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No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva

No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva

4.4 11
by Pema Chodron

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Over the years, Pema Chödrön's books have offered readers an exciting new way of living: developing fearlessness, generosity, and compassion in all aspects of their lives. In this new book, she invites readers to venture further along the path of the "bodhisattva warrior," explaining in depth how we can awaken the softness of our hearts and develop true


Over the years, Pema Chödrön's books have offered readers an exciting new way of living: developing fearlessness, generosity, and compassion in all aspects of their lives. In this new book, she invites readers to venture further along the path of the "bodhisattva warrior," explaining in depth how we can awaken the softness of our hearts and develop true confidence amid the challenges of daily living.

In No Time to Lose Chödrön reveals the traditional Buddhist teachings that guide her own life: those of The Way of the Bodhisattva ( Bodhicharyavatara), a text written by the eighth-century sage Shantideva. This treasured Buddhist work is remarkably relevant for our times, describing the steps we can take to cultivate courage, caring, and joy—the key to healing ourselves and our troubled world. Chödrön offers us a highly practical and engaging commentary on this essential text, explaining how its profound teachings can be applied to our daily lives.

Full of illuminating stories and practical exercises, this fresh and accessible guide shows us that the path of the bodhisattva is open to each and every one of us. Pema Chödrön urges us to embark on this transformative path today, writing, "There is no time to lose—but not to worry, we can do it."

Editorial Reviews

In books such as When Things Fall Apart and Getting Unstuck, popular spiritual teacher Perna Chödrön draws on traditional Tibetan Buddhist teachings to help readers approach situations in their lives. In No Time to Lose, she presents an annotated version of a revered 8th-century text by the Indian Buddhist sage Shantideva. This lengthy text and commentary serves as a guidebook for developed bodhichitta, an awakened mind that expresses itself in compassionate action. Though not as accessible as Chödrön's introductory works, this book will be welcomed by serious students of Buddhism.
Publishers Weekly
Popular Buddhist teacher Chodron has a surprise for her many readers and students: textual commentary. Her newest book comments at length on an eighth-century text by the Indian Buddhist sage Shantideva. It's a guidebook for developing bodhichitta, an awakened mind that expresses itself in compassionate action to alleviate suffering. The lengthy text will certainly be unfamiliar to beginners, but Chodron is a wise choice for an escort. She is a clear teacher, explaining key terms (the Sanskrit term klesha, for example, may be translated as neurosis or affliction) and making things simple and characteristically plainspoken ("When we are distracted, we can't remember anything we've studied or read"). She is also the right kind of motivator, telling readers immediately what's in it for them: this book can inspire those who want to make the world a better place. Readers will need a helpful teacher and patience to take up the challenge offered by the long Buddhist text, which has been important in Chodron's own study. It's not a book for beginners or a good introduction to Chodron's own body of accessible work. But for those wanting depth and greater awareness of the Buddhist canon, this book opens a door. (Nov. 8) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In Mahayana Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are those who vow to achieve personal enlightenment solely for the purpose of eliminating the suffering of all sentient beings before they themselves abandon the painful cycle of death and rebirth. To help guide these seekers on their spiritual paths, the eighth-century Indian sage Shantideva composed the Buddhist text Bodhicaryavatara, or The Way of the Bodhisattva, today considered one of the classics of all religious literature. Ch dr n (The Places That Scare You), an American Buddhist teacher in the lineage of Chogyam Trungpa, gives general readers as well as serious students an easily understood explication of The Way, quatrain by quatrain. Her warm and elegant instruction omits only Chapter 9 of The Way, as she feels it would require a book of its own (the Dalai Lama has treated this chapter in his Transcendent Wisdom). Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-James R. Kuhlman, Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Chödrön’s commentary on Shantideva’s text is wise yet humble, and always encouraging.”—Yoga Journal

No Time to Lose represents the fruition of Chödrön’s years of practice and study: a traditional commentary in which passages from The Way of the Bodhisattva are interspersed with her ever-approachable and pithy instructions for daily life.”—Parabola

“Chödrön provides consistently clear expositions of Shantideva’s sometimes convoluted verses and lines of argument, keeping her eye firmly on the question of how his discussion is relevant to the lives of ordinary people living in modern societies.  A superlative presentation of the text.”—Buddhadharma

“In this ambitious and profound work, Chödrön hits high stride, creating a wide-ranging, accessible, and soul-stirring commentary on the classic Buddhist text The Way of the Bodhisattva.”—Spirituality and Health

“Chödrön is a clear teacher, explaining key terms and making things simple and characteristically plainspoken.  She is also the right kind of motivator, telling readers immediately what’s in it for them: this book can inspire those who want to make the world a better place.”—Publishers Weekly

