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Home > eBooks > Unpublished Manuscripts > Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior – Shantideva > 5. Safeguarding with Alertness

Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior – Shantideva

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


5. Safeguarding with Alertness

(1) With the wish to safeguard my training,
I need to work hard and safeguard my mind;
If I'm unable to safeguard my mind,
I'll also be unable to safeguard my training.

(2) Left to run loose, the elephant of my mind can ravage me
With (a joyless realm of) unrelenting pain.
Untamed, rutting elephants in this (world)
Can't cause me such harm.

(3) But, if the elephant of my mind is firmly bound
By the rope of mindfulness on every side,
All fears will vanish and everything constructive
Will come into my hands.

(4) Tigers, lions, elephants, bears,
Snakes and all enemies,
The beings who are the guards in the joyless realms,
Witches and likewise cannibals -

(5) They'll all be bound, by having bound
This mind alone;
They'll all be tamed, by having tamed
This mind alone.

(6) The Speaker of the Perfect himself has shown
That, in this way, all fears,
As well as immeasurable sufferings,
Come from the mind.

(7) Who intentionally created
All the weapons for the beings in the joyless realms?
Who created the burning iron ground?
Where did all the siren-maids come from?

(8) The Sage has said that all such things as that
Are (what come from) a mind having negative karmic force.
Therefore, in the threefold world,
There's nothing to fear except the mind.

(9) (After all,) if the perfection of giving were
That the poverty of wandering beings was all gone;
Then how could the Guardians of old have perfected it,
Since wandering beings have hunger still now?

(10) The perfection of giving is said to be
Through the mind that would give away to everyone
All that is mine, together with its results;
Thus, it's the mind itself.

(11) Fish and the like, where could anyone take them (all)
So that they won't be killed (ever again)?
The perfection of ethical discipline, it's explained,
Is from gaining the mind to give up (such acts).

(12) Cruel beings are (everywhere) just as is space:
It can't possibly come that I'll have destroyed them (all).
But if I've destroyed this mind of anger alone,
It's the same as my having destroyed all those foes.

(13) Where could I possibly find the leather
To cover with leather the whole surface of the earth?
But with leather just on the soles of my shoes,
It's the same as having covered the entire earth's surface.

(14) Likewise, although it's impossible for me
To ward off external events;
If I would ward off my mind,
What need to ward off anything else?

(15) The result of feeble (mental) application,
Even when accompanied by speech and physical (acts),
Is not like the result of developing an intense mind alone,
Which would be Brahma states and beyond.

(16) The Knower of Reality has said
That recitation and all physically difficult practices,
Even if done for a very long time, will be meaningless,
If done with a mind that's distracted elsewhere.

(17) And those who don't know the secret of the mind,
The paramount significance of Dharma,
Will wander about, pointlessly and miserably,
Wishing to gain happiness and overcome suffering.

(18) This being so, I'll take hold of my mind
And safeguard it well.
If I've left out the taming behavior of safeguarding the mind,
What use are the many (other) taming behaviors?

(19) Just as I'd take great pains and be careful about a wound
When standing in the midst of an unstable, wild crowd,
So too, I shall safeguard, always, the wound of my mind,
Since I'm living in the midst of difficult people.

(20) And if I'd be careful about a wound,
Even from fearing the wound's hurting a little,
Then why don't I safeguard the wound of my mind,
From fear of being smashed by the crushing mountains
   (of a joyless realm)?

(21) If I can remain like this in my behavior,
Then whether I'm situated amidst difficult people
Or placed even in the midst of nubile young women,
My stable restraint shall not fall apart.

(22) Better that my wealth, the respect I receive,
My body and livelihood disappear!
Better even that my other virtues decline,
But I shall never let my mind degenerate!

(23) O you, who would wish to safeguard your minds,
With palms pressed together, I tell you,
Safeguard your mindfulness and alertness,
With all effort.

(24) People who are disturbed by sickness
Are powerless over all their actions.
Those whose minds are disturbed by bewilderment
Are likewise powerless over all their actions.

(25) Whatever has been heard, pondered and meditated upon
By those whose minds are lacking alertness,
Will not be retained in their memories,
Just like water in a leaking vase.

(26) Many learned people,
Even when having conviction and extraordinary effort,
Become fouled with a downfall,
Due to the mistake of lacking alertness.

(27) The thieves (that come in) from their lack of alertness
Go on, after plundering their mindfulness,
(To take,) as well, the positive karmic force they've built up,
So that they go to a worse rebirth state, as if robbed by thieves.

