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 ...

Though one might perceive a flaw in a bodhisattva, a flaw is just something compounded [’dus byas], something that will eventually cease to exist due to the power of the bodhisattva’s meditation. Bodhisattvas are not perfect at the beginning. Only the Buddha is utterly perfect. Therefore, the most important advice concerning pure perception is not to dwell on other peoples’ mistakes.

Bodhicitta is like a wish-fulfilling jewel. In the case of a beginning bodhisattva, this jewel is still covered with dirt. Nobody would ever consider a dirt-encrusted, wish-fulfilling jewel as something bad, but it does need cleaning. While the beginning bodhisattva proceeds on the way to enlightenment, his obscurations and defilements will gradually be cleared away, and all the inherent qualities of the buddha nature will become manifest.

The aim of every bodhisattva is to attain enlightenment as quickly as possible [gang ’khyogs ’khyogs]. The more a bodhisattva progresses along the five paths and the ten levels, the more will he be able to help sentient beings. The transcendental perfection of diligence means to strive for complete enlightenment with all of one’s capacity.

The Buddha is endowed with the most powerful capability to help others. He can benefit countless beings in infinite world systems. His sphere of influence includes all the buddha fields of the three kayas. Bodhisattvas cannot benefit beings to take rebirth in the dharmakāya buddha field nor in the saṃbhogakāya buddha fields. They are able to establish beings only in nirmāṇakāya buddha fields.

The nirvāṇa of a perfectly enlightened buddha does not end his activities for sentient beings. However, when an arhat enters into nirvāṇa, he cannot continue to help beings since arhats do not make extensive aspirations to liberate sentient beings. Mainly concerned with their own liberation, they fail to create the auspicious connection [rten ’brel] to help others.

When an arhat enters into nirvāṇa, he abides in the peaceful and happy state of wisdom [zhi bde’i ye shes]. He might remain in this state for ten aeons, or even a hundred aeons, until his merit is finished and he is awakened by light beams emitted from the Buddha. In the arhat’s own perception the duration of one hundred aeons does not seem to be long, since the arhat has no sense of time in this state. A bodhisattva would never aim for his own personal liberation, the limited enlightenment of an arhat.

The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teaches the perfect way of the bodhisattva. Read this text and its commentary over and over again. Each time you will reach a new level of understanding. The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is a textbook [gzhung] as well as an instruction manual [man ngag]. This book is a commentary on the intent [dgongs ’grel] of all of the Buddha’s immaculate teachings [bka’ dri ma med pa]. It requires intense study mingled with practice. The teachings of this book must be applied to your mind. Even if the words of the text are easy to read, bringing the meaning of the text into one’s mind and keeping it there is not at all easy.

Theoretical understanding of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra will not change your character. Only if you devote yourself to its practice will realization eventually dawn in your mind. You must study the text and contemplate its meaning. You must practice its methods for gathering the accumulation of merit. You must implement the practice of the six transcendental perfections in your daily life. As the main point, you need to realize the wisdom of egolessness, to recognize your own buddha nature. This realization is utterly dependent on gathering the accumulations, purifying the obscurations, and receiving the blessing of your root guru.

As it is said:

As far as the ultimate, the co-emergent wisdom, is concerned,
Know that it is foolish to rely upon methods other than
Practices for gathering the accumulations and purifying obscurations
As well as the blessing of the glorious root guru.

don dam lhan cig skyes pa’i ye shes ni
tshogs bsags sgrib pa dag pa’i lag rjes dang
dpal ldan bla ma’i byin rlabs kho na las
thabs gzhan brten pa rmongs par shes par bya

Mind [sems] is primordially endowed with wisdom [ye shes]. Mind and wisdom are co-emergent or co-existent [lhan skyes]. They cannot be separated. They exist at the same time [dus mnyam du yod pa], without former [snga ma] or latter [phyi ma]. Buddhahood is only attained if the co-emergent wisdom is realized.

Seen from the ultimate level, ignorance [ma rig pa] has no root [rtsa bral] and no basis [gzhi med]. To allow this non-existent ignorance to be cleared away and to let coemergent wisdom manifest [mngon du ’gyur], we must gather the accumulations [tshgos bsags] of merit and wisdom, purify the two obscurations [sgrib dag], afflictive and cognitive, and receive the blessings of the guru.

If you rely on other methods to realize co-emergent wisdom, you are foolish. Once the obscurations are purified, realization will dawn naturally [sgrib pa dag na rtogs pa ngang gis ’char]. The blessing of the master only descends through the student’s faith. Faith is the very root of blessing. Faith and devotion are the essence of guru yoga.

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