Bodhicaryāvatāra Chapter 6
All the good works gathered in a thousand ages,
Such as deeds of generosity,
And offerings to the Blissful Ones—
A single flash of anger shatters them.
No evil is there similar to anger,
No austerity to be compared with patience.
Steep yourself, therefore, in patience,
In various ways, insistently.
Those tormented by the pain of anger,
Never know tranquillity of mind—
Strangers they will be to every pleasure;
They will neither sleep nor feel secure.
Even those dependent on their lord
For gracious gifts of honors and of wealth
Will rise against and slay
A master who is filled with wrath and hate.
His family and friends he grieves,
And is not served by those his gifts attract.
No one is there, all in all,
Who, being angry, lives at ease.
All these ills are brought about by wrath,
Our sorrow-bearing enemy.
But those who seize and crush their anger down
Will find their joy in this and future lives.
Getting what I do not want,
And all that hinders my desire—
In discontent my anger finds its fuel.
From this it grows and beats me down.
Therefore I will utterly destroy
The sustenance of this my enemy,
My foe who has no other purpose
But to hurt and injure me.
So come what may, I’ll not upset
My cheerful happiness of mind.
Dejection never brings me what I want;
My virtue will be warped and marred by it.
If there’s a remedy when trouble strikes,
What reason is there for dejection?
And if there is no help for it,
What use is there in being glum?
Pain, humiliation, insults, or rebukes—
We do not want them
Either for ourselves or those we love.
For those we do not like, it’s the reverse!
The cause of happiness is rare,
And many are the seeds of suffering!
But if I have no pain, I’ll never long for freedom;
Therefore, O my mind, be steadfast!
The Karna folk and those devoted to the Goddess,75
Endure the meaningless austerities
Of being cut and burned.
So why am I so timid on the path of freedom?
There’s nothing that does not grow light
Through habit and familiarity.
Putting up with little cares
I’ll train myself to bear with great adversity!
Don’t I see that this is so with common irritations:
Bites and stings of snakes and flies,
Experiences of hunger and of thirst,
And painful rashes on my skin?
Heat and cold, the wind and rain,
Sickness, prison, beatings—
I’ll not fret about such things.
To do so only aggravates my trouble.
There are some whose bravery increases,
At the sight of their own blood,
While some lose all their strength and faint
When it’s another’s blood they see!
This results from how the mind is set,
In steadfastness or cowardice.
And so I’ll scorn all injury,
And hardships I will disregard!
When sorrows fall upon the wise,
Their minds should be serene and undisturbed.
For in their war against defiled emotion,
Many are the hardships, as in every battle.
Thinking scorn of every pain,
And vanquishing such foes as hatred:
These are exploits of victorious warriors.
The rest is slaying what is dead already!
Suffering also has its worth.
Through sorrow, pride is driven out
And pity felt for those who wander in saṃsāra;
Evil is avoided; goodness seems delightful.
I am not angry with my bile and other humors—
Fertile source of suffering and pain!
So why should living beings give offence,
They likewise are impelled by circumstance?76
Although they are unlooked for, undesired,
These ills afflict us all the same.
And likewise, though unwanted and unsought,
Defilements nonetheless insistently arise.
Never thinking, “Now I will be angry,”
People are impulsively caught up in anger.
Irritation, likewise, comes
Though never plans to be experienced!
All defilements of whatever kind,
The whole variety of evil deeds
Are brought about by circumstances:
None is independent, none autonomous.
Conditions, once assembled, have no thought
That they will now give rise to some result.
Nor does that which is engendered
Think that it has been produced.
The primal substance, as they say,
And that which has been called the self,
Do not arise designedly,
And do not think, “I will become.”
For that which is not born does not exist,
So what could want to come to be?
And permanently drawn toward its object,
It can never cease from being so.77
Indeed! This self, if permanent,
Is certainly inert like space itself.