“Pema Chödrön’s writings have been helpful to countless numbers of people trying to find some ground for their being in this chaotic world.”—Bill Moyers

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Read an Excerpt

Like Us Can Make a Difference

Way of the Bodhisattva

was composed in India over twelve centuries ago, yet it remains remarkably relevant for our times. This classic text, written by the Indian sage
Shantideva, gives surprisingly up-to-date instructions for people like you and me to live sanely and openheartedly, even in a very troubled world. It is the essential guidebook for fledgling
those spiritual warriors who long to alleviate suffering, their own and that of others. Thus it belongs to the mahayana, the school of Buddhism that emphasizes all-inclusive compassion and the cultivation of our flexible, unbiased wisdom mind.

According to tradition, to write a commentary on a text such as
Way of the Bodhisattva
in Sanskrit), one must have advanced spiritual realization or have been directed in a dream to compose such a treatise. Since I unfortunately have neither qualification, I simply offer this teaching with the sincere aspiration that it may help new readers to benefit from Shantideva's text as much as I have.

My own appreciation of
Way of the Bodhisattva

came about slowly, and only after I became familiar with Patrul Rinpoche, the great wandering yogi of nineteenth-century Tibet. From his writings and the outrageous stories told about him, I came to respect and love this man dearly.
He had no fixed abode, no belongings, and was very unconventional and spontaneous in his behavior. Yet he was a powerful and very wise teacher, whose spiritual realization manifested in all the situations of his life. He related to people with great compassion and tenderness, but also with ruthless honesty.

I discovered that Patrul Rinpoche had taught this text hundreds of times, it caught my attention. He would wander around Tibet teaching anyone who would listen: rich and poor, nomads and aristocrats, scholars and people who had never studied the Buddhist teachings. Hearing this, I thought, "If this eccentric man, this dedicated yogi, loved the text so much, there must be something to it." So I began to study it in earnest.

Some people fall in love with
Way of the Bodhisattva

the first time they read it, but I wasn't one of them. Truthfully, without my admiration for Patrul Rinpoche, I wouldn't have pursued it. Yet once I actually started grappling with its content, the text shook me out of a deep-seated complacency, and I came to appreciate the urgency and relevance of these teachings. With Shantideva's guidance, I realized that ordinary people like us can make a difference in a world desperately in need of help.

also began to wish for a less scholarly commentary than those available, one that might reach a wide audience and be accessible even to people who know nothing of the Buddhist teachings.

For these reasons, when I was requested to teach
Way of the Bodhisattva

at Gampo Abbey's monastic college, I was eager to give it a try. The transcripts of those talks form the basis of this book. My commentary on
Shantideva's teaching is very much a student's view and a work in progress.
Unquestionably, with the help of my teachers, my understanding of these verses will deepen considerably over time; nevertheless, I am truly delighted to share my enthusiasm for Shantideva's instructions.


Shantideva was born a prince in eighth-century India and, as the eldest son, was destined to inherit the throne. In one account of the story, the night before his coronation, Shantideva had a dream in which Manjushri (the bodhisattva of wisdom) appeared to him and told him to renounce worldly life and seek ultimate truth. Thus Shantideva left home immediately, giving up the throne for the spiritual path, just as the historical Buddha had done.

In another version, the night before his enthronement, Shantideva's mother gave him a ceremonial bath using scalding water. When he asked why she was intentionally burning him, she replied, "Son this pain is nothing compared to the pain you will suffer when you're king," and on that very night, he rapidly departed.

Whatever the catalyst, Shantideva disappeared into India and began living the life of a renunciate. Eventually he arrived at Nalanda University, which was the largest,
most powerful monastery in India at the time, a place of great learning that attracted students from all over the Buddhist world. At Nalanda he was ordained a monk and given the name Shantideva, which translates as "God of

Contrary to what his later reputation suggests, Shantideva was not well liked at
Nalanda. Apparently he was one of those people who didn't show up for anything,
never studying or coming to practice sessions. His fellow monks said that his three "realizations" were eating, sleeping, and shitting. Finally, in order to teach him a lesson, they invited him to give a talk to the entire university. Only the best students were accorded such an honor. You had to sit on a throne and, of course, have something to say. Since Shantideva was presumed to know nothing, the monks thought he would be shamed and humiliated into leaving the university. That's one story.

Another version presents a more sympathetic view of Nalanda, whereby the monks hoped that by embarrassing Shantideva, they could motivate him to study.
Nevertheless, like all sentient beings who are building a case against someone,
they probably derived a certain joy from the possibility of making Shantideva squirm. It's said they tried to further humiliate him by making the throne unusually high, without providing any stairs.

