Bodhisattvas in Buddhism and Esoteric Christianity 

Helpers of Humanity  

Lecture by Margarete van den Brink

at the symposium of Stichting de Heraut on 20 September 2009

We live in fascinating times. As far as I am concerned, I am very happy to be alive at this time and I think that many of you will agree with me. In spite of the fact that the times we live in are also difficult ones. Everywhere around us we witness people awakening on an inner level, asking themselves questions, having spiritual experiences and going in search of answers.

Thirty to forty years ago, things were still quite different. I remember clearly that if you had an interest in spirituality or reincarnation, it was wise to keep this to yourself so as not to be considered strange, flighty or even not completely sound of mind.

Fortunately, things are different now.

All these experiences and our search for the meaning of life express something essential, namely that in our day and age the spiritual world is opening up and becoming accessible.

This is a two-fold process: from the spiritual realm to us, and vice versa from our inner being to the world of spirit.

Angels appear: in dreams, when half-awake or perhaps when you are sitting in your garden or find yourself in a difficult situation. Out of the blue you may see a being standing next to you who, through its presence, provides you with courage and strength.

Two purposes

During the long time in which I have been engaged with spirituality, it has become clear to me that the spiritual realm has two objectives in mind for us.

  1. In the first place, the spiritual beings, the angels, support and stimulate us on our personal and spiritual path on earth. In other words, they want us to evolve on a personal level and develop our spiritual core, our deeper spiritual self. The image of God that we carry within us. In this way, we reconnect to the world of spirit, the realm of the Divine. This time from within.
  2. The second objective the angels are working toward, is making those who live on earth a co-worker of the spiritual realm. Once we awaken spiritually, the world of spirit wishes to work together with us on the further development of higher levels of consciousness and existence. This is also because the spiritual beings need us more and more for this purpose.

The angels therefore deem it very important that we understand what their task regarding human beings, the earth and the cosmos is. Because the more we gain insight into who they are and what they do, the better they can reach us, guide us and thereby work together with us on earth.

That is why they undoubtedly are very happy that this symposium about angels and bodhisattvas as helpers of humanity is taking place! Because this perfectly connects to the message they want to bring to us now.

Before telling you about the bodhisattvas who act as helpers of humanity, I first would like to speak briefly about the angels and the way they are organised.

The Angelic hierarchies

There are various kinds of angels. According to Christian esoteric tradition, there are nine different groups. In the lowest sphere are the angels. Above the angels are the archangels and above them the spirits of time also known as archai.

Further upward are even higher spiritual powers, that are involved in the great cosmic developments.

Far above the most high of these divine-spiritual beings, is the Divine Trinity. The Divine Trinity is made up of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Trinity works through all the layers of the spiritual world – that is through all these angelic hierarchies - down to the earth and us people.

The angels, archangels and archai (the bottommost three groups) are especially involved with human development on earth.

The angels act as messengers and as guardian angels of individual people, of a single person. Each of us has a personal angel who guides and supports us on our life path. Throughout our life. Not only in this lifetime but also in the lives we lived in the past and those of the future.

Besides the angels that are linked to us personally, there are the archangels. It is their task to guide groups of people, rather than individuals, in their development. These can be nations but also groups that work together for the salvation of the earth. They may be guided by an archangel who inspires and guides them, and helps them to find solutions.

Bodhisattvas in Buddhism

What about bodhisattvas?

The name 'bodhisattva' can be found in spirituality from the east, Buddhism in particular, but also in western esoterism such as Theosophy and Antroposophy.

In Buddhism, which I will address first, a bodhisattva is a supreme divine being on the path to Buddhahood, i.e. total enlightenment. On that path to Buddhahood, the bodhisattva time and again comes to earth for his or her (there are also female bodhisattvas) development, and bonds with a human being.

When a bodhisattva, after repeated lives on earth, reaches Buddhahood, it means that he or she has become totally enlightened. This means that he or she as Buddha has become a being in whom the spirit has developed in all its completeness. Because of this, he or she lives in a very high state of spiritual awareness. He or she no longer needs to incarnate on earth and may enter Nirvana.