And should it meet with other factors,
How could they affect it, since it is unchanging?
If, when conditions act on it, it stays just as it was before,
What influence have these conditions had?
They say that these are agents of the self,
But what connection could there be between them?78
All things, then, depend on other things,
And these likewise depend; they are not independent.
Knowing this, we will not be annoyed
At things that are like magical appearances.
“Resistance,” you may say, “is out of place,
For what will be opposed by whom?”
The stream of sorrow is cut through by patience;
There is nothing out of place in our assertion!
Thus, when enemies or friends
Are seen to act improperly,
Remain serene and call to mind
That everything arises from conditions.
If things could be according to their wish,
No suffering would ever come
To anyone of all embodied beings,
For none of them wants pain of any kind.
Yet carelessly, all unaware,
They tear themselves on thorns;
And ardent in pursuit of wives and goods,
They starve themselves of nourishment.
Some hang themselves or leap into the void,
Take poison or consume unhealthy food,
Or by their evil conduct
Bring destruction on themselves.
For when affliction seizes them,
They even slay themselves, the selves they love so much.
So how can they not be the cause
Of others’ bodily distress?
Although we almost never feel compassion
For those who, through defilement,
Bring about their own perdition,
What purpose does our anger serve?
If those who are like wanton children
Are by nature prone to injure others,
There’s no reason for our rage;
It’s like resenting fire for being hot.
And if their faults are fleeting and contingent,
If living beings are by nature mild,
It’s likewise senseless to resent them—
As well be angry at the sky when it is full of smoke!
Although it is their sticks that hurt me,
I am angry at the ones who wield them, striking me.
But they in turn are driven by their hatred;
Therefore with their hatred I should take offence.
In just the same way in the past
I it was who injured living beings.
Therefore it is right that injury
Should come to me their torturer.
Their weapons and my body—
Both are causes of my torment!
They their weapons, I my body brandished;
Who then is more worthy of my rage?
This body—running sore in human form—
Merely touched, it cannot stand the pain!
I’m the one who grasped it in my blind attachment,
Whom should I resent when pain occurs?
We who are like children
Shrink from pain, but love its causes.
We hurt ourselves through our misdeeds!
So why should others be the object of our rage?
And who indeed should I be angry with?
This pain is all my own contriving—
Likewise all the janitors of hell
And all the groves of razor trees!79
Those who harm me rise against me—
It’s my karma that has summoned them.
And if through this these beings go to hell,
Is it not I who bring their ruin?
Because of them, and through my patience,
All my many sins are cleansed and purified.
But they will be the ones who, thanks to me,
Will have the long-drawn agonies of hell.
Therefore I am their tormentor!
Therefore it is they who bring me benefit!
Thus with what perversity, pernicious mind,
Will you be angry with your enemies?
If a patient quality of mind is mine,
I shall avoid the pains of hell.
But though indeed I save myself,
What of my foes, what fate’s in store for them?
If I repay them harm for harm,
Indeed they’ll not be saved thereby.
My conduct will in turn be marred,
Austerity of patience brought to nothing.
Because the mind is bodiless
It cannot be destroyed by anyone.
Because of mind’s attachment to the body,
This body is oppressed by pain.
Scorn and hostile words,
And comments that I do not like to hear—
My body is not harmed by them.
What reason do you have, O mind, for your resentment?
The enmity that others show me,
Since in this or future lives
It cannot actually devour me,
Why should I be so averse to it?
Perhaps I turn from it because
It hinders me from having what I want.
But all my property I’ll leave behind,
While sins will keep me steady company.
Better far for me to die today,
Than live a long and evil life.
However long the days of those like me,
The pain of dying will be all the same.
One man dreams he lives a hundred years
Of happiness, but then he wakes.
Another dreams an instant’s joy,
But then he likewise wakes.
And when they wake, the happiness of both
Is finished, never to return.
Likewise, when the hour of death comes round,
Our lives are over, whether brief or long.
