A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

A couple of months ago, a friend gifted me this book – A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. While I was interested, it had been some years since I had made a conscious decision not to read any spiritual texts. It was not that I had lost faith simply that I was not ready to resume any spiritually inclined reading. After watching the documentary on Buddha’s life, something shifted within me and I have slightly re-opened the window.

51j40nv1iHLIn a better frame of mind, I have been reading the book over this past week. This translated version by Stephen Batchelor is easy to read and contemplate over.

Chap5. Guarding alertness:
Whenever there is attachment in my mind
And whenever there is the desire to be angry,
I should not do anything,
But remain like a piece of wood.
Whenever I have distracted thoughts, the wish to verbally belittle others,
Feelings of self-importance or self-satisfaction;
When I have the intention to describe the faults of others,
Pretension and the thought to deceive other;
Whenever I am eager for praise
Or have the desire to blame others;
Whenever I have the wish to speak harshly and cause disputes;
At (all) such times I should remain like a piece of wood.

The book is a translation of a work by an 8th century Buddhist monk called Shantideva who wrote and published two books sharing his views and understanding of how a seeker of spiritual knowledge should comport himself. I say ‘himself’ and not ‘herself or himself’ as Shantideva seems to have had a very strong view that women were lesser beings incapable of understanding the dharma (Chap 5. Guarding alertness: 89 – “Nor to a woman unaccompanied by a man. The vast and profound should not be taught to lesser beings,”). I was initially annoyed with this verse before I recollected that the writer lived in the 8th century where women were probably considered lesser beings.

Apart from that verse and other verses with similar sentiments, I found the book for most parts encouraging a lot of contemplation. The book is divided into 10 parts that invite reflection: The benefits of the awakening mind, Disclosure of wrongdoing, Full acceptance of the awakening mind, Conscientiousness, Guarding alertness, Patience, Enthusiasm, Meditation, Wisdom and Dedication.

For those interested in one of the perspectives into Buddhist philosophy, this translated version of Shantideva’s writings is recommended reading. I wrap up this post with another excerpt from the book.

Chap 2: Disclosure of wrongdoing
My foes will become nothing.
My friends will become nothing.
I, too, will become nothing.
Likewise, all will become nothing.
Just like a dream experience,
Whatever things I enjoy
Will become a memory.
Whatever has passed will not be seen again.

Book details:

  • Title – A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life
  • Author: Shantideva
  • Translator: Stephen Batchelor
  • Published by Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala
  • Published 1979
  • ISBN 10: 81-85102-59-7

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