You are on page 1of 10

The Bodhicaryavatara

A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life

David Tuffley

To my beloved Nation of Four Concordia Domi Foris Pax

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens Carl Jung

Acknowledgement to Santideva, the Sugatas, the Buddha and all the Bodhisattvas who have gone before to show the Way to enlightenment.

Contents
Introduction ............................................................................ 2 Chapter 1 The Benefit of the Spirit of Awakening................. 3 End of sample. Another 9 chapters follow which progressively build towards how a sincere seeker might achieve enlightenment. ........................................................................ 8

Santideva's Guide to Enlightenment

Introduction
The Bodhicaryavatara is an ancient text written in Sanskrit around 700 CE by Santideva, Buddhist monk and scholar who lived at the Nalanda Monastic University in India. The Bodhicaryavatara roughly translates to A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. A Bodhisattva is an enlightened being on their way to attaining full Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. The text has ten chapters that explain how to develop bodhicitta, or the enlightened mind. Earlier English translations of this text are accurate but difficult to understand for many readers living in the 21st Century. The mode of expression and the figures of speech are the product of that far-off time. This book faithfully reexpresses in modern day language the underlying message of the original text. Every effort has been made to preserve the underlying spirit of the message. There will be those who object to the changing of the outward form of this much-loved classic. While I respect the beauty of the original text, my greatest wish is to bring the even greater beauty of the underlying message to a whole new audience in the modern world who might otherwise find the original less than easy to fully understand. Throughout, the first person I is Santideva, not me. David Tuffley Redland Bay, Australia.

Santideva's Guide to Enlightenment

Chapter 1 The Benefit of the Spirit of Awakening


1. Being mindful of all that is holy I shall outline to those who are interested how to go about becoming enlightened.

2. Nothing in this book is new. It has all been said before. Nor do I consider myself to be an expert writer, so my work is unlikely to have much influence on others. I write simply to help me in my journey towards enlightenment. 3. This work is therefore an act of faith made in order to cultivate virtue. It may also serve as a helpful guide to others who are in the same position as me. 4. I am grateful for the opportunity to write this when so many people must work hard all day just to live. If one has such an opportunity, it is important to use it for the benefit of as many people as possible, since who knows when another opportunity will arise? 5. In the same way that flashes of lightning in the night sky illuminates the clouds, through divine providence, so too are peoples minds momentarily illuminated by glimpses of the divine. After that, they are naturally drawn towards a fuller experience of the divine. 6. But if divine virtue is experienced for only a moment and not very often, and vice is our constant companion in daily life, then the power that these bad habits has over us is great indeed. If it were not for the sublime spirit of 3

Santideva's Guide to Enlightenment perfect awakening that draws us on towards the divine, then it is likely that we would dwell in vice all our lives. 7. The Holy Ones have been meditating for eons on the nature of enlightenment. They know that this momentary flash of insight that leads a person to want to move towards the divine is a blessing that brings happiness into peoples lives and can help them towards enlightenment. 8. The spirit of awakening should never be forsaken by anyone wishing to transcend the difficulties of their daily life, or to help as many people in the world as possible to do the same. 9. When the spirit of awakening arises in a person they become worthy of being called a child of the Holy Ones, even though they have been wretchedly bound in the cycle of suffering. 10. So it is that an impure person, bound in sorrows and misery, can be transmuted into an enlightened person by the spirit of awakening. But to do so, they must attend closely to the quicksilver flash of the spirit of awakening, that brief flash of lightning that dispels the darkness. 11. The Holy Ones who have walked the path of enlightenment before me recognize the value of the spirit of awakening in achieving enlightenment. They strongly recommend that aspirants hold tightly onto the spirit of awakening as the best way forward. 12. Notice how an ordinary banana tree begins to die after it has finished bearing fruit. It is the same with the various virtues of earthly life. They go into decline and gradually turn into their own opposite. But the tree of the spirit of 4