Though we be rich in worldly goods,
Delighting in our wealth for many years,
Despoiled and stripped as though by thieves,
We must go naked and with empty hands.
Perhaps we’ll claim that by our wealth we live,
And living, gather merit, dissipating evil.
But if we are aggressive for the sake of profit,
Won’t our gains be evil, all our merits lost?
And if the aim for which we live
Is thereby wasted and undone,
What use is there in living thus,
When evil is the only consequence?
And if, when people slander us,
We claim our anger is because they injure others,
How is it we do not resent
Their slander when it’s aimed at someone else?
And if we bear with this antipathy
Because it’s due to other factors,
Why are we impatient when they slander us?
Defilement, after all, has been the cause of it.
Even those who vilify and undermine
The Sacred Doctrine, images, and stūpas
Are not proper objects of our anger.
Buddhas are themselves untouched thereby.
And even if our teachers, relatives, and friends
Are now the object of aggression,
All derives from factors, as we have explained.
This we should perceive and curb our wrath.
Beings suffer injury alike
From lifeless things as well as living beings.
So why be angry only with the latter?
Rather let us simply bear with harm.
Some do evil things because of ignorance,
Some respond with anger, being ignorant.
Which of them is faultless in such acts?
To whom shall error be ascribed?
Instead, why did they act in times gone by
That they are now so harmed at others’ hands?
Since everything depends on karma,
Why should I be angry at such things?
This I see and therefore, come what may,
I’ll hold fast to the virtuous path
And foster in the hearts of all
An attitude of mutual love.
Now when a building is ablaze
And flames leap out from house to house,
The wise course is to take and fling away
The straw and anything that spreads the fire.
And so, in fear that merit might be all consumed,
We should at once cast far away
Our mind’s attachments:
Tinder for the fiery flames of hate.
Is it not a happy chance if when, condemned to death,
A man is freed, his hand cut off in ransom for his life?
And is it not a happy chance if now, to escape hell,
I suffer only the misfortunes of the human state?
If even these, my present pains,
Are now beyond my strength to bear,
Why do I not cast off my anger,
Cause of future sorrows in infernal torment?
For sake of gaining all that I desired,
A thousand times I underwent
The tortures of the realms of hell—
Achieving nothing for myself and others.
The present aches are nothing to compare with those,
And yet great benefits will come from them.
These troubles that dispel the pain of wanderers—
It’s only right that I rejoice in them.
When others take delight
In giving praise to those endowed with talents,
Why, O mind, do you not find
A joy likewise in praising them?
The pleasure that is gained therefrom
Itself gives rise to blameless happiness.
It’s urged on us by all the holy ones,
And is the perfect way of winning others.
“But they’re the ones who’ll have the happiness,” you say.
If this then is a joy you would resent,
Abandon paying wages and returning favors.
You will be the loser—both in this life and the next!
When praise is heaped upon your qualities,
You’re keen that others should be pleased thereby.
But when the compliment is paid to others,
You feel no inclination to rejoice as well.
You who want the happiness of beings
Have wished to be enlightened for their sake.
So why should others irk you when
They find some pleasure for themselves?
And if you claim to wish that beings
Be enlightened, honored by the triple world,
When petty marks of favor come their way,
Why are you so discomforted?
When dependents who rely on you,
To whom you are obliged to give support,
Find for themselves the means of livelihood,
Will you not be happy, will you once again be angry?
If even this you do not want for beings,
How could you want Buddhahood for them?
And how can anyone have bodhichitta
Who is angry when another prospers?
If someone else receives a gift,
Or if that gift stays in the benefactor’s house,
In neither case will it be yours—
So, given or withheld, why is it your concern?
All your merit and the faith of others,
All your sterling qualities—why throw them all away?
Not holding onto what might bring you riches,
Tell me, why are you not angry at yourself?
Not only do you feel no sorrow
For the evils you have done,
You even wish to match yourself
With those whose merit has been earned!
