The idea of exalted divine beings known as Celestial Bodhisattvas and Celestial Buddhas can be found in several Mahayana Buddhist Traditions. This is a statue of Quan Yin in the SouthChina Sea. It is similar in size to theStatue of Liberty and show's the Chinesepeople's deep devotion to Quan Yin. Because these terms often times have varying meanings depending on the specific Mahayana lineage - we will be using the following definition:
A Celestial Bodhisattva or Celestial Buddha is a Heavenly Being who was once a human being who had achieved such an advanced level of spiritual development and awakening that once they "passed on" (died) they no longer needed to re-embody on the earth.
In other words, they achieved "liberation" (or "Moksha" as it is said in Hinduism; or the "Ascension" as it is said in the Ascended Master Teachings). Once free of the earthly realm, it is the great privilege of these enlightened and forever free Liberated Heavenly Beings to continue their personal spiritual progress on the infinite spiral of spiritual advancement within the Infinite Higher Realms. And some of these (for example: Quan Yin) choose to keep a close spiritual connection with our planet in order to help out the rest of humanity who have not as yet reached nirvana or liberation.
In the Ascended Master Teachings of the West, many of the Buddhist Celestial Bodhisattvas and Celestial Buddhas are referred to as "Ascended Masters". And the Celestial Beings who the Buddhists would consider "Celestial Buddhas" are often considered to be highly advanced Ascended Masters known as "Great Cosmic Beings".
For instance, in the West, the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Compassion, Guan Yin, is a dearly beloved Ascended Lady Master known as "Quan Yin" (or "Kuan Yin") - the Goddess of Mercy. And the Celestial Buddha/Bodhisattva, "Maitreya", is a very, very advanced Ascended Master known as a "Great Cosmic Being" who is called "The Lord Maitreya" who is a universal outpouring of the "Christ Consciousness" to many worlds. He was one of the Ascended Masters who "Over-Lighted" Jesus during his lifetime and ministry. Likewise, "The Buddha" is a Great Cosmic Being, who is similar to Jesus in his Cosmic Nature and stature.
The Ascended Ones teach us that all Ascended Beings work together in joyous, loving harmony with each other to help the humanity of earth. In other words, Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus, Guan Yin (Quan Yin), Blessed Mary, Saint Germain, the Goddess of Justice, and all of our other many, many Ascended Sisters and Brothers all adore each other and blissfully work together for the good of humanity.
And the Ascended Ones tell us that it is of very great benefit to pray to, and pour our loving devotion to, these various Celestial Bodhisattvas, Celestial Buddha's, Ascended Masters, and Great Cosmic Beings, (or whatever term you wish to call them), because it enables them to assist us all the more.
Guan Yin (also Quan Yin or Kuan Yin): The feminine Bodhisattva or Goddess of Compassion.
Avalokitesvara: The masculine Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Generally "Celestial Buddhas" are considered to be much more spiritually advanced than Celestial Bodhisattvas, just as in New Age paths, Jesus might be considered much more advanced than a typical saint who has just Ascended. Interestingly, there are a few Celestial Buddhas that are so great, so cosmic, in their spiritual advancement that they are especially venerated and prayed to in the world of Mahayana Buddhism.
"The Buddha": The founder of Buddhism, who is also known as "Shakyamuni Buddha" or "Gautama Buddha", and is the that one most Westerners usually think of when they hear the name "Buddha".
"The Buddha of Infinite Light": He is the central figure in "Pure Land Buddhism", which is very popular in China and Japan. In India he is known as Amitabha Buddha; in China as Amitofu; and in Japan as Amida Buddha. According to some Mahayana texts, the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha taught about Amitabha Buddha "with great love and reverence".
Maitreya (A future World Teacher)
Using a more Theravada definition of Bodhisattva, you could say that a Theravada Bodhisattva is a human being who has earned the right to Ascend, but who has chosen to delay their Ascension so that they can continue to re-embody on earth at future times in order to render a spiritual service to humanity that can only be rendered by someone in a physical body. (The Ascension is an irreversible process. Once you Ascend you are now an unlimited Ascended Being of Light and can no longer be limited by being born back into a physical body.) The Buddha, Jesus and Saint Germain are excellent examples of individuals who could have Ascended thousands of years earlier, but who volunteered to delay their own Ascensions in order to be able to return to earth in physical embodiments to continue to help un-Ascended humanity. Naturally, they are now Ascended and are considered "Great Cosmic Beings" or "Celestial Buddhas".
The 3 Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple in Dali, China.
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