Drawn Back to the Bodhicaryāvatāra

“The Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra or Bodhicaryāvatāra translated into English as “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”, is a Mahāyāna Buddhist text written c. 700 AD in Sanskrit verse by Shantideva (Śāntideva), a Buddhist monk at Nālandā Monastic University in India which is also where it was composed.”


To anyone who studies {and enacts} Buddhist philosophy it quickly becomes obvious that many of the foibles of modern life are not considered to bring enlightenment. Self-promotion, greed, gossip, attachment to worldly goods and gonadal corporeal acts are considered to be hindrances to attaining bodhi-mind. One could say that the ambitious “cut and thrust” of modern society is at odds with Buddhist thought and society actively discriminates against anyone who practises and embodies the precepts.

To use a metaphor; if you do not blow your own trumpet sufficiently loudly you will never get promoted up the greasy pole. Buddhism does not promote such trumpet blowing.

Modern western society discriminates against people who are not forceful, nor demanding, ambitious or manipulative. People who won’t play the itchy back game do not advance in our society as it currently manifests. If you can’t be bribed with some desire, some wish, then you are not to be trusted. If you do not want there are no levers to apply. If you don’t bullshit and hype like everyone else, but are accurate and modest, then you can appear as a nothing, a no-hoper.

People in general do not like it if you reject their ethos and mores. They are likely to judge you and condemn you if you renounce their ways of being, this is especially so if you look like them and talk like them. {I can, for real, talk reductionist science better than your average human.}

I have an ongoing joke, if I wore Buddhist robes instead of black Levi’s 501s people would cut me more slack for my apparent “eccentricities”. If I tipped up at a UK science conference in Saffron or Magenta, people would metaphorically shit a brick, especially those who once had my acquaintance.

But I am not a clown, nor do I do tricks.

Similarly, if one practises Christianity as per Jesus and not the church, there would be conflict with what modern society deems to be dandy.

If what I was “told” is correct then in two previous lives I did indeed wear Buddhist robes and in another I was a Christian priest. I have been “told” that this is my very last incarnation on this planet.

When you look at all that stuff which people largely unthinking engage in, you can’t help but wonder why. Humanity is not happy, satisfied and at peace. There is precious little equanimity and a horde, a host of drama. There is a mental health crisis, allegedly.

Something in the way of life is not working…maybe it will one day lose its gloss…

 Anyway, today I am drawn once again to Śāntideva and the Bodhicaryāvatāra…

It is a candle in a dark and often petty world…

Get Even, Score Points or Wish Enlightenment?

I have been reading Shantideva’s bodhisattva vows on and off for well over a decade. It demonstrates his compassion for beings who are suffering and his deep heartfelt wish to be of assistance to them in their times of trouble. It shows his self-less-ness.

For whatever reason it resonates in my core.

I was fortunate enough over a period of several years to act as something of a sanctuary for others amidst the turbulence and stresses of modern life. It is amazing how much difference a willing ear can make. I helped people, even those who were trying to play the system and I got a few out of some tight self-inflicted corners. All of this with confidentiality. I got through quite a few boxes of tissues mopping up the tears. It was not just students I saw, once word got around.

If someone gives him, Shantideva, an imagined slight, does he seek to get even, pursue revenge or score points?

No, he hopes that in time they will learn from their folly and move away from grasping and suffering. He hopes in his being an instrument of their learning, to have served.

He knows that people gossip about those who are different. He wishes that this obsession with trivia and pettiness will pass, and some wisdom is gained, some loosening of binding.

Someone who has started on the path of the bodhisattva, has no interest in scoring points, being better than and finds the entire notion of revenge a primitive anathema. When attacked they may not defend unless that attack is intended to be fatal. People on the bodhisattva path have much less to defend than your common or garden human. They understand impermanence.

What people say is not real, it is impermanent. It might be motivated by a whole bunch of unwholesome motives, but who cares?

Everybody has to learn and sometimes it is only by seeing the damage wrought by our actions that we do learn. Learning can cause suffering for others as well as ourselves.

On this scale, where are you?

Do you seek to score points and get even, or do you wish people a nice journey towards enlightenment?

