Bodhisattva wall China 1500

and, lo, a bodhisattva savant rose in the west

I SPEND SO MUCH TIME re­searching the var­ious topics that I write about, I re­ally don’t have much time left to read others’ blogs—which is a shame, be­cause we are living through some kind of golden age of freedom of ex­pres­sion of what­ever the hell you wanna say and have the ac­tual pos­si­bility of having mil­lions of people pay at­ten­tion!

But I do sub­scribe to two blogs, which I read re­li­giously: one is Please Cut The Crap, Milt Shook’s blog on pol­i­tics. Shook is cur­rently lam­basting so-called “pro­gres­sives” for their hipper-than-thou at­ti­tude to­wards the 90% of people who vote for De­moc­rats.

The other blog is The Round Place In The Middle, where John Ross covers rock & roll, movies (old and new and with a soft spot for classic west­erns), who­dunnit novels, and, oc­ca­sion­ally, cur­rent events. In a re­cent posting ti­tled “And The Sun Rose In The East,” I posted a com­ment where I brought up the movie For­rest Gump, of whom I said,

“I think For­rest Gump a de­lightful, funny, thought-provoking “movie, one worth many view­ings. I have heard and read people trying to de­cide if Forest is a lib­eral or a con­ser­v­a­tive or a mind-free force of na­ture or even a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Di­vine. I tend to see him as a bod­hisattva sa­vant.”

After thinking about my com­ment, I re­turned to the post and added this: “If you use the term bod­hisattva sa­vant in print, gimme credit ’cause I think I just coined it.” And I was most pleased with my­self for having spon­ta­neously coined that term.

 

I have heard people ar­guing that Forest was a lib­eral, a con­ser­v­a­tive, a mind-free force of na­ture, or even a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Di­vine, but upon reading this essay the reader can now argue that Gump was some­thing else entirely—something their friends never con­sid­ered be­cause, of course, they’d never heard of it!

Being a savant

The term bod­hisattva sa­vant com­bines two words that seem to have little in common:

“A sa­vant is a person af­fected with a de­vel­op­mental dis­order (such as autism or mental re­tar­da­tion) who ex­hibits ex­cep­tional skill or bril­liance in some lim­ited field such as math­e­matics or music” (Merriam-Webster).

It’s rather easy to see the char­acter of For­rest Gump in con­tem­po­rary Western terms as an autistic sa­vant type—or, as I re­ferred to him, as a “mind-free force of na­ture,” al­though per­haps “mind­less” would have been more po­et­i­cally (and iron­i­cally) apt.

In Eastern philoso­phies (in­cluding Bud­dhism), mind­less­ness is a height­ened state of being. Of course, West­erners tend to use mind­less as being syn­ony­mous with stupid, the op­po­site of an el­e­vated being. 1

 

Like many people my age, I had my in­tro­duc­tion to the idea of a living, breathing bod­hisattva in Amer­ican cul­ture through reading Jack Ker­ouac’s 1958 novel The Dharma Bums. It re­mains rec­om­mended reading sixty years on.

Being a bodhisattva

Wikipedia de­fines bod­hisattva as “the San­skrit term for anyone who has gen­er­ated Bod­hicitta (meaning enlightenment-mind, is the mind that strives to­ward awak­ening, em­pathy, and com­pas­sion for the ben­efit of all sen­tient be­ings), a spon­ta­neous wish and com­pas­sionate mind to at­tain Bud­dha­hood (being awak­ened) for the ben­efit of all sen­tient be­ings.”

Tri­cycle, a mag­a­zine de­voted to “Bud­dhism for Be­gin­ners,” has a lengthier ex­pla­na­tion in “What Is a Bod­hisattva?” by Kosho Uchiyama. Their an­swer (simply: an or­di­nary person who acts like a true adult) dif­fers some­what from the way the term is defined—and prob­ably more com­monly used by non-Buddhists—that the Wiki de­f­i­n­i­tion above.

And I will go no fur­ther here: it’s not my area of ex­per­tise. But the con­cept of the sa­vant and that of the bod­hisattva can easily be read into the cipher-like, void-like char­acter that Tom Hanks por­trays in the movie For­rest Gump.

 

And what does Lew Shin­er’s 2011 novel Dark Tangos have to do with any­thing? I don’t know—I haven’t read it yet! One of the neg­a­tive as­pects of all the time I spend re­searching the var­ious topics that I write about is that I don’t have as much time for reading. But that’s changing: I just got my copy of this book today and will start reading forth­with (and if there’s a bod­hisattva or sa­vant in the story, I’ll have grist for a piece on co­in­ci­dence).

And I got me hence

So, I bumped into Red­mond’s man-about-town An­thony Wig­gins (whose Math Man Chron­i­cles is still in the works and has the whole town abuzz) a few hours after I had posted the bod­hisattva sa­vant com­ment and fig­ured he’d ap­pre­ciate the coinage and so told him what I’d done and he told me “Get thee hence and put those words into print so that, should they find their way into usage, you can al­ways point to this posting and say, There—see: bod­hisattva sa­vant. I said it first!” and so I got me hence and here I am and here is this posting and hence­forth should the term pop up on the world wide web my readers will see it and know it as my cre­ation. 2

And so, at 4:05 on the af­ter­noon of Au­gust 8, 2018, the term bod­hisattva sa­vant was born in the east on the com­ments sec­tions of the pages on the site known as The Round Place In The Middle.

And so, five days later, at 5:15 in the af­ter­noon on Au­gust 13, 2018, bod­hisattva sa­vant was con­se­crated and rose in the west on this very site, where your eyes gaze now.

And so, I will sleep soundly tonight be­cause I can say,

“There—see: I said it first!”

 

FEATURED IMAGE: While searching the world wide web for a suit­able image of For­rest Gump to fill up the top of this page, I came across this “honest trailer” for the movie. The trailer is a satire that’s right on the money: it ac­cu­rately and fun­nily de­picts al­most every hokey as­pect of the movie (it’s not kind to Jenny). If you have seen the movie, see this trailer; if you haven’t seen this movie, avoid this trailer. 3

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Uh oh, I must be in some el­e­vated state, if un­con­sciously: while two-fingeredly typing “height­ened,” I ac­ci­den­tally typed “haight­ened”! In doing so, I may have coined yet an­other new word! Damn, now I have to write an­other essay giving the word a meaning—and you know where I’m going to take it!—for this ol’ blog of mine. (And, yes, those last five words have me hearing the Four Tops’ tune, too.)

2   I wrote the text first and for some reason the ar­chaic hence­forth came forth and I stuck with it and in so doing it al­lowed me to use the equally ar­chaic forth­with in one of the cap­tions.

3   As can be seen, in­stead of a scene from For­rest Gump, I se­lected this lovely and im­posing photo of a wall-sculpture of a many-limbed Bod­hisattva found along a path to the Giant Buddha shrine in Le­shan, Sichuan, China.

 

 

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Just so you know you’re ef­forts at en­light­en­ment are ap­pre­ci­ated, I have For­rest Gump on order.…