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Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life

Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life

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by Santideva, B. Alan Wallace (Translator), Vesna Wallace (Translator)

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In the whole of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, there is no single treatise more deeply revered or widely practiced than A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Composed in the eighth century by the Indian Bodhisattva Santideva, it became an instant classic in the curricula of the Buddhist monastic universities of India, and its renown has grown ever since.


In the whole of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, there is no single treatise more deeply revered or widely practiced than A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Composed in the eighth century by the Indian Bodhisattva Santideva, it became an instant classic in the curricula of the Buddhist monastic universities of India, and its renown has grown ever since. Santideva presents methods to harmonize one's life with the Bodhisattva ideal and inspires the reader to cultivate the perfections of the Bodhisattva: generosity, ethics, patience, zeal, meditative concentration, and wisdom.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Will stand for many years as the standard English translation of this key Tibetan Buddhist text."—Publishers Weekly

"The Wallaces have produced a concise, literal, and elegant translation. The extant Sanskrit edition frequently differs from the one used in Tibet a millennium ago, and the Wallaces have noted these differences in copious footnotes. These features make their translation both highly readable and an excellent source for scholars of the original languages."—Tricycle

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
One of the most distinctive traits of Tibetan Buddhism is its embrace of the noble path of the bodhisattva, an enlightened one who refuses union with the bliss of nirvana until all sentient beings have achieved enlightenment. Consequently, in these writings, Santideva teaches the cultivation of the six perfections of the bodhisattva way of life-generosity, ethics, patience, zeal, meditative concentration and wisdom. Few texts are as central to Tibetan Buddhism as the Bodhicaryavatara, for it is the primary source of most of the Tibetan Buddhist literature on the cultivation of altruism and the Spirit of Awakening. The two translators of this new edition bring enormous skill and sensitivity to the complex process of delivering this text from its original Sanskrit and the canonical Tibetan translation into modern English. Their use of both the Sanskrit and the Tibetan commentaries on the Bodhicaryavatara ensures that this new translation is a faithful representation of Santideva's teachings. The Wallace and Wallace edition will thus stand for many years as the standard English translation of this key Tibetan Buddhist text. (Apr.)
Library Journal
These two volumes present perspectives on the Boddhisattva ideal, the distinguishing characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism that emphasizes the desire for enlightment as an act of altruism toward all beings. A Guide to the Boddhisattva Way of Life is a classic of Tibetan Buddhism, composed in the eighth century by a Buddhist monk. The Wallaces (a professor and a student in religious studies, Stanford Univ.) translated this work with careful attention to Tibetan and Sanskrit versions, which makes their translation unique. The main text has been re-created from the Sanskrit with attention to the Tibetan. Where the nuances in the originals differ significantly, the translation of the Tibetan version is given in the notes. The Thirty Seven Practices of Boddhisattvas is a transcription of an oral teaching by a Buddhist scholar and teacher. The text on which the teaching is given is a set of verses written in the 14th century by a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Like the first title, this work seeks to elucidate the day-to-day practice of the Boddhisattva. The original verses are short and fairly clear, and the commentary by Rinchen makes the meaning and the demanding character of the Boddhisattva ideal realistic for the contemporary reader. The two titles offer insight upon insight as to the way a life should be lead. Rinchen's is perhaps the more accessible to general readers. For the price, any library with an interest in Buddhism would do well to acquire both.Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., N.Y.

Product Details

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New Edition
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6.00(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.43(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Benefit of the Spirit of Awakening

Om Homage to the Buddha

1. Reverently bowing to the Sugatas, who are endowed with the Dharmakaya, together with their Children and all who are worthy of veneration, I shall concisely present a guide to the discipline of the Children of the Sugatas in accordance with the scriptures.

2. There is nothing here that has not been said before, nor do I have any skill in composition. Thus, I have no concern for the welfare of others, and I have composed this solely to season my own mind.

3. Owing to this, the power of my faith increases to cultivate virtue. Moreover, if someone else with a disposition like my own examines this, it may be meaningful.

4. This leisure and endowment, which are so difficult to obtain, have been acquired, and they bring about the welfare of the world. If one fails to take this favorable opportunity into consideration, how could this occasion occur again?

5. Just as lightning illuminates the darkness of a cloudy night for an instant, in the same way, by the power of the Buddha, occasionally people's minds are momentarily inclined toward merit.

6. Thus, virtue is perpetually ever so feeble, while the power of vice is great and extremely dreadful. If there were no Spirit of Perfect Awakening, what other virtue would overcome it?

7. The Lords of Sages, who have been contemplating for many eons, have seen this alone as a blessing by whichjoy is easily increased and immeasurable multitudes of beings are rescued.

8. Those who long to overcome the abundant miseries of mundane existence, those who wish to dispel the adversities of sentient beings, and those who yearn to experience a myriad of joys should never forsake the Spirit of Awakening.

9. When the Spirit of Awakening has arisen, in an instant a wretch who is bound in the prison of the cycle of existence is called a Child of the Sugatas and becomes worthy of reverence in the worlds of gods and humans.