Adopter la bodhicitta

Bodhicaryāvatāra — Chapitre 3

Par Śāntideva

Excerpted from Lotsawa House translated by Adam Pearcey and Christian Magis.


Je célèbre avec joie tous les actes vertueux

Qui allègent les peines des royaumes inférieurs,

Et je me réjouis aussi quand ceux qui souffrent

Trouvent le bonheur.

Je me réjouis de l’accumulation de vertus

Qui est la cause de l’Éveil,

Et de la libération définitive

Des êtres des peines du samsâra.

L’Éveil des bouddhas m’emplit de joie

Ainsi que les bhûmi atteints par les bodhisattvas.

L’allégresse me saisit à l’évocation de cet océan de vertus

Qu’est la noble intention de la bodhicitta,

Dont le but est d’obtenir le bonheur pour tous les êtres

Et dont l’activité est, pour tous, bénéfique.

Je joins maintenant les mains et vous prie,

Bouddhas de toutes les directions,

De faire briller la lampe du Dharma sur nous

Qui souffrons dans l’obscurité de la confusion.

Les mains jointes sur le cœur,

J’enjoins tous les bouddhas aspirant au nirvâna

De ne pas nous abandonner aveugles et seuls,

Mais de demeurer parmi nous pour d’innombrables kalpas.

Grâce à toutes les vertus

Que j’ai ainsi accumulées,

Puissé-je être pour tous les êtres

Celui qui calme la douleur.

Puissé-je être médecin et remède,

Puissé-je être celui qui soigne

Jusqu’à la guérison complète

Tous ceux qui souffrent en ce monde.

Faisant tomber en pluis mets et boissons,

Puissé-je éliminer la faim et la soif,

Et dans les temps de pénurie et de famine,

Puissé-je devenir moi-même nourriture et boisson.

Pour tous ceux qui sont pauvres et démunis,

Puissé-je être un trésor aux ressources inépuisables,

La source de tout ce dont ils ont besoin,

À portée de main et toujours accessible.

Mon propre corps et toutes mes possessions,

Mes mérites passés, présents et futurs,

Je les dédie en totalité, n’en retenant aucun,

Pour le bienfait des êtres.

C’est en lâchant prise de tout que j’atteindrai le nirvana,

Cet état qui transcende la souffrance ;

Puisque tout doit, un jour, être abandonné,

Il vaut mieux que, dès maintenant, je le distribue.

J’ai maintenant renoncé à mon corps,

Et l’ai donné pour le bien de tout ce qui vit.

Qu’ils le tuent, le battent et le maltraitent,

Qu’ils en fassent ce que bon leur semble.

Et s’ils le traitent comme leur jouet,

S’ils le tournent en objet de ridicule et de moquerie,

Puisque je leur en ai fait don,

Pourquoi en prendrai-je ombrage ?

Qu’ils fassent de moi ce qu’ils veulent :

Tout, hormis ce qui leur causerait tort.

Et puisse cela servir d’enseignement

À quiconque en serait le témoin.

Si, juste en me voyant, d’autres sont inspirés

De pensées de colère ou de dévotion,

Puissent ces pensées éternellement

Servir à combler leurs désirs.

Puissent ceux qui m’insultent ouvertement,

Ceux qui me nuisent autrement,

Même ceux qui me rabaissent en secret,

Trouver le bonheur de l’Éveil.

Puissé-je être le protecteur des abandonnés,

Le guide de ceux qui cheminent,

Et pour ceux qui aspirent à l’autre rive,

Être une barque, un pont, un gué.

Puissé-je être une île à qui souhaite toucher terre,

Une lampe à qui cherche la lumière,

Un lit pour qui désire le repos,

Un serviteur pour qui vit dans le besoin.

Puissé-je être un joyau qui exauce les souhaits, un vase merveilleux,

Un puissant mantra ou un remède infaillible ;

Puissé-je devenir cet arbre miraculeux qui comble les vœux,

Une vache d’abondance, nourrice du monde.

De même que l’espace,

La terre et les éléments,

Puissé-je toujours soutenir la vie

Des êtres en nombre illimité.