To their astonishment, Shantideva had no problem getting onto the throne. He then confidently asked the assembled monks if they wanted traditional teachings or something they had never heard before. When they replied that they wanted to hear something new, he proceeded to deliver the entire
Way of the Bodhisattva

Not only were these teachings very personal, full of useful advice, and relevant to their lives, they were also poetic and fresh. The content itself was not radical. In the very first verses, Shantideva says that everything he's about to teach derives from the lineage of the Buddha. It wasn't his subject matter that was original; it was the direct and very contemporary way he expressed the teachings, and the beauty and power of his words.

Toward the end of his presentation, Shantideva began to teach on emptiness: the unconditioned, inexpressible, dreamlike nature of all experience. As he spoke,
the teachings became more and more groundless. There was less and less to hold on to, and the monks' minds opened further and further. At that point, it is said that Shantideva began to float. He levitated upward until the monks could no longer see him and could only hear his voice. Perhaps this just expresses how enraptured his audience felt. We will never know for sure. What we do know is that after Shantideva's discourse on emptiness, he disappeared. By then his disappearance probably disappointed the monks, but he never returned to Nalanda and remained a wandering yogi for the rest of his life.


Way of the Bodhisattva

is divided into ten chapters. Patrul Rinpoche organized them into three main sections based on the following verse by the great Buddhist master Nagarjuna:

May bodhichitta, precious and sublime,

Arise where it has not yet come to be;

And where it has arisen may it not decline,

But grow and flourish ever more and more.

Sanskrit term
is often translated as "awakened heart," and refers to an intense desire to alleviate suffering. On the relative level, bodhichitta expresses itself as longing. Specifically, it is the heartfelt yearning to free oneself from the pain of ignorance and habitual patterns in order to help others do the same. This longing to alleviate the suffering of others is the main point. We start close to home with the wish to help those we know and love, but the underlying inspiration is global and all encompassing. Bodhichitta is a sort of
"mission impossible": the desire to end the suffering of all beings,
including those we'll never meet, as well as those we loathe.

On the absolute level, bodhichitta is nondual wisdom, the vast, unbiased essence of mind. Most importantly, this is your mind—yours and mine. It may seem distant but it isn't. In fact, Shantideva composed this text to remind himself that he could contact his wisdom mind and help it to flourish.

According to Patrul Rinpoche's threefold division, the first three chapters of
Way of the Bodhisattva

elucidate the opening lines of Nagarjuna's verse—"May bodhichitta,
precious and sublime/ Arise where it has not yet come to be"—and refer to our initial longing to care for others. We yearn for this transformative quality to arise in ourselves, and in all beings, even those who have never before concerned themselves with the welfare of others. Chapter 1 offers a rhapsody on the wonders of bodhichitta. Chapter 2 prepares the mind to nurture this bodhichitta longing: as if preparing soil, we prepare the mind so the seed of bodhichitta can grow. Chapter 3 introduces us to the bodhisattva's vow, the commitment to use one's life to help others.

Sadly we're usually so preoccupied with our own comfort and security that we don't give much thought to what others might be going through. While justifying our own prejudice and anger, we fear and denounce these qualities in others. We don't want ourselves or those we care about to suffer, yet we condone revenge on our foes. Seeing the disastrous results of this "me-first"
thinking in the daily news, however, we might long for bodhichitta to arise in the hearts of men and women everywhere. Then, instead of seeking revenge, we'd want even our enemies to be at peace.

Luther King Jr. exemplified this kind of longing. He knew that happiness depended on healing the whole situation. Taking sides—black or white, abusers or abused—only perpetuates the suffering. For me to be healed, everyone has to be healed.

The people who make a positive difference in this world have big hearts.
Bodhichitta is very much awake in their minds. With the skillful means to communicate to large groups of people, they can bring about enormous change,
even in those who never previously looked beyond their own needs. This is the subject of the first three chapters of
Way of the Bodhisattva:
the initial dawning of the awakened heart.

The next line of Nagarjuna's verse, "And where it has arisen, may it not decline," corresponds to the next three chapters of
Way of the Bodhisattva

and emphasizes the need to nurture bodhichitta. If we don't encourage it, our yearning to alleviate suffering can become dormant. While it never disappears completely, the ability to love and empathize can definitely decline.

The same is true of insight. A mere glimpse of the openness of our mind might touch us deeply. It might inspire us to start reading books like this one and awaken a feeling of urgency to do something meaningful with our lives. But if we don't nurture this inspiration it falters. Life takes over, and we forget we ever saw things from a wider perspective. Therefore, once we feel the longing of bodhichitta, we need to be told how to proceed.

