojo wrote:
In other words, Avalokiteshvara clears away some of the obscurations inhibiting your buddha nature. Thanks.
Up until I read the two posts that I quoted, I hadn't even really thought about this. In fact, I have pretty much looked at these Bodhisatvas as mythology adopted from Hinduism and adapted to Buddhism in ways similar to how Christianity has incorporated pagan gods into their own mythos as saints, angels, and demons. And for the longest time, it always baffled me why a religion that denies the presence of a soul as one of its main tenants (anatman - no self), could hold on to the concepts of super spiritual beings and Pure Lands that are physically different realms from where we are.
So for me to be able to fit these beings and lands into into a Buddhism that isn't a big heap of superstition, then they have to be taken metaphorically.
This isn't to say I'm right. I have no idea at all. I haven't even read the sutras. I'm just explaining how it works for me.
One of my favourite stories is of a practitioner who chanted the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra diligently, but nevertheless had some doubts. So one day he went to his teacher and said "teacher, I have to know this: Is guanyin real or not? If she is real, I will keep on chanting the mantra, but if she is not then I no longer wish to do it." To which the teacher smiled and said "she knows she is not real."
There is another story of when Kumarajiva was first approached by one of his future disciples (I forget who now), a pureland practitioner at the time who was practising visualization of Amitabha. He recounted to the master how the image of Amitabha seemed to take a life of its own and he wanted to know if he was really seeing the real Amitabha or simply a figment of his own mind. To which Kumarajiva said that if he was seeing the real Amitabha, then Amitabha would surely instruct him that even Amitabha is empty of real existence.
"Physical super beings" and humans - they all look a lot like they have a self. That's why we buy into the notion in the first place. I am not sure why celestial bodhisattvas should reinforce the assertion of self more than the fact that we walk around in our everyday lives assuming a self.