by Andreas Kretschmar | 233,817 words

The English translation of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara (“entering the conduct of the bodhisattvas”), a Sanskrit text with Tibetan commentary. This book explains the bodhisattva concept and gives guidance to the Buddhist practitioner following the Mahāyāna path towards the attainment of enlightenment. The text was written in Sanskrit by Shantideva ...

Khenpo Kunpal's Commentary (english)

On The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra


[37] A Word-by-Word Commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, called Drops of Nectar, according to the Personal Statement of the Mañjughoṣa-like Teacher.


[38] Homage to the teacher Mañjuśrī, the wisdom being!

[39] More courageous than the other guides of this Fortunate Aeon,
Amazing in your compassionate development of bodhicitta and aspiration,
In this time you demonstrate your supreme, fully manifest enlightenment,
Protect me, incomparable teacher, Lion of the Śākyas!

[40] I place above my head with hundred-fold devotion
The eight close sons, Ajita, Mañjughoṣa, and the others;
The sixteen elders, the seven generations of heirs to the doctrine;
And the paṇḍitas and siddhas of the noble land—
The adornments of Jambudvīpa, the supreme ones, Śāntideva, and others.

[41] I respectfully prostrate to
The eyes that gazed upon the snowy land prophesied by the Victor,
To the preceptor, the master, the dharma king, and the treasure-trove of emanated translators and paṇḍitas,
And to the three Mañjughoṣas and others of the non-sectarian lineages
Of the Old and New Schools.

[42] Splendor of the knowledge, love, and capability of all the victors,
Chökyi Wangpo, inseparable from the (lords of) the three families,
And (other) venerable masters, quintessence of all the buddhas,
Reside in the lotus of my heart until I attain the essence of enlightenment.

[43] May the supreme guru and the precious (three) jewels
Grant their blessings so that this composition of letters, though it is only a fraction
Of the undefiled essential nectar of his explanations,
Will help the doctrine and sentient beings.

[44] Now here, I will explain this excellent text, the Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas,[1] the sons of the victors, (a text) which is even greater than the wish-fulfilling jewel, the king of powers. It primarily elucidates the precious bodhicitta, the sole source of every single accumulation of goodness, both that of the welfare and happiness of existence (saṃsāra) as well as that of peace (nirvāṇa).

It is the great path which every one of the victors of the three times, every single one without exception, has traversed and will traverse. That is to say the buddhas of the past, such as glorious Dīpaṃkara and others; all the buddhas of the present, such as our incomparable supreme teacher, the Lion of the Śākyas, and others; and every one of the buddhas of the future, such as the venerable Maitreyanātha, the great being, the regent of the Victor.

[45] To explain (this excellent text), there is the explanation of the prefatory topics and the explanation of the main topics.

The explanation of the prefatory topics

[46] Of these, the first, the explanation of the prefatory topics, has three parts:

  1. how a master should expound the dharma;
  2. how a student should listen to it; and
  3. how both teacher and student should explain and listen.

How a master should expound the dharma

[47] First, how a master should expound the dharma has three parts:

  1. how a buddha teacher expounds the dharma;
  2. how an arhat teacher expounds the dharma; and
  3. how a learned paṇḍita teacher expounds the dharma.

How a buddha teacher expounds the dharma

[48] First, a buddha teacher teaches by means of three types of miraculous display.

[49] With the miraculous display of the magical powers of his body, he emanates inconceivable light rays from the curled hair between his eyebrows, and so on, gathering thereby those beings needing to be tamed who have not yet been assembled as his entourage. Then, he covers a trichiliocosm[2] with his tongue, and so forth, causing thereby the beings who need to be tamed, and who are now gathered as his entourage, to gain trust.

[50] With the miraculous display of his all-communicating mind, he comes to know totally the minds, capacities, and the latent tendencies of those beings who need to be tamed and who are gathered as his entourage.

[51] Then, with the miraculous display of his universally-corresponding speech, he expounds, through his melodious speech endowed with sixty aspects and in accordance with the individual language of each being (be they gods, nāgas, or others,) the respective dharmas for taming whomever by whatever means.

How an arhat teacher expounds the dharma

[52] Second, an arhat teacher expounds (the dharma) based on the three-fold purity as follows.

[53] (1) The pure vessel of the listener. He surveys the minds of those to be tamed with the supernatural perception which knows the minds of others and, if the mind-stream (of the listener) is a suitable vessel, he teaches.

[54] (2) The pure speech of the teacher. Being freed from the obscurations of afflictions such as attachment, and so forth, he teaches with pure speech and proper grammar in a pleasant tone.

[55] (3) The pure topic of the discourse. He remembers with perfect recollection exactly what his own teacher, the perfect Buddha, or others have said, and he teaches without adding or omitting words and without being mistaken with regard to the meaning.

[56] Should you ask,

“Why don't those śrāvaka arhats teach through the three miraculous ways?”

Well, they are not able to teach through the three miraculous ways because there are four reasons for their ignorance.

[57] (1) They are ignorant with regard to distant places, as for instance the great and noble Maudgalyāyana did not know that his mother was reborn in the buddha field Mārīci.

[58] (2) They are ignorant with regard to distant times, as for instance the noble Śāriputra did not know that there was a seed for liberation in the mind of the householder Śrīja.

[59] (3) They are ignorant with regard to unfathomable results that come from unfathomable causes, as in the statement,

[60] Knowing the various distinct causes Of even a single colored spot on a peacock's feather, He is the Omniscient One. Except for the wisdom of the Omniscient One, it is not known.

[61] (4) They are ignorant with regard to most of the Buddha's qualities. That is to say they lack the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, the non-associated qualities, and so forth.

How a learned paṇḍita teacher expounds the dharma

[62] Third, concerning how a learned paṇḍita teacher expounds the dharma, there are two (styles). In the noble land of India, the place of the dharma's origin, there were the two widely-renowned, great monasteries.

[63] The paṇḍitas who lived at glorious Nālandā monastery explained every word (of the Buddha) by means of the 'five-fold excellence' and every treatise by means of the 'five types of preliminary assessment'.

[64] The paṇḍitas who lived at Vikramaśīla monastery (first) 'transformed the listeners into proper vessels' and then taught the exposition of the doctrine by means of the 'twofold certainty'.

[65] Of these two (styles), the people of the Old Translation School follow the glorious guardian, noble Nāgārjuna, as well as Padmasambhava, and explain this great treatise, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, through the five types of preliminary assessment.

[66] Were one to ask, they are:

  1. Which author composed (the treatise)?
  2. Upon which scriptures does it draw?
  3. Under which category is it classified?
  4. What is its brief meaning from beginning to end?
  5. For whose benefit and for what purpose was it composed?

[67] First (assessment), the author: (The treatise) was composed by the great paṇḍita, the noble son of the victors, Śāntideva, who is adorned with a supreme life story in seven amazing episodes, such as how he excellently completed the three criteria for composing a treatise, and in particular how he was looked after and blessed by his supreme meditation deity, the venerable Mañjughoṣa.

As it is said:


  1. Pleasing his supreme meditation deity;
  2. His perfect display of activity at Nālandā;
  3. preventing a war;
  4. And taming those who held strange views,
  5. beggars,
  6. The king, and
  7. the tīrthikas.[3]

[69] (First episode) This great being (Śāntideva) was born in Saurāṣṭra, a southern province, as the son of King Kalyāṇavarnam and was named Śāntivarnam. From the time of his youth onward, paying homage to the former victors and being inclined toward the Mahāyāna family, he was respectful to gurus and practitioners, helpful to his entourage of ministers and subjects, and especially cared with compassion also for the disadvantaged such as poor and sick people, and so on. While thus devoting himself exclusively to the conduct of a bodhisattva, he also became learned in all sciences and arts, and in particular, he requested the sādhana of Tikṣṇa-Mañjuśrī from a beggar yogin; after practicing it, he beheld a vision (of that deity).

[70] On one occasion after his father, the king, had passed away, discussion was held about (Śāntivarnam) being empowered as the successor to the throne, and so a great jewel throne was arranged. That night he dreamed that the venerable Mañjughoṣa was dwelling on the great throne upon which he was to sit the next day. Mañjughoṣa spoke thus:

[71] My only son, this is my seat, And I am your spiritual guide. Under no circumstances would it be correct For you and me to share the same seat.

[72] Waking from the dream, and thinking it would be improper to rule the kingdom, he fled without attachment to the great wealth of the kingdom and was ordained by Jayadeva,[4] chief of the five hundred paṇḍitas of Nālandā, and was given the name Śāntideva.

[73] (Second episode) Concerning his internal conduct, he studied the tripiṭaka with the Noble One[5] then meditated upon its meaning. Condensing the most important points (of the tripiṭaka), he composed the treatises Śikṣā-samuccaya and Sūtrasamuccaya. Although he was endowed with such unfathomable qualities of renunciation and realization, the other (monks) knew nothing about it.

[74] Concerning his external conduct, he appeared to do nothing except bhukta (which is Sanskrit for) eating, susta (which is Sanskrit for) sleeping, and kucciva (which is Sanskrit for) strolling around. Therefore, he became known as 'Bhusukuva', 'the one who just eats, sleeps, and strolls around'.[6]

[75] (The other monks) scrutinized his external conduct and discussed it, saying,

“The activities of ordained monks are the three wheels (of conduct), but as this one (Śāntideva) does not do them at all, it is not proper that he eats the food devotees offer to the saṃgha. Therefore, he must be expelled!”

[76] Thinking,

“We take turns in (public) recitals of the sūtra scriptures; when his turn comes, he will run away.”

Again and again, they insistently requested that he recite the sūtras. As he repeatedly answered,

“I don't know anything at all,”

(the monks) said to the preceptor (Jayadeva),

“You yourself must command him (to do it)!” Consequently, the preceptor did command him, and he (Śāntideva) agreed to recite (the sūtras).

[77] Some (monks) thought suspiciously,

“We have no idea what he is up to.”

In order to put him to the test, they arranged many offerings on the vast ground outside the monastery and set up a towering lion throne in the midst of a huge crowd of people who had been gathered. When they called for (Śāntideva), most people were startled to find him already sitting on top (of the throne), not knowing how he had ascended it.

[78] (Śāntideva) asked,

“Should I recite something well known, something that was previously taught by the Ṛṣi,[7] or should I recite something never heard before?”

Surprised, all of them requested,

“Please recite something not yet heard.”

[79] As the Śikṣā-samuccaya was too extensive and the Sūtra-samuccaya too short, he recited the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, which was concise in words yet vast in meaning. At the same time, many people saw the noble Mañjuśrī dwelling before them in the sky and became very devoted.

While reciting (the words)“When neither an 'entity' nor a 'nonentity' …“ from the chapter on knowledge, the master (Śāntideva) together with Mañjughoṣa rose higher and higher into the sky, until finally his body became invisible, and he then completed the teaching with the sound of his voice (alone).

[80] When those (paṇḍitas) who had attained perfect recall put together what they could remember, some came up with seven hundred stanzas, some with one thousand, and some with even more than a thousand. The paṇḍitas from Kashmir produced a compilation of seven hundred stanzas in nine chapters, and those from the Central Land[8] produced a compilation of one thousand stanzas in ten chapters. Their lack of agreement led to doubts.

[81] Moreover, they did not understand (the words):[9]

I will definitely read again and again
The Śikṣā-samuccaya…


Alternatively, I will sometimes look at
At the condensed Sūtra-samuccaya.[10]

[82] Therefore, when they heard that the master was dwelling in the South at the Śrīdakṣiṇa Stūpa, two paṇḍitas who had attained perfect recall went to invite him (to come to Nālandā). However, when they met him, it was not convenient for him to return.

[83] Nonetheless, when they reported the situation to him, he said,

“The length of the text corresponds to the compilation of those from the Central Land. Both the Śikṣāsamuccaya and the Sūtra-samuccya, written in the fine script of the paṇḍitas, are in between the rafters of my room (at Nālandā). Look there!”

After he had thus instructed them, he gave them explanations and reading transmissions for those (texts).

[84] (Third episode) Next, (Śāntideva) went to the East, where, through his miraculous powers, he took part in a major conflict, reconciled (the parties), and brought them to happiness.

[85] (Fourth episode) Then again, he took as his students five hundred (people) who held strange views[11] and were dwelling in the western part of Magadha, not very far away. At some point, a great famine arose so that there was neither food nor drink. Suffering (from this), they said,

“If there is someone who has the power to supply us with food, we will respect his teachings.”

[86] The master collected alms, just enough to fill his begging bowl with rice gruel. Then, with his samādhi he blessed it so that it multiplied, and thus he satisfied them all. This turned them away from their strange views and caused them to enter into the doctrine of the Buddha.

[87] (Fifth episode) At another time, a great famine had arisen and about one thousand beggars were tormented by hunger. The master supplied those close to death with food and established them in happiness.

[88] (Sixth episode) Next, he worked as a bodyguard of King Atiśava[12] to the East in order to protect him from the attacks of Macala.[13] The master took a wooden sword in its scabbard and held it in the mudra of the venerable Mañjughoṣa. Having the perfect power of the dharma, he overcame the attackers. Thus, bringing happiness to every one of the nine types of beings,[14] he received great honors. Some jealous people who could not bear it said to the king,

“This man is an imposter! He has only a wooden sword for a weapon; he cannot guard the king! Please investigate him!”

[89] The king became upset and examined everyone's weapons, one by one.

When he commanded,

“Draw your sword!” (The master) replied,

“It would be wrong to do so as this would injure your majesty.”

(The king) said,

“It doesn't matter if it causes harm. Definitely draw it!”

[90] (The master) replied,

“Well, at a remote place, please cover one eye with your hand, and watch with the other.”

