In my study of bodhicitta (Wangchuk 2007), of which I am neither too proud nor too ashamed, I briefly discussed an idea in the Bodhisattvabhūmi, according to which “a bodhisattva cares for all sentient beings as a man does for his wife but still remains unaffected by the worldly aspects of such a bond.” This is how I attempted to translate the pertinent passage:
“These two are the unique, amazing, [and] extraordinary qualities of a bodhisattva who has firmly generated the initial resolve [to become a buddha]. What are the two? [a] [He] embraces all sentient beings as [though they were his] wife, and [b] yet is not tainted by the fault of having taken a wife. In this regard, the fault of taking a wife is this: the defiled gratification or hostility (kliṣṭānurodhavirodha) that comes from the benefit [received or] detriment [sustained by one’s] wife. But these two are not found in a bodhisattva.”
As a footnote to the word “embraces,” I made the following comment:
“The choice of the verb parigṛhṇāti is noteworthy here because it means not only ‘to embrace’ and ‘to assist’ (among many other things), which fit the context better when sentient beings in general are the object, but also means ‘to take (a wife)’ or ‘to marry’ (MW, s.v. pari-√grah). The pun, which is certainly intended, conveys the idea that a bodhisattva cares for all sentient beings as a man does for his wife but still remains unaffected by the worldly aspects of such a bond. This issue is addressed once again in Bodhisattvabhūmi 3.2 (Wogihara, p. 362.5–10; Dutt, p. 249.5–7): “Even upon his having first generated the resolve [to become a buddha], all sentient beings are embraced by a bodhisattva as [though they were his] wife. [He will make the following resolution:] ‘For them, all types of [resources required for] their benefit and happiness will be gathered by me to the best of [my] ability and to the best of [my] power.’ And [he indeed] does just that. This is the bodhisattva’s simultaneous embracing of all sentient beings” (prathama eva cittotpāde bodhisattvena sarvaḥ sattvadhātuḥ kalatrabhāvena parigṛhītaḥ | eṣāṃ mayā yathāśakti yathābalaṃ sarvākārahitasukhopasaṃhāraḥ karaṇīya iti | tathaiva ca karoti | ayaṃ bodhisattvasya sakṛtsarvasattvaparigrahaḥ |). This simile was already noted by Dayal 1932: 63.”
So today on St. Valentine’s Day (14.2.2014), I wish to (by way of fun) discuss briefly if we can speak of “Bodhisattvic polyamory,” or even “Bodhisattvic polygamy” (at least as a metaphor or simile). There is a long entry on “polyamory” (Wikipedia, s.v.) and it is said to be from Greek πολύ (poly), meaning “many” or “several,” and Latin amor, “love” and is said to be “the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” If we take the main components of the concept of “polyamory,” namely, “more than one” and “loving,” then we might say a bodhisattva loves more than one but unfortunately, it does not involve an “intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” It is a one-sided love. A bodhisattva is a kind of an “anonymous lover,” an “anonymous husband/wife” of all sentient beings. At least in Tibetan a bodhisattva is described as an “unacquainted kin/relative/friend” (ma ’dris pa’i mdza’ bshes). If we can at all speak of “love” in such a case then perhaps a “Bodhisattvic love” is a “Platonic love.” An important question in this context, in my view, is: Is amor possible without intellectual-emotional defilements (kleśa: nyon mongs pa)?