Bodhicaryāvatāra Chapter 3

Bodhicaryāvatāra Chapter 3


Taking Hold of Bodhichitta

With joy I celebrate the virtue that relieves all beings
From the sorrows of the states of loss,45
Exulting in the happy states enjoyed
By those who yet are suffering.46

I revel in the stores of virtue,
Cause of gaining the enlightened state,
And celebrate the freedom won
By living beings from the round of pain.

And in the Buddhahood of the protectors I delight
And in the grounds of realization47 of the Buddhas’ heirs.

Their enlightened attitude, an ocean of great good,
That seeks to place all beings in the state of bliss,
And every action for the benefit of beings:
Such is my delight and joy.

And so I join my hands and pray
The Buddhas who reside in every quarter:
Kindle now the Dharma’s light
For those who grope, bewildered, in the dark of pain!

I join my hands beseeching the enlightened ones
Who wish to pass into nirvāṇa:
Do not leave us wandering in blindness,
Stay among us for unnumbered ages!

Through these actions now performed48
And all the virtues I have gained,
May all the pain of every living being
Be wholly scattered and destroyed!

For all those ailing in the world,
Until their every sickness has been healed,
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse, the medicine itself.

Raining down a flood of food and drink,
May I dispel the ills of thirst and famine.
And in the aeons marked by scarcity and want,49
May I myself appear as drink and sustenance.

For sentient beings, poor and destitute,
May I become a treasure ever-plentiful,
And lie before them closely in their reach,
A varied source of all that they might need.

My body, thus, and all my goods besides,
And all my merits gained and to be gained,
I give them all and do not count the cost,
To bring about the benefit of beings.

Nirvāṇa is attained by giving all,
Nirvāṇa is the object of my striving;
And all must be surrendered in a single instant,
Therefore it is best to give it all to others.

This body I have now resigned
To serve the pleasure of all living beings.
Let them ever kill, despise, and beat it,
Using it according to their wish.

And though they treat it like a toy,
Or make of it the butt of every mockery,
My body has been given up to them.
Why should I make so much of it?

And so let beings do to me
Whatever does not bring them injury.
Whenever they may think of me,
Let this not fail to bring them benefit.

And if in my regard they have
A thought of anger or respect,
May these states always be the cause
Whereby their good and wishes are fulfilled.

All those who slight me to my face
Or do to me some other evil,
Even if they blame or slander me,
May they attain the fortune of enlightenment!

May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road.
For those who wish to cross the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

May I be an isle for those who yearn for land,
A lamp for those who long for light;
For all who need a resting place, a bed;
For those who need a servant, may I be their slave.

May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of wealth,
A word of power and the supreme healing,
May I be the tree of miracles,
For every being the abundant cow.

Just like the earth and space itself
And all the other mighty elements,
For boundless multitudes of beings
May I always be the ground of life, the source of varied sustenance.

Thus for everything that lives,
As far as are the limits of the sky,
May I be constantly their source of livelihood
Until they pass beyond all sorrow.

Just as all the Buddhas of the past
Have brought forth the awakened mind,
And in the precepts of the Bodhisattvas
Step-by-step abode and trained,

Likewise, for the benefit of beings,
I will bring to birth the awakened mind,
And in those precepts, step-by-step,
I will abide and train myself.

Those who thus with clear intelligence
Take hold of the awakened mind with bright and lucid joy,
That they may now increase what they have gained,
Should lift their hearts with praises such as these:

“Today my life has given fruit.
This human state has now been well assumed.
Today I take my birth in Buddha’s line,
And have become the Buddha’s child and heir.

“In every way, then, I will undertake
Activities befitting such a rank.
And I will do no act to mar
Or compromise this high and faultless lineage.

“For I am like a blind man who has found
A precious gem inside a heap of dust.
For so it is, by some strange chance,
That bodhichitta has been born in me.

“This is the supreme draft of immortality
That slays the Lord of Death, the slaughterer of beings,
The rich unfailing treasure-mine
To heal the poverty of wanderers.

“It is the sovereign remedy
That perfectly allays all maladies.
It is the tree that gives relief
To those who wander wearily the pathways of existence.

“It is the universal bridge that saves
All wandering beings from the states of loss,
The rising moon of the enlightened mind
That soothes the sorrows born of the afflictions.

“It is the mighty sun that utterly dispels
The misty ignorance of wandering beings,
The creamy butter, rich and full,
That’s churned from milk of holy teaching.

“Living beings! Wayfarers upon life’s paths,
Who wish to taste the riches of contentment,
Here before you is the supreme bliss.
Here, O ceaseless travelers, is your fulfillment!

“And so, today, within the sight of all protectors,
I summon beings, calling them to Buddhahood.
And, till that state is reached, to every earthly joy!
May gods and demigods and all the rest rejoice!”



45. According to the Buddhist teachings, the experience of beings in
saṃsāra falls into six broad categories, states, or realms. Birth in these
worlds is the fruit of past karma or action. There are three  unfortunate states (the states of loss referred to in this verse) in which suffering predominates over every other experience: that of animals, hungry ghosts, and beings in the hells. There are three fortunate realms where suffering is mitigated by temporary pleasures, namely, the heavens of the gods, the realms of the asuras or demigods, and the human condition. The misery of beings in the lower realms is compounded by the fact that their ability to create the positive energy necessary to propel them into higher existences is very weak, while negativity abounds.
46. Shāntideva rejoices in the condition of beings in the higher saṃsāric realms of human beings, asuras (demigods), and gods. In all these states, the experience of happiness and pleasure is possible even though they are never beyond the possibility of suffering.
47. From the moment when, through a direct realization of emptiness, the path of seeing is entered, and throughout the path of meditation until the point where perfect Buddhahood is attained, the progress of the Bodhisattva passes through ten bhūmis or “grounds” of realization. Bodhisattvas residing on these grounds are considered noble beings (Tib. ’phags pa), who have passed beyond the world in the sense that henceforth they can no longer fall back into the ordinary condition of saṃsāra. This two-line stanza does not appear in the extant Sanskrit version. For an explanation of the five paths of accumulation, joining, seeing, meditation, and no more learning, see Treasury of Precious Qualities, pp. 301–304.
48. The reference here is to the seven traditional actions of accumulating merit, often expressed in a verse formula known as the “seven-branch prayer.” These actions are homage, offering, confession, rejoicing in all good actions, the request for teaching, the request that the teachers remain in the world and not pass into nirvāṇa, and dedication. The first three actions formed the content of the previous chapter; the remaining four are expressed here in the opening stanzas of chap. 3. See Crosby and Skilton, pp. 9–13, for a description of the “sevenfold supreme worship.”
49. A reference to the antarakalpa, an age of extreme decline figuring in the ancient Indian conception of temporal sequences, in which the quality of human life is gradually reduced until the age of ten years marks the summit of growth and capacity. It is a time of extreme instability and famine.

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