When he drew (the sword), its radiance caused one of the king's eyes to fall to the ground. (The king) and his entourage became frightened; they begged for mercy and took refuge. Then (the master) placed the eye back in the eye socket and blessed (the king) to be without pain and be able to see again. Thus, he caused everyone in the region to gain faith and to enter the dharma.

[91] (Seventh episode) Then he went to Śrīparvata in the South. (Going) naked in the manner of a beggar, which is known as the Uccuṣma conduct, he lived on the leavings of thrown-out dishwater. When Kacala,[15] the woman-servant of (king) Khatrivihāra,[16] threw out the dishwater, it splashed on the master, and she noticed that it sizzled and boiled like (water) splashed on red hot iron.

[92] At the time, a tīrthika teacher called Śiṃkaradeva[17] told the king,

“I am going to paint a maṇḍala of Maheśvara in the sky. If the Buddhists cannot destroy it, all Buddhist representations and scriptures will be burned and they must convert to (the doctrine of) the non-Buddhist tīrthikas.”

When the king summoned together the Buddhist saṃgha and informed them (of this), no one was able to claim that he could destroy (the maṇḍala).

[93] The king was devastated. However, when the woman-servant (Kacala) informed him of what she had recently seen, he commanded,

“Find him!”

Searching everywhere, they found him (Śāntideva) seated at the foot of a tree. When they explained the situation to him, he replied,

“I can do it, but prepare a vase filled with water, two lengths of cloth, and a fire!”

They did as they were told.

[94] On the evening of the following day, he (Śiṃkaradeva) drew a (maṇḍala) outline in the sky and left. Everyone began to worry. The next morning, he drew the maṇḍala and was just completing the Eastern (and final) gate, when the master, by merely resting in samādhi, caused a huge windstorm to arise, carrying the maṇḍala away without a trace remaining. Even the grass, trees, and towns were on the brink of being swept away, and the people who lived there were put to flight. The tīrthika teacher was also completely enveloped by the wind and carried off, like a little bird, and a great darkness fell.

[95] Then, from the point between the eyebrows of the master, a light emerged, showing a way for the king and the queen (to escape). Stripped of their clothes and covered with dust, they were freezing cold. He warmed them with fire, washed them with water, covered them in garments, and comforted them.

[96] Further, with his samādhi he gathered (the rest of the people) in front of him and comforted them by bathing, anointing, clothing them, and so on. He caused many tīrthikas to enter into the doctrine of the buddha, demolished the temples of the tīrthikas, caused the temples of the Buddhist dharma to flourish and increase, and thus made (the buddha dharma) remain for a long time. Therefore, this country was known as 'the country where the tīrthikas were defeated'.

[97] Although this master said,

“I am an ordinary being,”

he was (in fact) endowed with unfathomable qualities. He was considered an emanation of Mañjughoṣa, since Jetāri spoke of him as 'Śāntideva, the emanation of Mañjughoṣa'. And he was considered a noble being, since Prajñākaramati spoke of him as 'the noble Śāntideva'.[18]

And Vibhūticandra spoke of him as someone with perfect activities, saying:[19]

In the (history of) the Victor's doctrine
Many great beings and persons have appeared,
But I have found none whose
Experience and realization compare with Śāntideva's conduct.[20]

And, master Kṛṣṇa(pāda) spoke of him, saying,[21]

“He who touched the crown of his head to the lotus at Mañjuśrīghoṣa's feet…”

[98] This master (Śāntideva) composed three (texts): the Śikṣā-samuccaya which teaches in an extensive way; the Sūtra-samuccya which teaches in an abbreviated way; and the Caryāvatāra,[22] which is vast in meaning yet concise in words. Among these (texts), this Caryāvatāra was famous in India for its one hundred and eight commentaries.

[99] (Second assessment): Upon which scriptures does it draw? (The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) draws upon the tripiṭaka, the scriptures of the Buddha in general, and in particular, exclusively upon the sūtra-piṭaka.

[100] (Third assessment): Under which category is it classified? Generally, there are two (vehicles), the greater and the lesser. Of them, (the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) is classified under the category of Mahāyāna. Mahāyāna has two (vehicles), sūtra and mantra; of them, it is classified under the category of sūtra.

[101] (Fourth assessment): What is its brief meaning from beginning to end? (The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) explains in great detail how to train in the motivation, (which is) the generation of supreme bodhicitta, and in the application, (which is) the six transcendental perfections.

[102] (Fifth assessment): For whose benefit and for what purpose was it composed? (The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) was composed to benefit all sentient beings in general, and in particular, so that the five hundred paṇḍitas of glorious Nālandā could understand how to practice the way of the bodhisattvas in a complete and unmistaken fashion.

Settling the five assessments in this way serves the purpose of allowing the listeners to gain trust and thus become proper vessels for (receiving) the dharma.

How a student should listen

[103] Second, how a student should listen (to the dharma) has two (parts): motivation and conduct.


[104] First, the motivation of a great person must be embraced with the precious bodhicitta, the entrance way to immeasurable merit. One should contemplate,

“All of the sentient beings who have lived in saṃsāra have, since time without beginning, been my mothers and fathers. When they were my mothers and fathers, they cared for me with great kindness just as my present mother and father have. They fed me with the best food, dressed me in the best clothes, and through their great kindness alone brought me up with so much love.”


“Every one of these beings, each of whom has been so kind to me, wishes to be happy, yet being unaware that the cause of happiness is the dharma, the conduct of the ten virtuous actions, and so on, pursues only the causes of suffering, the ten non-virtuous actions, and the like. Their deepest wishes and actions being in opposition, they have become disoriented and have strayed onto the wrong path like blind people lost in the middle of a desert. How pitiful!”


“I have now attained a human body with freedoms and advantages. I have met a qualified master, and the genuine dharma does exist to be practiced. With such good fortune, I should not fall under the power of laziness and procrastination but should listen to and then practice this profound, sublime teaching (of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra). I will free every one of the motherly sentient beings from each of the individual karmic perceptions, sufferings, and habitual tendencies of the six realms and will attain the level of omniscient, perfect buddhahood.”

Generating bodhicitta by contemplating in that way is a sublime point of great importance.


[107] Second, the conduct has two (parts): the conduct to be avoided and the conduct to be adopted.

The conduct to be avoided

[108] First, the conduct to be avoided has (three points): the three defects of a pot; the six stains; and the five ways of not retaining.

[109] Of these, the three defects of a pot are:

  1. the defect of not listening (to the teachings) is like a pot turned upside-down;
  2. the defect of not retaining (the teachings) in mind is like a pot with a hole in it; and
  3. the defect of mixing (the teachings) with afflictions is like a pot containing poison.

[110] (1) When you listen to the teachings, you should not let your ear consciousness be distracted to other objects but should focus on the words of the dharma that is taught. If you do not listen (in this way) but are distracted by sights and conversation, it will be like pouring nectar onto a pot turned upside-down. Even though your body is sitting in an aisle (in the) teaching, you have the defect of hearing not even a single word of the teaching.

[111] (2) If you keep the teachings that you have heard on (the level of) superficial comprehension and superficial hearing, and you do not commit them to memory, it will be like a pot with a hole in it, in that no matter how much nectar is poured in, there is nothing to retain it. No matter how many teachings you hear, you have the defect of not being able to take them to heart and practice them.

[112] (3) If you listen (to the teachings) motivated by desire, such as the desire for greatness, the desire for fame, the desire for riches and honor, and so forth, or (with a mind) mixed with the five poisonous concepts of attachment, aversion, ignorance, and so on, it will be like pouring excellent nectar into a vessel containing poison. Not only will the dharma no longer benefit your mind, but you will have the defect of the dharma becoming non-dharma.

[113] You must listen without these three (defects). The Bhagavān instructs in the Medium-length Mother,[23]

“Listen closely, in the proper manner, and retain it in your mind! I will explain it.”

For this reason the sublime beings said,

“Unless you practice the dharma according to the dharma, the dharma itself becomes the cause for going to the lower realms.”

[114] The six stains. As the Vyākhyā-yukti explains:

Listening with

  1. pride,
  2. no faith,
  3. Lack of endeavor,
  4. Outward distraction,
  5. inward withdrawal, and
  6. Weariness; these are the six stains.

[115] Those who listen with

  1. pride, thinking, “I am superior to my teacher and my dharma friends”;
  2. no faith in the dharma, guru, or dharma friends;
  3. lack of the earnest wish to endeavor in the dharma;
  4. their senses going out toward objects so that they cannot focus one-pointedly;
  5. the mind being inwardly withdrawn into drowsiness and dullness; and
  6. weariness, since they do not want to listen (any longer) because the teaching session is too long and they are being distressed with hunger and thirst, heat and cold, and so forth

—(those people) will, in this life, (experience) hindrances to the dharmas of concentration, knowledge, and complete liberation (in regard to) the perfect nature of the words and (their) meaning.

And, also in their subsequent lives, they will not meet the dharma. As a consequence of these shortcomings, they will wander endlessly in saṃsāra. Therefore, with utmost respect, you should control your conduct and listen properly.

[116] The five ways of not retaining. One needs to abandon:

  1. retaining the words but not retaining the meaning;
  2. retaining the meaning but not retaining the words;
  3. retaining while failing to understand;
  4. retaining in confused sequence; and
  5. retaining incorrectly.

[117] Those five one by one (are as follows).

  1. If you retain (what you have heard) out of fondness for pleasant and elegant phrases and do not engage in analysis of the profound meaning, it will be of no benefit to your mind.
  2. When you are condescending toward (words), thinking, “What good are words?”, then, even though you try to catch the so-called 'profound meaning', without relying on words the meaning will not come.
  3. If you retain (what you have heard) but fail to understand the different (levels of) the teachings, such as the provisional meaning, the definitive meaning, and the covert intentions, you will run against the genuine dharma.
  4. If you retain in a confused sequence, you will have the contrariness of not being in accord with the sequence of the teaching, and so forth.
  5. If you retain incorrectly, then, perpetuating wrong concepts, you let your mind go to waste and you become a disgrace to the doctrine. Therefore, you need to abandon (these five ways).

The conduct to be adopted

[118] Second, the conduct to be adopted (has three parts):

  1. relying on four concepts;
  2. being endowed with the six transcendental perfections; and
  3. exposing other (inappropriate) modes of conduct.

[119] First, relying on four concepts: From the Gaṇḍha-vyūha-sūtra:

Noble son, you should give rise to the concept of yourself as a sick person.
Give rise to the concept of the dharma as your medicine.
Give rise to the concept of intensive practice as a fast cure for your illness.
Give rise to the concept of your spiritual guide as a learned physician.

[120] (Second), the yoga of listening to the dharma while being endowed with the six transcendental perfections. From the Chos spyod thams cad kyi man ngag mngon par rtogs pa'i rgyud:[24]


First, develop bodhicitta.
Then, meditate on yourself as Tārā
And imagine your right ear to be a lotus.
Meditate on your teacher as Mañjuśrī;
Light rays (emanate) from your master's mouth and
Actually dissolve into the lotus (of your ear).
Meditate on all beings as female deities,
And at the end (of the session) meditate a few moments
On non-conceptual emptiness.

That is the yoga for the beginning, the main part, and the end.


  1. Present flowers, a throne, and the like;
  2. Clean the area and control your conduct;
  3. Do not harm any insect;
  4. Supplicate the master;
  5. Listen without distraction to the master's instructions; and
  6. In order to dispel your doubts, ask him about unclear words.

Thus, you are endowed with the six sections of Tārā.

[123] (To explain this in detail):

  1. The person listening (to the teachings) should present a cushion, offerings, flowers, and so forth to the expounder of the dharma—this is generosity.
  2. (He) should clean the area and refrain from any disrespectful conduct of body, speech, and mind—this is discipline.
  3. (He) should not harm insects and bees that crawl between the rows of dharma (students) and should bear the greater and lesser discomforts of fleas and the like—this is patience.
  4. (He) should supplicate the dharma teacher and be diligent in listening—this is diligence.
  5. (He) should listen with a non-distracted mind and remember what is heard—this is meditation.
  6. And, (6) when analyzing the meaning of what he has understood, if doubts arise, (the listener) should inquire and discuss (doubts) with the teacher, thereby establishing conviction—this is knowledge. Thus (the listener) is endowed with the six perfections.

[124] As for the teacher:

  1. Teaching the doctrine is generosity.
  2. Being without afflictions is discipline.
  3. Putting up with physical and mental fatigue[25] and harm when teaching the dharma is patience.
  4. (Teaching) with joy is diligence.
  5. Being undistracted while expounding the dharma is meditation.
  6. And, (6) discerning the words and their meaning is knowledge. Thus, (the teacher) has the six (transcendental perfections) complete.

[125] (Third), exposing other (inappropriate) modes of conduct. As it is said:[26]

Do not explain the dharma to those who are disrespectful,
Nor to those who, while not being sick, wrap their heads,
Nor to those who carry parasols, staffs, or weapons,
Nor to those who cover their heads.

How both teacher and student should explain and listen

[126] Third, how both teacher and student should explain and listen is demonstrated by five or three great key points.

[127] First, the five great key points. From the Vyākhyā-yukti:

To those who wish to explain the meaning of the sūtras
I must give a short instruction.
The following (are the aspects of) the instruction to be explained:
One must teach by relating

  1. the purpose with
  2. the condensed meaning;
  3. The meaning of the words with
  4. the outline; And also with
  5. the responses to objections.

[128] The three key points are:

  1. dividing the text into chronological sections, like the leaping of a tigress;
  2. covering each syllable of the words, like the sliding walk of a turtle; and
  3. occasionally condensing the meaning, like the graceful movement of a lion.