(28) This pack of thieves, the disturbing emotions,
Searches for a chance (to break in);
And, having found the chance, steals what's constructive,
Destroying the life of a better rebirth state.

(29) Therefore, I shall never let mindfulness
Be taken away from the gateway of my mind.
Should it be gone, I'll recall the sufferings
Of the worse rebirth states and closely reset it.

(30) Through the instructions of the learned and dread,
(Gained) from living together with spiritual mentors,
Fortunate people, who would show (them) respect,
Will easily develop their mindfulness.

(31) "The Buddhas and bodhisattvas are endowed
With unobstructed vision, everywhere:
I'm always standing
Before the eyes of them all."

(32) Someone thinking like that, would take on, in this way,
Moral self-dignity, respect and dread.
Through this, his close mindfulness of the Buddhas
Would rise up, over and again.

(33) When mindfulness is set at the gateway of the mind
For the purpose of safeguarding,
Then alertness will come,
And even what's gone will come back again.

(34) Whenever I've recognized that, at the start,
The way my mind's (motivated) has some fault,
I shall remain, at those times, like a block of wood,
Able to restrain myself.

(35) I shall never look around
Without any purpose, because of distraction.
With a resolute mind,
I shall always look with my eyes cast downwards.

(36) But, for the sake of relaxing my gaze,
I'll look around now and then.
And if someone appears in my field of vision,
I shall look up and say, "Welcome."

(37) To check for dangers on the road and the like,
I shall look over and again in the four directions.
Then, after pausing, I shall turn round and look
To see what's behind.

(38) Then having examined both ahead and behind,
I shall either go on or come (back).
Thus, shall I act, in all situations,
After knowing what's needed.

(39) (Having paused and decided,) "I'll keep my body like this,"
And then jumping back into whatever I'm doing,
Then later, I shall look periodically
At the way in which my body's remaining.

(40) With the utmost effort, I shall check
That the rutting elephant of my mind
Has not been let loose from how it's been tied
To the great pillar of my Dharma intent.

(41) Never letting go, for even an instant,
The duty of my absorbed concentration,
I shall check one by one, like that, (each moment of) mind,
(To see,) "What's my mind engaging in?"

(42) But if I'm unable, when involved in a frightening situation,
An offering feast, or the like, I'll let it do what's appropriate.
Thus, it's been taught that at times of giving,
One may stay with equanimity toward ethical discipline.

(43) Having considered and begun to do something,
I won't think about anything other than this.
Then, with my intentions directed at that,
I shall accomplish that very thing first.

(44) Everything, this way, will get accomplished well;
Otherwise, neither will come about.
Also like this, the derivative disturbing factor,
Inalertness, will never increase.

(45) When various kinds of senseless talk
And numerous varieties of wondrous entertainment
Are happening all around,
I shall rid myself of attraction to them.

(46) If, for no reason, I start digging up the earth,
Picking at the grass, or doodling in the dirt,
I shall immediately stop, out of dread,
By recalling the advice of the Blissfully Gone (Buddhas).

(47) Whenever I might wish to move (my body)
Or might wish to speak,
First, I'll examine my mind, and then act with firmness,
Yoked to what's (ethically) correct.

(48) When (I notice that) my mind would (compromise)
   with attachment,
Or would (oppose this) with anger,
I shall not make a move; I shall not speak (a word).
I shall remain like a block of wood.

(49) If my mind is overexcited and sarcastic,
Or has arrogance and conceit,
Has the intention to ridicule,
Or is greedy, hypocritical, and deceitful,

(50) When it would readily brag about me,
Or would criticize others,
And become insulting and quarrelsome,
I shall remain, at those times, like a block of wood.

(51) (When) my mind would desire material gain,

   displays of respect, and fame;
Or desire the care of attendants and followers,
Or would wish to be served,
I shall remain, at those times, like a block of wood.

(52) (When) my mind would toss away the aims of others
And, wishing to care for my own aims (alone),
Would wish to say something,
I shall remain, at those times, like a block of wood.

(53) (When) my mind is impatient, lazy, and cowardly,
Or likewise, overly confident and noisy with nonsense,
Or is stubbornly attached to what's on my side,
I shall remain, at those times, like a block of wood.

(54) Having examined my mind in this way
For fully disturbing emotions and pointless endeavors,
Being courageous, I shall hold it firmly
With opponent forces, at those times.

