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Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior – Shantideva

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

Translation

7. Joyful Perseverance

(1) Patient like that, I need to embrace joyful perseverance,
Since (based) on perseverance, enlightenment takes place.
After all, without joyful perseverance, there's no arising of positive force,
Just as, without wind, there's no motion.

(2) What's joyful perseverance?
It's zestful vigor for being constructive.
Its opposing factors are explained as lethargy,
   clinging to what's negative (or petty),
And, from being discouraged, disparaging oneself.

(3) Lethargy arises
From apathy about the problems of recurring samsara,
(Which comes) through relishing a taste of pleasure from idleness
And through craving sleep as a haven.

(4) Sniffed out by the trapper, the disturbing emotions,
And fallen into the trap of rebirth,
How do you still not realize
That you've landed in the mouth of the lord of death?

(5) Don't you even see that he's slaughtering
The members of your herd, each in turn?
Yet despite being like a buffalo at the butcher,
You even go to sleep!

(6) With the road blocked everywhere
And eyeballed by the lord of death,
How can eating bring you joy?
How can sleeping? How can making love?

(7) So stock up on a bountiful store (of positive force) while you can,
For death will come all too soon.
Even by throwing off lethargy then,
What can you accomplish when out of time?

(8) With this still not done, this just having been started,
This still left half-done,
And the lord of death having come all of a sudden,
And the thought arising, "Oh no, I'm destroyed!"

(9) And seeing relatives,
Their faces with red eyes swollen from the force of grief
And flowing with tears, having lost all hope,
And also the faces of the messengers of Yama,

(10) Tormented by the memory of negative acts,
Hearing the screams from the joyless realms,
Body befouled with excrement because of fear -
Having become delirious, what will you do?

(11) If, like a live fish flopping, (about to be cooked,)
You'd have (such) terror in this lifetime;
Is there need to mention the unbearable tortures
Of the joyless realms, when having created (so much) negative force?

(12) Baby-skin!
Even at the touch of hot water, you're scalded!
How can you sit back at ease like this,
Doing karmic deeds for a joyless realm (rebirth)?

(13) Dreamer of results without any effort!
Weakling! Waster of plenitude!
Seized by death and having the airs of an (immortal) god!
Oh dear! With these miserable ways, you're destroying yourself!

(14) Seated in a boat (now) of a human rebirth,
Cross over the mighty river of suffering!
With this boat being so hard to catch again,
Idiot, it's not time for going to sleep!

(15) Letting go of the joy of the hallowed Dharma -
The best, an unending fount of joy -
How can you find any joy in such causes for suffering
As shenanigans, joking, and the like?

(16) (So,) don't get discouraged, amass the supporting forces,
Readily accept, and take control of yourself,
Then equalize self and others,
And exchange self for others, too.

(17) Never get discouraged by thinking,
"How can there be enlightenment for me?"
For the Speaker of Truth, the Thusly Gone (Buddha),
Has pronounced this truth, like this:

(18) "Even those who've become gnats, mosquitoes,
Hornets, and worms likewise too,
Shall attain unsurpassable enlightenment, so hard to attain,
By generating the force of zestful vigor."

(19) (How much more so for) someone like me,
   having (Buddha) nature and born as a human,
Able to perceive what's of benefit or harm!
Why shouldn't I reach enlightenment,
So long as I don't quit bodhisattva behavior?

(20) Suppose I said, "But it frightens me
That my arms, legs, and so on are to be given away."
Well, I'm being reduced to fear by a state of bewilderment,
From failing to discern what's heavy or light.

(21) For countless millions of eons,
I'll be gashed, stabbed, burned, and split open
Innumerable times,
And still won't attain enlightenment;

(22) But this suffering I'll have
In achieving enlightenment is something with a limit,
Like the pain from an incision made on my body
To remove the harm from a foreign object festering inside.

(23) All doctors, in fact, bring freedom from sickness
Through the discomforts of medical treatments;
So a little discomfort must be endured
To kill off a plague of sufferings.

(24) Yet, the Foremost Physician hasn't offered
The usual healing treatments like these;
But rather, cures countless chronic afflictions
With an extremely gentle procedure.

(25) As a start, the Spiritual Guide prescribes
Giving away a vegetable and the like.
Once accustomed to that, one may eventually,
   through stages,
Come to give away even one's own flesh.

(26) When the insight arises that my very own body
Is similar to a vegetable and the like,
Then, as for giving away such things as my flesh,
What hardship would there be in that?