Et tant qu’elles ne seront pas libérées de la souffrance,

Puissé-je aussi être source de vie

Pour les créatures innombrables

Qui peuplent l’espace infini.

Tout comme les sugata des temps passés

Ont réalisé la bodhicitta

Et se sont établis progressivement

Dans l’entraînement d’un bodhisattva,

De même, pour le bien des êtres,

J’éveillerai la bodhicitta

Et m’entraînerai moi aussi

Graduellement dans ces disciplines.

Ainsi, tous ceux dont l’esprit est avisé,

Et qui ont adopté la bodhicitta avec joie,

Pourront, afin de la développer davantage,

En faire l’éloge de la manière qui suit :

Aujourd’hui, ma naissance est devenue fructueuse ;

J’ai bien obtenu une existence humaine.

Aujourd’hui, je nais dans la famille du Bouddha,

Je suis maintenant un fils (une fille) de Bouddha.

Désormais, j’accomplirai

Les actions dignes de ma famille,

Je ne ferai pas tache

Dans cette noble famille sans défauts.

Comme un aveugle

Qui trouve un joyau dans un tas d’ordures,

Ainsi s’est levée en moi,

Par quelque coïncidence heureuse, la bodhicitta.

C’est l’élixir suprême

Qui abolit la souveraineté de la mort,

Le trésor inépuisable

Qui élimine la misère du monde,

Le remède incomparable

Qui guérit les maladies du monde,

L’arbre qui abrite tous les êtres

Las d’errer sur les chemins de l’existence conditionnée,

Le pont universel

Qui mène à la libération des existences douloureuses,

La lune de l’esprit qui se lève

Et apaise la brûlure des passions du monde,

Le grand soleil qui finalement dissipe

Les brumes de l’ignorance du monde,

Le beurre le plus fin, baratté à partir

Du lait du Dharma sacré.

Aux êtres qui errent sur les chemins de l’existence

Et cherchent à en goûter les joies,

Elle offre le bonheur le plus élevé,

Satisfaisant ces éternels vagabonds.

Aujourd’hui en présence de tous les protecteurs,

Je convie tous les êtres à l’état de sugata

Et, en attendant, au bonheur.

Que les dieux, les asuras et tous les autres se réjouissent !


My own body and all that I possess,
My past, present and future virtues—
I dedicate them all, withholding nothing,
To bring about the benefit of beings.

By letting go of all I shall attain nirvāṇa,
The transcendence of misery I seek,
Since everything must finally be abandoned,
It would be best if I gave it all away.

This body of mine I have now given up,
Entirely for the pleasure of all who live.
Let them kill it, beat it and abuse it,
Forever doing with it as they please.

And if they treat it like a toy,
Or an object of ridicule and jest,
When I have given it away,
Why should I then become upset?

Let them do to me as they please,
Whatever does not harm them;
And when anyone should think of me,
May that only serve them well.

If the sight of me inspires in others
Thoughts of anger or devotion,
May such states of mind be causes
For eternally fulfilling their desires.

May those who insult me to my face,
Or cause me harm in any other way,
Even those who disparage me in secret,
Have the good fortune to awaken.

May I be a guard for those without one,
A guide for all who journey on the road,
May I become a boat, a raft or bridge,
For all who wish to cross the water.

May I be an isle for those desiring landfall,
And a lamp for those who wish for light,
May I be a bed for those who need to rest,
And a servant for all who live in need.

May I become a wishing jewel, a magic vase,
A powerful mantra and a medicine of wonder.
May I be a tree of miracles granting every wish,
And a cow of plenty sustaining all the world.

Buddhism is Radical

It is possible that through my actions in reading Śāntideva and his Bodhisattva Vow that I have, in effect, taken that vow in this lifetime. It is also possible that I took a similar vow in two of my previous lifetimes. Two of these lives were monastic. This one is not.

It is a moot point as to whether running away from biological function to be a monk is the best way to overcome it. This kind of denial causes problems in many churches. Stuff gets bottled up and not faced. It can be dangerous. It is a tad absolute.

There are a lot of challenges in trying to relate to another human being in an intimate relationship, a good testing ground if you like. It is harder to put into practice in the middle of a “domestic”.

