Bodhisattva Vow; Three Yanas; Buddhayana; “Permanent” Bodhisattvahood; Alaya Vijnana
This paper is an attempt to tease out the meaning and philosophical implications of the Bodhisattva Vow after it escalated in the context of some Mahayana teachings from a simple aspiration to become a Buddha in order to show many other beings the path to liberation into a promise to save all sentient beings in the world ``down to the last blade of grass.`` This amounts to a promise of bringing about universal salvation. The paper investigates whether this promise and the very notion of universal salvation fit at all into the body of mainstream Buddhist doctrines and can be accommodated within Buddhism`s ultimate message of liberation, The paper is not a research paper in the strict sense, it is rather a piece of individual philosophising on the given theme, albeit based on scriptural evidence. It should fit, within the context of the academic discipline known as ``History of Religions`` or ``Study of Religions,`` under the label of ``Philosophy of Religion.`` It first investigates briefly the origin of the notion of universal salvation as it appeared in Zoroastrianism and in early European thought, and whether it is relevant to the three monotheistic religions. It then looks at the main traditions of Asia to see if the notion is applicable to them. The core part of the paper is then concerned with the emergence of the idea of liberation for all, ``down to the last blade of grass,`` as expressed in some formulations of the Bodhisattva Vow in Mahayana Buddhism, and whether it is in any way foreshadowed in early Buddhism. Finally I ponder the apparent absurdity of the vow`s claim and, in an attempt to make sense of it, suggest a novel philosophical interpretation which might appear ``unorthodox`` and contentious to some. But is it?