[129] The five great key points and the three key points will be taught in one place or another in the text. One should refer to them at their respective places, as I will not elaborate on them in detail.

[130] In fact, my kind teacher (Paltrül Rinpoche) had realized all teachings without any contradictions, and all texts appeared to him as instructions. Therefore, he became a lineage holder for the teachings of the Old and New (Schools).

[131] On this basis, when asked,

“How should this text (the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) be explained?”,

I (Khenpo Kunpal) heard him say,

“It should be explained

  • to the followers of the Sakya School according to the commentary of the venerable Sönam Tsemo;[27]
  • to the followers of the Genden School[28] with the commentary of Darma (Rinchen);[29]
  • to the followers of the Kagyü School with the commentary of Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa and others;[30]
  • and to the followers of the Old School—and (in particular) for the Śrī Siṃha (Shedra) of the ancient Dzogchen (monastery)—according to their own tradition of the Old School.”[31]

[132] Later, due to special circumstances of location, time, and audience, he taught many different interpretations but mainly the commentary of Ngülchu Thogme.[32] In particular, he taught this text (the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) for six months to students such as myself (Khenpo Kunpal), to masters such as Chokgyur Lingpa, who is mentioned in the prophecies, to his sublime son, and others. At that time, mainly using the commentary of Ngülchu Thogme, he taught this text as an instruction for practice. I principally relied on my notes,[33] which guaranteed that everything he (Paltrül Rinpoche) taught remained in my mind, along with other (sources) in a chronological manner.

[133] For what I will explain here, scholastic elaborations such as quotations will be unnecessary, and I am fearful of (using too many) words. I have in mind something practical, a mere word-by-word commentary for beginners, easy to practice and understand. Therefore, I will not pursue (detailed) elaborations.
The explanation of the main topic

[134] Second, the explanation of the main topic has two (primary parts):

  1. the explanation of the title of the treatise and
  2. the explanation of the text that bears this title.

The explanation of the title of the treatise

[135] The first (main part) has two (sections):

  1. the actual title and
  2. the adjunct homage of the translator.

The actual title

inserted root text: title

In the Indian language: Bodhisatva-caryāvatāra[34]
In the Tibetan language: byang-chub-sems-dpa'i-spyod-pa-la-'jug-pa (Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas)

[136] First, the title (of this text), when quoted in Indian languages, is Bodhisatvacaryāvatāra in the divine language, which is Sanskrit, 'the well-composed (language)' among the four great and special canonical languages (that existed) in the noble land of India. When translated in an easily understandable fashion into the best language of the country of Tibet, (the title) is Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas.

[137] Correlating the two languages of India and Tibet,

  • 'bodhi' corresponds to 'awakening',
  • 'satva' to 'hero',
  • 'carya' to 'conduct',
  • and 'avatāra' to 'entering'.

[138] If you ask how (this text) received its name, then (a text) generally is named in accordance with its topic, the size of the text, the function (of the text), a location, a time, a person, a metaphor, and so forth. Here, from among those, (the name of this text derives from) the first, (which is the topic).

[139] The (etymological) meaning of the title: (in regard to the word 'bodhi', meaning 'pure and inclusive') the Ye shes drva ba says:

Because it is free from (all) stains, it is pure.
Because (all) qualities are unfolded, it is inclusive.

[140] It is pure because that which is to be overcome, the two obscurations together with (all) habitual tendencies, is 'cleansed' and purified. It is 'inclusive' because it encompasses all qualities and wisdom that can be realized.

[141] In order to attain this (bodhi), the (bodhisattva) is courageous since his mind does not shy away from conduct that is difficult to do, such as sacrificing his head and limbs to others. Therefore, he is a 'satva', a 'hero'.

From the Sūtrālaṃkāra:

The stable one is unshaken by
Suffering, negative-minded friends, or when hearing the profound.

[142] (In regard to the word) 'carya', the 'conduct', the lord of the victors, Longchenpa, said:

The children of the victors should train in all (fields of knowledge),
But they should principally train in the six transcendental perfections.

According to this statement, all of a bodhisattva's conduct is included within the six transcendental perfections.

[143] The (meaning of the word) 'avatāra', 'entering' into this conduct (is as follows): this text (the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) genuinely teaches, in a complete and unmistaken way, the manner and methods of practicing (the precious bodhicitta and the six transcendental perfections) in accordance with the mental capacity of a beginner.

[144] The purpose for giving a title and proclaiming it at the beginning (is both general and particular). The general purpose for giving a name: if one understands the connection between a name and its meaning, one will in no way be ignorant about what must be done and what must be avoided. From the Laṇkāvatāra-sūtra:

Had (the Buddha) not given names,
The whole world would have remained ignorant.
Therefore, the Protector, skilled in means,
Named (all of) his teachings.

[145] Particularly for this (text, the title) was given (according to) the topic. Therefore, when a person of highest capacity merely sees (the title of this text), he will understand the complete meaning from beginning to end. A person of average capacity will understand it in a general way, and a person of the lowest capacity will easily find the text, just like (finding) a medicine bottle to which a label has been attached. This is the purpose (for giving a title.)

[146] One might object, saying, “By quoting the untranslated title in the Indian language, one is thus repeating the title twice.” Not only is this so, but (in fact) there are four special reasons for leaving the untranslated title. What are they?

[147] (1) Because India is the genuine source of the dharma, (giving the title in the Indian language) serves the purpose of inspiring trust in the origin of the treatise.

[148] (2) Because all the buddhas of the three times speak in Sanskrit, the divine language, (writing the title in the Indian language serves the purpose of) enabling the blessings (of the buddhas) to enter into one's mind-stream when one recites or explains (the title) in this language.

[149] (3) Because one will teach the dharma in the future in this language (once one has become a buddha), (giving the title in the Indian language serves the purpose of) establishing a habitual pattern in that language.

[150] (4) Because one understands how difficult it is to merely recite the words (of the Sanskrit title) correctly, not to mention (how difficult it would be) to understand the meaning (of the text) or explaining (it) if the entire text were in Indian language just like the title, (giving the title in the Indian language) serves the purpose of remembering the kindness of the translators.

The adjunct homage of the translator

inserted root text:

Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!

[151] Second, the homage of the translator: This (homage) is inserted by the translator. There are (different types of homages), such as the homage ordered by the king, which is also known as the homage that identifies the (specific) piṭaka[35] (to which it belongs). During the time of the 'forefather dharma kings', the translators paid homage to any meditation deity to which they were personally devoted. (The kings) had not yet decreed that (the translators' homages) had to be uniform.

[152] King and ruler Tri Ralpachen invited many paṇḍitas and translators to the temple of Ushang Doyi Lhakhang and to the temple of Phang-Thang Kame. After they had finalized (all) the (translated) teachings (using) a revised language, (King Ralpachen) decreed that they must present a translator's homage (for each text), corresponding to the respective (piṭaka among) the three piṭakas, and that therefore the three piṭakas had to be translated so that they could be recognized as being distinct from one another. So (the king) decreed.

[153] Since the vinaya teachings on the most subtle laws of karma, cause and effect, are within the scope of the Buddha's knowledge alone, (each text of the vinaya-piṭaka) begins with 'Homage to the Omniscient One'. Since (the Buddha) taught the sūtrapiṭaka as questions and answers between the Buddha and the bodhisattvas, (each sūtra) begins with 'Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas'.

Since the teachings of the abhidharma, such as the subtle distinctions between

  • the (five) aggregates,[36]
  • the (eighteen) elements,[37]
  • the (twelve) sense fields,[38]

and so forth, can (only) be realized through profound wisdom, (each abhidharma text) begins with 'Homage to the noble Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta'.

Here, (in the case of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, the translator) presents his homage in accordance with the sūtra-piṭaka.

[154] Buddha ('awakened' and 'unfolded') means that he has 'awakened' from the deep sleep of ignorance and that he has completely 'unfolded' the lotus of wisdom toward (all) fields of knowledge. As it is said:

Because he has 'awakened' from the sleep of ignorance,
Because he has opened his mind to knowledge,
Because Buddha is 'unfolded' like a lotus petal,
Therefore, is he called the Buddha.

[155] Bodhisattva means a hero whose mind does not shy away from accomplishing enlightenment through developing supreme bodhicitta as the motivation and through endeavoring in the practice of the six transcendental perfections as the application.

[156] To all these, including the sublime teachings that dwell in the minds of both, (the buddhas and bodhisattvas), the translator, before beginning his translation, states, 'I pay homage', in order to complete (the translation) without obstacles.

The explanation of the text that bears this title

[157] Second, the explanation of the text that bears this title has three (subsections):

  1. the section of entering into the composition of the treatise,
  2. the explanation of the body of the treatise itself which is to be composed, and
    the conclusion, the sections which bring (the commentary) to a perfect ending.

The section of entering into the composition of the treatise

[158] The first (subsection) has four (parts):

  1. declaration of respect,
  2. pledging to compose (this text),
  3. casting away pride, and
  4. generating joy.

Declaration of respect

inserted root text: stanza 1 / first half

To the sugatas, who are endowed with the dharmakāya, together with their sons, and
To all who are worthy of veneration, I respectfully pay homage. That done,

[159] First, to whom do you pay homage when (the text) says, 'I pay homage'? (The text) presents the jewel of the Buddha (the first of the three jewels) by saying 'sugata' (the one gone to bliss) because, based on the vehicle of the bodhisattvas, the path of bliss, he has gone to the level of perfect buddhahood, the fruition of bliss.

[160] If one explains (the term) 'sugata' from the Sanskrit, then 'su' means 'excellent', 'beautiful', and 'blissful'; 'gata' means 'to embark upon a journey'.

Therefore, 'sugata' has three meanings:

  1. excellently or beautifully gone,
  2. gone without returning, and
  3. perfectly or completely gone.

[161] The meaning of these (three interpretations of the term 'sugata') can also be explained according to the teachings of the Indian and Tibetan scholars as 'overcoming' as well as 'realization'. (Both of these terms can be applied to the three interpretations) individually as well as in combination. Hence:

[162] (1) 'Excellently or beautifully gone' means that (the Buddha) has gone excellently or beautifully, as he is untainted by the defects of (the truth of) suffering and (the truth of) its origination, (both of) which point at total affliction. The example for (the Buddha being untainted) is that of a person with a beautiful body. While (the Buddha) has gone beyond saṃsāra, worldly beings have not transcended suffering, its causes and their fruition.

[163] (2) 'Gone without returning' means that (the Buddha) has eradicated the seeds of the view of having an identity and consequently does not return to saṃsāra, just as firewood that has already been burnt will not again flare up. The example for this is a person who has recovered from smallpox (and so cannot be re-infected). While (the Buddha) has surpassed (all) the paths of the non-Buddhists,[39] these (non-Buddhists), even if they reach the peak of worldly existence, can never transcend the confines of worldly existence.

[164] (3) 'Perfectly or completely gone' means that (the Buddha) has attained the supreme qualities of perfect overcoming and perfect realization without the slightest (degree of) anything remaining (to be attained). The example for this is a vase filled to the brim. He has surpassed the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas through his 'manner of having thus gone'. Though (śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas) will not fall back (into saṃsāra), they are only partially (realized) because they have not perfected (all the qualities) of overcoming and realization.

[165] Because the Bhagavān Buddha possesses or wields the power of the dharmakāya of realization and (the power) of the dharmakāya of the doctrine, (the text) says (the sugatas are) 'endowed with the dharmakāya', thus presenting the jewel of the dharma (the second of the three jewels).

From the Uttara-tantra:[40]

Understand that there are two kinds of dharmakāya:
The utterly immaculate dharmadhātu,
And that conducive to the cause of its (realization),
Which manifests in profound and manifold ways.

[166] It is said so because the Buddha is endowed with the dharmakāya of the doctrine, all the mountains of teachings, the profound and extensive scriptures which accord with the dharmakāya of realization, such as the ten powers and others.

[167] By (saying) 'together with their sons', (the text) presents the jewel of the saṃgha (the third of the three jewels). Generally, the son of his body is Rāhula, the sons of his speech are the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas, and the sons of his mind are the bodhisattvas.

[168] Just like the eldest son of a great king upholds the royal lineage, rules the entourage, the subjects, and people, and holds the key to the (storehouses of) treasure, just so the supreme sons of (the Buddha's) mind, the bodhisattvas, are the successors of the Victor, the holders of the dharma treasure. They (in turn) look after the retinue, the remaining ones yet to be tamed. Therefore, his mind sons are the bodhisattvas, the Mahāyāna saṃgha. And together with these, (Buddha and dharma), they constitute the three precious jewels.

[169] Furthermore, (I will pay homage) to all who are worthy of veneration, whoever they may be, not excluding a single one; to the śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas; to those who surpass myself by (even) a single quality, such as a senior (monk) who is as much as one finger-width of a shadow cast (in ordination time my) senior; and to those who are helpful and the like. How will I pay homage? (I will pay homage) respectfully with the three gates,[41] that is to say in a respectful manner.

[170] Who is paying respectful homage? The master Śāntideva (pays homage) in accordance with the manner of the sublime beings of noble descent. When is he paying homage? Before composing this treatise.

[171] The reasons (for paying homage) are:

  1. so that the composition of the treatise will be completed without any obstacles;
  2. so that his followers will truly trust in the authenticity of the treatise, develop faith, and be inspired to diligence; and
  3. so that (the treatise) will be successfully expounded and studied without any obstacles.

Therefore, (the text says) 'I pay homage. That done …'.

[172] Noble Nāgārjuna has said:

The declaration of respect to the Teacher, (the Buddha),
By the author of a treatise it is not without purpose,
Because leads to the generation of faith and devotion
In the teacher and treatise.

[173] From the Lalita-vistara-sūtra:

The ripening of merit brings happiness and dispels suffering.
A meritorious person will accomplish (all) wishes.

[174] 'That done…' is a continuative linker,[42] indicating, “That done (meaning, having paid homage) in this way, I will compose the treatise.”

Pledging to compose (the treatise)

inserted root text: stanza 1 / second half

In accordance with the scriptures, I will briefly explain
Entering into the precepts of the sons of the sugatas.

[175] Second, in this (treatise) I will briefly explain, in a manner easy to comprehend, in accordance with the teachings and scriptures of the victors, without pretence or idiosyncratic fabrications, this complete and unmistaken presentation of the method or manner of practice, (which is) entering into the conduct or the precepts of the bodhisattvas, the heart sons of the sugatas, the buddhas.

(The precepts) are the (three) trainings, which are (the three disciplines):

  1. the discipline of refraining from negative conduct;
  2. the discipline of practicing virtuous dharmas; and
  3. the discipline of fulfilling the benefit of sentient beings.

[176] The reason for saying in accordance with the scriptures is so that one will trust (this treatise). From the Pramāṇa-vārttika:

The scriptures are words one can trust.
Since (the Buddha) is free from defects,
He lacks the basis for speaking lies.
Therefore, the scriptures should be understood to be (words) free of defects.

[177] One might think,

“All the precious baskets of the immaculate teachings spoken by the Victor, which were retained in the endless knot within the heart of the perfect Buddha and which overflowed from the vase of his throat, and which he displayed on the lotus of his tongue, and which issued forth from between his conch shell teeth, still remain undiminished (in this world). Consequently, they need not be repeated again by composing this (treatise).”

[178] Although free from these defects, the teachings of the Victor are vast, and the scriptures are numerous. The lifespan of beings in this degenerate age is, however, short. Not only is their intelligence and diligence feeble, but moreover, they have succumbed to the influence of foolishness and laziness. Hence, it is difficult for them to know all the (teachings and scriptures) which exist; nor do they understand how to essentialize them into practice.

Considering (these beings) with great love, (Śāntideva) makes the pledge,

“To provide an easily understandable and concise (manual) for practice, I will compose this complete and unmistaken 'conduct of the bodhisattvas'[43]—this treatise for the practice of meditation—by gathering all the scattered fragments.”

[179] In general, there are four kinds of treatises:

  1. a treatise which rectifies sequential disorder;
  2. a treatise which elucidates difficult points;
  3. a treatise which gathers what has been dispersed; and
  4. a treatise for the practice of meditation.

The (Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) falls under the latter two categories.

[180] Since sublime beings never discard the burden of their promise, whatever it may be, (Śāntideva's promise) is the reason that this composition (of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) was completed.

[181] From the Prajñā-daṇḍa:

Sublime beings do not make many promises.
But once they have accepted a difficult (task),
It is as though written in stone;
Even in (the face of) death, they will not waver.

Casting away pride

inserted root text: stanza 2

I can say nothing here that has not already been said before,
And I possess no skill in prosody.
Hence, I would not even imagine that this might benefit others;
I wrote it only to cultivate (bodhicitta) within my own mind.

[182] Third, I can say nothing here, in this text, (teach) no profound meaning that has not already been said or taught before by the Bhagavān Buddha, Nāgārjuna, Asaṅga, and others. By saying this, (Śāntideva) casts away pride in regard to his words and prosody.

Still, Vibhūticandra's comment remains true:

In the (history of) the Victor's doctrine,
Many great beings and persons have appeared,
But I have found none
Whose experience and realization compare with Śāntideva's.

[183] I, Śāntideva, possess no skill that surpasses others in prosody, (such as one finds) in treatises that delight scholars because their words are woven together in prosody and poetry. This is the case with the Jātakamālā in 34 Sections by (the Indian) master Śūra,[44] as well as the previous life stories (of the Buddha) called Kalpalatā (written) by (the Indian poet) King Kṣemendra, and other meaningful (writings) concerning the previous life stories of the Victor which are taught in the sūtra-piṭaka.[45]

[184] Hence, for these reasons,

“I would not even imagine that composing this Caryāvatāra[46] might greatly benefit others.”

Thus, he casts away the pride of being skilled in words and meaning.

[185] If one thinks,

“But what, then, is the purpose of composing this (treatise)?”

(It is) in order to grow accustomed to and to cultivate within my mind the conduct of the bodhisattvas, which is the motivation of bodhicitta and the application of the six transcendental perfections. Moreover, because composing (a treatise) is supreme among the three of teaching, debating, and composing, I wrote it, (meaning) this text.

As master Candragomin said:

Therefore, among the three activities of scholars, Teaching and debating may be uncertain (in nature), However, there can be no delusion (permitted) in (regard to) composition.

[186] (What is) the reason for this (casting away of pride)?

As it is said,

“The water of qualities will not stay upon the ball of arrogance.”

When the mind is filled with arrogance it cannot hold the water of the sublime qualities of the (teachings of) scriptures and realization. Furthermore, one has become deluded by Māra (the evil one), and the treatises that one composes will not benefit others. Therefore, one should avoid these mistakes.

Generating joy

inserted root text: stanza 3

Through these (compositions) may the power of my faith
Increase for awhile so that I may cultivate virtue.
Still, if by chance others equal in fortune to myself view these,
Some benefit might ensue.

[187] Fourth, one might ask,

“Since you, (Śāntideva), are content just to know this for yourself, what is your reason for composing this (text)?”

[188] Through these compositions of the Caryāvatāra may the power or flow of my faith of amazement, inspiration, and conviction in my bodhisattva conduct increase more and more for a while so that I, or, in order that I, may become acquainted with or cultivate virtue, namely, bodhicitta and the conduct of the six transcendental perfections.

[189] (Śāntideva) generates joy within himself by proclaiming,

“As I become consistently familiar with and accustomed to (bodhicitta), it will increase everlastingly more and more.”

[190] (Śāntideva) adopts a posture of humility by saying,

“Still, if by chance others, similar types, equal in fortune to myself, who live (their lives) ardent for and straightforward in the conduct of the bodhisattvas, view these (compositions of) the Caryāvatāra, it is possible that some benefit might ensue, because (such persons) may enter with happiness and joy into the conduct of a bodhisattva.”

[191] The reason for this (is as follows): If one feels downtrodden due to an overly timid mind, one is not an appropriate vessel for giving rise to qualities. Therefore, one should be uplifted through generating a joyous state of mind.

[192] If one's mind is either overly elated due to pride or overly depressed in the face of timidity, (this condition) can cause obstacles to the development of special qualities within one's mind-stream, as is (illustrated) in the story from the Pitāputrasamāgamana-sūtra (that recounts) how the Bhagavān established his father, King Śuddhodana, in the truth (of the dharma).”

[193] Thus, these four prerequisites (of declaring respect, pledging to compose, casting away pride, and generating joy) are needed not only for a composition such as this, but they are also required for anything one may undertake, be it teaching, studying, meditating, and so forth.

The reason for this is that

  1. (by declaring respect) obstacles will not arise for this or that (undertaking);
  2. (by pledging to endeavor in such a task) it will be completed;
  3. (by casting away pride) one will overcome the haughtiness of an arrogant mind; and
  4. (by generating joy) one will overcome reluctance caused by laziness.

Therefore, if one is endowed with these four (prerequisites), whatever work one undertakes will be completed in an excellent manner. For this reason it is (known as) the approach of a noble person.

[194] Through the power of these four (prerequisites), the four aspects such as 'the purpose and so forth' are also demonstrated:

  1. The topic (of the text is indicated) by saying (in stanza 1, line three of the Tibetan text): “Entering into the precepts of the sons of the sugatas.”
  2. The purpose, making it meaningful to read (the text, is indicated) by saying (in stanza 1, line four of the Tibetan text): “In accordance with the scriptures, I will briefly…”
  3. The ultimate purpose, the unexcelled fruition that can be achieved, (is indicated in stanza 1, line one of the Tibetan text) by saying: “To the sugatas, who are endowed with the dharmakāya, together with their sons…”, which means that (the sugatas) are surrounded by hosts of bodhisattvas.
  4. The relation (between these is): The latter (aspects) cannot exist without the former (aspects).

[195] Again, the purpose for these (four aspects mentioned above) is to make people approach (the treatise) with trust and an inquisitiveness which searches for meaning; to prevent people from forming wrong ideas; and to beautify the text. Thus, the masters possess various special styles of explanation.

The explanation of the body of the treatise itself, which is to be composed

[196] Second, the explanation of the body of the treatise which is to be composed is summarized in an Indian text:

May the precious and supreme bodhicitta
Arise in those in whom it has not yet arisen;
And where it has arisen may it not decrease
But ever increase more and more.

[197] Thus, the ten chapters are explained by categorizing them into four sections:

  1. Three chapters that give rise to the precious bodhicitta in those in whom it has not yet arisen (chap. 1, 2, 3).
  2. Three chapters that prevent the decrease (of the precious bodhicitta) where it has arisen (chap. 4, 5, 6).
  3. Three chapters that not only prevent the decrease (of the precious bodhicitta) but cause it to increase more and more (chap. 7, 8, 9).
  4. A single chapter concerning the dedication of the results that have thus been developed for the benefit of others (chap. 10).

The three chapters that give rise to the precious bodhicitta in those in whom it has not yet arisen

The chapter on the benefits that generate joy

[198] To begin with, from among the three chapters that give rise to the precious bodhicitta in those in whom it has not yet arisen, first (comes) the chapter on the benefits that generate joy, which has two (sections): (1) the text (of the chapter) and (2) (listing) the name (of the chapter).

The text of the chapter

[199] The first has two (subdivisions):

  1. explaining the supporting basis (necessary) for (developing) bodhicitta, and
  2. explaining the benefits of generating bodhicitta, that which is supported (by the physical and mental basis).

Explaining the supporting basis (necessary) for (developing) bodhicitta

[200] The first has two (parts):

  1. explaining the physical basis (necessary for developing bodhicitta), and
  2. explaining the mental basis (necessary for developing bodhicitta).

Explaining the physical basis (necessary for developing bodhicitta)

inserted root text: stanza 4

These freedoms and advantages are extremely difficult to obtain.
Since I have gained (the opportunity) to accomplish that which is meaningful for a person,
If I do not practice what is beneficial in this (lifetime),
How will a perfect opportunity like this come about later?

[201] First, if one considers the perfect physical basis in terms of what it is free from, (then, since it is free from the eight unfortunate conditions, it is endowed with the eight) freedoms; and, in terms of what it possesses, (it possesses the ten) advantages.

Nāgārjuna said:

  1. Being born in a hell realm,
  2. as a hungry ghost,
  3. As an animal,
  4. as a long-living god, or
  5. as a barbarian,
  6. Having wrong views,
  7. being born (at a time) when there is no buddha, Or
  8. being born as a retarded person;

these are the eight states without freedom.

[202] Consequently, the eight freedoms are to be free from these eight unfortunate conditions which lack freedom.

The five individual advantages (according to Nāgārjuna) are:

  1. To be born as a human being,
  2. in a central land,
  3. with all one's sense faculties intact,
  4. Not in an extreme karmic predicament, and
  5. with faith in the dharma.

The five circumstantial advantages (according to Nāgārjuna) are:

  1. A buddha has appeared and
  2. has taught the dharma;
  3. His teachings still exist and
  4. are practiced; And
  5. there are those who are kind-hearted toward others.

[203] (Concerning) this precious human body endowed with the eighteen freedoms and advantages,

“If I reflect upon it in any way whatever, (such as) upon its causes, upon its example, or upon its numerical comparisons, it is (understood to be) extremely difficult to obtain.”


“If I reflect on (the unlikeliness of gaining a precious human body, considering) its causes, (I understand that it is) necessary to establish its basis through an utterly pure discipline, to support it by the (practices of the) six (transcendental perfections such as) generosity and so forth, and to embrace it with pure aspirations.”


“If I reflect on (the unlikeliness of gaining a precious human body, considering) it through an example, it is as difficult to gain as it is for a blind turtle, who lives in the depths of the great ocean and rises to the ocean's surface only once every hundred years, to (accidentally) stick its neck through a yoke (floating on the surface).”


“(If I reflect on the unlikeliness of gaining a precious human body, considering) it through numerical comparisons, there are as many beings in the hell (realms) as there are specks of dust in the whole world; as many in the preta (realm) as (grains of) sand in the river Ganges; as many in the animal realm as ferment particles in a beer barrel; and as many in the asura (realm) as snowflakes swirling in a blizzard. On the other hand, gods and humans are as few as the particles of dust that can be heaped on a fingernail.”


“Moreover, if I reflect on (the unlikeliness of gaining a precious human body, considering) the amount and quantity (of beings) through the example of stars at day time and stars at night-time, (I understand that) this (precious human body) is extremely difficult to gain.”

[208] 'di da-res bla-ma-dkon-mchog gi thugs-rje dang rang-gi las-dbang bzang-po zhig-gis skyes-bu'i ste / skyes-bu-gsum kyi don mngon-mtho dang nges-legs gang sgrub-na 'grub-par-nus-pa'i dal-'byor 'di rnyed-pa'am thob-par-gyur-pa la / gal-te lus-rten 'di la rang-gzhan la phan-pa dam-pa'i-chos[47] zhig ma-bsgrubs-par yengs-ma-lam-du mi-tshe-stong-zad dang dal-'byor don-med-du-byas-te bsdad-na / nam-'chi-cha-med / 'chi-rkyen nges-pa-med-pas dus do-nub tsam-du'ang mi-'chi-ba'i nges-pa-med-pas shi-bar-gyur-na phyin-chad dam phyis-su ni mi-lus 'di-'dra-ba yang-dag-par 'byorpar ga-la-'gyur-te / 'thob-par-mi-'gyur-bas dal-'byor don-med chud-zos-su-ma-byedcig ces gdams-te /

[209] des-na da-res dal-'byor-gyi mi-lus thob / mtshan-ldan-gyi bla-ma dang mjal // zabmo'i gdams-pa thob-pa'i dus-'dir rnyed-par-dka'-zhing 'jig-sla-ba rnyed-na don-cheba'i-tshul la yang-yang bsam-ste[48]

[210] 'jig-rten-gyi-bya-ba thams-cad che-bzhag-chung-bskyur-gyis rang-mgo-nyi-ma-choskyis-bton-te myur-ba-nyid-du dal-'byor la snying-po-lon-par-bya dgos-te / dpal mar-me-mdzad kyi zhal-nas /

tshe ni yun-thung shes-bya'i-rnam-pa mang //
tshe-yi-tshad kyang ci-tsam mi-shes-pas //
ngang-pas chu las 'o-ma-len-pa ltar //
rang-gi-'dod-pa dang-du-blang-bar gyis //

zhes gdams-par-mdzad-pa bzhin-no //

inserted root text: stanza 5

ji ltar mtshan mo mun nag sprin rum na
glog 'gyu skad cig rab snang ston pa ltar
de bzhin sangs rgyas mthu yis brgya lam na
'jig rten bsod nams blo gros thang 'ga' 'byung


“But now, since I have gained or have obtained these freedoms and advantages which give me the opportunity to accomplish the exalted states (within saṃsāra) or the ultimate goodness (of liberation and omniscience), that which is meaningful for a person, referring to the three kinds of persons, through the compassion of the teacher, the supreme jewel, and also through the force of my own good karma,

(then) if I spend this human life in a state of distraction and waste the freedoms and advantages, if I do not practice in this physical body the sublime dharma, which is beneficial for myself and others,

and, (since I) cannot even be sure that I will not die tonight since the time and circumstances of my death are uncertain, then how will a perfect opportunity of a human body such as this come about later or hereafter?

Since I will not have (this chance again), I will not meaninglessly waste these freedoms and advantages.”

Thus (Śāntideva) advises.


At this time when I have gained what is hard to gain and easy to lose, this time in which I have gained a human body (endowed with) the freedoms and advantages, have met a qualified master, and have received the profound instructions, I should reflect again and again upon how this is of great significance.


I should give up all worldly activities, the major as well as the minor, spending my (remaining) time on dharma practice and swiftly making use of these freedoms and advantages.”

As Dīpaṃkaraśrī[49] said:

Life is short and the fields of knowledge are many.
Not knowing at all the duration of your life,
You should pursue your own goal,
Just as a swan extracts milk from water.

Thus he instructs.

Explaining the mental basis (necessary for developing bodhicitta)

inserted root text: stanza 5

Just as a flash of lightning amidst cloudbanks in the pitch black darkness of night
Reveals, for an instant, brightly illuminated (shapes),
In the same way, occasionally, through the might of the Buddha,
A meritorious thought arises briefly in (the minds of) worldly people.

[211] Second, for example, just as a flash of lightning at night,
when the sun is absent, during pitch black darkness,
when there is no moon, amidst cloudbanks,
when there are no stars, for just an instant reveals brightly illuminated shapes;

in the same way as in this example,
at night when the wisdom sun of the Omniscient One is not shining,
during the pitch black darkness in which one does not know what to do and what to avoid,
and amidst cloudbanks (of obscurations) that cover the mind with the five or three poisons;

then occasionally, through the might of the two combined powers,
(the power) of the light rays of bodhicitta and the aspirations of the Buddha,
the Bhagavān, and (the power) of merit that beings have previously accumulated for themselves,
(only then) the wish or the thought of accomplishing what is meritorious or virtuous arises in the minds of ordinary worldly people,
(minds) which are (generally) obscured by the pitch black darkness of ignorance,
(and then only) briefly (or rarely), suggesting one (thought) out of a hundred or two out of a thousand.

[212] Since (such a thought) neither arises often nor for a long time, it is extremely rare. If a thought of intending to practice virtue does, however, arise, then just like a blind person holding on to the tail of a cow, one should not let it decrease, but (cause it to) increase more and more.

[213] Therefore, be resolute, meaning that one should be committed and should enter (into practice), thinking,

“I will not ask my father's permission nor will I discuss it with my mother.
I will make up my own mind; not handing over the power of decision to other people,
I will maintain my own independence.
I will leave my enemies to themselves and let my fields dry up.
I will genuinely practice the sublime dharma with tenacity,
(the dharma of) the ten ultimate jewels of the old Kadampa practitioners and the three wrathful mantras of master Tsangpa Gyare.”

[214] The ten ultimate jewels are:

  1. Discard the company of humans.
  2. Join the company of dogs.
  3. Attain the company of the gods.

These are the three of discarding, joining, and attaining.

  1. Direct your mind to the dharma.
  2. Conduct your dharma practice in poverty.
  3. Stay poor until you die.
  4. Die in a lonely cave.

These are the four pointers.

  1. Start out with the vajra of no discouragement.
  2. End with the vajra of no need to be ashamed (of faults).
  3. Live with the vajra of wisdom.

These are the three vajras; together they are ten.

[215] The three wrathful mantras are:

  1. Come what may.
  2. Wherever (dharma) leads me is fine.
  3. I do not need anything whatsoever (other than dharma).

Explaining the benefits of generating bodhicitta, that which is supported (by the physical and mental basis)

[216] Second, the benefits of generating bodhicitta, that which is supported (by the physical and mental basis), has three (points):

  1. the general benefits of bodhicitta,
  2. the individual benefits of (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and application, and
  3. the greatness of a person who is endowed with a mind that has developed bodhicitta.

The general benefits of bodhicitta

[217] The first has three (sections):

  1. the benefits of (bodhicitta) being far superior to other virtues;
  2. the benefit of (bodhicitta) causing a transformation in name and significance; and
  3. demonstrating the benefits (of bodhicitta) by means of examples.

The benefits of (bodhicitta) being far superior to other virtues

inserted root text: stanza 6

Hence, virtue is feeble while at all times
The great power of negativity is utterly unbearable.
Except for perfect bodhicitta
What other virtues could overcome (this negativity)?

[218] First: Hence, meaning 'for that reason', as explained before, a thought of intending to practice virtue is feeble, just like a flash of lightning, while at all times the thoughts of non-virtue and negativity, which are like the pitch black darkness of cloudbanks, are unbearable because their great power is utterly difficult to reverse, and it throws us into the lower states.

Except for the precious and perfect bodhicitta, which completely illuminates (everything) like the sun, what other ordinary virtues could overcome (this negativity)? None.

The reason for this is:

inserted root text: stanza 7

The mighty munis, who have contemplated for many aeons,
Have seen that this (bodhicitta) is beneficial
Because it causes unfathomable masses of beings
To attain supreme bliss easily.

[219] The perfect buddhas, the mighty munis, who have contemplated for many aeons, such as for three countless aeons and more, upon the only method that brings temporary and ultimate benefit and bliss to all infinite sentient beings, (they) have seen that this bodhicitta is beneficial because it purifies the negative deeds that beings have previously committed, disrupts the continuity of negative deeds in the future, outshines the afflictions in their minds, develops even the most subtle roots of virtue, and ultimately causes them to reach great enlightenment; (therefore, they) teach it to beings.

[220] (This is) because it, bodhicitta, causes, throughout all the three times, masses of beings that cannot be fathomed by numbers or extent to attain temporary benefits as well as the ultimate and supreme bliss, the level of unexcelled buddhahood, easily, meaning without any hardship.

inserted root text: stanza 8

Those who wish to overcome the hundreds of sufferings of existence,
Those who wish to remove the unhappiness of beings,
And those who wish them to enjoy multitudinous (forms of) bliss
Should never forsake bodhicitta.

[221] Therefore, those who wish to overcome the many hundreds of (types of) suffering of individual existence, such as birth, aging, sickness, death, and so forth, and (who wish to) enter into the methods (to do so), and those who wish to remove all the unhappiness of this and future lives of all other beings, and those who wish for all of them, themselves and others, to enjoy various, multitudinous (forms of) temporary and ultimate bliss should never forsake this bodhicitta—the method to accomplish whatever they wish—but should keep it in their minds.

The benefit of (bodhicitta) causing a transformation in name and significance

inserted root text: stanza 9

Once this bodhicitta has taken birth, in that (very) instant,
(Even) those who were captured in the prison of saṃsāra
Will be called 'sons of the sugatas'
And will be revered by (all) the world, including gods and men.

[222] Second, once this precious bodhicitta has taken birth in one's mind, regardless of whether one has a male or female body, whether one is of old or young age, of good or bad family, in that very instant, meaning at the very moment it has taken birth, even those miserable ones, those beings who were previously captured with the iron chains of karma and afflictions in the prison of saṃsāra, are transformed in name, and being adorned with the tiara of the name 'bodhisattvas, sons of the sugatas', they will be so called.

[223] They are also transformed in significance and will be revered by (all) the world, including gods and men. They will become an object of reverence, to be offered to and honored. Moreover, it is said to be proper that even the buddha bhagavāns honor the bodhisattvas, since bodhicitta is the teacher of (all) the buddhas.

Demonstrating the benefits (of bodhicitta) by means of examples

[224] The third has six (points):

  1. demonstrating (that bodhicitta leads to) the attainment of buddhahood through the example of alchemy;
  2. demonstrating (bodhicitta's) great importance through the example of jewels;
  3. demonstrating (bodhicitta's) inexhaustible and ever-increasing root of virtue through the example of a fruit-bearing, wish-fulfilling tree;
  4. demonstrating how (bodhicitta) outshines negativity that leads to the certain (experience of negativity's fruition) through the example of the helpful hero;
  5. demonstrating how (bodhicitta) totally eradicates negativity that leads to the uncertain (experience of negativity's fruition) through the example of the fire at the end of an aeon; and
  6. references to other textbooks which are not explained in this (text).

Demonstrating (that bodhicitta leads to) the attainment of buddhahood through the example of alchemy

inserted root text: stanza 10

(Bodhicitta) is just like the supreme kind of alchemical elixir,
For it transforms this impure body we have taken
Into the priceless jewel of the Victor's body.
Therefore, very firmly seize (this elixir) called bodhicitta!

[225] First, the example is that of the elixir of alchemy. Bodhicitta is what is indicated by this example. (Bodhicitta's) function is to transform something base into something noble.

[226] It is just like the supreme kind of alchemical elixir, a type of mercury known as 'Gold Maker', one ounce of which has the power to transform one thousand ounces of iron into noble gold; for if we embrace with bodhicitta this inferior body, consisting by nature of many impure substances, which we have voluntarily taken for many lifetimes for the welfare of others, without developing a mindset of wishing to discard it like the śravakas do, (then) it, (bodhicitta), transforms (this impure body) into the Victor's body, endowed with the qualities of a jewel whose price cannot be fathomed, the wish-fulfilling jewel which grants protection from all impediments of worldly existence and peace as well as the perfection of the two benefits.

Therefore, I advise you,

“Very firmly and without wavering seize this special elixir called bodhicitta, which possesses such powers!”

Following this advice, you should commit yourself to adopting it.

Demonstrating (bodhicitta's) great importance through the example of jewels

inserted root text: stanza 11

Since the immeasurable mind of the Sole Guide of Beings
(Saw) its great value when he thoroughly examined it,
(All) those who wish to be free from the realms of beings
Should firmly take hold of this precious bodhicitta in an excellent manner.

[227] Second, for instance, just like merchants who travel to islands in the ocean rely on a skillful guide and hold in high esteem jewels that he has examined, (so) those who wish to be free from all the suffering of the realms of beings, consisting of the six realms, should firmly take hold of this precious bodhicitta in an excellent manner— that is to say keeping it in their own minds by having the beginning, the main part, and the conclusion (of the precept-taking ceremony) complete, and by (practicing) mindfulness, introspection and heedfulness to prevent its deterioration—since the immeasurable mind of the incomparable Buddha himself, the omniscient wisdom of the Sole Guide of Beings, (the guide) of (all) those who wish to go to the island of liberation and omniscience, when he thoroughly, meaning for aeons and without error or deception, examined it, saw its great value, its great benefits; and thus, he taught it to all those to be tamed, because among all sublime teachings, buddhahood is attained through this bodhicitta.

Demonstrating (bodhicitta's) inexhaustible and ever-increasing root of virtue through the example of a fruit-bearing, wish-fulfilling tree

inserted root text: stanza 12

All other virtues are like plantain trees;
After coming to fruition they (simply) cease to be.
But the tree of bodhicitta constantly
Gives fruit and increases unceasingly.

[228] Third, all other virtues, as many as there may be, that are not embraced by bodhicitta are like the trunks of plantain trees, which die from their roots once their fruit has ripened and will not again bear fruit. Likewise, virtues that concord with (worldly) merit simply cease to be after coming to fruition (leading to rebirth in) the exalted states (within saṃsāra). Moreover, the aggregates of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas will cease to be without remainder.

[229] But virtues that are embraced by bodhicitta are like the noble tree, the wish-fulfilling tree, the fruit of which is inexhaustible and continues to increase. The fully ripened result is that one will constantly attain the abundant and perfect fruition of the temporary happiness of men and gods. This will not cease.

[230] The results similar to the cause will increase more and more and will ultimately give vast fruit, contributing to 'the mass of merit' of the Buddha's body. Thus, (the results similar to the cause) will continue to increase more and more unceasingly.

Demonstrating how (bodhicitta) outshines negativity that leads to the certain (experience of negativity's fruition) through the example of the helpful hero

inserted root text: stanza 13

Although I have committed the most unbearable negative deeds,
By entrusting myself to (bodhicitta), I shall be instantaneously liberated,
Just as (one will be liberated from) great fear by entrusting oneself to a hero.
Why do the ignorant not devote themselves to this?

[231] Fourth, although I have committed the most unbearable negative deeds, such as harming the three jewels by giving up the dharma and the like, as well as the five crimes with immediate retribution and will certainly experience the suffering of the Avīcī hell, just as, for example, a man who has (committed) the misdeed of having killed (someone's) father will—even if he goes to the son of the father (he has killed)— be instantaneously freed from great fear or from being harmed by an enemy (such as) the son taking revenge, by (means of) entrusting himself to a helpful hero; likewise, by entrusting myself to the precious bodhicitta, I shall be liberated instantaneously, meaning swiftly, from the suffering of the hells, which are the fruition of such great negativity, and will not take rebirth there.

[232] However, if I should be born there, I will be liberated as swiftly as a silken ball rebounds (from the ground) without experiencing (any suffering). That being the case, why do all the (people) who are afraid of negativity but who are ignorant not devote themselves to this bodhicitta, since it is appropriate to entrust oneself to it completely?
Demonstrating how (bodhicitta) totally eradicates negativity that leads to the uncertain (experience of negativity's fruition) through the example of the fire at the end of an aeon

inserted root text: stanza 14 / first part

Just like the fire at the end of an aeon, this (bodhicitta)
Definitely consumes in one instant (even) great negative deeds.

[233] Fifth, this bodhicitta definitely consumes and purifies in one instant—leaving nothing behind to be experienced—great negative deeds even more than has been explained above, such as (even) having killed one hundred people, just like the fire at the end of an aeon—meaning (the fire) which destroys an aeon—which burns in one instant without remainder the vessel-like world, not leaving behind even as much as the ashes of withered grass. Therefore, why would one not rely on this (bodhicitta)? One should rely on it.

References to other textbooks not explained here

inserted root text: stanza 14 / second part

The wise Maitreyanātha taught
Its unfathomable benefits to Sudhana.

[234] Sixth, since the benefits of this bodhicitta cannot be fathomed or measured by mind, they are infinite. The other (benefits) were taught by means of two hundred and thirty examples by the great representative of the Victor, the wise and venerable Maitreyanātha, to Bodhisattva Kumāra Sudhana, the son of the wealthy merchant Dhana. Learn (these examples) from the Gaṇḍha-vyūha section of the Avataṃsaka-sūtra.

[235] As (Śāntideva) made this reference, what does (the sūtra) say? From the Gaṇḍha-vyūha: “When Bodhisattva Sudhana developed bodhicitta in front of the noble Mañjuśrī, Mañjuśrī gave him a directive, sending him to the fully ordained monk Meghaśrī and others. The one hundred and ten spiritual guides on whom he successively relied each taught him only a single (aspect of) bodhisattva conduct.

Finally, when he went to Bodhisattva Maitreya, who was living in the South on the shore of the ocean, the venerable Maitreya spoke to his entourage:


Look! This is an utterly pure intention.
Sudhana is a son who is most well-endowed with wealth,
But searching for the sublime conduct of the bodhisattvas,
He has come before me, the wise one.
Welcome, you who have gained compassion and kindness.
Welcome to the vast maṇḍala of Maitreya.
Welcome! When looking at you, (I see) you are most peaceful.
As you underwent hardships, are you not tired?
You with utterly pure intent, come hither, you are welcome.

[237] Having thus spoken, he comforted and encouraged (Sudhana). After recounting the story of his past, (Sudhana) requested (Maitreya) to teach him the bodhisattva conduct. The venerable (Maitreya) told him,

“Take a look at our (my) palace (called) 'Essence decorated with the ornaments of Vairocana'!”

When (Sudhana) looked, he saw in every room of the palace how venerable Maitreya practiced the bodhisattva conduct, such as sacrificing his head, limbs, and so forth. Thus, Sudhana came to understand all (forms of) the bodhisattva conduct.

[238] Maitreyanātha taught extensively with regard to the benefits of bodhicitta:

“Noble son! Bodhicitta is like a seed which gives birth to all the qualities of a buddha. It is like a field because it increases good qualities in all sentient beings. It is like the earth because it supports the whole world.…Noble son! Bodhicitta is endowed with these (two hundred and thirty) qualities and even further immeasurable aspects of its benefits.”

[239] Among the benefits (of bodhicitta), the most important are these three:

  1. it leads to the attainment of enlightenment,
  2. it increases virtue, and
  3. it purifies negative deeds.

The individual benefits of (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and of application

[240] Second, the individual benefits of (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and of application have three (subsections):

  1. distinguishing between (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and of application,
  2. differentiating their benefits, and
  3. establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of scriptures and reasoning.

Distinguishing between (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and of application

[241] First, because all the qualities of the Mahāyāna path and its fruition arise from the development of supreme bodhicitta, one must at the outset develop bodhicitta. For the development of bodhicitta, two (subdivisions) can be distinguished: (1) the development of relative bodhicitta, achieved through tangible indicators, and (2) the development of absolute bodhicitta, achieved through subtle dharmatā.

Development of relative bodhicitta achieved through tangible indicators

[242] First, Maitreya said (in the Sūtrālaṃkāra):

  1. Through the power of a friend,
  2. the power of the cause,
  3. the power of the root,
  4. The power of studying, and
  5. (the power of) familarization with

virtue, (Relative bodhicitta) arises (first) unstably and (later) stably. Thus, I explain the development of (relative) bodhicitta, which is

(primarily) revealed by others.


  1. (Relative bodhicitta) may be born when meeting the helpful (power) of a spiritual guide, just as when in former times three young people went to meet a buddha and his two chief disciples. One made aspirations to become a buddha and the other two (aspired) to become (that buddha's) two chief disciples. Later, one (of these three young people) become our teacher, (Buddha Śākyamuni), and the other two (became) his chief disciples.

[244] (Similarly, relative bodhicitta) may be born (in the following ways):

  1. through the power of the cause, awakening to the (Mahāyāna) family;
  2. through (the power of) the root, the birth of compassion;
  3. through the power of studying the profound dharma; and
  4. through becoming accustomed to virtue, by gathering the accumulation of merit.

The first (power) is unstable, but the latter four are stable.

[245] On what basis is (bodhicitta) developed? Master Asaṅga and his brother[50] interpreted (bodhicitta) as a 'mental pattern', while Ārya Vimuktasena and Haribhadra interpreted (bodhicitta) as a 'dominant mind'.

[246] The Great Omniscient One (Longchen Rabjam) said,

“By developing a 'dominant mind', the 'mental pattern' is developed together with it.”

Therefore, the two earlier (statements) were simply interpreted as (denoting) the most important aspects (of bodhicitta).

Actually, by generating a 'dominant mind', a 'mental pattern' is already developed,
and by developing a 'mental pattern', a 'dominant mind' is already generated.

Thus, (Longchenpa) explained their interpretations as being without any contradiction.

[247] Concerning the characteristics (of bodhicitta): (Bodhicitta) is endowed with two benefits or with two aspects. Toward whom is it aimed? With compassion it focuses on the benefit of others. Toward what does it aim? With wisdom it focuses on perfect enlightenment. It is said (in the Sūtrālaṃkāra):

As it is endowed with two purposes, it is a mental pattern.

And (furthermore from the Abhisamayālaṃkāra):

The development of bodhicitta is to aspire to
Perfect and complete enlightenment for the benefit of others.

Development of absolute bodhicitta achieved through subtle dharmatā

[248] Second, the development of absolute bodhicitta is born from the power of meditation.

As Maitreya said (in the Sūtrālaṃkāra):

When the perfect Buddha is pleased,
When the accumulations of merit and wisdom are well-gathered,
When non-conceptual wisdom concerning all phenomena has been born,
This is understood to be the absolute (bodhicitta).

[249] The sublime teacher (Buddha Śākyamuni) delighted hundreds of perfect buddhas, received teachings of oral instructions, and, by gathering for one incalculable aeon the sublime accumulations—the accumulations of merit and wisdom—he directly perceived the truth of the first bhūmi, the wisdom that does not conceptualize any phenomena, the sublime realization.

inserted root text: stanza 15

In brief, this bodhicitta
Should be understood to have two aspects:
The mind that aspires to enlightenment,
And (the mind) that enters into (the conduct of) enlightenment.

[250] Furthermore, this bodhicitta can be differentiated by the first through the sixth (of the transcendental perfections); or, according to the Mother-sūtra,[51] by the distinctions of the stages (of bodhicitta development) aligned with the twenty-two (similes); and, according to the Sāgarmati-paripṛcchā-sūtra, it can be differentiated by the eighty unceasing factors.

Although many (types of distinctions) can be made, in brief, (bodhicitta) should be understood to have two aspects, which are the essence of (all) these numerous distinctions.

What are these (two)? (They are)

the mind that aspires to supreme enlightenment
and the mind that enters into the conduct of enlightenment.

inserted root text: stanza 16

Just as one understands the distinction between
Aspiring to go and (actually) going,
In the same way the wise ones should understand
The distinction between these two in their progressive order.

[251] How are these two distinguished? For example, just as one understands what is the distinction or difference between a person wishing or aspiring to go to a desired location and (a person) actually entering upon that path and going, in the same way, the wise ones, meaning the wise bodhisattvas, should understand also the distinction between these two, the bodhicitta of aspiration and of application, in their progressive order.

[252] Concerning this distinction between (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and (that) of application, which is taught through example, many different interpretations appear. Master Jñānapāda states that ordinary peoples' development of bodhicitta is (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and that the development of bodhicitta by noble beings is (the bodhicitta of) application.

[253] Abhaya,[52] Jñānakīrti and others state that the development of bodhicitta of someone who is on the path of accumulation is (the bodhicitta of) aspiration, and that (development of bodhicitta) from the path of application onwards is (the bodhicitta of) application.

[254] Śāntipa, Ratnakara, Sāgaramegha and others state that a mind aspiring to reach enlightenment without having received (the bodhisattva vow) through a ceremony is (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and that when (the vows are) received (through a ceremony), it is (the bodhicitta of) application.

[255] Prajñākaramati and others state that the difference is whether or not the mind engages in the conduct of enlightenment. Lord Atiśa states that focusing on the fruition, on buddhahood, is (the bodhicitta of) aspiration, while focusing on the cause (for enlightenment), the path, is (the bodhicitta of) application. This is identical with the statement which (indicates that) the difference lies between committing to the cause and committing to the fruition.

[256] Some state that as long as one has not yet reached the (stage of a) non-returner, it is (still the bodhicitta of) aspiration; once attained, it is (the bodhicitta of) application. These (statements) are nothing other than comments about the development of bodhicitta by ordinary beings and by noble beings. Almost all other (teachers) follow Śāntideva's teaching (of stanza 16), but they differ in their manner of interpretation.

[257] The Great Omniscient One (Longchen Rabjam) said,

“Committing to the fruition is the bodhicitta of aspiration,
and committing to the cause is the bodhicitta of application.”


All distinctions made through similes and through supporting factors
Come down to bodhicitta of aspiration and application.

This refers to both, (the bodhicitta) of aspiration and of application.

[258] In short (the bodhicitta of aspiration is): “I will free all mother-like sentient beings, equal to the reaches of space, from all suffering of existence and peace and will establish them on the level of complete and perfect buddhahood.”

[259] Thus, aspiring to progress to the fruition, which is the level of buddhahood, pursuing that aim and being committed to accomplish it—that is the development of the bodhicitta of aspiration, endowed with the two benefits or the two aspects.

[260] (In short), bodhicitta of application is developed (in the following way):

“With this aim I commit to practice the six transcendental perfections, the cause (of) and the path (to enlightenment). While keeping (this commitment), I will enter (into the path) and practice.”

Just as one should not lose the wish to go while (one is actually) going, in the same way, the bodhicitta of aspiration must be present at the time of the bodhicitta of application.

[261] The distinctions by means of aspects (such as 'the two kinds of bodhicitta', 'the three disciplines', and 'the precepts') are in essence identical. To practice virtue while aspiring to perfect enlightenment for the benefit of others is (the bodhicitta of) aspiration and application. Thus, safeguarding one's own mind (by precepts), increasing the accumulation of virtue, and acting for the benefit of others are the three disciplines. Through all of these, this safeguarding of one's mind against non-virtue and (all) its aspects is what is known as 'the precepts of the bodhisattvas'.

[262] (Thus, these terms) are said to be identical in essence while denoting different aspects. Like, for example, the precious jewel with three aspects, (bodhicitta) eradicates infectious diseases, grants (all) wishes and needs, and dispels darkness.

Differentiating their benefits

inserted root text: stanza 17

From the bodhicitta of aspiration,
Great fruits arise while still circling (in saṃsāra),
And yet, it does not have the unceasing stream of merit
As does the bodhicitta of application.

[263] Second, vast and great fruits of perfect glory, such as those of Brahma and Īśvara,[53] the kings of the gods, and those of a universal sovereign of human beings, arise from merely developing the bodhicitta of aspiration while still circling in this saṃsāra. And yet, it does not have the unceasing and uninterrupted stream of merit or virtues such as generosity, discipline, and others, as does the development of the bodhicitta of application.

inserted root text: stanza 18

From the point of time
When one has genuinely adopted this bodhicitta,
In order to free infinite realms of beings
With resolve from which one does not turn away,

[264] From the point of time when one has genuinely adopted this bodhicitta of application with resolve, thinking,

“In order to free and liberate infinite and boundless realms of sentient beings, the object of my intention, from the suffering of existence and peace, and (cause them) to achieve buddhahood, I will not turn away from my commitment but will enact the six transcendental perfections.”

Thus, I will maintain (bodhicitta) without letting it deteriorate.

inserted root text: stanza 19

From that moment on,
Even while asleep or inattentive,
An uninterrupted and multifarious force of merit
Arises, equal to the sky.

[265] If one maintains (this resolve), from that moment on, for that person, even while asleep or inattentive due to playing and the like, an ever-increasing, uninterrupted, vast, inexhaustible, and multifarious force of merit (which comes from practicing) generosity and the like, arises, immeasurable and equal to the sky.

[266] Having thus taken the precept of (the bodhicitta of) application, if one does not enact, from time to time, a minimum degree of generosity and so forth, one's virtue will not increase. Not only that, but it is said that one has thereby committed the grave fault of the major downfall of (intentionally) not engaging in virtue.

Establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of scriptures and reasoning

[267] Third, establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of scriptures and reasoning has two points:

  1. establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of scriptures, and
  2. establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of reasoning.

Establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of scriptures

inserted root text: stanza 20

This (presence of benefits) together with (four) reasons
Is what the Tathāgata himself explained
In (the sūtra) requested by Subāhu[54]
For the benefit of those inclined toward the lesser (paths).

[268] First, this presence of such benefits in those who have received the precepts (of the bodhicitta) of application and who do not let them deteriorate is unfathomable, no matter how one reflects upon it:

  1. in regard to the number of sentient beings, who are the objects of focus;
  2. in regard to the amount of suffering, that which is to be dispelled;
  3. in regard to the qualities of buddhahood, those which are to be obtained; and
  4. in regard to the duration of aeons, the time-span.

Therefore, that is what the Tathāgata himself explained, together with these four reasons, in the sūtra requested by the Bodhisattva Subāhu,[55] not only for the mere purpose of guiding those beings inclined toward the lesser paths, (such as) the paths of śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas, but for the benefit of enabling them to truly see and understand the definite qualities and benefits of bodhicitta.

[269] In this (Subāhu-paripṛcchā-sūtra it is said):

“If I, (the bodhisattva), don the armor (of courage) in order to bring benefit and happiness to boundless masses of sentient beings, I thus have boundless thoughts that bring benefit and happiness to all sentient beings. Consequently, the roots of virtue are also boundless. Even if I should be inattentive or fall asleep, still (these roots of virtue) will day and night, from moment to moment, increase, expand, and become utterly perfected.”

Establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of reasoning

[270] Second, establishing (the benefits of bodhicitta) by means of reasoning has two points:

  1. establishing the benefits of the bodhicitta of aspiration by means of reasoning, and
  2. establishing the benefits of the bodhicitta of application by means of reasoning.

Establishing the benefits of the bodhicitta of aspiration by means of reasoning

[271] First, since the distinctions of cause and fruition are a most hidden field of knowledge,[56] they are, consequently, the domain of the omniscient Buddha alone and not the domain of anyone else. Therefore, other than trusting in the genuine words of the Victor and observing what should be done and what should be avoided, (the law of karma) cannot (easily) be established logically by means of reasoning.

Since the benefits of bodhicitta are extremely vast, however, and because they were repeatedly praised by the Victor, it should be possible to establish them with reasoning. Therefore, I will (try to) logically establish (the benefits of bodhicitta by telling stories of Buddha's previous lives as a bodhisattva):

[272] In former times, when the son of the householder Maitra, (whose name was) Kanyaka, was about to go to sea to collect precious gems, his mother (tried to prevent him from going) by clinging to the hem of his garment and weeping.

He shouted,

“You have brought me bad luck for my journey across the ocean!”

He kicked her head with his foot and departed. His ship was wrecked at sea, but he held fast to a plank and was washed ashore onto an island.

[273] He travelled successively to the city called 'Joy' and others until finally he experienced unbearable suffering when an iron wheel (descended and) spun on his head. This caused him to develop compassion, as he thought,

“May all the suffering of those who experience the fruition of having kicked their mothers in the head ripen on me. May none of them experience (such suffering again).”

Immediately his agony ceased, and he soared up to the height of seven palm trees in a state of bliss.

After he died, he was reborn in the god (realm).[57]

inserted root text: stanza 21

If a person with a helpful intention
Thinks, “I shall merely relieve
The headaches of (a few) beings,”
(And this thought) is (already) endowed with boundless merit,


[274] If a person with an intention of wishing to be helpful thinks with such a compassionate mind (as the son of Maitra),

“I shall merely relieve the headaches of a few beings through medicine and the like,”

although he does not even (actually) dispel them through application, (still this thought) is (already) endowed with boundless merit,

inserted root text: stanza 22

Then it is needless to mention that
Wishing to dispel the boundless misery of every single being,
And wishing for each of them
To accomplish boundless qualities (also carries boundless merit).

[275] then it is needless to mention that the bodhisattvas' wishing to dispel all the boundless suffering and misery of this and future lives—for every single one, meaning each individually, for all beings equal to the extent of space—and their wishing to accomplish for each of them the boundless qualities, (both) temporary and ultimate, is (also) endowed with boundless merit.

inserted root text: stanza 23

Do even fathers and mothers
Have such a benefiting intention?
Do the gods and sages
Or even Brahma have it?

[276] Do even fathers and mothers—whose good intentions are renowned as being the most noble intentions in this world, and who, unlike the bodhisattvas, think,

“Wouldn't it be nice for our own child to have a long life, be free from diseases, and have great power, riches, authority, and the like?”

—have such a benefiting intention of bodhicitta, thinking,

“Wouldn't it be nice if they could reach the level of buddhahood?”

No, they do not.

[277] If you think,

“Well, (fathers and mothers) just do not know about (bodhicitta),”

then even the gods, who are endowed with the five (worldly) supernatural perceptions, and the sages, who know the eighteen great fields of knowledge, do not have such an intention either.

[278] If you think,

“These (gods and sages) don't have (bodhicitta) because they lack a benefiting intention,”

then (understand that the god) Brahma possesses the four Brahma states, and since Brahma wishes his own subjects to have happiness, he wishes them to be free from suffering and so forth. Do (these gods and sages) have this bodhicitta of wishing (all beings) to attain buddhahood? No, they do not.

inserted root text: stanza 24

If those beings have never before Even dreamed of such an intention (To attain buddhahood) for their own sake, How could it ever arise for the sake of others?

[279] If those beings, like fathers, mothers, gods, sages, Brahma, and others, never before even dreamed of or experienced in any of their dreams the dawn of such a special intention of wishing to attain buddhahood for their own sake, how could it actually ever arise for the sake of other sentient beings? It is not possible.

inserted root text: stanza 25

(The fact) that this most (exalted) jewel of the mind,
This intention to benefit (all) beings,
Which does not arise in others even for their own sake,
Has (now) taken birth (in my mind) is an unprecedented wonder.

[280] (The fact) that this most exalted thought, which is like a jewel among thoughts, this jewel of the mind, this bodhicitta of intention, which aims to benefit all beings, and which does not even arise in others, such as gods and so forth, for their own sake, much less for the sake of others, has (nonetheless) now taken birth in my mind through the power of studying the Mahāyāna teachings and through the power of a spiritual guide, is an astounding wonder, in other words, (that it is) something amazing, unprecedented in my mind, meaning that it was not born there before. It is as if the wish-granting tree of the god realm had taken birth in the world of the human realm.

inserted root text: stanza 26

It is the source of happiness for all beings.
It is the panacea for all the suffering of beings.
The totality of merit of this precious intention—
How can it be fathomed?

[281] It is the source that gives rise to all temporary and ultimate happiness for all boundless beings. It is the panacea, the great medicine that dispels all the illness of suffering of all beings.

The totality of merit or benefit of this precious intention, this bodhicitta—how can it be fathomed in measures, to say,

“It is this much”?

[282] The reaches of space, the number of sentient beings, the amount of suffering, and the qualities of the Buddha cannot be fathomed.

Therefore, from the Vīradatta-gṛhapatiparipṛcchā-sūtra:

If all the merit of bodhicitta
Were to take a physical form,
It would fill the entire realm of space
And would be greater even than that.

Establishing the benefits of the bodhicitta of application by means of reasoning

[283] Second, from the Samādhi-rāja-sūtra:

Even when offering constantly, every day,
All the boundless myriads of offerings that exist
In the millions and billions of buddha fields to the supreme beings,
The amount (of this merit) does not match that of a loving mind.

inserted root text: stanza 27

If a mere benefiting intention
Surpasses presenting offerings to the buddhas,
Then how much more so does striving for the sake of
The happiness of all beings without excluding any?

[284] If a mere benefiting intention (wishing with a mind of kindness that (all) beings be endowed with happiness) surpasses presenting offerings, such as the seven precious substances and the like, to the buddhas, the bhagavāns, then how much more so will striving to actually train in the six perfections—such as generosity for the sake of the happiness of all beings, without exception (and) equal to the reaches of space, in order that they may attain the level of buddhahood—also surpass making offerings to the buddhas?

inserted root text: stanza 28

Although (beings) wish to avoid misery,
They actually run toward misery itself.
Although they want to be happy, out of ignorance
They destroy their own happiness as they would an enemy.

[285] Although all sentient beings wish to avoid the undesired misery of this and future lives such as (having) a short lifespan, (contracting) many diseases, lacking wealth, and so on, yet their wishes and their actions contradict one another. By pursuing the ten non-virtuous actions such as killing, stealing, and so forth, they actually run toward misery itself in this and future lives, just as a moth leaps into a candle flame.

[286] Likewise, although they want to be happy in this and future lives, they do not know what to do and what to avoid, (which is) the method for (accomplishing happiness); out of ignorance, they not only fail to practice the ten virtuous deeds but instead commit various non-virtuous acts. Thus, they destroy their own happiness in this and future lives, looking upon (their own happiness) as they would an enemy.

inserted root text: stanza 29

(Bodhicitta) satisfies with all (the varieties of) happiness
And cuts (free) from all suffering
Those who are deprived of happiness
And those endowed with many sorrows.

[287] Therefore, through its great kindness (bodhicitta) satisfies with all (the varieties of) temporary and ultimate happiness, and through its great compassion (bodhicitta) cuts (free) from the stream of all suffering in this and future lives, those beings who are deprived and destitute of happiness including its causes, and those miserable ones endowed with many causes and fruitions of sorrow.

inserted root text: stanza 30

It clears away even ignorance.
Where is there a comparable virtue?
Where is there ever such a friend?
Where is there merit similar to this (bodhicitta)?

[288] Through its great knowledge, (bodhicitta) teaches the points of what to do and what to avoid. It clears away even the ignorance of being unknowledgeable about (karma, the law of) causes and fruitions, about what to do and what to avoid. Where is there any other comparable power of virtue and its causes? None exists.

[289] (Bodhicitta) accomplishes happiness and dispels misery. It teaches the points of what to do and what to avoid. Where is there ever such a helpful friend? None exists. Where is there ever even a fruitional (outcome), a merit similar to this bodhicitta? None exists.

[290] With these (stanzas Śāntideva) has shown the benefits (of bodhicitta).

The purpose of knowing these benefits is that if you think,

“This precious bodhicitta absolutely must be developed in my mind and in the minds of others,”

then you will pursue the methods for developing (bodhicitta) if it has not yet been born in your own mind and in the minds of others. You will not let it degenerate once it is developed; rather you will (pursue methods to) increase it more and more, just like a hungry person who longs for food and a thirsty person who longs for water.

Whoever has this irreversible, great, earnest wish has already obtained the result of knowing the benefits. However, merely knowing how to explain (the benefits of bodhicitta) to others is completely useless. You must meditate on (bodhicitta) over and over again in your own mind.

The greatness of a person who is endowed with a mind that has developed bodhicitta

inserted root text: stanza 31

If even a person who returns a favor
Is worthy of being praised to some extent,
Then what need to mention bodhisattvas
Who do good without being asked?

[291] Third, the greatness of a person who is endowed with a mind that has developed bodhicitta: If even a person who returns (a favor) to someone who did him a favor previously with food, money, and the like, later saying,

“This person has helped me before,”

(is considered to have) great qualities, such as the gods' protection of those who remember what has been done (for them)—(about which) it is said:

“People who remember what has been done for them and repay that kindness will be surrounded by the glorious protectors”

—and (so such a person) is worthy of being lauded and praised to some extent in the world, then what need to mention the praiseworthiness of the bodhisattvas, who should be presented with offerings and should be lauded, (as they are) those who do (in fact) practice only methods of goodness and welfare for this and all future lives, who give help without being asked, even though they themselves have not been helped before.

inserted root text: stanza 32

(If) someone who donates food continuously to a few people
And someone who only gives food once,
And even someone who satiates them for half a day in a condescending manner
Is honored by people, saying, “He performs virtue!” (then)

[292] As it is said:

“Based on the example one can understand the meaning,”

so through an example one understands the meaning better. If someone who gives or donates food continuously—meaning uninterruptedly, for a year, a month, or a day—to just a few hundred or a thousand people, (which is) an inferior, (limited), object; or someone (else) who only gives food, an inferior substance, without donating any (additional) valuable gifts, just once, for the time-span it takes to complete this action, an inferior, (limited), time-span; and even someone, a benefactor, who satiates them with food only for half a day, an inferior service, (and does that) in a condescending manner, such as beating and hitting them, which is an inferior treatment, and is, in the (eyes of the) world, (still) worthy of being lauded and honored by many people, saying,

“He performs the virtue of (making) vast donations,”


inserted root text: stanza 33

What need to mention those who always bestow such (a great gift),
The peerless bliss of the sugatas,
For a long period upon boundless multitudes of beings,
(Thus) fulfilling all their wishes?

[293] What need to mention that the bodhisattvas, the benefactors, are worthy to be praised and honored, (as they are) those who always and constantly bestow such a great gift, not upon an inferior object but upon boundless multitudes of realms of beings equal to the reaches of space; not for an inferior time-span but for a long period until saṃsāra is emptied; not with an inferior substance but with the peerless bliss of the sugatas, the buddhas; not with an inferior treatment but in a peaceful and respectful manner; (and) not with inferior service but especially fulfilling all their individual wishes, without excluding any?

inserted root text: stanza 34

The Sage has said, “Whoever bears an evil thought
Against such a son of the victors, a benefactor,
Will remain in hell for as many aeons
As the number of his evil thoughts.”

[294] The Sage, (the Buddha), has said,

“Whoever among beings, no matter whether he (actually) inflicts harm with his body and speech, or even if he only bears in anger, or in another (afflicted state of mind), an evil thought, (such as) wishing,

“If (only) something bad would befall this one… ,”

against such a son of the victors—a great benefactor who grants the level of buddhahood, as explained above—(such a person) will remain in hell and experience great suffering for as many aeons as the number of his evil thoughts. This is to say that if one divides into sixty-four moments the time-span it takes a strong man to snap his fingers, then one of these (sixty-four) moments is (called) 'an ultimate split second'. (One must remain in hell) for as many (aeons) as there are (split seconds in a negative thought).

inserted root text: stanza 35

But whoever (looks at a bodhisattva) with a devoted mind,
The fruits of this will multiply far more than these (evil thoughts).
Even in greatest adversity, the sons of the victors
Never generate negativity; instead, their virtues naturally increase.

[295] As it is said in the Praśānta-viniścaya-prātihārya-sūtra:

“Bodhisattva Mañjughoṣa! Be forewarned, since for as long as someone has a mind full of anger or contempt toward a bodhisattva, for that many aeons will that being dwell in hell.”

[296] But whoever among sentient beings looks at a bodhisattva with the attitude of a joyous and devoted mind, the fruits of this are vast, such as experiencing the happiness of the gods of Tuṣita for many more aeons than the number of seconds of the duration (of looking with devotion at the bodhisattva), and therefore will multiply far more than these fruitional results of (having) negative thoughts (toward a bodhisattva).

[297] As it is said in the Niyatāniyatā-mudrāvatāra-sūtra: “Mañjuśrī, in the completely unlikely case that the eyes of all sentient beings of all the worldly realms of the ten directions would fall out, and in the completely unlikely case that some noble sons and noble daughters were to reproduce these eyes out of love for all these sentient beings; Mañjuśrī, suppose some other noble sons and noble daughters were to look at a bodhisattva who is devoted to the great vehicle with an attitude of faith, they would generate incalculably greater merit than these (former).”

[298] Even if the sons of the victors, the bodhisattvas, are in adversity in the greatest difficult conditions, such as having no food to eat, no clothing to wear, no money at hand, with their relatives dead and their cattle lost, injured by afflictions such as diseases, disease-causing demons, enemies, spirits, and so forth, then however great they (these adversities) may be, (the bodhisattvas) are beings who turn bad omens into auspicious conditions, who allow bad conditions to arise as enhancements.

[299] Therefore, having no obstacles for the dharma, they never generate negativity but instead (treat difficult conditions as) something that serves as a purification of their (former) negative deeds and an encouragement to virtue. Thus, virtues like renunciation, kindness, compassion, and so on naturally increase more and more, as (seen) in the examples of Prince Dānarata and King Maṇicūḍa.[58]

[300] Those bodhisattvas who are meek in courage and unskilled in methods cannot bear even a few minor inconvenient circumstances arising.

As it is said:

Well fed and warmed by the sun, he is a role model for practitioners;
When meeting difficult circumstances, he is an ordinary being.

[301] But those who are stable-minded and skilled in means are as Asaṅga said:

Even when the world and beings are filled with negativity,
He transforms all difficult circumstances into the path to enlightenment.

Whatever difficult situations arise such as diseases, suffering, enemies, spirits, and the like, if one does not fall under their influence, they become an aid to accomplishing enlightenment, just as wind harms a candle flame but supports a forest fire.

inserted root text: stanza 36

I pay respect to the body of those
In whom this sacred and precious mind has arisen
And who link to happiness even those who have caused them harm.
To that very source of happiness I go for refuge.

[302] I, Śāntideva, pay respect, with (my) three gates[59] in most respectful manner, to the body of those in whom, be they high or low persons, this precious bodhicitta has arisen, (which is) the (most) sacred among all thoughts of the mind, expelling all impediments of existence and peace; and who, through the power of their compassion, their bodhicitta, their skill in means, and their aspirations cause to reach or link to temporary and ultimate happiness, as in the example of Sage Kṣāntivādin[60] and King Maitrībala,[61] even those who have caused them harm, (who have harmed) the bodhisattvas by belittling them and the like.

For them it is just as is said:

“In the case of an auspicious connection you will reach buddhahood in one lifetime, and in case of a negative connection, you will eventually reach the end of saṃsāra.”

[303] Just as (Śāntideva) has gone for refuge by saying,

“I go for refuge in these bodhisattvas, in these sublime beings, (who are) that very source of all happiness for this and future lives,”

since, because they bring benefit to anyone who ever connects with them under any circumstance, we also should, therefore, also pay respect and go for refuge to the sons of the victors, the bodhisattvas.

[304] Well then, earlier (in stanza thirty-four), it was said that developing a negative attitude toward a bodhisattva leads to rebirth in hell, and here (in stanza thirty-six), (Śāntideva) says that even causing harm (to a bodhisattva) links one to happiness. If someone were to ask,

“Don't these two statements contradict one another?”

(the answer is) they do not contradict each other.

[305] The former (statement) conveys the meaning that, from the perspective of the results of actions being unfailing, those with a negative attitude (toward a bodhisattva) will immediately be reborn in hell. Here, (stanza thirty-six) conveys the meaning that through a bodhisattva's compassion and bodhicitta, and through a bodhisattva's skill in means and powerful aspirations, he (even) takes care of (beings who have a negative attitude toward him; due to their link with him, their rebirth in saṃsāra will eventually come to an end).

[306] The importance of knowing the qualities of those endowed with a mind that has developed bodhicitta is that if you make confessions and commitments concerning whatever misdeeds you previously committed with (your) three gates[62] toward the bodhisattvas and take (the bodhisattvas) as your refuge, you will have positive results. But merely knowing (that this is true) and explaining it (to others) is in no way sufficient. You must take it to heart and meditate on it.

[307] In general, Tibet is said to be an area tamed by Ārya Mahākaruṇā (Avalokiteśvara) and (a country of those) with affinity toward the Mahāyāna. As most people (in Tibet) in these days have received empowerments, they are special beings endowed with many qualities, such as having become bodhisattvas, recipients of respect and offerings from humans and gods. They will even become the buddhas of the future.

Therefore, if you previously developed wrong views about these (people), (expressed) exaggeration as well as denigation (about them), and so forth, you should make confessions and resolutions (not to repeat these deeds in the future). From today onward, you should train in pure perception and take (all such beings) as objects of respect, offerings, and refuge.

[308] The sūtras say that at this time of degeneration the bodhisattvas will have many defects in relating to other beings. Therefore, it is important not to look at beings' mistakes but to train in pure perception. Just as the Brahmins of India, who considered the moon to be a god, did not pay respect to the full moon but paid respect only to the moon of the (third) day, in the same way (as the moon of the third day will become full), you should be respectful to the bodhisattvas (who will become buddhas).

[309] If (a bodhisattva) possesses some faults of wrong-doing, then, because (wrong-doings) are compounded, they will be ended through the power of (the bodhisattva's) meditation along the path, and he will (finally) attain buddhahood. It is like that, (and) not that anyone (ever) obtains buddhahood by virtue of being faultless from the outset.

Therefore, do not look at the wrong-doings and faults of beings. This is a very important piece of advice.

Listing the name of the chapter

inserted root text: chapter title

From the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, the first chapter, entitled “Explaining the Benefits of Bodhicitta.”

[310] The name of the chapter is: From the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, the first chapter, entitled

“Explaining the Benefits of Bodhicitta.”

Footnotes and references:




stong gsum means 1.000 to the power of three, which equals one billion single world systems.


The Sanskrit word tīrthika is often translated as 'heretic', but tīrthika in fact refers to someone who is on a path other than the Buddhist one.


For biographical notes on Jayadeva [rgyal ba'i lha] see Tāranātha's History of Buddhism, pages 197-198, 214, 217.


Either Jayadeva or Mañjuśrī.


read: za ba, skr. bhuñjāno; nyal ba, skr. supto; and 'chag pa, skr. kuṭīṃ gata.


An epithet for the Buddha


yul dbus pa, skr. madhyadeśa


stanza 105 and text section 264, fifth chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.


stanza 106 and text section 265, fifth chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.


ya mtshan gyi lta ba; skr. pāṣaṇḍika.


Ariviśana in Magadha.


The meaning of the phrase 'attacks of Macala' [ma tsa la'i gnod pa byed pa] is not clear.


See Illuminator.


bu ston chos 'byung reads Kacalahā.


bu ston chos 'byung suggests Khativihāra.


bu ston chos 'byung reads Śaṃkaradeva.


See sher 'byung bka' 'grel, page 1, folio 45b5.


See vibhūti dgongs 'grel, page 236, folio 229b3.


Compare with text section 182 where the word 'conduct' does not appear in the Tibetan.


See kṛṣṇa dka' gnas, page 186, folio 106b1.


Abbreviation for Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.


The Medium-length Mother, in Tibetan yum bar ma or yum 'bring ba, refers to the Prajñāpāramitā in twenty-five thousand verses.


The Tantra of Thorough Comprehension of the Instructions on all Dharma Practices.


See Illuminator: sems skyo ba and lus ngal ba


Stanza 88 of the fifth chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.


See bsod nams rtse mo 'grel pa, written by the great Sakyapa master Sonam Tsemo [bsod nams rtse mo] (1142-1182).


The Genden School [dge ldan pa] refers to the Gelukpa School [dge lugs pa].


See dar ṭik, written by Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen [rgyal tshab dharma rin chen] (1362-1432).


See gtsug lag 'grel chen, written in 1565 by Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa [dpa' bo gtsug lag phreng ba] (1504-1566).


See dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 17a2-3: He explained (the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) to the followers of the Nyingma school according to the great commentary by Prajñākaramati and according to the commentary by Ngülchu Thogme [rnying ma'i nang sher 'byung blo gros kyi 'grel chen dang / thogs 'grel ltar bshad par mdzad la].


See dngul chu thogs med 'grel pa, written by Ngülchu Thogme Zangpo [dngul chu thogs med bzang po] (1295-1369).


See dpal sprul zhal rgyun.


Note that Tibetans transcribe the Sanskrit 'bodhisattva' as 'bodhisatva'.


The three piṭakas or collections are: vinaya-piṭaka, sūtra-piṭaka, and abhidharma-piṭaka


skr. skandha


skr. dhātu


skr. āyatana


The 'non-Buddhists' or 'outsiders' [phyi rol pa; skr. bahirdhā] and the Buddhists or 'insiders' [nang pa; skr. ādhyāmika].


See Buddha Nature, pages 39, 169.


The three gates [sgo gsum] are body, speech and mind.


This morpheme, called by Tony Duff 'continuative linker' or 'continuative connector', is called by Hahn 'semi-final-particle' [lhag bcas]. See Illuminator; The Thirty Verses, chapter on 'Structures of the Tibetan Language'; and Schriftsprache, pages 148-155.


This refers to the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.


For biographical notes on Ācārya Śūra [slob dpon dpa' bo] see mkhas btsun bzang po Vol. I, pages 473-485.


See the Jātaka section [skyes rabs] in Peking Tangyur Vol. 128-128.


Abbreviation for Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.


B: rang gzhan la phan pa'i dam pa'i chos


B: bsams te


Dīpaṃkaraśrī [dpal mar me mdzad] or Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna [dpal mar med mdzad ye shes] or Jobo Je Palden Atiśa [jo bo rje dpal ldan a ti śa] are names of Atiśa ((982-1054).


Asaðga and his brother Vasubandhu [thogs med sku mched]


Mother-sūtra [yum mdo] is a general Tibetan term for the Prajñāpāramitā literature. But here it particularly refers to Asaðga's Abhisamayālaṃkāra [mngon rtogs rgyan].


For biographical notes on Abhaya or Ācārya Abhayākaragupta [slob dpon 'jigs med 'byung gnas sbab pa] see Tāranātha's History of Buddhism, pages 313-315.


An epithet for Indra.


See Subāhu-paripṛcchā-sūtra.


See Subāhu-paripṛcchā-sūtra.


'Most hidden', 'radically inaccessible', radically imperceptible [shin tu lkog gyur; skr. atyanta-parokṣa].


See rtogs brjod rtsa 'grel, pages 625-627; Heaven Tree, pages 407-410; and Maitrakanyakāvadāna.


See Heaven Tree, pages 11-15; rtogs brjod, page 12-22; and rtogs brjod rtsa 'grel, pages 442-445.


The three gates [sgo gsum] are body, speech and mind.


See Garland of Birth-Stories, pages 253-268 as well as Heaven Tree, pages 193-194.


See Garland of Birth-Stories, pages 55-71.


The three gates [sgo gsum] are body, speech, and mind.

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