"Bodhisattva" as written by Walter Carl Becker and Donald Jay Fagen....
Bodhisattva, would you take me by the hand
Bodhisattva, would you take me by the hand

Can you show me the shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your china, can you show me

Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva
I'm gonna sell my house in town
Bodhisattva
I'm gonna sell my house in town

And I'll be there to shine in your Japan
To sparkle in your China, yes I'll be there
Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva, would you take me by the hand
Bodhisattva, would you take me by the hand
Can you show me the shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your china, can you show me

Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva
I'm gonna sell my house in town
Bodhisattva
I'm gonna sell my house in town

And I'll be there to shine in your Japan
To sparkle in your China, yes I'll be there
Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva, look out


Lyrics submitted by AbFab

"Bodhisattva" as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Bodhisattva song meanings
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23 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentBodhisattvas are sort of like the "priests" of Mahayana Buddhism: they help others reach nirvana ("would you take me by the hand"). The "shine of your Japan" and "sparkle of your China" parts could relate to nirvana, but I'm not sure. The line about selling the house probably links to the Buddhist teaching of nonattachment and that material properties lead to suffering. It may also imply that the speaker is joining a monastic order.
    Trouton March 18, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General Commenti love the mix of jazz in this song. the driving beat with guitar and piano in a way only steely could do.
    poohblueskyon July 02, 2003   Link
  • +4
    General CommentBodhisattva literally stands for "wisdom-being", i think this song is about a man or woman who is looking for their own enlightenment. "Take me by the hand" (teach me enlightenment), "I'm gonna sell my house in town" (relieving one self of possessions).
    I think that "the shine of your japan, the sparkle of china" is most definetely about nirvana, first he says "can you show me" (nirvana), then "and i'll be there" (nirvana)
    I also noticed that the man singing seems ancy and in a hurry, don't know if that relates.
    grenparptaron February 24, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song, like 'Aja' is a parody of the West's (and I suspect Californian's in specific) over-simplified fascination with Eastern philosophy. All this poor sucker knows is that his so-called Bodhisattva (who is more likely some self-apointed charlatan) has told him to sell his house, and join the frickin' hare krishnas! ... the fool.

    It's a joke.
    what123everon May 26, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI feel this song is about Nicheron Shosu budddism.Many years ago people were part of this organization. And if you would give it all to the association you would reach the 52nd stage of
    enlightenment. it was a sect just like Hare Krishna and the Dan are mocking it.Makesense to me anyway.
    I,gonna sell my house in town ,and i,ll be there to shine on your yes i,ll get there number 52.Some one ask Donald and Walter if i am correct. Like the reverend Sun moon ying how he brianwashed people.i think That Walter and Donald should comment after all of us do our interpretation since i have spent thousands on concerts, Cds and tee shirts. Come on fellas put back a little in the pot to your fans.
    mrsagflyon March 19, 2011   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI think there are hints of the real meaning in the posts here.

    The song is an eye-rolling satire of Westerner's (Hollywood/California flakes in particular) oversimplified misunderstandings of Eastern 'religion'. The protagonist does want a quick fix. He could be a middle aged guy, someone who's wasted his life, an addict, or someone who has just realized that they are spiritually bankrupt. They've heard that Buddhism has the answers or so it seems to them.

    They reach out to a teacher. The teacher may be a charlatan, as many have suggested (like the Beatle's reference in Sexy Sadie) or they may be legit. This is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the protagonist thinks that they can follow a set of rules or a recipe to achieve enlightenment or happiness. Rather than doing the hard work of self-assessment and self-improvement, they want the "Cliff's Notes" version of spirituality. They seek to copy off of the teacher's paper, so to speak.

    "Sell my house in town" could refer abdication of worldly attachments in earnest or as a 'check-off' item on their list to obtain enlightenment. Or maybe it's just what they focused on during a quick reading of #2 from the "The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas" by Gyelsey Togmey Zangpo, ie, "Give up your homeland".

    I agree the protagonist sounds rushed and insincere, likely intentional on Fagan's part, particularly with a lot of the repetitions. Also, if you take a step back, there are a lot of vampy repetitions in the song both lyrically and musically. I suspect that this is a musical joke for Walter and Donald, a metaphor for the continuous cycles that the protagonist is stuck in an "ocean of cyclic existence"--on a grand scale repeating mistakes in reincarnation and on a microscale of repeating meaningless phrases over and over.
    jwebbjron August 02, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA commentary on McReligion. 'Nuff said.
    Nightvoiceon September 22, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe repetitive nature of the lyric, especially the repetition of the title over and over at the end, has a chanting quality, the way a prayer is repeated over and over.

    And yes, the song is simply about a shallow guy following the Eastern-religion craze, unable to divorce even the names of Japan and China from their consumer connotations. Absolutely smoking song--the Charlie Parker influence really shows through in the long solo section.
    Kartoumon February 06, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLol anyone ever go thru a breakup or divorce and notice themselves cleaning excessively? That's what I relate this song to
    itspat7285on January 12, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationFagen, an acute observer of people, wrote many songs or verses of songs looking at a situation from a specific perspective, and sometimes multiple perspectives. I think this is one of many songs he wrote about people (or himself) "making it" by Western standards of success, yet still feeling disillusioned and empty -- so they were still searching for answers. In this case, people are looking to a "new" religion (Buddhism is actually quite old but was just taking hold in certain areas of US)
    and to a different example on how to live ( "Bodhisattva" Which is like a saint, someone that lived as an example not just teaching things academically)
    and a new (simpler) lifestyle ( "I'm gonna sell my house in town" ).
    After "winning the game" in the Western world, the author of the song or the character in the song still feels empty, so he is going to look elsewhere, a different culture entirely for fulfillment ( To shine in your Japan To sparkle in your China Yes I'll be there ) Fagen rips on Western/American values in many of his songs.

    I'm not sure if the author is making a specific judgment on the character in the song or not. I don't detect the person in the song being ridiculed for falling for the "grass is always greener" illusion. I also don't detect the opposite, the author promoting the idea that we should look to Buddhism, and to Chinese & Japanese culture instead of our own. It seems more like a neutral observation. The author is just saying, "This is what I am seeing". Or perhaps he is commenting on how we look to people that have "made it", either in positions of power, wealth or celebrity for answers and they have no more answers than we do; they too are looking for answers.
    Lyrics2Deepon April 27, 2016   Link

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