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?