Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

How to Enjoy a Life of Great Meaning and Altruism

By Shantideva, translated under the guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Also available as an audiobook on CD

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This book is a translation of a famous and universally loved poem for daily living composed by the 8th century Buddhist Sage Shantideva.

It charts the spiritual journey of a Bodhisattva, one who is committed to attaining full enlightenment for the sake of all living beings.

The poem is written from the point of view of a practitioner and provides an extraordinary insight into the process of inner transformation one goes through while traversing the Bodhisattva path.

No one can read this epic work and remain unmoved.

Geshe Kelsang provides a detailed commentary to the poem in his book Meaningful to Behold.

“ …the book itself is beautifully realized, original brush and ink paintings introduce each section and even the paperback possesses an attractive texture. The poetry is lucid and refined, even as Shantideva moves into involved discussions of Madhyamika philosophy, and a glossary is included to help the reader sort out technical terms. This text can serve as an excellent introduction to the Mahayana tradition, or be studied in depth with a commentary such as Meaningful to Behold” — ALTAR MAGAZINE

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The Benefits of Bodhichitta

In Sanskrit, Bodhisatvacharyavatara
In Tibetan, Jang chub sem pai chö pa la jug pa
In English, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

Chapter I
An Explanation of the Benefits of Bodhichitta

Homage to the enlightened Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

I prostrate to the enlightened Buddhas endowed with the Truth Body,
And to the Bodhisattvas and all other objects of prostration.
I will explain briefly, in accordance with the Scriptures,
How to engage in the condensed practices of the Bodhisattva.

There is nothing written here that has not been explained before,
And I have no special skills in composition.
My reason for writing this is to benefit others
And to keep my mind acquainted.

Thus, the strength of my faith and my virtuous realizations
Might for a while be increased by this,
And perhaps others who are as fortunate as I
Might also find this meaningful to behold.

This precious human life, so hard to find,
Gives the ultimate goal for living beings.
If we do not strive to accomplish this goal now,
How will such a precious opportunity arise again?

Just as on a dark and cloudy night
A flash of lightning for a moment illuminates all,
So for the worldly, through the power of Buddha’s blessings,
A virtuous intention occasionally and briefly occurs.

Thus, while our virtues are mostly weak,
Our non-virtues are extremely strong and fearsome.
Other than bodhichitta – a compassionate mind wishing for enlightenment – What virtue can overcome the heaviest evils?

The Able Ones, the Buddhas, who have considered this for many aeons,
Have all seen bodhichitta to be the most beneficial
Because through it countless masses of living beings
Can easily attain the supreme bliss of enlightenment.

Those who wish to destroy their own suffering,
Those who wish to dispel the sufferings of others,
And those who wish to experience much happiness
Should never forsake the practice of bodhichitta.

The moment bodhichitta is generated,
Even in pitiful beings bound within the prison of samsara,
They become Bodhisattvas – a “Son or Daughter of Buddha” – And are worthy of veneration by humans and worldly gods.

Just like the supreme elixir that transmutes into gold,
Bodhichitta can transform this impure body we have taken
Into the priceless jewel of a Buddha’s form;
Therefore, firmly maintain bodhichitta.

Since the limitless wisdom of Buddha, the Sole Navigator of living beings,
Upon thorough investigation has seen its preciousness,
Those who wish to be free from samsara’s suffering
Should firmly maintain this precious mind of bodhichitta.

Whereas all other virtues are like plantain trees,
In that they are exhausted once they produce fruit,
The enduring celestial tree of bodhichitta
Is not exhausted but increases by bearing fruit.

Just as when those who are greatly afraid rely upon a courageous one,
Whoever relies upon bodhichitta will immediately be freed from danger
Even if they have committed unbearable evils;
So why do the conscientious not rely upon it?

Just like the fire at the end of the aeon,
In an instant it completely consumes all great evil.
Its countless benefits were explained by the wise Protector Maitreya To Bodhisattva Sudhana.

© Geshe Kelsang Gyatso & New Kadampa Tradition