by Shantideva

A translation of the


Revised Edition

Translated from the Tibetan

by the Padmakara Translation Group


London, Boston, 2006: Shambhala

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CHAPTER 1 * The Excellence of Bodhichitta.



To those who go in bliss, the dharmakaya they possess, and all their heirs,

to all those worthy of respect, I reverently bow. According to the scripture, I shall now in brief describe the practice of the Bodhisattva discipline.


Here I shall say nothing that has not been said before, and in the art of prosody I have no skill, I therefore have no thought that this might be of benefit to others, I wrote it only to habituate my mind.


My faith will thus be strengthened for a little while, that I might grow accustomed to this virtuous way, but others who now chance upon my words may profit also, equal to myself in fortune.


So hard to find the ease and wealth whereby the aims of beings may be gained. If now I fail to turn it to my profit, how could such a chance be mine again?





Just as on a dark night black with clouds, the sudden lightning glares and all is clearly shown, likewise rarely, through the Buddhas’ power, virtuous thoughts rise, brief and transient, in the world.


Virtue, thus, is weak; and always evil is of great and overwhelming strength. Except for perfect bodhichitta, what other virtue is there that can lay it low?


For many aeons deeply pondering, the mighty Sages saw its benefits, whereby unnumbered multitudes are brought with ease to supreme joy.


Those who wish to crush the many sorrows of existence, who wish to quell the pain of living beings, who wish to have experience of a myriad joys should never turn away from bodhichitta.


Should bodhichitta come to birth in those who suffer, chained in prisons of samsara, in that instant they are called the children of the Blissful One, revered by all the world, by gods and humankind.


For like the supreme substance of the alchemists, it takes our impure flesh and makes of it the body of a Buddha, jewel beyond all price, such is bodhichitta. Let us grasp it firmly!


Since the boundless Wisdom of the only guide of beings perfectly examined and perceived its priceless worth, those who wish to leave this state of wandering should hold well to this precious bodhichitta.




All other virtues, like the plantain tree, produce their fruit, but then their force is spent, alone the marvelous tree of bodhichitta constantly bears fruit and grows unceasingly.


As though they pass through perils guarded by a hero, even those weighed down with dreadful wickedness will instantly be freed through having bodhichitta. Why do those who fear their sins not have recourse to it?


Just as by the fire that will destroy the world, great sins are surely and at once consumed by it. Its benefits are thus unbounded as the Wise and Loving Lord explained to Sudhana.


Bodhichitta, the awakened mind, is known in brief to have two aspects: first, aspiring, bodhichitta in intention; then active bodhichitta, practical engagement.


As corresponding to the wish to go and then to setting out, the wise should understand respectively the difference that divides these two.


From bodhichitta in intention great results arise for those still turning in the wheel of life; yet merit does not rise from it in ceaseless streams as is the case with active bodhichitta.


For when, with irreversible intent, the mind embraces bodhichitta, willing to set free the endless multitudes of beings, in that instant, from that moment on.




A great and unremitting stream, a strength of wholesome merit, even during sleep and inattention, rises equal to the vastness of the sky.


This the Tathagata, in the sutra Subahu requested, said with reasoned argument for those inclined to lesser path.


If with kindly generosity one merely has the wish to soothe the aching heads of other beings, such merit knows no bounds.


No need to speak, then, of the wish to drive away the endless pain of each and every living being, bringing them unbounded excellence.


Could our father or our mother ever have so generous a wish? Do the very gods, the rishis, even Brahma harbor such benevolence as this?


For in the past they never, even in their dreams, wished something like this even for themselves, how could they do so for another’s sake?


This aim to work for the benefit of beings, a benefit that others wish not even for themselves, this noble, jewellike state of mind arises truly wondrous, never seen before.




This pain-dispelling draft, this cause of joy for those who wander through the world, this precious attitude, this jewel of mind -- how shall we calculate its merit?


If the simple thought to be of help to others exceeds in worth the worship of the Buddhas, what need is there to speak of actual deeds that bring about the weal and benefit of beings?


For beings long to free themselves from misery, but misery itself they follow and pursue, they long for joy, but in their ignorance destroy it, as they would their foe.


But those who fill with bliss all beings destitute of joy, who cut all pain and suffering away from those weighed down with misery,


Who drive away the darkness of their ignorance -- what virtue could be matched with theirs? What friend could be compared to them? What merit is there similar to this?


If someone who returns a favor is deserving of some praise, why need we speak of Bodhisattvas, those who do good even unsolicited?


People praise as virtuous donors those who with contempt support a few with plain and ordinary food: a moment’s gift that feeds for only half a day.




What need is there to speak of those who long bestow on countless multitudes the peerless joy of blissful Buddhahood, the ultimate fulfillment of their hopes?


All those who harbor evil in their minds against such lords of generosity, the Buddha’s heirs, will stay in hell, the mighty Sage has said, for ages equal to the moments of their malice.


But joyous and devoted thoughts will yield abundant fruits in greater strength, even in great trouble, Bodhisattvas never bring forth wrong; their virtues naturally increase.


To them in whom this precious jewel of mind is born -- to them I bow! I go for refuge to those springs of happiness who bring their very enemies to perfect bliss.


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