(55) Resolute and happily convinced,
Stable, respectful, and polite,
Having moral self-dignity as well as dread,
Quieted down, and striving to bring happiness to others,

(56) Never disheartened by the inconsistent whims
   of infantile people,
And, (realizing) that they arise in their minds
Because of their developing disturbing emotions,
Having a feeling of kindness (toward them),

(57) And, influenced by (thoughts) of myself and (these) limited beings,
(Engaging) in things that are never disgraceful,
I shall always keep hold of this mind,
Without self(-pride), like a magic emanation.

(58) By thinking over and again that it's after a long time
That I've gained a respite, supreme,
I shall hold my mind in that way,
As utterly immovable as the King of Mountains.

(59) If, O mind, you're not made unhappy
When (this body) is completely torn apart and dragged here and there
By vultures greedy for flesh,
Why are you pampering it now?

(60) Holding onto this body as "mine,"
Why, O mind, do you safeguard it (so)?
Since you and it are two separate things,
What can it do for you by itself?

(61) Bewildered mind, why don't you take possession
Of a clean, wooden sculpture (instead)?
What's the point of safeguarding this putrid device,
Assembled from unclean things?

(62) First, with your intellect,
Peel off and separate the layer of skin,
And then, with the scalpel of discriminating awareness,
Slice off, to the side, the meat from the skeletal frame.

(63) And having split open even the bones,
Look inside, down to the marrow,
And examine for yourself,
"What essence is there?"

(64) If, even searching with effort like this,
You're unable to see any essence in it,
Then why are you safeguarding this body still,
With such attachment?

(65) If, being unclean, it's unfit to be eaten by you,
And even the blood is not fit to be drunk,
And even the intestines not fit to be sucked;
What use is the body to you?

(66) Just secondarily, safeguarding it is proper
For the sake of feed for the jackals and vultures.
This body of human beings is no more
Than something to be put to good use.

(67) And if even, when you've safeguarded like that,
The merciless Lord of Death will (still) steal it
And give it to the birds and the dogs,
What will there be that you can do then?

(68) If you wouldn't give clothing and the like
Even to a servant who's unwilling to (stay on and) work,
Then why exhaustingly take care of the flesh,
When this body goes elsewhere, even having spoon-fed it?

(69) But having given it wages,
Now you must make it serve your own aims.
Don't give it everything (it wants),
Without it's being of help.

(70) Apply to the body the notion of a boat,
For it's merely the support of going and coming,
And transform it into a body that (will go) as you will,
To fulfill the wishes of limited beings.

(71) Thus I shall have self-control
And always present a smiling face.
I'll stop frowning and grimacing (in disapproval),
I'll be friendly with wandering beings, and be honest.

(72) I won't throw down seats and the like,
Recklessly, with noise;
I won't (pound) violently for doors to be opened;
(Rather,) I shall always delight in being quiet.

(73) Storks, cats and robbers
Accomplish their desired aims
By moving noiselessly and keeping low.
A disciplined (bodhisattva) always acts in that way.

(74) Respectfully, I shall take to the crown of my head
The words of those skilled in encouraging others
And who offer their help, without being asked.
I shall always become the student of everyone.

(75) I shall say, "Well spoken," to all
Who speak good (advice),
And having seen someone acting constructively,
With praises, I'll let it bring me joy.

(76) I shall speak of (others') good qualities when they're out of sight,
And when their good qualities are spoken of, agree.
When my own good qualities are mentioned,
I shall think of those qualities with appreciation.

(77) All (constructive) undertakings are a cause for joy,
Which is rare, even if money could buy it.
Therefore, let me take pleasure with joy
In the good qualities that others have worked on.

(78) (Rejoicing) won't bring me any loss in this life
And in future lives, my happiness will be great.
Finding fault (will bring me) unfriendliness and suffering
And in future lives, my suffering will be great.

(79) When talking, I shall speak from my heart, coherently,
With the meaning clear, pleasingly,
Rid of greed and aggression,
Gently, and just enough.

(80) When my eyes behold limited beings,
I shall think, "Depending on them,
I shall attain Buddhahood,"
And look with a sincere and loving manner.

(81) Being continuous, driven by a strong intention,
Or driven by an opponent force,
And (directed) toward those with good qualities, the helpful,
   or the suffering,
My constructive actions will become mighty.

(82) Skillful and filled with exuberance,
I shall always do my deeds myself;
I shall never rely on anyone else
To do any of my deeds.

(83) I shall practice the far-reaching attitudes of giving and so on
As being more exalted, one after the other.
I shall never discard a greater for the sake of a smaller:
I shall consider, most importantly, the benefit for others.

