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 ...

Looking at the human body and considering what it is free from, one can enumerate eight freedoms [dal ba brgyad]. In general, freedom means having the opportunity to practice dharma. Lack of freedom [mi dal ba] refers to eight unfortunate conditions [mi khoms pa’i gnas brgyad] that lack such an opportunity.

The eight freedoms [dal ba brgyad] are not being born in any of the eight states without freedom, which are:

  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,
  8. Or being born as a retarded person; these are the eight states without freedom.

These eight unfortunate conditions include four unfortunate conditions of non-humans [mi ma yin pa’i mi khom pa bzhi] and four unfortunate conditions of humans [mi’i mi khom pa bzhi].

The four unfortunate conditions of non-humans are

  1. being born in a hell realm,
  2. as a hungry ghost,
  3. as an animal, and
  4. as a long-living god.

The four unfortunate conditions of humans are being born

  1. as a barbarian,
  2. in a land of those with wrong views,
  3. in a land when a buddha has not come, and
  4. as a retarded person.

1. Being born in a hell realm [dmyal ba], one has no opportunity to practice the dharma because one is constantly tormented by intense suffering in one of the eighteen hell realms. These are the eight hot hells,[1] the eight cold hells,[2] the temporary hells [nyi tshe ba],[3] and the neighboring hells [nye ‘khor ba], which are also called the sixteen additional neighoring hells [nye ’khor lhag pa bcu drug].[4]

2. Being born as a hungry ghost, a preta [yi dvags], one has no opportunity to practice the dharma because of the suffering one experiences from hunger and thirst. There are two types of pretas: those who live collectively [bying la gnas pa’i yi dvags] and those who move through space. Pretas who live collectively suffer from external obscurations [phyi’i sgrib pa can], internal obscurations [nang gi sgrib pa can], and specific obscurations [sgos khur gyi sgrib pa can].

3. Being born as an animal [dud ’gro], one has no opportunity to practice the dharma because one is enslaved [bkol spyod] and suffers from harming each other. Animals are classified into two categories: those living in the depths [bying la gnas pa] and those scattered in different places [kha ‘thor ba].

4. Being born as a long-living god [lha tshe ring po], one has no opportunity to practice the dharma because one spends one’s time in a stupor [’du shes med pa]. The environment of a long-living god is experienced as one of the four dhyana states. Their bodies manifest as a samadhi-body. They lack the ability to distinguish between happiness and suffering, virtue and negative deeds, and live in a state similar to deep sleep. They have neither physical nor mental sensation and are in a state of cessation. As they are free of concepts, they may live for eight great aeons, but they are totally separated from the sublime dharma, so they never have the chance to practice the dharma. Imagine that you have taken rebirth in such a state and consider whether or not you have the opportunity to practice the dharma.

5. Being born as a barbarian [kla klo], in a border country [yul mtha’ ’khob], one has no opportunity to practice the dharma because the Buddhist doctrine is unknown in such places. Barbarians are primitive or savage human beings who have no knowledge of how to distinguish between virtue and negative deeds. Such people make offerings to spirits and demons with the blood of animals, and they believe that taking life is something good.

6. Being born among tīrthikas or among those with similar wrong views [log lta can], one has no opportunity to practice the dharma since one’s mind is influenced by those mistaken views. This refers to human beings born in a land where the general world view is either eternalism or nihilism. Eternalists believe that the entire universe is created by an almighty god. Nihilists do not believe in the law of karma, in past and future lives, in enlightenment, and so forth. Such views prevent beings from meeting the genuine dharma.

7. Being in a dark aeon [mun pa’i bskal pa], at a time when there is no buddha [sangs rgyas kyis stong], one has no opportunity to practice the dharma because one has never even heard of the three jewels and cannot distinguish between virtuous and non-virtuous acions.

8. Being born as a retarded person [lkugs pa],[5] one has no opportunity to practice the dharma since one’s faculties are impaired. A retarded person is someone with a speech dysfunction [ngag lkugs pa], someone who is not able to talk [skad chad lab mi shes par ’gyur ba]. A retarded person is also someone with a mental disability [yid lkugs pa], an imbecile [glen pa]. A person who is born in such a condition is someone whose mind is not functioning properly [rang rgyud las su ma rungs pa] and, therefore, cannot properly listen, contemplate or teach the dharma. A person born with a mental disability cannot properly comprehend the dharma.

Footnotes and references:


The eight hot hells [tsha dmal brgyad; skr. aṣṭa-aṣṇa-naraka] are (1) the reviving hell [yang sos; saṃjīva], (2) the black-line hell [thig nag; skr. kālasūtra], (3) the rounding-up and crushing hell [bsdus ‘joms; skr. saṃghāta], (4) the howling hell [ngu ‘bod; skr. rāurava], (5) the great howling hell [ngu ‘bod chen po; skr. mahārāurava], (6) the heating hell [tsha ba; skr. tāpana], (7) the intense heating hell [rab tu tsha ba; pratāpana], and (8) the hell of ultimate torment [mnar med pa; skr. avīci]. See, Words of My Perfect Teacher, pages 63-66; and Jewel Ornament, pages 97-99.


The eight cold hells [grang dmyal brgyad; skr. aṣta-śīta-naraka] are (1) the hell of blisters [chu bur can; skr. arbuda], (2) the hell of burst blisters [chu bur rdol ba can; skr. nirarbuda], (3) the hell of clenched teeth [so tham tham pa; skr. aṭdaṭa], (4) the hell of lamentations [a chu chu zer ba; skr. hahava], (5) the hell of groans [kyi hud zer; skr. huhava], (6) the hell of utpal-like cracks [utpal ltar gas pa; skr. utpala], (7) the hell of lotus-like cracks [pad ma ltar gas pa; skr. padma], and (8) the hell of great lotus-like cracks [pad ma chen po ltar gas pa; skr. mahāpadma]. See, Words of My Perfect Teacher, pages 68-69; and Jewel Ornament, pages 100-101.


See Words of My Perfect Teacher, pages 69-71; and Jewel Ornament, page 101.


The neighboring hells [nye ’khor ba’i dmyal ba; pratyeka-naraka] are located in the four directions around the hell of ultimate torment [mnar med; skr. avīci]. In each of the four cardinal directions is (1) a pit of hot embers [me ma mur gyi ’obs; skr. kukūla]; (2) a swamp of putrescent corpses [ro myags kyi ’dab; skr. kuṇapa]; (3) a plain of razors [spu gri’i thang], with roads filled with razors [spu gri’i gtams po che; skr. kṣuramārga], forests of swords [ral gri’i tshal], trees which have razor leaves [ral gri’i lo ma; skr. asipattravana], and a forest of shalmali trees [shal ma li’i nags; skr. ayaḥśālmalīvana]; and (4) a river without a ford [chu bo rab med; skr. nadī-vaitaraṇī]. Together they constitute the sixteen additional neighboring hells. According to Words of My Perfect Teacher, in each of the intermediate directions stands a hill of iron shalmali trees [lcags kyi shal ma li’i sdong po] and the forest of swords [ral gri’i tshal] is mentioned as the fourth neighboring hell, while the Jewel Ornament counts the shalmali forest under the third neighboring hell and gives the river without a ford [chu bo rab med] as the fourth neighboring hell. See, Words of My Perfect Teacher, pages 66-68; and Jewel Ornament, pages 99-100.


For a detailed discussion of the term lkugs pa see Illuminator

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