Bodhicaryāvatāra Chapter 8

Bodhicaryāvatāra Chapter 8


Meditative Concentration

Cultivating diligence as just described,
In concentration I will place my mind.
For those whose minds are slack and wandering
Are caught between the fangs of the afflictions.

In solitude, the mind and body
Are not troubled by distraction.
Therefore leave this worldly life
And totally abandon mental wandering.

Because of loved ones and desire for gain,
We fail to turn away from worldly things.
These, then, are the first things to renounce.
The prudent should conduct themselves like this.

Penetrative insight joined with calm abiding
Utterly eradicates afflicted states.
Knowing this, first search for calm abiding,
Found by people who are happy to be free from worldly ties.

Beings, brief, ephemeral,
Who strongly cling to what is also transient,
Will catch no glimpse of those they love
For many thousands of their future lives.

Not seeing them, their minds will have no joy,
They therefore will not rest in equanimity.
But even if they see them, they are not content—
And as before, the pain of longing stays.

If I crave for other beings,
A veil is cast upon the perfect truth.
Wholesome disillusion94 melts away,
And finally there comes the sting of pain.

My thoughts are all for them,
And thus my life is frittered by.
My family and friends all change and pass, for whom
The changeless Dharma is cast out.


For if I act like childish beings,
Sure it is that I shall fall to evil destinies.
So why do I keep company with infants,
Who lead me to a state so far from virtue?

One moment friends,
The next, they’re bitter enemies.
Even pleasant things arouse their discontent:
Ordinary people—it is hard to please them!

A beneficial word and they resent it,
Turning me instead from what is good.
And when I close my ears to what they say,
Their anger makes them fall to lower states.

Jealous of superiors, they vie with equals,
Proud to those below, they strut when praised.
Say something untoward, they seethe with rage.
What good was ever had from childish folk?

Keep company with them and what will follow?
Self-aggrandizement and scorn for others,
Talk about the “good things” of saṃsāra—
Every kind of vice is sure to come.

Only ruin can result
From such a link between myself and others.
For they will bring no benefit to me,
And I in turn can do them nothing good.

Therefore flee the company of childish people.
Greet them, when you meet, with smiles
That keep on terms of common courtesy,
Without inviting intimate relations.

Like bees that get their honey from the flowers,
Take only what will serve the practice of the Dharma.
Treat everyone like new acquaintances
And keep yourself from close familiarity.

“Oh I am rich and well respected;
Lots of people take delight in me.”
Nourish such complacency and later,
After death, your fears will start!

Indeed, O foolish and afflicted mind,
You want and crave for all and everything.
All this together will rise up
As pain itself, increased a thousandfold.

Since this is so, the wise have no attachments;
From such cravings fear and anguish come.
And fix this firmly in your understanding:
All that may be wished for will by nature fade to nothing.

For people may have gained great wealth of riches,
Enjoying reputation, sweet renown.
But who can say where they have gone to now,
With all the baggage of their gold and fame?

Why should I be pleased when people praise me?
Others there will be who scorn and criticize—
And why despondent when I’m blamed,
Since there’ll be others who think well of me?

So many are the leanings and the wants of beings
That even Buddha could not please them all—
Of such a wretch as me no need to speak!
I’ll give up such concerns with worldly things.

People scorn the poor who have no wealth,
They also criticize the rich who have it.
What pleasure can derive from keeping company
With people such as these, so difficult to please?

In kindness childish beings take no delight
Unless their own desires are satisfied.
A childish person, thus, is no true friend.
This the Tathāgatas have declared.

In woodlands, haunt of stag and bird,
Among the trees where no dissension jars,
It’s there I would keep pleasant company!
When might I be off to make my dwelling there?

When shall I depart to make my home
In cave or empty shrine or under spreading tree,
With, in my breast, a free, unfettered heart,
Which never turns to cast a backward glance?

When might I abide in such a place,
A place unclaimed and ownerless,
That’s wide and unconfined, a place where I might stay
At liberty, without attachment?

When might I be free of fear,
Without the need to hide from anyone,
With just a begging bowl and few belongings,
Dressed in garments coveted by none?

And going to the charnel ground,
When shall I compare
My body with the dry bones there,
So soon to fall to nothing, all alike?