In chapters 4, 5, and 6, Shantideva describes how to work skillfully with emotional reactivity and the wildness of our minds. These are essential instructions for freeing ourselves from self-absorption, the narrow-minded reference point that my teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche called "the cocoon."

In these chapters, we are also introduced to the six
These are six basic ways to go beyond the false security of habitual patterns and relax with the fundamental groundlessness and unpredictability of our lives. The word
literally means "going to the other shore," going beyond the usual preconceptions that blind us to our immediate experience.

In chapter 5, Shantideva presents the
of discipline; in chapter 6, the
of patience. But this is not discipline and patience in the ordinary sense of restraint and forbearance; it's the discipline and patience that awaken our heart by dissolving deep-seated habits of negativity and selfishness.

7, 8, and 9 illuminate the last line of Nagarjuna's verse and contain teachings that encourage bodhichitta to "grow and flourish ever more and more."
Chapter 7 discusses the
of enthusiasm; chapter 8, the
of meditation; and chapter 9, the wisdom of emptiness.

In this third section, Shantideva shows us how bodhichitta can become a way of life. With his support, we could eventually enter into even the most challenging situations without losing our insight or compassion. This, of course, is a gradual learning process and we may have some relapses. But as we make the journey from fear to fearlessness, Shantideva is always there with the wisdom and encouragement we need.

After some consideration, I have decided that commentary on the ninth chapter of
Way of the Bodhisattva

requires a book in itself. While these teachings on the
of wisdom are important to Shantideva's overall presentation, they are far more daunting than the rest of the text. They present a philosophical debate between
Shantideva's "Middle-Way" view of emptiness and the views of other
Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools. Because of their complexity, I feel it would be best to present them separately and at a future time. For now, I refer you to the excellent explanation in the introduction to the Padmakara translation of
Way of the Bodhisattva
and to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's book

In the tenth and final chapter Shantideva—wholeheartedly and with great passion—dedicates the benefit of his teachings to all suffering beings,
whoever and wherever they may be.


regard this text as an instruction manual for extending ourselves to others, a guidebook for compassionate action. We can read it to free ourselves from crippling habits and confusion. We can read it to encourage our wisdom and compassion to grow stronger. And we can read it with the motivation to share the benefit with everyone we meet.

This is the spirit: read
Way of the Bodhisattva

with the intention of accepting and digesting all that rings true. Not everything will inspire you. You might find the language challenging, and you might sometimes feel provoked or offended. But remember that Shantideva's unwavering intention is to encourage us. He never doubts that we have the strength and basic goodness to help others, and he tells us everything he has learned about how to do this. Then, of course, it's up to us to use this information and make it real.

I am indebted to Shantideva for his determination to get this message across:
people like you and me
transform our lives by awakening the longing of bodhichitta. And I am deeply grateful to him for expressing, unrelentingly, that it is urgent, very urgent,
that we do so. We have no time to lose. When I look at the state of the world today, I know his message could not possibly be more timely.

And now as long as space endures,

As long as there are beings to be found,

I continue likewise to remain

To drive away the sorrows of the world.

Way of the Bodhisattva
v. 10.55

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
No Time to Lose represents the fruition of Chödrön’s years of practice and study: a traditional commentary in which passages from The Way of the Bodhisattva are interspersed with her ever-approachable and pithy instructions for daily life.”—Parabola

“In this ambitious and profound work, Chödrön hits high stride, creating a wide-ranging, accessible, and soul-stirring commentary on the classic Buddhist text The Way of the Bodhisattva.”—Spirituality & Health

Meet the Author

Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. She is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners. She is the author of many books and audiobooks, including the best-selling When Things Fall Apart and Don't Bite the Hook.

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No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Michelle-Wolff_11 More than 1 year ago
As always Pema Chodron makes ancient texts relevant and accessible. This book is so good as all of her works are. Her writings have changed my life and world views more than once. Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pema Chodren's writing about the path of the Bodhisattva from Shantideva's work supports my need of better understanding of the practice of meditation. She does leave out a Chapter on Wisdom, yet states that would be a book of it's own. I love Peam's writing as she simplifies what can appear to be complicated, yet in her wording, I see the path. Great book for beginner's to meditation.
AHunterTX More than 1 year ago
This book takes "The Way of The Bodhisattva" and makes it applicable to our lives today. It helped me to realize that I really needed to be serious about my practice and also why it was important to practice. The teaching explanations by Pema Chodron are given with a sense of humor but yet serious at the same. This book will take your breath away with its beauty. I checked it out of the library but had to own a copy for myself because it was so good!
burninbob More than 1 year ago
Chodron acknowledges her own shortcomings and yet she delivers an excellent overview of this ancient text. An occidental spin on an translation of a deep oriental text; not an easy thing to do.
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