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 ...

Relative bodhicitta is obtained the moment the bodhisattva commitments [sdom pa] take root in one’s mind. This happens during a ceremony where the master recites passages from the third chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, and the students repeat after him. The master indicates the birth of bodhicitta by snapping his fingers. At that moment the commitments are born in the students’ minds.

Thus, relative bodhicitta arises through these tangible indicators [rags pa brda las byung ba]. Generally, body [lus] and speech [ngag] are ’tangible’ [rags pa], while mind [sems] is ’subtle’ [phra ba]. Body is gross [rag pa], tangible and visible [mthong rgyu yod pa]. Speech is less tangible, less gross, since it is only audible. Mind is subtle since it is not tangible, visible or audible. In the ritual of receiving the bodhisattva precepts, bodhicitta takes root through a physical gesture at the moment when the teacher snaps his fingers. It takes root through speech, when the teacher utters the appropriate words. It is supported by setting up a shrine with a statue of the Buddha. These tangible circumstances bring about the birth of relative bodhicitta.

In Asaṅga’s tradition, the students receive the precepts for bodhicitta of aspiration and for bodhicitta of application separately. In Nāgārjuna’s tradition, however, the tradition that Paltrül Rinpoche follows, students receive both aspects of relative bodhicitta together [stabs gcig tu len].

The students must think that the bodhicitta precepts are born in their minds at the very moment when the preceptor snaps his fingers.

They should think,

“Now the bodhicitta is born in my mind. Now the bodhisattva precepts have taken birth in my mind. From today onward, I am a bodhisattva.”

That is called developing relative bodhicitta that ’arises through tangible indicators’ [rabs pa brda las byung ba]. The tradition of passing on the bodhisattva precepts from master to student has been uninterrupted from the time of the Buddha up until the masters of the present day. The great Indian scholar and preceptor Śāntarakṣita brought the bodhisattva precept lineage to Tibet. The Nyingma School is still maintainig this lineage unimpaired.

It is highly recommended that students begin their spiritual practice with the Śākyamuni liturgy written by Mipham Rinpoche called ’Treasury of Blessings’ [thub chog byin rlabs gter mdzod]. Through this practice students will gather the necessary merit to generate bodhicitta. At the same time students should study the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, particularly the first three chapters.

They should learn about all the bodhisattva precepts and decide whether or not they can keep the precepts. Then they should receive the precepts in a ceremony from a qualified teacher who possesses the blessings of the lineage. On this basis they can develop relative bodhicitta in the proper way. As they continue to study the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, they should receive teachings on absolute bodhicitta.

At Śrī Siṃha Shedra, the bodhisattva precepts are given during the first year of study after completion of the entire teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. Whoever participates in the annual three month Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra practice seminar [spyod ’jug mchod rgan ma] will receive the precepts at the very beginning and will then take them every day during the three month ritual. For as long as we have not realized absolute bodhicitta, we should take the bodhisattva precepts every day.

Absolute bodhicitta is achieved through subtle dharmatā, the recognition of the natural state. This means one can realize absolute bodhicitta only when recognizing dharmatā, the natural state [chod nyid]. Absolute bodhicitta comes about through subtle dharmatā [chos nyid phra ba].

This happens when mind itself recognizes its own essence, the buddha nature. This is a most subtle process, which can only be truly realized through the blessings of a great master. Mere intellectual understanding will not suffice. If the student is fortunate, he might receive the pointing-out instruction from a master of the Essence Mahāmudra lineage or the Dzogchen lineage.

For as long as one has only an intellectual understanding of emptiness, without yet having realized it directly, bodhicitta is conceived through tangible indicators. However, once emptiness has been realized, bodhicitta must be understood to be ultimate bodhicitta.

In Asaṅga’s Sūtrālaṃkāra [mdo sde’i rgyan], Maitreya taught five causes [rgyu] or reasons [rgyu mtshan] through which relative bodhicitta arises:

  1. Through the power of a friend,
  2. the power of the cause,
  3. the power of the root,
  4. The power of studying, and
  5. (the power of) familarization with

(Relative bodhicitta) arises (first) unstable and (later) stable.

Thus, I explain the development of (relative) bodhicitta, which is (primarily) revealed by others.

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