In Mahayana, how do Bodhisattvas help others get enlightened? Do they do it by teaching, just like Gautama Buddha did, or by some other means?

  • 1
    I believe the idea is to help them become Bodhisattvas themselves? Feb 26, 2015 at 3:51

1 Answer 1


I'm drawing from Precepts of The Brahman Net Sutra, Upsasaka Precepts Sutra, and Avatamsaka (Flower Garland) Sutra.

The BNS recommends this worldly Bodhisattvas (monks and laity)

  • Teaching (many precepts address this directly or indirectly, many sutras discuss pedagogy and the duty to teach) Upasaka Sutras forbid teaching the Dharma by laity.
  • Building temples, and other religious "infrastructure"
  • Reading and chanting sutras, which was believed to magically help the nation
  • Caring for the sick. BNS & Upasaka Sutra's mention this. I don't know if it was for enabling enlightenment, or just a "right thing to do." Even early Mahayana Buddhism expected some sort of practice, like meditation & what not and that requires a certain amount of health.
  • Avatamsaksa promotes all sorts of ways of helping people reach enlightenment indirectly by working on this worldly jobs.

Hosting vegetarian feasts for monks, lay Bodhisattvas, get mention in the BNS and Ullambana Sutra.

As for celestial Bodhisattvas, we don't get a lot of clues. The 7th to 10th Bhumis (grounds) describes what celestial Bodhisattvas do-- I don't have a good summary for that though.

And finally, there are the vows. Amitabha helps people reach enlightenment by guaranteeing rebirth in a pure land, which depending on who you are reading, is describe as an especially good place for practicing Buddhism, as compared to our own universe, where the most recent Buddha has passed on and there isn't another one available to teach.

Samantabhadra's vows has some more clues, such as encouraging Buddhas to come & stay in our universe-- since it is easier to become enlightened when there is a Buddha available, and transferring merit

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .