Bodhisattvacharyavatara

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 ...

In his preface Khenpo Kunpal includes his declaration of respect [mchod par brjod pa], his pledge to compose the commentary [rtsom par dam bca' ba], and a foreword [sgo brjod]. Text sections 38-42 cover the declaration of respect, text section 43 is the pledge to compose this commentary, and text section 44 is a short foreword. Text sections 45-133 introduce the prefatory topics. The actual commentary begins at text section 134.

In his declaration of respect, Khenpo Kunpal pays homage to his meditation deity and to the lineage of masters through whom the Buddhist teachings came down to him. This lineage begins with Buddha Śākyamuni, continuing on through the great bodhisattvas such as Maitreya, Mañjughoṣa ['jam pa'i dbyangs], the sixteen elders, the seven heirs to the doctrine, the great paṇḍitas and siddhas of India, the Tibetan translators, and all the great masters of the Old and New Translation Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, down to Khenpo Kunpal's root guru, Paltrül Rinpoche.

When the scholars of India and Tibet composed a treatise or a commentary they would always start out with lines of homage to their favored deity-form of the Buddha, called the declaration of respect [mchod par brjod pa]. The purpose of this was to invoke the blessing of the Buddha and to dispel any obstacles that might hinder their composition. 'Declaration of respect' means 'to make respectful praises' [gus bstod byed pa] or 'to supplicate the objects of offering' [mchod yul la gsol ba 'debs pa], as well as meaning 'to offer prostrations' [phyag 'tshal ba].

Both Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhism emphazise the importance of this direct link between devotion to one's root guru, the downpour of the Buddha's blessings, and the dawn of realization within one's own mind-stream. While the sūtra tradition considers the guru to be similar to the Buddha [sangs rgyas 'dra bo], the tantric tradition considers the guru to be the actual Buddha in person [sangs rgyas dngos]. The guru is regarded as the root of blessings. If the blessings of the guru do not enter into one's mind, the mind's full potential can never be actualized.

Respect is declared out of the intent to fully actualize the mind's potential [sems kyi nus pa rab tu sad phyir du]. If you compose a book, teach the dharma, enter into a debate or into your private meditation, you must always begin by bringing the blessings of your gurus down upon you through a supplication which opens up your heart and mind [sems kha phye ba'i phyir du]. This will saturate your mind-stream with blessings and so lead you to realization.

Khenpo Kunpal first pays homage in Sanskrit to his chosen meditation deity, the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, whom Khenpo Kunpal, due to his pure perception and devotion, views as identical to his root guru, Paltrül Rinpoche.

'Declaration of respect' [mchod par brjod pa] also has the connotation of 'declaring one's respect to sublime objects' [yul dam pa rnams la mchod par brjod pa].

'Sublime objects', objects worthy of refuge [skyabs 'os pa], refers, in the context of a Mahāyāna treatise such as this book, to the three jewels:

  1. the jewel of the Buddha,
  2. the jewel of the dharma, and
  3. the jewel of the saṃgha.

The Mahāyāna saṃgha refers particularly to the bodhisattvas who dwell on the bodhisattva levels of realization, the ten bhumis.

When Khenpo Kunpal says homage to the teacher Mañjuśrī, he pays respect to Mañjuśrī with his body, speech, and mind [lus ngag yid gsum gyi sgo nas phyag 'tshal ba]. In doing so, he simultaneously acknowledges [khas len pa] the Buddha as his teacher, the dharma as his path, and the saṃgha as his companions along the path. This is possible since all three jewels are embodied within the form of the teacher Mañjuśrī. This declaration of respect is an expression of the faith [dad pa], devotion [mos gus], conviction [yid ches pa], and certainty [nges shes] which Khenpo Kunpal places in the buddha dharma, in his meditation deity, and in his sublime teacher, Paltrül Rinpoche.

Declaring one's respect before composing a treatise renders it beneficial for manifold sentient beings. If future students of the dharma find such a treatise, they will have faith in it, as they will be able to immediately recognize it as a Buddhist textbook [sangs rgyas kyi chos lugs kyi gzhung]. The declaration will inspire their faith and trust in the treatise [gzhung la dad pa dang yid ches]. If the author did not declare his respect to the buddhas at the very beginning of his treatise, future readers might have cause to doubt its validity.

A 'declaration of respect' [mchod par brjod pa] is not the same thing as a 'presenting of offerings' [mchod pa 'bul ba]. The 'declaration of respect' has several purposes: to cause any possible obstacles or adversities which might arise in the course of composing the treatise to subside, as well as to enable the author to successfully complete his composition free of obstacles in the beginning, during the middle, or at the end of the writing process. Beginning the treatise with such a declaration will inspire faith and trust in the reader and will sow an important seed of liberation [thar pa'i sa bon] in the reader's mind-stream.

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