Shantideva was an Indian Buddhist while Buddhism still flourished in India. His great work, the Bodhicharyavatara
, or "Entrance to the Path of Awakening," became a major text of Tibetan Buddhism long after it went out of circulation in its homeland. It is a handbook on how to realize the nature of existence and of compassion that arises from such realization. The Dalai Lama said of it, "If I have any understanding of compassion and the practice of the Bodhisattva path, it is entirely on the basis of this text that I possess it." Like the Book of Proverbs
, the Bodhicharyavatara
is a timeless work of wisdom, the longevity of which is due to the quality of its verse as much as to its wisdom. For the first time, an attempt has been made to recover that poetic immediacy by rendering the text in iambic lines.
Regard your body as a vessel,
A simple boat for going here and there.
Make of it a wish-fulfilling gem
To bring about the benefit of beings.
With this translation, gleaming in its clarity, a Buddhist classic becomes an English classic. Worthy of recitation and committing to memory, Shantideva's words on such topics as doing good, reading sutras, guarding the mind, keeping good company, and on the nature of the mind and reality can take on a life of their own, to grow and blossom in a new native tongue. The text booms, like the voice of a Shakespearean actor, as if it were not the bodhisattva but the book itself that proclaims:
And now as long as space endures, --Brian Bruya
As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue likewise to remain
To drive away the sorrows of the world.
From Publishers Weekly
One of the many Buddhist masters who have written profoundly and with clarity about the wellsprings of the Buddhist traditions is Shantideva, a seventh-century Buddhist scholar who taught at Nalanda, one of the great monastic universities of ancient India. Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara, one of the foundational texts of Tibetan Buddhism, deeply influenced the Dalai Lama, who once remarked that his own understanding of the bodhisattva path is based entirely upon Shantideva's text. Bodhisattvas are beings who renounce nirvana and vow to work for the welfare of all beings. The Bodhicharyavatara, which means "An Entry Into the Activities of Enlightenment," is an outline of the path that bodhisattvas should follow as they seek to teach others the path to nirvana. Thus, this collection contains meditation exercises and moral instruction for bodhisattvas to practice as they engage in their work. Shantideva's work is required reading for an understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, and the clarity and crispness of this new translation make it an accessible way into the world of Tibetan Buddhism.
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