This form of mine, this very flesh
Is soon to give out such a stench
That even jackals won’t come close—
And that indeed is all it will become.

This body, now so whole and integral,
This flesh and bone that life has knit together,
Will drift apart, disintegrate,
And how much more will friend depart from friend?

Alone we’re born, alone we come into the world,
And when we die, alone we pass away.
No one shares our fate, and none our suffering.
What need have I of “friends” who hinder me?

Like those who journey on the road,
Who pause and lodge along the way,
Beings on the pathways of existence
Seize upon the lodging of their birth.

Until the time comes round
When four men carry me away,
Amid the grief of worldly folk—
Till then, I will away and go into the forest.

There, with no befriending or begrudging,
I will stay alone in solitude,
Considered from the outset as already dead,
Thus, when I die, a source of pain to none.

Then there will be no one standing by
In tears and mourning, thus to trouble me.
And no one will be there distracting me
From thinking of the Buddha and the practice.

Therefore in these lovely gleaming woods,
With joy that’s marred by few concerns,
Where mental wandering will cease,
I will remain in blissful solitude.

Relinquishing all other aspirations,
Focusing myself on one intent alone,
I’ll strive to still my mind
And, calming it, to bring it to subjection.

In this and in the worlds to come,
Desire’s the parent of all woe:
In this world, killing, bonds, and wounds,
And in the next, the hells and other pains.

You send your go-betweens, both boy and maid,95
With many invitations for the prize,
Avoiding, in the quest, no sin,
No deed that brings an ill renown,

Nor acts of frightful risk,
Nor loss and ruin of possessions—
All for pleasure and the perfect bliss,
That utmost penetrating kiss

Of what in truth is nothing but a heap of bones
Devoid of self, without autonomy!
Is this the only object of desire and lust?
Sooner pass beyond all suffering and grief!

What pains you went to just to lift her face,
Her face that modestly looked down,
Which, looked upon or not before,
Was always with a veil concealed.

That face for which you languished so . . .
Well, here it is, now nakedly exposed.
The vultures have uncovered it for you to see.
What’s this? You run away so soon?

That which once you jealously protected,
Shielded from the eyes of other men,
Why, miser that you are, don’t you protect it,
Now that it’s the food of graveyard birds?

Look, this mass of human flesh,
Is now the fare of carrion beasts—
And you would deck with garlands, sandalwood, and jewels,
The food and provender of others?

Look again, this heap of bones—
Inert and dead. Why, what are you so scared of?
Why did you not fear it when it walked around,
Just like a risen corpse propelled by some strange influence?

You loved it once, when clothed and draped it was.
Well, now it’s naked, why do you not want it?
Ah, you say, your need is no more there,
But why did you embrace it, all bedecked and covered?

From food, a single source, come equally
The body’s filth and nectar of the mouth.
So why are you delighted by saliva,
And yet repelled by excrement?

Taking no delight in pillows
Made of cotton soft to touch,
You claim the human form emits no stench.
Befooled by lust, its filth you do not recognize!

Lustful one, befuddled by desire,
Because you cannot copulate with it,
You angrily find fault with cotton,
Soft though it may be to touch!

And if you have no love of filth,
How can you coddle on your lap
A cage of bones tied fast with sinews,
Plastered over with the mud of flesh?

In fact you’re full of filth yourself;
You wallow in it constantly.
It is indeed just filth that you desire,
And therefore long for other sacks of it!

“But it’s the skin and flesh I love
To touch and look upon.”
Then why do you not wish for flesh alone,
Inanimate and in its natural state?

The mind that you perhaps desire,
You cannot hold or look upon.
Whatever you can hold or see is not the mind—
Why copulate with something it is not?

To fail to grasp the unclean nature
Of another’s flesh is not perhaps so strange.
But not to see the filthy nature
Of oneself is very strange indeed!

Why does the mind, intent on filthiness,
Neglect the fresh young lotus blossom,
Opened in the sunlight of a cloudless sky,
To take joy rather in a sack of dirt?

And since you’re disinclined to touch
A place or object grimed with excrement,
Why do you wish to touch the body
Whence such excrement has come?

And if you have no craving for impurity,
Why will you now embrace and kiss
What comes from such an unclean place,
Engendered likewise from an unclean seed?96

The tiny fetid worms that come from filth—
You have no love of them.
And yet you’re lusting for a human form,
From filth arisen and replete with it.