(27) (After all,) from purging negative karmic force,

   there'll be no more suffering,
And from becoming mentally proficient,

   there won't be any more mental distress;
But similarly, from distorted conceptions, the mind gets hurt,
And from negative force, the body.

(28) Through positive force, though, the body has joy,
And with mental proficiency, the mind becomes joyful.
So even remaining in recurring samsara for the sake of others,
What could depress a compassionate one?

(29) Because the strength of his bodhichitta aim
Is depleting his negative forces from the past
And gathering oceans of positive force,
He's explained as surpassing the shravaka listeners.

(30) So, mounting the horse of the bodhichitta aim,
Which dispels all depression and exhaustion,
And journeying from joy to joy,
Who, with a sensible mind, would ever become discouraged?

(31) (Thus,) the supporting forces for fulfilling the aims of limited beings
Are strong intention, steadfastness, delight, and letting go.
Strong intention is developed from the dread of suffering
And by reflecting on its benefits.

(32) Uprooting opposing factors like that,
I shall strive then to further my zestful vigor
With the forces of strong intention, having pride,
   delight, and letting go,
Also readily accepting and taking control.

(33) But the faults of both myself and others
That I'll need to vanquish are boundless!
And when the depletion of each individual fault
Will take oceans of eons,

(34) And even a fraction of that initiative
For depleting those faults can't be seen yet in me,
Then how is it that my heart doesn't burst
At the fathomless sufferings that I'll need to endure?

(35) The excellent features, for both myself and others,
That I'll need to actualize are also enormous!
And there, when the repeated practice for each individual feature
Will take oceans of eons,

(36) And I've never developed the repeated practice
For even a fraction of the excellent features,
It's amazing how I've rendered meaningless
This rebirth somehow attained!

(37) I've not made offerings to the Vanquishing Master,
Nor provided the joy of magnificent feasts;
I've done no services for the teachings,
Nor fulfilled the hopes of the poor!

(38) I've given no freedom from fear to the frightened,
Nor offered comfort to those in distress!
It comes down to all that I have produced
Is only discomfort, and the pain (of an alien object)

   in the womb for my mother!

(39) (Since) such a poor mess has come about
Through my lacking a strong intention for the Dharma
In former lives and now,
Who would ever give up strong intention for the Dharma?

(40) The Sage has chimed, "A strong intention is the root
Of every constructive facet."
And the root of that is constantly having meditated on
The ripened results (of karma):

(41) Pain, foul moods, and assorted forms of fear,
And being parted from what I would like,
Come about from behaving
With negative karmic force.

(42) (Consider this:) by enacting the constructive deeds
That my mind has intended,
Wherever I'm reborn, I'll be honored,
   through their positive force,
With an oblation as the karmic result.

(43) But by enacting negative deeds,
Though I wish for happiness,
Wherever I'm reborn, I'll be assaulted,
   through their negative karmic force,
By weapons of pain.

(44) By constructive behavior,
   I'll come to stay in the presence of the Triumphant
   as a spiritual child of the Blissfully Gone,
With a superb body, born from a lotus opened
   by the splendor of the Sage,
And dwelling in the heart of a spacious, fragrant, cool lotus,
My radiance shall grow with nourishment from the Triumphant's melodious voice.

(45) But, by serial destructive behavior, I'll fall onto a fiercely flaming
   iron ground,
Horribly tortured by Yama's henchmen, ripping off my entire skin,
Pouring into my body molten copper liquified by enormous heat,
Stabbing me with flaming swords and daggers, and rending my flesh
   into hundreds of bits.

(46) Hence, I shall set a strong intention
   to (do) what's constructive
And make it a habit, with regard.
Undertaking it, then, I'll make it a habit of having pride,
Through the lines in the Vajradhvaja (Sutra).

(47) Examining my talents first,
To undertake (something) or not undertake it,
It's better not to undertake it at all -
Not to start it and then turn back.

(48) For that turns into a habit in future lives too
And causes negative force and suffering to increase;
While other (undertakings) and the time for their results
Are weakened and do not succeed.

(49) Actions, disturbing emotions, and abilities -
Pride is to be applied regarding the three.
"It's something that I myself shall do"
Is having pride regarding actions.

(50) Worldly beings, not under their own power,
Due to disturbing emotions, are unable to accomplish
   their very own aims.
But I'm not incapable, like wandering beings,
So I'll do this (for them).

(51) How can I stand by
While someone else is doing an inferior job?
If it's because of being proud that I'm not doing it (instead),
Then best to let pride be exterminated in me.

