The Bodhicharyāvatāra: Entering into the Conduct of the Bodhisattva, Chapter One

The Bodhicharyāvatāra: Entering into the Conduct of the Bodhisattva

by Shantideva

In the Indian Language (Sanskrit): Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra

In the Tibetan Language: Jangchhubsempa’i Choepa la Jukpa (byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa)

In the English Language: Entering into the Conduct of the Bodhisattva

Chapter One: An Explanation of the Benefits of Bodhichitta



To the Bliss-Gone Sugatas, endowed with the Dharmakaya, and to their mighty heirs,

And to all those worthy of homage, I prostrate;

The entrance into the discipline of the Sugata Heirs

In accordance with scripture, and in a condensed fashion, I shall now describe.


Here, I am not saying anything that has not been said before,

And skill in poetry have I none,

Therefore, I have no idea that this will benefit others:

I compose this for my own mind’s contemplation.


For the sake of my cultivation of virtue, my faith may be strengthened,

And so I may increase my familiarity with it for a little while.

But if others, equal to myself in fortune, come across these words,

Then may it be meaningful for them.


These freedoms and riches are extremely difficult to find.

This attainment of meaningful human birth:

If it happens that I do not accomplish its benefit,

Then later, how could this perfect wealth come again?


Just as, in the dark black of night, covered by clouds,

A flash of lightning momentarily illuminates and reveals,

Likewise, rarely, through the Buddha’s extraordinary might

Do positive attitudes arise, brief and transient in this world.


Thus, examine the frailty of virtue!

The great force of negativity is extremely unbearable;

And other than perfect bodhichitta,

All other virtues are overpowered by it.


Pondering thoroughly for a myriad of aeons,

The Powerful Able Ones beheld this itself to be of benefit;

And that through this, the boundless multitudes of people

Will easily reach supreme bliss.


Those who wish to overcome the hundreds of sufferings of conditioned existence,

Those who wish to clear away the unhappiness of living beings,

And those who wish to experience the many hundreds of happinesses, too,

Should never forsake this very bodhichitta.


If bodhichitta comes to birth, then in a single instant,

Those bound and exhausted in the dungeon of samsara

Become known as heirs of the Bliss-Gone Sugatas,

And transform into objects of veneration for the gods and humans of the universe.


Like the supreme kinds of elixirs in alchemy,

It takes this unclean body and makes of it a Victorious One’s exalted form,

A transformation into something whose value is priceless.

That’s what’s called bodhichitta — we should grasp it firmly!


If the sole navigator of beings, through his boundless intellect,

Saw with thorough analysis its preciousness,

Then we who wish to leave these places of wandering,

Would do well to hold to precious bodhichitta.


Other virtues, like the plantain tree,

Have the nature of bearing fruit and then exhausting.

Bodhichitta, like the magical trees of Sukhavati, always

Gives forth fruit, not exhausting, but ever-increasing.


Even if an extremely intolerable destructive action is done,

In the way that one would rely on a hero under great terror,

Whoever relies on it will be instantly freed.

Therefore, why would the heedful not trust in it?


Thus, like the conflagration at the end of a world-cycle, great negative actions

In a single moment are certain to be burned up and destroyed.

These and uncountable other benefits

Lord Maitreya, endowed with wisdom, explained to Sudhana.


This bodhichitta, when summarized,

Should be known as having two aspects:

Bodhichitta of Aspiration

And Bodhichitta of Engagement.


Wishing to depart and actually going,

The distinction, in that way, should be understood.

Similarly, the learned, through these two,

Should understand the distinctions gradually.


From aspirational bodhichitta

Great fruits arise while in samsara;

But unlike the manner of active, engaged bodhichitta

An unremitting stream of merit will not come forth.


From this point onward, an irreversible mind

Bent on totally liberating all the realms of sentient beings,

As limitless as they are:

That is the mind that is perfectly embraced.


Henceforth, either in sleep,

Or in attention, too, powerful merit

In a multiplicity of ceaseless streams

Will arise fully,  equal to the sky.


Concerning this, with logic and reasoning,

Due to Subahu’s request,

For the sake of those sentient beings inclined towards lesser approaches,

The One Gone to Thusness himself nobly explained.


The mere headaches of sentient beings:

If even the thought “I will dispel them!”

Is a wish endowed with great benefit,

Then what incalculable merit will come


When one wishes to dispel each and every sentient being’s

Unhappiness, all of it, boundless as it is,

And establish them with boundless qualities:

What need is there speak of it?


Is it possible that our fathers or our mothers

Or anyone else has a beneficial mind such as this?

Is it possible that the gods or the sages

Or even Brahma has this?


Previously, did sentient beings themselves

Have this kind of mind even for their own welfare?

And if even in their dreams, they did not envision it,

Then how could they have generated the thought of such benefit for others?


If others, even for their own benefit,

Did not give rise to it, then what of the mind wishing to benefit all sentient beings?

This special mind, so precious,

In the past non-existent, is truly a wonder to be born.


This cause for the bliss of all beings,

This alchemical transformer of suffering;

The full merit of this precious jewel of mind:

How shall it be gauged or quantified?


For if even a mere beneficial thought

Is more special and noble than offerings to the buddhas,

What need if there to mention striving for the happiness and welfare

Of all sentient beings without exception?


It is suffering that the mind wishes to abandon

And yet it is suffering itself that it totally runs after.

Desiring happiness, but through mental darkness,

One’s own happiness, like an enemy, oneself destroys.


But those who fill with all the blisses

Those who are destitute of happiness,

Those who are burdened by many sufferings,

And sever all of their pains


And even drive away the darkness of their confusion:

What virtue could be likened to theirs?

What kind of friend could be compared them?

What merit is there similar to theirs?


If those who do good in return for favors received

But one time are considered worthy of praise,

Then what need is there to speak of those who, without any coercion, practice goodness:

The bodhisattvas?


Those who scornfully and with condescension, give food,

Giving, for just a mere moment, some morsels,

Or feeding enough for just a half a day:

Those people are honored by the world as virtuous.


Just glancing at them, what need is there to speak of those

Who, for as long as the limitless numbers of sentient beings exist,

Wish to constantly bestow on them to the unsurpassable bliss of Sugatahood,

The ultimate fulfillment of all of their wishes?


For those kinds of givers, the heirs of the Victorious Ones,

If one were to generate a negative thought towards them,

Then one will come to remain in hell for as many aeons as moments of ill will:

Thus the Able One has taught.


By contrast, those who practice good and excellent thoughts

Will yield increasing fruits of happiness in even greater measure.

The bodhisattvas, even in great adversity, do not bring forth evil,

Only an ever-increasing sphere of virtue and goodness.


To this precious mind,

And to the exalted forms of those who have generated it, I prostrate.

To those sources of happiness that bring bliss even to those who harm them,

I go for refuge.



Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos (Sherab Zangpo).

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