According to Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva who lives on earth in a human body has reached a spiritual level whereby he or she no longer puts him /herself first. Instead, he or she is above all focused on helping other people on earth on their path toward spiritual enlightenment and liberation. Mahayana Buddhism is an important movement within Buddhism in which the element of love plays an important part.

It is clear that the bodhisattvas, these highly spiritual beings of wisdom and compassion, can only fulfil their earthly task if they can find a spiritually highly evolved person through whom they can do their work. Only then will they have at their disposal the physical instrument that enables them to fulfil their task on earth.

An example of a bodhisattva that works through a human being, to the Tibetans is the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism who resides in India. He is considered by the buddhists to be the incarnation of the bodhisattva Chenrezig, also known as Avalokiteshvara, who is called the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Because such a high spiritual being is at work in him, the Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama a divinity and address him as 'His Holiness'.'

This bodhisattva Chenrezig or Avalokiteshavara earlier appeared in China in a female incarnation, namely as the goddess Kuan Yin. Everywhere in China depictions of her can be found, mostly dressed in a long white robe and holding a child. Kuan Yin is said to have been such a highly evolved bodhisattva that she was able to reach Buddhahood and therefore enter Nirvana.

She declined, however, moved by compassion and solidarity with the suffering people on earth to whom she wanted to continue offering help. According to tradition, she expressed this as follows:

'I reached enlightenment but did not transcend into eternal bliss. My human body gave me deeper insight into the pain suffered by others. Because of my deep feelings, because of my understanding of misery and suffering, because of my decision, I am called the Merciful one: Kuan Yin – she who hears the crying world'.

You see, a high spiritual being, a bodhisattva, comes to earth, sees the suffering of people and helps carry this suffering.

Here too, in eastern tradition, we re-encounter that two-fold task that I talked about earlier: on the one hand developing yourself on a spiritual level, and on the other hand, directly linked to this, the wish to help other people in their development. The latter, based on profound love, may bring you to care more about the needs of other people than your own state of bliss in Nirwana.

In this way, the bodhisattvas precede us to where we as ordinary people are also heading.

The bodhisattva in esoteric Christianity

As I briefly mentioned earlier, not only Buddhism but also esoteric Christianity is familiar with the bodhisattva being. I came to this discovery while on my own spiritual path. I myself followed a path that nowadays is also experienced by many other people: my path began in traditional, ecclesiatical Christianity, but I sensed that the truth was much greater and comprehensive than what was being taught there.

This led me to start searching, and my search first led me to Theosophy and Buddhism. I studied these for some time and my understanding broadened, but I truly felt at home with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and his explanation of esoteric Christianity. To my surprise, I also came across the bodhisattvas in his teachings.

This motivated me to go in search of the link that exists between Buddhism and esoteric Christianity. The fact that there is a link between them was and is clear to me. These two themes interest me to such an extent that I quietly have begun writing a book about this.

How does esoteric Christianity regard the boddhisattva?

Also in esoteric Christianity, a bodhisattva is considered a high spiritual being, a spiritual being that originates from the rank of the archangels. That is why he or she possesses divine wisdom. In summary I could say it as follows: a boddhisattva in esoteric Christianity is an archangel of a special category who has a special mission.

As I said earlier, an angel is connected to an individual person, whereas an archangel is connected to larger groups of people.

A bodhisattva, however, is an archangel who connects with one individual person with the aim of working through this person to teach and guide larger groups of people or even humanity on earth as a whole from his or her supreme wisdom.

A boddhisattva in Christian esoterism is a great teacher of humanity.

The bodhisattva as a teacher of humanity

The role of the bodhisattva as a teacher of humanity is best understood when we consider the path that we as humans follow on earth. When we look back to the history of mankind, we notice that time and again new cultures have sprung up that flourished for some time and subsequently came to an end.