If unhappiness befalls your enemies,
Why should this be cause for your rejoicing?
The wishes of your mind alone,
Will not in fact contrive their injury.
And if your hostile wishes were to bring them harm,
Again, what cause of joy is that to you?
“Why, then I would be satisfied!”—are these your thoughts?
Is anything more ruinous than that?
Caught upon the hook, unbearable and sharp,
Cast by the fisherman, my own defilements,
I’ll be flung into the cauldrons of the pit,
And surely boiled by all the janitors of hell!
Veneration, praise, and fame
Serve not to increase merit or my span of life,
Bestowing neither health nor strength
And nothing for the body’s ease.
If I am wise in what is good for me,
I’ll ask what benefit these bring.
For if it’s entertainment I desire,
I might as well resort to alcohol and cards!80
I lose my life, my wealth I squander,
All for reputation’s sake.
What use are words, and whom will they delight
When I am dead and in my grave?
Children can’t help crying when
Their sand castles come crumbling down.
My mind is so like them
When praise and reputation start to fail.
Short-lived sound, devoid of intellect,
Can never in itself intend to praise me.
I say that it’s the joy that others take in me,
It’s this that is the cause of my delight.
But what is it to me if others take delight
In someone else, or even in myself?
Their pleasure’s theirs and theirs alone.
No part of it is felt by me.
If I am happy at the joy of those who take delight,
Then everyone should be a source of joy to me.
When people take delight in others
Why am I not happy at their pleasure?
The satisfaction that is mine
From thinking, “I am being praised,”
Is unacceptable to common sense
And nothing but the antics of a silly child.
Praise and compliments distract me,
Sapping my revulsion with saṃsāra.
I start to envy others their good qualities
And thus all excellence is ruined.
Those who stay close by me, then,
To damage my good name and cut me down to size—
Are surely there protecting me
From falling into realms of grief.
For I am one who strives for freedom.
I must not be caught by wealth and honors.
How could I be angry with the ones
Who work to free me from my fetters?
They, like Buddha’s very blessing,
Bar my way, determined as I am
To plunge myself headlong in sorrow:
How can I be angry with them?
I should not be irritated, saying,
“They are obstacles to my good deeds.”
For is not patience the supreme austerity,
And should I not abide by this?
And if I fail to practice patience,
Hindered by my own shortcomings,
I myself create impediments
To merit’s causes, yet so close at hand.
If something does not come to be when something else is absent,
And does arise, that factor being present,
That factor is indeed its cause.
How can it, then, be said to hinder it?
The beggars who arrive at proper times
Are not an obstacle to generosity.
We cannot say that those who give the vows
Are hindrances to ordination!
The beggars in this world are numerous;
Assailants are comparatively few.
For if I do no harm to others,
Others do no injury to me.
So, like a treasure found at home,
That I have gained without fatigue,
My enemies are helpers in my Bodhisattva work
And therefore they should be a joy to me.
Since I have grown in patience
Thanks to them,
To them its first fruits I should give,
For of my patience they have been the cause.
And if I say my foes should not be honored
Since they did not mean to stimulate my patience,
Why do I revere the Sacred Dharma,
Cause indeed of my attainment?
“These enemies conspired to harm me,” I protest,
“And therefore should receive no honors.”
But had they worked to help me like a doctor,
How could I have brought forth patience?
Thanks to those whose minds are full of malice
I engender patience in myself.
They therefore are the causes of my patience,
Fit for veneration, like the Dharma.
And so the mighty Sage has spoken of the field of beings
As well as of the field of Conquerors.
Many who brought happiness to beings,
Have passed beyond, attaining to perfection.
Thus the state of Buddhahood depends
On beings and on Buddhas equally.
What kind of practice is it then
That honors only Buddhas but not beings?
Not in the qualities of their minds
But in the fruits they give are they alike.