Toward your own impurity
Disgust you do not feel;
And yearning and athirst for filth,
You long for other sacks of it!

Pleasant substances like camphor,
Rice, and fresh green herbs—
Put them in your mouth and spit them out:
The earth itself is fouled thereby!

If still you doubt such filthiness,
Though it is very plain for all to see,
Go off into the charnel grounds;
Observe the fetid bodies there abandoned.

When their skins are peeled away,
You feel great horror and revulsion.
Now that you have understood,
How can you still take joy in such a thing?

The scent that now perfumes the skin
Is sandalwood and nothing else.
Yet how is it that one thing’s fragrance
Causes you to long for something else?

Is it not best to have no lust
For something that by nature stinks?
The worldly crave beside their purpose—
Why do they anoint their flesh with pleasant scents?

For if this scent is sandalwood,
How can it be the perfume of the body?
How is it that the fragrance of a thing
Induces you to crave for something else?

With lanky hair, with long nails overgrown,
With dirty teeth all reeking with the stink of slime,
This body, naked, as it is, untended—
Is indeed a horror to behold!

Why go to such excess to clean and polish
What is but a weapon that will injure you?
The cares that people squander on themselves in ignorance
Convulse the universe with madness.

When you saw the heaps of human bones,
You felt revulsion in the charnel ground.
And will you take delight in cities of the dead
Frequented by such skeletons that live and move?

What’s more, possession of another’s filth
Is not to be acquired free of charge.
All is at a price: exhaustion in this life,
And in the next, the suffering of hell!

To gather riches young boys are unable,
And what can they enjoy when they’re full grown?
The whole of life is spent in gaining wealth,
But then they’re old—too old to satisfy their lust!

Some are wretched in their great desire,
But worn out by their daylong work,
They go home broken by fatigue
To sleep the slumbers of a corpse.

Some, wearied by their travels far from home,
Must suffer separation from their wives
And children whom they love and long to see.
They do not meet with them for years on end.

Some, ambitious for prosperity,
Not knowing how to get it, sell themselves.
Happiness eludes their grasp and pointlessly
They live and labor for their masters.

Some sell themselves, no longer free,
In bondage, slavery to others.
And, destitute, their wives give birth
With only trees for shelter, in the wild.

Fools deceived by craving for a livelihood
Decide that they will make their fortune
In the wars, though fearful for their lives.
And seeking gain, it’s slavery they get.

Some, as the result of craving,
Have their bodies slashed, impaled on pointed stakes.
Some are wounded, run through by the lance,
While some are put to death by fire.

The pain of gaining, keeping, and of losing all!
See the endless hardships brought on us by property!
For those distracted by their love of wealth
There is no chance for freedom from the sorrows of existence.

They indeed, possessed of many wants,
Will suffer many troubles, all for very little:
They’re like the ox that pulls the cart
And catches bits of grass along the way.

For sake of such a paltry thing,
Which is not rare, which even beasts can find,
Tormented by their karma, they destroy
This precious human life so hard to find.

All that we desire is sure to perish,
On which account we fall to hellish pain.
For what amounts to very little
We must suffer constant and exhausting weariness.

With but a millionth part of such vexation
Enlightenment itself could be attained!
Those who crave are plagued far more than those engaged upon the path,
Yet Buddhahood is not what they attain!

Reflect upon the pains of hell and other evil states!
Weapons, fires, and poisons,
Yawning chasms, hostile foes—
None is on a level with our cravings.

So, revolted by our lust and wanting,
Let us now rejoice in solitude,
In places empty of all conflict and defilement:
The peace and stillness of the forest.

Happy those intent on others’ good,
Who roam in pleasant places formed of massive stone,
Refreshed by moonlight’s sandal-scented beams,
By gentle woodland breezes soothed!

In caves, beneath the trees, in houses left abandoned,
May we linger long as we might wish.
Relinquishing the pain of guarding our possessions,
Let us live in freedom, unconfined by cares.

To have such liberty unmarred by craving,
Loosed from every bond and tie—
A life of such contentment and such pleasure,
Even Indra would be pressed to find!

Reflecting in such ways as these
Upon the excellence of solitude,
Pacify completely all discursiveness
And cultivate the mind of bodhichitta.