Santideva's Guide to Enlightenment awakening is beyond this earthly cycle. It bears perpetual fruit that never decays. 13. When the spirit of awakening is embraced, it protects me from the various misfortunes of earthly life. It calms my fears and gives me confidence. It is puzzling why more people do not seek refuge from the ills of the world in the spirit of awakening. In their proud ignorance, they overlook or dismiss it. 14. The spirit of awakening has a powerfully transformative effect on the extremes of earthly existence, moderating them into an ideal state. The Buddha has told us this. 15. The spirit of awakening is expressed in these two ways; the spirit of aspiring to awaken, and the spirit of venturing towards awakening. 16. For example, there are those who would like to travel, and those who actually do travel. In the same way that I can learn to recognize the difference between these two, I must also be able to discern the subtle difference in the spirit of awakening within myself. 17. The spirit of aspiring to awaken brings many benefits to my earthly life; however these are out-weighed by the far greater benefits that derive from the spirit of venturing to awaken. 18. This greater and continuous stream of benefits begins to flow from the time I embrace the spirit of venturing to awaken with a whole-hearted and irreversible commitment to help with the liberation of all sentient creatures. 19. From the moment of whole-hearted commitment onwards, I become part of a vast flowing river of divine 5

Santideva's Guide to Enlightenment energy that continues even when I am asleep or distracted by worldly affairs. 20. The truth of this is confirmed by Tathagata (the name by which the Buddha referred to himself instead of the personal pronoun me, myself, I) in the holy scriptures of both the greater (Mahayana) and lesser (Theravada) vehicles of Buddhism. 21. A person who embraces the spirit of venturing to awaken and aspires to help all sentient beings to be released from their suffering therefore accumulates virtue in great measure. 22. How much more virtue is derived by the person who wishes to go further and not only release sentient beings from their suffering but also then endow them with immeasurable happiness? 23. Was there ever a mother or a father who had such benevolent altruism towards their children? Would even the gods and sages have such altruism? 24. Before anyone can have the desire to help all sentient beings, they must first wish to end their own suffering. 25. But how does this magnificent jewel come into existence when it can not normally be found in the hearts and minds of people, even when it is in their own-self-interest to find it? 26. And how can one measure the virtue of this jewel of the heart and mind that has the potential to remedy the worlds suffering? 27. If altruism is more virtuous than simply being reverential towards the Buddha, how much more virtuous then is wishing to end the suffering of all sentient being? 6

Santideva's Guide to Enlightenment 28. It is a great irony in life that in seeking to escape from suffering, most people hurry straight towards it. The person who desires happiness often succeeds in destroying their happiness through ignorance and delusion. 29. The person who embraces the spirit of venturing to awaken and seeks to end the suffering of all sentient beings seeks to bestow great happiness on those who are starved of it, and in so doing eliminate the various sorrows that afflict them. 30. Such a person dispels delusion and ignorance. Could there be any more saintly a person, or any greater friend than this? 31. When a person reciprocates someones kind deed, the world will often praise them for it. How much more praiseworthy is the person whose good deed is unsolicited? 32. The philanthropist who makes a small gift to a needy person is praised by the world as being virtuous. 33. How much more virtuous is the person who wishes to end the suffering of all sentient beings? 34. It is rightly said by the Holy Ones that a person who is ungrateful for the blessings they have received will experience great suffering. 35. If however a person cultivates an attitude of gratitude for the many blessings received, they experience happiness at the spontaneous generation of virtue. This creates a buffer between them and the world which protects them, even when extreme events occur.

Santideva's Guide to Enlightenment 36. Therefore I pay great respect to those enlightened people in whom this precious jewel of the mind has arisen. They are praiseworthy indeed. It is to these enlightened ones that I go for refuge and protection, even when in my own ignorance I cause them harm. The jewel of their mind transforms the harm into happiness.

End of sample. Another 9 chapters follow which progressively build towards how a sincere seeker might achieve enlightenment.