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Album: Countdown To EcstasyReleased: 1973
Bodhisattva is a human who has reached enlightenment, as the Buddha did, and can leave physical existence behind, but chooses to remain in human form to help others achieve freedom.
Donald Fagen said this song was "sort of a parody on the way Western people look at Eastern religion - sort of oversimplify it. We thought it was rather amusing - most people didn't get it.
In typically cryptic fashion, the Countdown To Ecstasy liner notes for the 1998 reissue said this of the song: "Dias the Bebopper meets Baxter the skunk beneath the Bo Tree in this altered blues."
"Dias" is Denny Dias, who played the first guitar solo on the track; "Baxter the skunk" is Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, who played the second solo.
Steely Dan used this song as the opener on their 1974 "SD slips into the UK" tour, which was their first tour of Britain.
This was the first time the word "Bodhisattva" showed up in a song by a popular artist, but it wasn't the last. In 1992, Beastie Boys released "Bodhisattva Vow" on their album Check Your Head. That song explored that spiritual side of the group, which had taken an interest in Tibetan Buddhism.
David Nichtern, who worked with Walter Becker on the 2005 Krishna Das album All One
, is a senior teacher of Shambhala Buddhism as well as a guitarist/producer. When we spoke with Nichtern
, he explained: "Bodhisattvas are a certain aspect of Buddhism, and they're a kind of compassionate beings. Their specialty is helping other beings. It'd be similar to the concept of a saint in Christian tradition. They really dedicate their lives towards the well being of others."