10. Upon taking this impure form, it transmutes it into the priceless image of the gem of the Jina. So, firmly hold to the quicksilver elixir, called the Spirit of Awakening, which must be utterly transmuted.

11. The world's sole leaders, whose minds are fathomless, have well examined its great value. You who are inclined to escape from the states of mundane existence, hold fast to the jewel of the Spirit of Awakening.

12. Just as a plantain tree decays upon losing its fruit, so does every other virtue wane. But the tree of the Spirit of Awakening perpetually bears fruit, does not decay, and only flourishes.

13. Owing to its protection, as due to the protection of a powerful man, even after committing horrendous vices, one immediately overcomes great fears. Why do ignorant beings not seek refuge in it?

14. Like the conflagration at the time of the destruction of the universe, it consumes great vices in an instant. The wise Lord Maitreya taught its incalculable benefits to Sudhana.

15. In brief, this Spirit of Awakening is known to be of two kinds: the spirit of aspiring for Awakening, and the spirit of venturing toward Awakening.

16. Just as one perceives the difference between a person who yearns to travel and a traveler, so do the learned recognize the corresponding difference between those two.

17. Although the result of the spirit of aspiring for Awakening is great within the cycle of existence, it is still not like the continual state of merit of the spirit of venturing.
18. From the time that one adopts that Spirit with an irreversible
attitude for the sake of liberating limitless sentient beings,

19. From that moment on, an uninterrupted stream of merit, equal to the sky, constantly arises even when one is asleep or distracted.

20. The Tathagata himself cogently asserted this in the Subahuprccha
for the sake of beings who are inclined toward the Lesser Vehicle.

21. A well-intentioned person who thinks, "I shall eliminate the
headaches of sentient beings," bears immeasurable merit.

22. What then of a person who desires to remove the incomparable pain of every single being and endow them with immeasurable good qualities?

23. Who has even a mother or father with such altruism? Would the gods, sages, or Brahmas have it?

24. If those beings have never before had that wish for their own sake even in their dreams, how could they possibly have it for the sake of others?

25. How does this unprecedented and distinguished jewel, whose desire for the benefit of others does not arise in others even for their own self-interest, come into existence?

26. How can one measure the merit of the jewel of the mind, which is the seed of the world's joy and is the remedy for the world's suffering?

27. If reverence for the Buddhas is exceeded merely by an altruistic intention, how much more so by striving for the complete happiness of all sentient beings?

28. Those desiring to escape from suffering hasten right toward suffering. With the very desire for happiness, out of delusion they destroy their own happiness as if it were an enemy.

29. He satisfies with all joys those who are starving for happiness and eliminates all the sorrows of those who are afflicted in many ways.
30. He dispels delusion. Where else is there such a saint? Where
else is there such a friend? Where else is there such merit?

31. Even one who repays a kind deed is praised somewhat, so what should be said of a Bodhisattva whose good deed is unsolicited?

32. The world honors as virtuous one who makes a gift to a few people, even if it is merely a momentary and contemptuous donation of plain food and support for half a day.

33. What then of one who forever bestows to countless sentient beings the fulfillment of all yearnings, which is inexhaustible until the end of beings as limitless as space?

34. The Lord declared, "One who brings forth an impure thought in his heart against a benefactor, a Child of the Jina, will dwell in hells for as many eons as there were impure thoughts."

35. But if one's mind is kindly inclined, one will bring forth an even greater fruit. Even when a greatly violent crime is committed against the Children of the Jinas, their virtue spontaneously arises.

36. I pay homage to the bodies of those in whom this precious jewel of the mind has arisen. I go for refuge to those who are mines of joy, toward whom even an offense results in happiness.

Choosing Reality
A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind

By B. Alan Wallace

Snow Lion Publications

Copyright © 1996 B. Alan Wallace. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Shantideva was a scholar in the eighth century from the monastic university Nalanda, one of the most celebrated centers of learning in ancient India. According to legend, Shantideva was greatly inspired by the celestial bodhisattva Manjushri, from whom he secretly received teachings and great insights. Yet as far as the other monks could tell, there was nothing special about Shantideva. In fact, he seemed to do nothing but eat and sleep. In an attempt to embarrass him, the monks forced Shantideva's hand by convincing him to publicly expound on the scriptures. To the amazement of all in attendance that day, Shantideva delivered the original and moving verses of the Bodhicharyavatara. When he reached verse thirty-four of the ninth chapter, he began to rise into the sky, until he at last disappeared. Following this, Shantideva became a great teacher.

B. Alan Wallace has authored, translated, edited, and contributed to more than forty books on Tibetan Buddhism, science, and culture. With fourteen years as a Buddhist monk, he earned a BA in physics and the philosophy of science and then a PhD in religious studies. After teaching in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies to explore the integration of scientific approaches and contemplative methods.

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Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book for those who are just beginning their path in Buddhism and for those well on their way. It helps deal with the day to day existence and with your relationships with all sentient beings. An enlightening and relevent book.