A. First, you have to understand that the stereotypical missionary work we’re familiar with through our Christian culture should not be seen as having a Buddhist equivalent. The idea that Buddhists travel around trying to convert people to their beliefs simply isn’t in its history or philosophy. Speaking specifically about the bodhisattva, traditionally they do help others that are in need, but they do their work because they see suffering and therefore feel a need to help. They would never pronounce that they are such beings, and try to convert others to their own beliefs.

But there is another perspective to this work alongside what we would normally perceive, which is always alluded to but often misunderstood, and this points to the unique position of an enlightening being.

As insight deepens the bodhisattva sees with ever increasing clarity that all beings without exception are a product of his or her own mind, and that he or she is therefore responsible for their suffering. Bodhisattvas see that to liberate all beings from suffering, they – the bodhisattvas – must first know themselves ever more deeply. They see that to do this they also need to engage with those other beings as well as all of life (including blades of grass). For life as we know it is also a creation of the mind. It is because of this understanding, when bodhisattvas are seen to be doing good works, you are unlikely to understand the paradoxical nature of their understanding of their own lives. With still more clarity, bodhisattvas discover that they themselves do not exist outside of other beings. So, when they finally attain liberation and pass into nirvana, all other beings are also liberated with them, (including those blades of grass), and pass into nirvana with them. Now that is what you would call successful missionary work!