In beings, too, such excellence resides,
And therefore beings and Buddhas are the same.
Offerings made to those with loving minds
Reveal the eminence of living beings.81
Merit that accrues from faith in Buddha
Shows in turn the Buddha’s eminence.
Although not one of them is equal
To the Buddhas, who are oceans of perfection,
Because they have a share in bringing forth enlightenment,
Beings may be likened to the Buddhas.
If of such a gathering of supreme excellence
A tiny part appeared in certain beings,
The three worlds made in offering to them
Would be a very little thing.
Since there lies in beings a share
In bringing forth the supreme and enlightened state,
By virtue of this parity alone
It’s right that I should reverence them.
The Buddhas are my true, unfailing friends.
Boundless are the benefits they bring to me.
How else may I repay their goodness
But by making living beings happy?
By helping beings we repay the ones
Who sacrifice their lives for us and plunge into the hell of Unrelenting Pain.
Should beings therefore do great harm to me,
I’ll strive to bring them only benefit.
For those who have become my lords,
At times, took care not even of their bodies.
Why should I, a fool, behave with such conceit?
Why should I not become the slave of others?
Buddhas are made happy by the joy of beings.
They sorrow, they lament when beings suffer.
By bringing joy to beings, then, I please the Buddhas also;
By wounding them, I wound the Buddhas too.
Just as there’s no sensual delight
To please the mind of one whose body burns in fire,
There is no way to please the great compassionate ones
While we ourselves are causes of another’s pain.
The damage I have done to beings
Saddens all the Buddhas in their great compassion.
Therefore, all these evils I confess today
And pray that they will bear with my offences.
That I might rejoice the Buddhas’ hearts,
Henceforth I will be master of myself, the servant of the world.
I shall not seek revenge though crowds may trample on my head or kill me.
Let the Guardians of the world rejoice!
The great compassionate lords consider as themselves82
All beings—there’s no doubt of this.
Those whom I perceive as beings are Buddhas in themselves;
How can I not treat them with respect?
This very thing is pleasing to the Buddhas’ hearts
And perfectly secures the welfare of myself.
This will drive away the sorrows of the world,
And therefore it will be my constant work.
Imagine that the steward of a king
Does injury to multitudes of people.
Those with clear, farseeing eyes
Do not respond with violence even if they can.
For stewards, after all, are not alone.
They are supported by the kingly power.
Therefore I will not despise
The feeble beings tormenting me.
Their allies are the guardians of hell
And also the compassionate Buddhas.
Therefore living beings I will gratify
As subjects might placate a wrathful king.
And yet, the pains of hell to be endured
Through making living beings suffer—
Could these ever be unleashed on me
By all the ire of such a king?
And even if that king were pleased,
Enlightenment he could not give to me.
For this will only be achieved
By bringing happiness to beings.
No need to mention future Buddhahood,
Achieved through bringing happiness to beings.
How can I not see that glory, fame, and pleasure
Even in this life will likewise come?
For patience in saṃsāra brings such things
As beauty, health, and good renown.
Its fruit is great longevity,
The vast contentment of a universal king.
75. A reference to the devotees of the Hindu goddess Durgā, whose cult demanded the practice of extreme austerities.
76. In the next nine stanzas, Shāntideva discusses and undermines the ordinary common sense attitude to enemies and other irritants. The
argument proceeds as follows. First, in stanzas 22–26, Shāntideva affirms that there is no such thing as an independent agent, i.e., one acting in the absence of conditioning factors. Usually it is thought reasonable to resent the hostile behavior of another being, while it is generally recognized that anger against an inanimate object is futile and somehow irrational, since the object in question only harms us under the influence of other forces. But Shāntideva argues that this is equally true of animate sources of our suffering. They too are impelled by the extrinsic factors of negative emotion. It is as irrational to hate a human aggressor, victim in turn of his or her own defilements, as it is to hate a tree that has been blown over by the wind and has flattened our car. Anger against enemies cannot be justified, says Shāntideva, because ultimately they are not “themselves” to blame. The point is repeated in stanza 41. Of course, there is an obvious objection to this. Even admitting the power of emotion, it seems wrong to place animate and inanimate entities in the same category. A human aggressor, unlike a tree, is after all an accountable agent; and a person’s actions cannot be defined simply in terms of other factors—as a mere interplay of impersonal forces. According to this line of reasoning, there must surely exist a proper object of resentment, namely, the aggressors “themselves”—or, to put it another way, the “selves” of the aggressors.