For example, in very early times there was a high-standing Persian culture, an Egyptian, Hebrew – i.e. an ancient Jewish -, a Greek, a Roman culture, and so on.

As people we lived in all of these ancient cultures. We incarnated into each of these cultures, and time and again learned something new.

  • In the ancient Persian culture, for example, we learned to cultivate the soil.
  • In the Egyptian culture we learned about the connection between heaven and earth, and how this is witnessed in the constellation of the sun and the planets.
  • In Hebrew times (the time of the old testament in the bible), we received the divine laws that told us how we as people should conduct ourselves on a moral level.
  • In Grecian times a beginning was made of the way in which we ourselves could learn how to think.

You see, time and again new possibilities were created on earth that enabled us to develop and master new skills.

By repeatedly incarnating into all of these periods, by coming back to earth, we humans were time and again confronted with something new to experience and to learn from. In this way our soul, and gradually also our personality, had the opportunity to experience these new situations and cultures, and develop into who we are now.

This constant cultural and religious renewal (because with the new cultures, new religions appeared, such as Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity that developed in the course of time), was led by high teachers of humanity. These were people on earth in whom a bodhisattva, a supreme archangel, was active.

  • Take for instance the historical great leader Zarathustra from the ancient Persian time, who thousands of years earlier had already announced the coming to the earth of the great Sun Logos.
  • The great Hermes of the Egyptian time.
  • In ancient Judaism Moses who was given by God the law of the ten commandments.
  • And, just prior to the beginning of Christianity, Jeshua Ben Pandira, the most important leader of the Essenes.

In each of them a bodhisattva was active, an emissary from the divine world, who from its high wisdom brought new insights and taught people new skills.

Gautama Buddha

One of these high bodhisattvas who, according to esoteric Christianity was very important for our development as humans – it may surprise you to hear this in the context of esoteric Christianity -, was the teacher of humanity known as the Gautama Buddha.

He is also referred to as the great Buddha or Sakyamuni. He is the Buddha whom the buddhists center on to this very day.

Esoteric Christianity tells that this great Buddha was assigned to bring down to earth the teaching of love and compassion, 500 years before the highest Deity, the supreme Sun Spirit who we in the west call Christ, came to the earth. Why was this necessary? Why was this so important?

It was important because this teaching of love and compassion was to enable us to develop such a sense of truth and goodness, that centuries later it would be possible to take into our hearts the influx of the supreme divine wisdom and love which the Sun Logos, the Sun Spirit, brought down to earth.

Let us examine how – from the perspective of esoteric Christianity – such a new ideal or capacity as love and compassion was brought to us via a bodhisattva.

The initiation of the Buddha

By way of illustration, let me share with you a few sketches from the life of the Buddha.

The bodhisattva who later became the great Buddha, even before he was born, connected to Siddharta, the son of a king in India. This bodhisattva guided Prince Siddharta through all kind of profound experiences that were all related to pain and suffering. The result of this was that Siddharta, at the age of 29, renounced all worldly goods and began his life as a wandering aesthetic. When he was 35 years old, he went through a profound experience.

While in a deep meditation, the bodhisattva entered deeper into Siddharta and incarnated fully into his body and his soul.

The intervention of the bodhisattva in Siddharta led to a profound initiation. During the initiation, the bodhisattva as well as Siddharta became Buddha, the fully Enlightened one. This event, this initiation that took place when Siddharta was 35 years old, is described as 'the sitting under the Bodhi tree'.

During this enlightenment, Gautama Buddha ( the name Siddharta went by from that moment on) was given deep insight into the secrets and mysteries of human existence. As a consequence, the teaching of compassion and love is said to have ignited in him. In other words: he suddenly realized what mankind needed in order to further develop in the right direction.

The Eight-fold Path

Deeply moved by the needs of the people, Gautama Buddha developed the teaching of compassion and love that had been given him, into a path of development called the Eight-fold Path and later on also included this in his teachings.