Strive at first to meditate
Upon the sameness of yourself and others.97
In joy and sorrow all are equal;
Thus be guardian of all, as of yourself.

The hand and other limbs are many and distinct,
But all are one—the body to be kept and guarded.
Likewise, different beings, in their joys and sorrows,
Are, like me, all one in wanting happiness.

This pain of mine does not afflict
Or cause discomfort to another’s body,
And yet this pain is hard for me to bear
Because I cling and take it for my own.

And other beings’ pain
I do not feel, and yet,
Because I take them for myself,98
Their suffering is mine and therefore hard to bear.

And therefore I’ll dispel the pain of others,
For it is simply pain, just like my own.
And others I will aid and benefit,
For they are living beings, like my body.

Since I and other beings both,
In wanting happiness, are equal and alike,
What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should strive to have my bliss alone?

Since I and other beings both,
In fleeing suffering, are equal and alike,
What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should save myself and not the others?

Since the pain of others does no harm to me,
I do not shield myself from it.
So why to guard against “my” future pain,
Which does no harm to this, my present “me”?

To think that “I will have to bear it”
Is in fact a false idea.
For that which dies is one thing;
What is born is something else.

“It’s for the sufferers themselves,” you’ll say,
“To shield themselves from injuries that come!”
The pain felt in my foot is not my hand’s,
So why, in fact, should one protect the other?

“True, it’s inadmissible,” you’ll say,
“It happens simply through the force of ego-clinging.”
But what is inadmissible for others and myself
Should be discarded utterly!

Continua and gatherings, so-called,
Like garlands and like armies, are unreal.
So there is no one to experience pain
For who is there to be its “owner”?

Suffering has no “possessor,”
Therefore no distinctions can be made in it.
Since pain is pain, it is to be dispelled.
What use is there in drawing boundaries?

“But why dispel the pains of all?”
You cannot argue in this way!
If “my” pain is removed, so too should that of “others.”
If theirs is not, then neither should be mine.

“Compassion makes us feel such pain,” you say,
“So why should we make efforts to engender it?”
But thinking of the sufferings of beings,
How can you regard as great the smart of your compassion?

And if through such a single pain
A multitude of sorrows can be cured,
Such pain as this all loving people
Strive to foster in themselves and others.

Thus Supuṣhpachandra,99
Knowing that the king would cause him harm,
Did nothing to escape from tribulation,
That the pains of many should be ended.

Those whose minds are practiced in this way,
Whose joy it is to soothe another’s ills,
Will venture into hell of Unrelenting Pain
As swans sweep down upon a lotus lake.

The ocean-like immensity of joy
Arising when all beings will be freed,
Will this not be enough? Will this not satisfy?
The wish for my own freedom, what is that to me?

The work of bringing benefit to beings
Will not, then, make me proud and self-admiring.
The happiness of others is itself my satisfaction;
I do not expect another recompense.

Therefore just as I defend myself
From even slight disparagement,
In just the same way with regard to others,
I should likewise have a mind protective and compassionate.

The drop of sperm and blood100 belonged to others.
Yet, through strong habituation,
I came to have in its regard a sense of “I,”
Though, in itself, it is devoid of entity.

And so, why not identify
Another’s body, calling it my “I”?
And vice versa, why should it be hard
To think of this my body as another’s?

Perceiving now the faults possessed by “I,”
The ocean of good qualities that are in “other,”
I shall lay aside all love of self
And gain the habit of adopting other beings.

Just as hands and other limbs
Are thought of as the members of a body,
Can we likewise not consider others
As the limbs and members of a living whole?

Just as in connection with this form, devoid of self,
My sense of “I” arose through strong habituation,
Why should not the thought of “I,”
Through habit, not arise related to another?

Thus when I work for others’ sake,
There’ll be no sense of boasting self-congratulation.
It is just as when I feed myself—
I don’t expect to be rewarded!

Therefore just as I defend myself
From even slight disparagement,
Likewise for beings I shall now grow used
To have a mind protective and compassionate.

This is why the Lord Avalokita
Out of great compassion blessed his name,
That those caught in the midst of multitudes
Might be released and freed from every fear.101

And so we should be undeterred by hardships,
For through the influence of use and habit,
People even come to grieve
For those whose very names struck terror in their hearts!

