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Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra

Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas

Text Sections 70-72

The first episode of Śāntideva’s biography says that after his father had passed away, Śāntideva was to ascend to the throne through the traditional enthronement ritual. Such a ritual formally ‘empowers the heir to the throne to assume control over the kingdom’ [rgyal thabs spyi blugs kyi dbang]. In ancient India, this ritual was generally performed by the brahmins of the royal court.

According to Vibhūticandra’s version of Śāntideva’s life, the night before his enthronement, Śāntideva’s mother gave him a ritual bath and poured very hot water over his head, causing the young prince to cry out in pain.

His mother said,

“If you were to become a king during this time of degeneration, you would (only) bring suffering to beings, due to the power of your afflictions. Then, when you die, you will endure sufferings in the hell realms far worse than this (hot water).”

Śāntideva thus came to understand that holding worldly power entails committing a great many negative actions and that these unwholesome deeds inevitably lead to rebirth in the hell realms. This teaches us that the fruits of worldly power and influence are not what we imagine them to be.

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