The Eight-fold Path helps us to purify our soul and astral body in a disciplined way so as to gain a grip on the chaos that presides in our soul.

According to Buddha, it is important to continuously strive to attain a correct meaning of things. Rather than simply judging or condemning, one should first contemplate things and come to a correct insight.

It is also important to avoid saying whatever comes to mind or to chatter. Instead, carefully choose your words on the basis of insight. To speak the right words.

This in turn leads to the right actions, to doing things the right way. And so on.

The Eight-fold Path provided us with ethics, a spiritual path, that help us to develop morality on the basis of our own insights and driving force. This means finding truth and doing good out of ones own inner being.

A new step in development

Can you see how interesting this is? This path brought to earth by Buddha, once again brought us a step further in our development.

Prior to that time, all spiritual guidance had been focused on obediently following the laws that had been laid down by others. Laws such as the ten commandments provided by Moses. Laws, however, that were put on human beings by an outside force.

Since then, thanks to this new gift of Buddha, we were able to find truthfulness and goodness of our own accord, depending on our own conscious development.

According to Rudolf Steiner, this moral teaching of compassion and love that had been given to us as a new means of development, could only be implanted in us because the bodhisattva for once fully incarnated into a human being, in this case Siddharta, and became the Buddha. If this had not taken place, we would not have received this gift.

In summary

A brief summary of all that I have told you so far, will show that Buddhism as well as esoteric Christianity share the notion that a bodhisattva is a supreme, almost divine being who on earth works through a highly developed spiritual human being on the development of mankind.

Such as for example Zarathustra and Moses. And, for Buddhists, also the Dalai Lama.

This supreme spiritual being is an archangel in esoteric Christianity.

In Buddhism, where the concepts of angels and archangels are not known, these divine beings are referred to as gods or goddesses. In essence, however, they are one and the same.

Both movements thus tell us that we, as humanity, are guided and helped by supreme spiritual beings in our development.

The White Lodge

Esoteric Christianity adds an entirely different and very special aspect to this that is not known in Buddhism. Let me tell you about this now.

All bodhisattvas that guide us as great teachers of humanity and come to earth every now and again to teach us and enhance our development, together form a spiritual community.

In esoteric teaching, this highly spiritual society is referred to as 'the White Lodge'. The word 'White' indicates that this community radiates truth and goodness in its highest form.

Where can we find this White Lodge, this spiritual community?

What if we possessed the mental strength and the high consciousness to ascend to high, very high, regions in the spiritual world? What would we encounter there?

In these high, high realms, we would come across a circle consisting of twelve bodhisattvas. Among them we would find the great Zarathustra, the great Hermes, Moses, Jeshua Ben Pandira, Gautama Buddha and others.

But we would see even more.

At the centre of the circle of twelve in this White Lodge, we would encounter a thirteenth being. A being emanating wisdom and love. One that is this wisdom and love.

Thus this is a being of an entirely different nature and quality than the twelve supreme bodhisattvas surrounding it.

This circle of twelve bodhisattvas with the thirteenth at its centre can be compared to the sun that radiates its light, warmth and life to the environment, to the earth.

The primal source of all that lives

Without the sun, everthing would disappear because life no longer would be possible.

In the same way, this thirteenth in the midst of the twelve bodhisattvas, is the primal source of all that lives on earth and in the cosmos.

From him flow wisdom and love as a living substance. The bodhisattvas bask in his glory and behold his magnificence. They incorporate his revelation and see the steps that must follow in the development of humankind.

That which they absorb from this primal source is transformed by them into wisdom, knowledge, new impulses and insights. In various ways, they then bring these to the earth and to humankind.

This thirteenth is thus the great inspirer and the supreme leader of the White Lodge of the bodhisattvas. Inspired by his being, the bodhisattvas teach and guide us people.

Who is this thirteenth?

This thirteenth is the same supreme Deity that Zarathustra in ancient Persia referred to as Ahura Mazda, the supreme Sun Logos or the supreme Sun Spirit.