(84) Having realized it's like that,
I shall always keep striving for the benefit of others.
The Far-Seeing Compassionate One has permitted,
For such (a bodhisattva), what's prohibited (for others).

(85) I shall share with those fallen to ruin, those without guardians,
And those maintaining tamed behavior,
And merely eat a proper amount.
With the exception of my threefold robes, I shall give away all.

(86) For some trivial aim, I shall not harm my body
That's practicing the sacred Dharma.
Acting like that, (all) the hopes of limited beings
Will be quickly fulfilled.

(87) I shall not give this body away
While my thought of compassion is still not pure.
I shall give it over (till then), in this and other (lives),
   in whatever (way possible),
To causes that'll fulfill the Great Purpose.

(88) I shall not explain Dharma to those lacking respect,
To those with heads bound (with cloth) while not being sick,
To those holding parasols, canes, or weapons,
Or to those whose faces are veiled,

(89) Nor the vast and profound to those who are modest,
Nor to women without (also) a man.
I shall always pay equal respect
To the modest and the supreme Dharma teachings.

(90) I shall not join to the Dharma for the modest
Those who are vessels for the vast Dharma teachings,
Nor shall I cause them to abandon (bodhisattva) behavior,
Or entice them into (merely reciting) the sutras or mantras.

(91) Should I spit or toss away the stick for (cleaning) my teeth,
I shall cover it over (with earth).
Further, it's despicable to urinate and so forth
Into water or on land that's to be used.

(92) I shall not eat with stuffing my mouth,
With noise, or with my mouth wide open.
Nor shall I sit with my legs outstretched
Or with my arms simultaneously (crossed),
   pressed (against my body).

(93) I shall not go in a vehicle, on a bed, (a seat),
Or in a room alone with someone else's woman.
Having observed or inquired, I shall give up
All that would bring disrespect from the world.

(94) I shall never point with (my left hand or) one finger,
But respectfully with my right,
And with the entire hand;
I shall also indicate the path like that.

(95) I shall not wildly wave my arms,
Nor shout out loud, when it's scarcely urgent,
But shall signal with a snap of the fingers and the like,
Otherwise, I'll get out of control.

(96) Just as the Guardian (Buddha) lay down to pass to nirvana,
So shall I lie down to sleep, on the preferable side,
And, with alertness, yoke myself firmly from the start
To the intention to rise again quickly.

(97) Out of all the boundless bodhisattva behaviors
That have been spoken of,
I shall definitely put them to practice (at least) to the extent
Of the conduct for cleansing my mind.

(98) And I shall recite The Three Heaps (Sutra)
Three times each day and (each) night,
And thus, with the support of the Triumphant and my bodhichitta aim,
I shall neutralize my remaining downfalls.

(99) Whatever situation I may be acting in,
Of my own accord or from the influence of others,
I shall vigorously train in whatever is the training
That's been taught for that situation.

(100) There isn't anything in which the spiritual offspring
Of the Triumphant don't train.
For those skilled in living in this way, nothing (they do)
Will escape becoming a positive force.

(101) Whether directly or indirectly, I shall not do anything
Other than what's for the benefit of limited beings,
And for solely limited beings' sake

I shall dedicate it all to enlightenment.


(102) I shall never forsake, even at the cost of my life,
A spiritual mentor, who is skilled
In the points of the Vast Vehicle (Mahayana)
And superlative in (keeping) the bodhisattva taming behavior.

(103) I shall learn the way to respectfully relate to a spiritual mentor
From Shri Sambhava's Biography.
This and other advice of the Buddha
Can be known from reading the sutras.

(104) It is in the sutras that the trainings appear,
And so I shall read the sutra texts.
I shall examine, as a start,
The Akashagarbha Sutra.

(105) I shall definitely examine
The Compendium of Trainings over and again,
Because, in it, what always is practiced
Is extensively shown,

(106) Or look, to the extent they're condensed in brief,
At The Compendium of Sutras,
And then, energetically examine as well
The second (such texts), compiled by Arya Nagarjuna.

(107) I shall put into practice
Whatever is not prohibited in them,
And implement fully the trainings seen (there)
In order to safeguard my worldly mind.

(108) The defining feature of safeguarding with alertness
Is but this in brief:
Examining, over and again,
The condition of my body and mind.

(109) With my body, I shall put this all into practice.
What can be accomplished by mouthing it merely with words?
(After all,) will a sick man be helped
By merely reciting the medical treatment?