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 ...

The four interrelated aspects such as the purpose and so forth [dgos sogs chos bzhi] are also called ’the fourfold interrelated purposes’ [dgos ’brel bzhi / dgos ’brel yan lag bzhi]. When these four interrelated aspects are present, one will enter into the study of a treatise, since the treatise promises to be meaningful.

The aspects are:

  1. the topic [brjod bya],
  2. the purpose [dgos pa],
  3. the ultimate purpose [nying dgos], and
  4. the relation between them [’brel ba].

The first stanza of the first chapter demonstrates these four aspects:

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

1) The third line in the first stanza in Tibetan indicates the topic of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra:

“Entering into the precepts of the sons of the sugatas”

[bde gshegs sras kyi sdom la ’jug pa ni].

This line belongs to the section known as ’pledging to compose’ the text [rtsom par dam bca’ ba], the second of the four prerequisites [rgyu bzhi]. By stating the topic of the treatise, the author tells the reader what the text is about.

2) The overall purpose of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is laid out in the following line from the first stanza:

“In accordance with the scriptures, I will briefly explain ….”

[lung bzhin mdor bsdus par bya].

This line also belongs to the section on ’pledging to compose’ the text.

The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is a treatise which gathers what has been dispersed [’thos ba sdud pa’i bstan bcos] as well as being a treatise for the practice of meditation [sgrub pa nyams len gyi bcos]. Therefore, it will be meaningful and beneficial to anyone who reads it. This is the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra’s real purpose, to condense all the teachings of the Buddha into one single treatise.

3) The ultimate purpose [nying dgos / mthar thug gi dgos pa] of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is spelled out by this line from the first stanza:

“The sugatas, who are endowed with the dharmakāya, together with their sons…”

[bde gshegs chos kyi sku mnga’ ba sras bcas].

The ultimate purpose is to achieve the level of the Sugata, ’the one gone to bliss’, who is endowed with the dharmakāya. This line belongs to the section called ’declaration of respect’ [mchod par mchod pa], the first of the four prerequisites. Through the practice of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra one will be able to achieve the level of the sugatas, endowed with the dharmakāya. This ultimate purpose reveals the goal to which the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra leads.

4) The relation between these [’brel ba]: The latter aspects cannot exist without the former. First, you state the topic of the text; next, you state its purpose. Finally, you indicate where it is leading, the ultimate purpose. Lacking a topic, whatever you produce will not be meaningful to read.

Without something meaningful to study and learn, you cannot reach the ultimate fruition, the dharmakāya. The interdependent relation of the three previous aspects is only implied [shugs nyid kyis] in the root text. It is not explicitly stated as the relationship is obvious.

In this way, the latter aspects are dependent on the former. If you do not understand the conduct of the bodhisattvas, you cannot understand the vast teachings of the Buddha, and without the Buddha’s teachings you cannot reach enlightenment.

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