The basic tenets of Buddhism are inconsistent with modern day grasping hedonistic materialism and this bizarre notion of vacuous self-obsessed influencing. If one is striving to become detached and non-attached, that is the antithesis of aquistional materialism. If one sees glamours like kudos and power as impermanent, why would one even bother to chase after them? Some people think you should.

People can be very ambitious to self-advance and rely on this quality being present in others in order to facilitate socio-political negotiations. I don’t really want my back scratched so there is no incentive for me to scratch yours…It does not always work.

It is possible that many people only pay lip service to the religion or philosophy to which they publicly subscribe. The application of tenets is only so far, full attainment rare. There is much social benefit in church or sangha. And that is a good thing.

I’ll posit that although I could have a conversation about non-linear optics with an academic or a laser jock, our orientation towards life would likely be vastly different. If I said that to the other person, they would not know how different. He/she might assume marginal difference within their social conditioned world framing. But I know how radically different my outlook is. Even if I tried to get this across, I would fail.

I call this the Levi’s and robe problem.

Because I wear Levi’s, drink wine and eat steak, it is unlikely that people would accept that I have attained impermanence and to a very large degree detachment. If I wore a monk’s robe it would be less of a perceptual stretch.

People have preconceived ideas about what a perhaps, evolved being, might look like and how they might behave.

Is this my Ego talking, look at me aren’t I clever?

You can make your own mind up. I am not interested in being right nor arguing the toss. I don’t do petty nit picking to score points.

There is a phenomenon which I think of as inverted Ego. It is a close relative of inverted snobbery. People feign a humility which they do not possess in order to look good in front of their peers. I also call this religious top trumps. I did a 3 year silent retreat at “The Priory”. People can be holier than thou…

Siddhartha favoured the middle path. Which might well mean living a pretty “normal” existence without ostentation and excess: not self-flagellating nor overly blowing one’s own trumpet. That middle path is not about power over any other beings, trying to beat others, being avaricious and envious. That path would recognise that imperfection is a quality of all of humanity and would not seek to judge. It would certainly not include obsession about the appearance of the carnate form.

It would see beyond doubt that there is only ONE humanity of which we are all part.

It is about satisfaction and enough. It is about fulfilling genuine needs only and not wants and desires. The middle path does not understand greed.


Here are some questions:

What do you own?

What are your possessions?

Are you in fact possessed by what you consider to be your possessions?

Does your aquisitional materialism have you enslaved?

Bodhicaryāvatāra and the Bodhisattva Vow

From Wikipedia

The Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra or Bodhicaryāvatāra (Sanskrit: बोधिसत्त्वाचर्यावतार; Tibetan: བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའི་སྤྱོད་པ་ལ་འཇུག་པ་ byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa; Chinese: 入菩薩行論; Japanese: 入菩薩行論) translated into English as A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, is a Mahāyāna Buddhist text written c. 700 AD in Sanskrit verse by Shantideva (Śāntideva), a Buddhist monk at Nālandā Monastic University in India which is also where it was composed.

From Wikipédia

Le Bodhicharyavatara (du sanskrit बोधिचर्यावतार, IAST Bodhicaryāvatāra ; tibétain : བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའི་སྤྱོད་པ་ལ་འཇུག་པ་, Wylie : byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa) est un traité versifié en sanskrit attribué à Shantideva (c.685-763). Ce traité à dix chapitres décrit l’engagement et la pratique d’un bodhisattva, c’est-à-dire ce que doit faire un aspirant selon la tradition du bouddhisme à l’éveil (bodhisattva) liée à la nature de Bouddha. Il en existe au moins une centaine de commentaires.

A French translation of the vow can be found here  “S’engager dans la pratique des bodhisattvas” at Lotsawa House. This is a good translation but subtly different.

My favourite version is published by Oxford University Press.

Here the would be Bodhisattva Śāntideva vows to adopt the Bodhicitta for the benefit of all sentient beings.

I have read this numerous times both in my head and out loud.

It to me is beautiful…

Later he warns that it is a bad idea to mess with someone engaged in this effort.