Those desiring speedily to be
A refuge for themselves and others
Should make the interchange of “I” and “other,”
And thus embrace a sacred mystery.

Because of our attachment to our bodies,
Even little things alarm us.
This body, then, this source of so much terror—
Who would not detest it as the worst of foes?

Wishing to relieve our bodies’ ills,
Our hungry mouths, the dryness of our throats,
We steal the lives of fishes, birds, and deer
And lie in wait along the road.

And for the sake of profit and position
Some there are who even kill their parents,
Or steal what has been offered to the Triple Gem,
Because of which, they’ll burn in hell of Unrelenting Pain.

Where are the wise and prudent then
Who cherish, guard, and serve the body?
Who would not perceive it as their foe,
And as their foe, regard it with contempt?

“If I give this, what will be left for me?”
Thinking of oneself—the way of evil ghosts.
“If I keep this, what will be left to give?”
Concern for others is the way of heaven.102

If to serve myself I harm another,
I’ll suffer later in the realms of hell.
But if for others’ sake I harm myself,
Then every excellence will be my heritage.

Wanting what is best for me—
Stupidity, inferiority, and lower realms result!
Let this be changed, applied to others—
Honors and the realms of bliss will come!

Enslaving others, forcing them to serve me,
I will come to know the state of servitude.
But if I labor for the good of others,
Mastery and leadership will come to me.

All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others.
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.

Is there need for lengthy explanation?
Childish beings look out for themselves;
Buddhas labor for the good of others:
See the difference that divides them!

If I do not interchange
My happiness for others’ pain,
Enlightenment will never be attained,
And even in saṃsāra, joy will fly from me.

Leaving future lives outside the reckoning,
Even this life’s needs are not fulfilled:
The servants do not do their work,
And masters do not pay the wages earned.

Casting far away abundant joys
That may be gained in this or future lives,
Because of bringing harm to other beings,
I ignorantly bring myself intolerable pain.

All the harm with which this world is rife,
All fear and suffering that there is,
Clinging to the “I” has caused it!
What am I to do with this great demon?

If this “I” is not relinquished wholly,
Sorrow likewise cannot be avoided.
If they do not keep away from fire,
People can’t escape from being burned.

To free myself from harm
And others from their sufferings,
Let me give myself to others,
Loving them as I now love myself.

“For I am now beneath the rule of others,”
Of this you must be certain, O my mind.
And now no longer shall you have a thought
That does not wish the benefit of beings.

My sight and other senses, now the property of others—
To use them for myself would be improper.
And it is likewise disallowed
To use my faculties against their owners!

Thus sentient beings will be my chief concern.
And everything I see my body has
Will all be seized and offered
For the use and service of all other beings.

Take others—lower, higher, equal—as yourself,103
Identify yourself as “other.”
Then, without another thought,
Immerse yourself in envy, pride, and rivalry.

He’s the center of attention. I am nothing.
And, unlike him, I’m poor without possessions.
Everyone looks up to him, despising me,
All goes well for him; for me there’s only bitterness!

All I have is sweat and drudgery,
While he’s there, sitting at his ease.
He’s great, respected in the world,
While I’m the underdog, a well-known nobody.

What! A nobody without distinction?
Not true! I do have some good qualities.
Compared with some, he’s lower down.
Compared with some, I do excel!

My discipline, my understanding have declined,
But I am helpless, ruled by my defilements.
As much as he is able, he should cure me.
I will be submissive even to his punishments.

The fact is he does nothing of the sort!
By what right, then, does he belittle me?
What use, then, are his qualities to me—
Those qualities of which he’s so possessed?

Indifferent to the plight of living beings,
Who tread the brink of evil destinies,
He makes an outward show of virtues,
And even wants to vie with sages.

That I might excel, outstripping him—
Him, regarded as my peer and equal!
In contests I will certainly secure
My fame and fortune, public renown.

By every means I’ll advertise
My gifts to all the world,
Ensuring that his qualities
Remain unknown, ignored by everyone.

My faults I will conceal, dissimulate.
For I, not he, will be the object of devotion;
I, not he, will gain possessions and renown,
I will be the center of attention.

I will take such satisfaction
In his evil deeds and degradation.
I will render him despicable,
The butt and laughingstock of everyone.