He is the same Deity who in all ancient religions was associated with the Sun and was called ´the one who is to come´, who was to renew all life on earth.

The thirteenth is the same Deity who 2000 years ago in ancient Israel came down to earth, became human in Jesus of Nazareth and who through his death and resurrection connected himself with all people on earth.

This thirteenth is the one who in Christianity was given the name ´Christ´.

Since his crucifiction on Golgotha and his victory over death, he is connected at the deepest level with us people and our development.

His connection with us people knows two aspects.

On the one hand he is the divine force who since Golgotha has been living deep-down in all people on earth. On the other hand he is cosmically considered the highest spiritual leader of all that takes place and develops in heaven, on earth and in humanity.

This two-foldedness is witnessed in the words that Christ speaks in the gospel of Matthew in the bible: ”All power in Heaven and on Earth have been given unto me!”

In our time, too, bodhisattvas from this supreme White Lodge are coming to earth on assigment of the thirteenth. On earth they work through people.

For the most part these people are initiates. Sometimes an initiate and a bodhisattva work publicly, but often they remain behind the scenes.

They bring new insights to people as well as new skills and spiritual impulses that result in our development reaching higher levels of consciousness and existence.

New impulses in society

In our time, the influence of the bodhisattvas is clearly visible in new impulses in society, such as the entire process of individualization that we are going through, but also the spiritual awakening of people.

Their influence, for example, is also shown by the fact that we are becoming conscious of the situation in which the world finds itself and the realization that, as part of humanity, we all form a unity and are connected to each other at the deepest level. To name a few examples.

We can also recognize the influence of the bodhisattvas and the White Lodge in the actions of extraordinary people in society and in the world. Take for example someone like president Obama through whom a higher, inspiring force is clearly visible. If we pay attention, we can clearly see by a great number of occurences that guiding forces are at work that propel us forward.

Bodhisattvas in the future: the Maitreya Buddha

Also in the future, teachers of humanity, bodhisattvas, will appear on earth who not only bring us new insights and teach us new skills, but who also reveal to us more and more of the true being of the supreme Sun Logos, Christ.

One of them will be the Maitreya bodhisattva who 2500 years from now, on earth will become the Maitreya Buddha.

According to Benjamin Creme, a Scottish esoteric teacher who gives lectures all over the world, the Maitreya is already among us on earth and lives in London in a Pakistani family.

The prophecy that has applied for thousands of years regarding Hinduism, Buddhism and esoteric Christianity however is that the Maitreya, the successor of the great Buddha, will appear on earth 5000 years after Buddha. He will be active in a completely new way. This event will take place 2500 years from now. So, not yet in our time. All three spiritual movements agree on this.

The Maitreya Buddha will spread supreme divine love through his way of speaking and thus will be the voice of divine love itself, the supreme Sun Spirit Christ.

This means that in him, Buddhism and (esoteric) Christianity will meet in a completely new way and will finally be united.

What do all these insights teach us?

In my opinion, it is the realization and the corresponding faith, that we as humans are not alone in our quest, but that we are guided and helped by incredibly high and strong spiritual beings on the path that we as humans are destined to follow.

A path that is known and that will lead us one day, when our task on earth has been completed, to a completely new type of reunion with the divine world. The entire work of the White Lodge is focused on this.

In conclusion, I would like to show you something interesting.

The mysterious White Lodge that I have mentioned, can be found in what I would almost call 'ordinary' depictions in the ancient, medieval cathedrals.

In those times, stained-glass artists, initiates, still existed 'whose ears could hear and whose eyes could see' that which forms the basis of our world.

In the depiction below of the western rose window in the cathedral of Chartres in France, the supreme Sun Logos, Christ, is visible in the centre and – immediately surrounding him – in the smallest circle the 12 bodhisattvas. From this centre, the power of the thirteenth radiates outward to the surrounding circles of twelve and ultimately to us people.

The wisdom and knowledge visible in this rose window are what we as people at this time should once again acquaint ourselves with and carry out into the world.



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