by Andreas Kretschmar | 246,740 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 ...

Regarding the second episode of Śāntideva’s life, concerning his activities at Nālandā University, the text literally says ’the perfect design of Nālandā’. ’Design’ [bkod pa] refers to the ‘sequence of his life story’ [rnam thar gyi bkod pa], meaning the display of his actitvity [mdzad pa]. Ideally, a translator should strive to find a term that covers both the literal translation of the word [tshig bsgyur] as well as the translation of the meaning [don bsgyur]. If an expression that perfectly matches both word and meaning cannot be found, then one should give preference to the meaning over the literal translation.

Regarding his internal conduct, Śāntideva studied the tripiṭaka in private with the noble Jayadeva [’phags pa]. This particular passage in Khenpo Kunpal’s text is ambiguous because the phrase,

“He studied the tripiṭaka with the Noble One,”

could refer either to the noble Mañjuśrī or to the noble Jayadeva. In our opinion, the term ’noble’ or ’Noble One’ [’phags pa] in this context refers to Jayadeva and not to Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī. Butön,[1] in his biography of Śāntideva, is equally ambiguous saying,

“As concerns his internal conduct, he heard the doctrine from the Noble One.”

Tāranātha,[2] in his biography of Śāntideva, states:

“…though inwardly he was always meditating and listening to the doctrine from Ārya Mañjuśrī....”

Another biographer, Tsechok Ling,[3] renders it as,

“Relying on the preceptor (Jayadeva), he studied the tripiṭaka and so became an outstanding scholar. Studying the dharma for a long time with the noble Mañjuśrī, he internalized all the teachings and instructions of sūtra and tantra.”

On the basis of all the teachings he received, Śāntideva composed three treatises: the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra [spyod ’jug], the Śikṣā-samuccaya [bslab btus],[4] and the Sūtra-samuccaya [mdo btus]. These treatises summarize all that he learned over the course of his studies of the sūtra teachings. While Śāntideva certainly had visions of Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, gaining many insights and ultimately great realization from him, it is also likely that he thoroughly studied the tripiṭaka with the Nālandā preceptor, Jayadeva.

Footnotes and references:


See bu ston chos ’byung, page 167: nang gi kun spyod ’phags pa la chos gsan


See Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism, page 217; rgya gar chos ’byung, page 202: nang du ting nge ’dzin dang ’phags pa ’jam dpal la chos gsan zhing /


See lam rim bla brgyud, folio 293.2: mkhan po la brten te sde snod gsum la sbyangs pas mkhas pa’i phul du phyin par gyur cing rje btsun ’jam pa’i dbyangs la yun du chos gsan te mdo sngags kyi bka’ dang gdams ngag ma lus pa thugs su chud /


For an English translation see Compendium of Buddhist Doctrine.

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