This raises a specifically metaphysical question, and even though much greater attention is paid to it in the course of the ninth chapter, Shāntideva is obliged here to focus briefly (stanzas 27–30) on the ideas of “primal substance” (Skt. pradhāna) and the “self” (Skt. ātman), as upheld variously by the different schools of non-Buddhist Indian philosophy. For all these schools, it was axiomatic that the self and the
primal substance were (1) independent entities and (2) permanent or immutable. But Shāntideva points out that if there were such a thing as an independent, permanent self, temporary emotional states such as hostility could never be said to arise in it without denying the self’s
permanence. “That which was not hostile” and “that which is now hostile” are not the same entity. Consequently, if the self is
unchanging, it can never premeditate and actualize hostility (stanzas 27.3–4 and 28.1–2) and thus cannot be held responsible for an act of
aggression. In other words, a theory of the self can never rationally justify resentment and retaliation against an aggressor. However
abstruse these arguments may seem, it should be noted that their purpose is entirely practical. The knowledge that attackers are driven
by other forces, and are not themselves enemies, is a powerful aid in controlling and eliminating one’s own aggressive response.
77. Lines 3 and 4 of stanza 28 are a brief reference to the Sāṃkhya theory of puruṣha and prākṛiti. If the self is permanent and immutable, it follows that its apprehension of an object must be permanent also. A succession of different perceptions is impossible. Thus the self of another being cannot become hostile. If it is hostile now, it must always have been so and will remain so permanently—which is absurd. According to Buddhist teaching, when a thing is said to be permanent, this means not only that it is exempt from gross impermanence and is eternal (for it cannot be broken or destroyed), but also that, throughout its existence, it escapes the effects of subtle impermanence and remains completely immutable. From the Buddhist point of view, no such phenomenon exists.
78. Stanzas 29 and 30 refer to the Nyāya-Vaisheṣhika school. According to this theory, and in contrast with that of the Sāṃkhya school and the Vedānta after it, the (permanent) self—as distinct from the mind—is regarded as knowable. In other words, it is the object, rather than the subject, of consciousness. It is believed to enter into relation with the mind and subsequently to identify experiences as its own. Here again, belief in the permanence of the self entails insuperable difficulties. If the self is permanent, how could it ever be said to meet with new factors and assimilate them? In holding that the self is conscious or unconscious, respectively, the Sāṃkhya and Nyāya-Vaisheṣhika schools occupy, from the Madhyamaka point of view, two extremes of the metaphysical spectrum. When these two views are refuted, all intermediary positions are disposed of at the same time. This is doubtless why Shāntideva juxtaposes the two theories here, as he does again in the ninth chapter.
79. The groves of razor trees are one of the four “neighboring hells.” There is a fourfold group of these “neighboring hells” in each of the cardinal points around the hot hells. See Words of My Perfect Teacher, p. 67.
80. In other words, for Shāntideva, a monk, the enjoyment of honors and reputation is as inappropriate as gambling and drink.
81. Kunzang Pelden explains this verse as follows. A person who has perfect love for others becomes an excellent object of reverence, and
offerings made to such a person are productive of extremely positive karmic results. But the perfect love of a saint only comes about in
relation to other beings, which in turn reveals the value and importance of the latter.
82. This idea is further developed in the course of chapter 8. See the
commentary in appendix 2.