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Home > eBooks > Unpublished Manuscripts > Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior – Shantideva > 1. The Benefits of Bodhichitta

Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior – Shantideva

(sPyod-'jug, Bodhisattvacharyavatara)
by Shantideva
translated from the Tibetan, as clarified by the Sanskrit
by Alexander Berzin, 2004

Translation

1. The Benefits of Bodhichitta

(1) Respectfully, I prostrate to the Blissfully Gone (Buddhas

   endowed with Dharmakaya,
As well as to their (bodhisattva) offspring

   and to everyone worthy of prostration.
Let me explain (how to) engage in the Blissfully Gone offsprings' code,
Which I’ve compiled and condensed in accord with Buddhas’ words.

(2) I’ve nothing to say here that’s not come before,
And I lack any skill in the crafting of verse;
Yet, though I lack even the thought to help others,
I’ve composed this to familiarize my mind.

(3) For, due to acquaintance with what is constructive,
The force of my belief may increase for a moment,
   even just through these (words).
And if others, equal to myself in fortune, happen to see them,
Perhaps they might find them meaningful (too).

(4) Having gained this (body with) respites and enrichments,

   so hard to find,
Which can fulfill the wishes of (every) being,
If, in this (lifetime), I don’t actualize its benefits,
When later will a perfect endowment with one come?

(5) Just as a flash of lightening on a dark, cloudy night,
For an instant, brightly illuminates all;
So, in this world, through the might of the Buddhas,
A positive attitude rarely and briefly appears.

(6) Thus, constructive (behavior) is constantly weak,
While negative forces are extremely strong,
   and most unbearable.
Except for a full bodhichitta aim,
Can anything else constructive outshine it?

(7) The Kings of the Sages, having thoroughly reflected for many eons,
Have seen this very (mind) to be of (best) help,
For by it, limitless masses of beings
Will quickly and easily attain Supreme Bliss.

(8) Those who wish to destroy the hundreds of sufferings

   of compulsive existence,
Those who wish to dispel the sorrow of limited beings,
And those who wish to enjoy the hundreds of states

   of much happiness,
Will never give up the bodhichitta aim.

(9) The moment miserable beings bound in the prison
Of uncontrollably recurring samsara develop a bodhichitta aim,
They’re called spiritual offspring of the Blissfully Gone,

And become figures to be honored by the gods of this world,
   as well as by men.

(10) Like the supreme creation of a gold-making elixir,
This unclean body, having been taken, will be transformed
Into the priceless gem of a Triumphant One’s body.
So, firmly gain hold of what’s known as bodhichitta.

(11) Since the immeasurable mind of the sole Navigator
   for wandering beings
Has (seen) its precious worth upon examining fully;
Please, anyone wishing to be parted from the plights
   of wandering beings:
Gain hold, truly firmly, of (this) gem, bodhichitta.

(12) Everything else that’s constructive resembles the plantain tree:
Having given birth to its fruit, it’s depleted.
But the tree of bodhichitta forever bears fruit
And, never depleted, it grows ever more.

(13) Even if they’ve committed extremely unbearable negative acts,
Why don’t the caring rely on that
Which, when relied on, will instantly free them,
Like relying on a hero when greatly afraid.

(14) Like the time-ending fires, it burns off with certainty,
In an instant, enormous negative karmic force.
With wisdom, the Guardian Maitreya has explained
Its fathomless benefits to Sudhana.

(15) Bodhichitta is to be known, in brief,
As having two aspects:
A bodhichitta aim that aspires to enlightenment
And a bodhichitta that’s engaged with (attaining) enlightenment.

(16) As is understood by the distinction
Between aspiring to go and (actually) going,
So the learned understand the distinction
Between these two to be as if stages.

(17) Although great fruits arise, even in recurring samsara,
From an aspiring bodhichitta aim,
Positive force doesn’t accrue without interruption
As it does with an engaged bodhichitta aim.

(18) As soon as someone perfectly gains hold
Of that mind, with the thought
Never to turn back from totally liberating
Infinite realms of limited beings,

(19) From that time onward,
Whether asleep or even not caring,
A profusion of positive force gushes forth,
Without interruption, equal to space.

(20) For the sake of limited beings admiring modest (aims),
The Thusly Gone (Buddha) himself
Has proclaimed that this is correct
In The Sutra Subahu Requested.

(21) If having a thought to be of help,
Even thinking, "May I relieve limited beings
Merely of headaches,"
Comes to have fathomless positive force,

(22) What need to mention the wish to relieve
Each and every limited being of fathomless miseries,
And the wish to help each and every limited being
To actualize fathomless good qualities.

(23) Who has such an altruistic mind as this?
Do even fathers? Do even mothers?
Do even gods and sages?
Does even Brahma have it?

(24) If those limited beings, even in their dreams,
Have never before dreamt of such a mind
(Even) for their own sakes,
How would it have arisen for the sakes of others?

(25) This extraordinary jewel of the mind –
A mind for the sake of limited beings, which in others
Doesn’t arise for even their own sakes –
Crystallizes as something of unprecedented wonder.

(26) How can the positive force of a jewel-like mind,
Which is the cause of happiness for all wandering beings
And the elixir for the sufferings of limited beings,
Be something whose measure can be taken?

(27) If merely a thought to be of help is more especially noble
Than making offerings to the Buddhas,
What need to mention striving for the sake of the happiness
Of all limited beings without exception?

(28) Although having the mind that wishes to shun suffering,
They rush headlong into suffering itself.
Although wishing for happiness, yet out of naivety,
They destroy their own happiness as if it were a foe.

(29) For those who are destitute of happiness
And who have many sufferings,
It satisfies them with all happiness,
Cuts off all suffering,

(30) And eliminates even their naivety.
Where is there anything comparably constructive as that?
Where is there even such a friend as that?
Where is there even such a force as positive as that?

(31) If some consider as worthy of praise
Even someone who’s paid back for helping,
What need to mention a bodhisattva
Who does good without seeking (anything in return)?

(32) People honor as someone who acts constructively
Someone who only briefly gives merely a morsel of meager food
In a demeaning manner to a few wandering beings,
Satiating them for half a day.

(33) What need to mention someone who constantly looks to give,
For an eternity of time,
   the peerless bliss of the Blissfully Gone (Buddhas)
To endless numbers of limited beings,
Fulfilling the wishes of all their minds?

(34) The Sage has said that if someone generates negative thoughts
Toward a philanthropist offspring of the Triumphant like that,
That person will remain in a joyless realm for as many eons
As the number of negative thoughts that were spent.

(35) However, if someone has an extremely clear-minded
   (belief in such persons),
Its fruits will multiply far more than that.
For even in the most acute situations,
   Triumphant’s offspring never will generate anything negative.
Rather, their positive actions naturally increase.

(36) I prostrate to the bodies of those in whom
The sacred state of mind, the gem, has arisen.
I take safe direction from those sources of bliss
Who join to bliss even those who harm them.