People say this pitiful nonentity
Is trying to compete with me!
But how can he be on a par
With me, in learning, beauty, wealth, or pedigree?

Just to hear them talk about my excellence,
My reputation on the lips of all,
The thrill of it sends shivers down my spine,
A pleasure that I bask and revel in!

Even if he does have something,
I’m the one he’s working for!
He can keep enough just to survive,
But with my strength I’ll steal the rest away.

I will wear his happiness away;
I will always hurt and injure him.
He’s the one who in saṃsāra
Did me mischiefs by the hundred!

Countless ages, O my mind,
You spent, desiring to attain your aims.
And what great weariness it was,
While your reward was only misery!

And therefore now most certainly
Apply yourself completely to the good of others.
The Buddha did not lie in what he said—
You’ll see the benefits that come from it.

If indeed, you had in former times
Embraced this work and undertaken it,
You could not still be lacking
In the perfect bliss of Buddhahood.

Therefore, just as you identify
A drop of others’ blood and sperm,
And cling to it as though it were yourself,
Now take sentient beings—others—as your self.

Now for others you should spy
On everything your body seems to have.
Steal it, take it all away,
And use it for the benefit of others.

I indeed am happy, others sad;
I am high and mighty, others low;
I am helped while others are abandoned:
Why am I not jealous of myself?

Happiness, fulfillment: these I give away.
The pain of others: this I will embrace.
Inquiring of myself repeatedly
I will thus investigate my faults.

When others are at fault, I’ll take
And turn the blame upon myself,
And all my sins, however slight,
Declare, and make them known to many.

The fame of others I will magnify
That it might thus outshine my own.
Among them I will be as one who serves,
My lowly labor for their benefit.

This ego is by nature rife with faults,
Its accidental gifts I should not praise.
Whatever qualities it has I’ll so contrive
That they remain unknown to everyone.

All the harm, in short, that ego does
To its advantage and to others’ cost,
May all of it descend upon itself,
To its own hurt—to others’ benefit.

Do not let it strut about the place,
So arrogant, so overbearing.
But like a newly wedded bride,
Let it be demure and blushing, timorous and shy!

“Do this!” “Be like that!” “Such things don’t ever do!”
It’s thus that you will bring it forcibly to heel.
And if it oversteps the mark,
Well then, apply the lash!

And so, O mind, if still you will refuse,
Though you have been so lengthily advised,
Since every evil has its roots in you,
You are indeed now ripe for punishment!

The time when you could do me harm
Is in the past and now is here no more.
Now I see you! Where will you escape?
I’ll bring you down with all your haughty insolence.

Let every thought of working for yourself
Be utterly rejected, cast aside!
Now that you’ve been sold to others,
Stop your whining, be of service!

For if, through being inattentive,
I do not deliver you to others,
You will hand me over, it is certain,
To the guards and janitors of hell.

For this is how so many times
You have betrayed me, and how long I’ve suffered!
Now my memory is full of rancor,
I will crush your selfish schemes!

And so it is that if I want contentment,
I should never seek to please myself.
And likewise, if I wish to guard myself,
Of others I should always be the guard.

To the extent this human form
Is cosseted and saved from hurt,
Just so, just so, to that degree,
It dwindles to a weak and fretful state.

For those who sink to such a pass,
The earth and all it holds
Are powerless to satisfy.
For who can give them all they crave?

Their hopeless craving brings them misery,
And evil schemes invade their minds,
While those with free, untrammeled hearts,
Will never know an end of excellence.

Therefore for the increase of my body’s wants,
I’ll give no space, no opportunity.
And of possessions, those things are the best
That do not captivate by their attractiveness.

Dust and ashes are the body’s final state—
This body which, inert, is moved by other forces.
This form so frightening and foul—
Why do I so regard it as my “self”?

Alive or dead what difference does it make?
What use is this machine to me?
What difference will divide it from a clod of earth?
Alas that I don’t rid myself of pride!

Through lavishing attention on this body,
Such sorrow have I brought myself so senselessly.
What use is all my wanting, all my hating,
For what indeed is like a log of wood?

Whether I protect and pamper it,
Or whether it is eaten up by carrion birds,
This body feels no pleasure, no aversion.
Why then do I cherish it so much?

