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 ...

Text Sections 177-178

The Buddha is utterly free from delusion [’khrul pa] and from fear [’jigs skrag med pa]. People tell lies based on delusion and fear. If someone is free from ignorance, desire, anger, jealousy and stinginess, then that person is not able to tell lies, even if he wants to.

The ’sublime dharma’ [dam pa’ chos] which the Buddha held in the endless knot [dpal gyi be’u] within his heart refers to the ’dharmakāya of realization’ [rtogs pa chos sku]. The endless knot in his heart is simply a poetic expression for the Buddha’s mind. His throat is compared to an overflowing vase, his tongue to a lotus, and his teeth to conch shells. His spoken teachings are known as the ’dharmakāya of the doctrine’ [bstan pa chos sku].

The sublime dharma is comprised of the ’words’ or ’pronouncements’ of the Buddha [bka’] and treatises [bstan bcos] composed by the Buddha’s followers. One can identify different kinds of pronouncements of the Buddha [sangs rgyas kyi bka’ gsum].

1) ‘The pronouncements given orally by the Buddha’ [zhal nas gsungs pa’i bka’] are considered the most important and were all eloquently proclaimed [legs par gsungs ba] by the Buddha himself [ston pa dngos kyi zhal nas gsungs pa]. This refers to sūtras such as the Prajñāpāramitā-sañcaya-gāthā [mdo sdud pa / sher phyin sdud pa], the Mañjuśrīnāma-saṃgīti [’jam dpal mtshan brjod], and others.

2) Moreover, ’the pronouncements given through blessings’ [byin gyis brlabs pa’i bka’] are teachings not proclaimed by the Buddha in person [ston pa dngos kyi zhal nas gsung ba ma yin par] but by his great followers like the arhats and the bodhisattvas. When these great beings teach the dharma, the blessings of the Buddha come through in their teachings. The Daśabhumika-sūtra [sa bcu pa’i mdo] was taught through the blessings of the Buddha’s body [sku] by Vajragarbha [rdo rje snying po] and Vimukticandra [rnam grol zla ba] after the Buddha had placed his hand on the crown of their heads.

The Aṣṭa-sāhasrikā-prajñā-pāramitā [brgyad stong pa] was taught through the blessings of the Buddha’s speech [gsung] by Subhūti [rab ’byor] after the Buddha had encouraged him with a statement. The Bhagavatī-prajñā-pāramitā-hṛdaya [sher snying / shes rab snying po] was taught through the blessings of the Buddha’s mind [thugs] in a dialogue between Śāriputra [śā ri’ bu] and Avalokiteśvara [spyan ras gzigs], while the Buddha remained in samadhi.

3) Furthermore, ’the pronouncements given by mandate’ [rjes su gnang ba’i bka’] are teachings given by persons who have been authorized by the Buddha or by their masters to teach the dharma to others. This refers to all teachings of the Buddha transmitted through the compilers of the teachings [bka’ bsdu ba po], such as Ānanda [kun dga’ bo], Mahākāśyapa [’od srung chen po] and others. This type of teachings begins with the phrase,

“Thus have I heard, at one time…”

[’di skad bdag gis thos pa dus gcig na].[1]

All pronouncements of the Buddha are included within the Kangyur, which has preserved the entire tripiṭaka [sde sndo gsum]. The Kangyur includes all sūtras [mdo] and tantras [rgyud] since they are both considered pronouncements of the Buddha. The three promulgations of the dharma [chos ’khor rnam gsum] as well as the fourth promulgation, the ’promulgation of the Secret Mantra’ [gsang sngags kyi chos ’khor], are incoporated within the Kangyur. The Tangyur contains all treatises [bstan bcos].
Text section 179:

The ’treatises’ [bstan bcos] are ’commentaries’ [dgongs ’grel], texts which elucidate these pronouncements. Khenpo Kunpal enumerates four types of treatises.

  1. A treatise which rectifies sequential disorder [’khrugs pa go rims su bsdeb pa’i bstan bcos] systematizes and structures a vast text when the order and systematic treatment of the teaching are not obvious.
  2. A treatise which elucidates difficult points [gab pa ’byin pa’i bstan bcos] explains difficult subjects, passages and words.
  3. A treatise which gathers what has been dispersed [’thor ba sdud pa’i bstan bcos] compiles knowledge of a particular subject from many scriptures, consolidating it into one book.
  4. A treatise for the practice of meditation [sgrub pa nyams len giy bstan bcos] is written for practitioners.

The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is a treatise which gathers what has been dispersed as well as a treatise meant for the practice of meditation.

Actually, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra combines the three kinds of genuine treatises [bstan bcos yang dag gsum] in one text. It is a treatise which is meaningful [don dang ldan pa’i bstan bcos], a treatise that leads to the overcoming of suffering [sdug bsngal spong ba’i bstan bcos], and a treatise concerned with the application of practice [sgrub pa lhur len pa’i bstan bcos].

The word treatise [bstan bcos] translates the Sanskrit word ’śāstra’, which is derived from ’śasti’, meaning to overcome or to transform [’chos], and from ’trāyate’, meaning to protect [skyob]. A true Buddhist treatise must possess the two qualities of ’overcoming’ and ’protecting’. Thus, a treatise teaches how to overcome the five afflictions of attachment, aversion, ignorance, arrogance and jealousy, and thus protects one from the causes for taking rebirth in the three lower realms. Therefore, the Vyākhyā-yukti [rnam bshad rigs pa] says:

That which overcomes the enemy of afflictions without exception
And affords protection from rebirth in the (three) lower realms
Is a treatise, for it has the qualities of overcoming and protecting.
Treatises that have both these (qualities) do not exist in other traditions.

nyon mong dgra rnams ma lus ’chos pa dang
ngan ’gro’i srid las skyob ba gang yin pa
’chos skyob yon tan phyir na bstan bcos te
gnyis po ’di dag gzhan gyi lugs la med

Only treatises which are exclusively based on the direct words of the Buddha [bka’] are ‘ultimate’ treatises. Only they are endowed with the qualities of overcoming and protecting. Therefore, studying and practicing them diligently is very meaningful.

By studying a treatise such as the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra one can reach a level of knowledge about the dharma that will remedy blind faith. A practitioner of the dharma should eventually gain the faith of conviction, an unshakeable certainty [nges shes] in the dharma.

A Buddhist practitioner should know what Buddha, dharma and saṃgha really are. Such a practitioner should really understand how to practice bodhicitta and the six transcendental perfections. Intellectual understanding [go ba] of the teachings must lead to direct experience [nyams myong] of the teachings.

Finally, the experience must lead to the realization [rtogs pa] of the teachings. As one reads, studies and practices the dharma more, one’s wrong views, misunderstandings and doubts should to that extent be dispelled, and certainty about the dharma should dawn in one’s mind.

Footnotes and references:


For further details on the three pronouncements see Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 74-76.

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