(52) Even a crow makes itself act like an eagle
When encountering a snake that's already dead.
But if I remain timid,
Even the slightest setback impairs me.

(53) Discouraged and having given up effort,
Will there be liberation due to feeling bankrupt, or what?
But by strengthening my effort through having my pride,
Even huge things will have difficulty triumphing (over me).

(54) Therefore, with my mind steadfast,
I shall set back setbacks.
For if setbacks bankrupt me,
My wishing to triumph over the three realms
   becomes a joke.

(55) I shall triumph over everything
And nothing shall triumph over me!
As a spiritual offspring of the Triumphant Lion,
I shall maintain this pride.

(56) Wandering beings conquered by pride
Are disturbed: they have no pride;
For those having pride don't fall under the enemy's power,
But instead, have power over the enemy, pride.

(57) Filled up with the disturbing emotion of pride,
They're led by pride to the worse rebirth states,
And even as humans, their festivity is killed;
They become slaves, eating the scraps of others,

(58) Stupid, ugly, feeble,
And insulted in all (situations).

If filled up with pride, those having trials
Are also included among those having pride,
Then what kind of pathetic beings are they, tell me please?

(59) But those who hold on to their pride in order to triumph
   over the enemy, pride,
Are the holders of pride, the triumphant heroes.
And those who kill off the enemy, pride,
   even though it's gargantuan,
Bestow then the fruit of triumph in full
   on wandering beings, whatever they wish.

(60) So, when standing amidst a horde of disturbing emotions,
I shall hold my ground (proudly), in a thousand ways,
And not be thrown off by the pack of disturbing emotions,
Like a lion with jackals and such.

(61) Just as a person would protect his eyes
When events of great danger actually arise;
Likewise, I'll never fall under the power
   of disturbing emotions,
When danger actually arises.

(62) Let me be burned to death,
Or even have my head chopped off,
   that would be better;
But I'll never, in any way,
Bow to the enemy, disturbing emotions.

Likewise, in all situations,
I shall never do anything other than what's fit.

(63) Like someone wishing for happiness as the result of play,
Any (positive) actions (a bodhisattva's) engaged in,
He clings to those actions
And delights in those actions, never having enough.

(64) Although people do actions for the sake of happiness,
It's not clear that they'll become happy or not;
But for (a bodhisattva) whose actions in fact bring happiness,
How can he be happy without doing those actions?

(65) If there can never be enough desirable sensory objects,
Though they're like honey on a razor's edge,
How can there ever be enough (ambrosia of) positive actions,
Which have as their ripening (sweet) happiness and peace?

(66) So, after completing a positive action,
I'll plunge into the action (that's next), right then,
Like an elephant parched by the midday sun,
When encountering a pond, plunging into the water.

(67) But, following upon a decline in my strength,
I'll set (my activity) aside, to take up again;
And having completed it well, I shall leave it,
With thirst for the next and the next.

(68) Then, like engaging a sword in a duel
With a seasoned opponent,
I shall parry the disturbing emotions' thrusts,
And decisively stab my opponent, the disturbing emotions.

(69) Just as someone, having dropped his sword in a duel,
Would snatch it up quickly, out of fear,
So, having dropped the sword of mindfulness,
I shall quickly snatch it up, mindful of the fears
   of the joyless realms.

(70) Just as poison on (the blade of a sword, finding) blood
   as its carrier,
Spreads throughout the body,
Similarly, a fault, when finding an opening,
Spreads throughout the mind.

(71) Like a terrified person, carrying a jar filled with mustard oil,
With someone keeping in front, poking with a sword,
Threatening to kill him if he spills (a drop),
Someone with taming behavior needs likewise to hold on tight.

(72) Therefore, just as I'd swiftly stand up
At the slithering of a snake into my lap,
Likewise, at the slithering in of sleepiness or lethargy,
I shall swiftly repulse it.

(73) Scolding myself on each and every
   occasion of a lapse,
I shall contemplate at length,
"How can I act so that never again
Will this happen to me?"

(74) With this as a motive, "How can I make it a habit
To be mindful, given those situations?"
I'll aspire for the company (of spiritual teachers)
Or the appropriate action (that they give me to do).

(75) Then, the way to have force for all (events),
Before doing some action, is
That I'll rally and invigorate myself,
Recalling the chapter on taking care.

(76) Just as the wind, coming and going,
Takes control of a cotton ball,
So shall I take control of myself, with zestful vigor,
And gain, in this way, spiritual success.