Resentment when it is reviled,
Or pleasure when it is esteemed,
Neither of these two my body feels.
So why do I exhaust myself?

If I say I do it since it’s loved by other people,
Others whom I thus regard as friends,
Since all appreciate the bodies that they have,
Why do I not take pleasure in them too?104

Therefore, free from all attachment,
I will give this body for the benefit of beings.
And though it is afflicted by so many faults,
I shall adopt it as my necessary tool.

And so, enough of all my childish ways.
I’ll follow in the footsteps of the wise;
Recalling their advice on carefulness,
I’ll shun all sleep and mental dullness.

Like the Buddhas’ heirs, in their compassion,
I will bear with all that should be borne.
For if I do not labor night and day,
When will my sorrows reach their end?105

Thus to banish all obscuring veils
I’ll bend my mind from the mistaken path;
And constantly upon the perfect object
I shall rest my mind in even meditation.



94. “Wholesome disillusion” (Tib. skyo ba or skyo shes) indicates a sense of revulsion and weariness with the futile sufferings of saṃsāra.

95. The context here and in the following stanzas is that of the complicated rituals of courtship and marriage in Indian society. In brutal contrast with the delights of romantic attachment and physical love, Shāntideva forces on us a general contemplation of the physical realities of life and death.

96. In other words, the uterus and the generative substances.

97. See appendix 2.

98. In other words, Shāntideva will help others in just the same way that he attends to the needs of his own body.

99. The Bodhisattva Supuṣhpachandra was forbidden by the king Shūradatta to teach the Dharma on pain of death. Knowing, however, that many would benefit from his teaching, Supuṣhpachandra disobeyed and went cheerfully to his execution. The story is found in the Samādhirājasūtra.

100. “Blood” refers to the generative substance (ovum) of the mother.

101. In the Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra, Avalokiteshvara says, “Let whoever stands before a crowd invoke my name three times and have no fear.”

102. In other words, the way of Dharma, leading to the realization of
Buddhahood—not, of course, the heavens of the worldly gods.

103. Compare the sentiments of this and the following stanzas with stanza 12 of the same chapter. Also see appendix 2 for a full explanation.

104. If I give the appreciation of others as the reason for the infatuated attention I give to my own body, it follows that I should be similarly
attentive to the physical comfort of others, since their appreciation is
equally applied to their own bodies.
105. This stanza only occurs in the Tibetan translation; there is no equivalent in any extant Sanskrit version.

106. As already stated in the introduction, the ninth chapter of the Bodhicharyāvatāra is an extremely concise exposition of the
Madhyamaka view, recapitulating its various stages of development and polemical interaction with other schools, both Buddhist and nonBuddhist. It is worth bearing in mind that on that famous occasion when Shāntideva recited his text from the lofty throne at Nālandā, he did so to a public already deeply versed in both the content and history of Madhyamaka. And his ninth chapter was no doubt intended as a brilliant and perhaps even lighthearted exposition of a highly recondite subject to a specialist audience of philosophers and academics. As it stands, the ninth chapter is scarcely comprehensible to the unassisted reader, and an extensive commentary is indispensable. Those of Kunzang Pelden and Minyak Kunzang Sönam are already available in translation, and the interested student will also derive much assistance from the other commentaries listed in the Bibliography. In an attempt to render the root text at least intelligible, almost all translators have resorted to the expedient of indicating in parentheses the different points of view (Sāṃkhya, Nyāya-Vaisheṣhika, Ābhidharmika, and so on) referred to as the chapter progresses. But it is doubtful whether, in the absence of an
extensive commentary, these additions do any more than complicate the issue and increase the dismay of the bewildered reader. In any case, they tend to obscure the fact that the ninth chapter, like the rest of the book, is composed in seamless verse, and is in fact a fast-moving, scintillating tour de force. With regard to the present translation, the aim has been to facilitate comprehension as much as possible, and a certain latitude of expression seemed justifiable, mainly in the way of explanatory paraphrase where possible and appropriate. The interpretation given in the commentary of Kunzang Pelden, and by implication that of his teachers Patrul Rinpoche and Mipham Rinpoche, has been consistently followed. See also Crosby and Skilton, p. 111, for a helpful breakdown of the subject matter of this chapter.

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