Version: July 2004
according to the tradition of Paltrül Rinpoche
With Oral Explanations by
Compiled and translated by Andreas Kretschmar
Copyright © Andreas Kretschmar 2003. All rights reserved.
The translations and commentaries of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra are made available online as a gift of dharma. They are being offered with the intent that anyone may download them, print them out, read and study them, share them with friends, and even copy and redistribute the files privately. Still, the following must be observed:
The translator is happy to receive corrections and revisions from other translators, editors and readers. Up-to-date editions of these texts will be placed every six months or so at:
Please send corrections and suggestions to Andreas Kretschmar:
Printed in the Palatino typeface with diacritics by Tony Duff, Tibetan Computer Company.
IX Translator’s IntroductionContents
In 1998 Dzogchen Khenpo Chöga began teaching Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, carefully explaining all facets of the text. Khenpo Chöga’s in-depth explanations form the basis for this first volume and the ones that will follow.
In addition, Dzongsar Ngari Tulku Rinpoche, Phugkhung Khenpo Sherab Zangpo, Dzogchen Khenpo Rigdzin Tharchin and Dzongsar Khenpo Khyenrab Wangchuk were kind enough to provide their oral commentaries on Khenpo Kunpal’s text. Without the generous help of these eminent Tibetan scholars, it would not have been possible to capture the living explanation lineage on this text. The ‘living explanation lineage’ means the lineage of orally transmitted teachings on written texts.
I want to express my gratitude to Helmut Eimer, Silke Hermann, Rudolf Kaschewsky, Alexander von Rospatt, and Geshe Pema Tsering for their kind help and support and to thank them for the improvements they offered to this work. The translation of the beginning part of the first chapter of Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary was systematically re-worked with Tony Duff.
The English text was edited by Judith S. Amtzis and John Deweese. It was proof-read by Madhu Cannon, Idan Ruebner and Pamela Ann Davis. During the editing process, Judy pointed out various translation mistakes in the Tibetan based on her knowledge of classical Tibetan. John Deweese provided many books which were invaluable for background research on this work. Furthermore, thanks to John’s many questions, Khenpo Chöga was inspired to offer substantial and enriching elaborations on his oral commentary. For helpful suggestions I am indebted to Michael Burroughs, Richard Babcock (Copper), Eva M. Hill, Khenpo Tenzin Norgey, Marit Kretschmar, Tina Lang, Punya Prasad Parajuli and Rodney Yoder.
The entire layout of the book was done by Walter Thomas who also wrote the database software for the dictionary portion of the book. The Palatino typeface for the publication with its diacritical marks was produced by Tony Duff.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Khenpo Ape Yönten Zangpo, Kyabje Khenpo Trashi Palden, Khenpo Palden Sherab and Khenpo Namdröl gave invaluable advice on how to study this text. Each described the lineage of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra he holds and freely shared his personal insights gained from practicing this text in a traditional manner. My heart-felt thanks go to them for their kindness.
Finally, this entire project would not have been possible without the sponsorship of Marit and Siegfried Kretschmar.
The following translator’s introduction may be of interest to the academic reader who wishes to understand the details of the translation and lineage history of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra thoroughly. The introduction by Khenpo Chöga is presented from the viewpoint of a highly trained scholar of the Nyingma tradition and establishes the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra within the context of the study and practice of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Tsoknyi Rinpoche approaches the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from the perspective of a well-known and accomplished meditation master, explaining how to use the text for personal meditation practice.
Khenpo Kunpal’s written commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and Khenpo Chöga’s explanation of the commentary will be most appreciated by serious scholars and practitioners pursuing extensive and in-depth study of this text.
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is without doubt one of the most significant works in Mahāyāna Buddhist literature. Written entirely in verse, the text is a remarkable piece of didactic Sanskrit poetry,1 extolling the bodhisattva ideal and guiding a Buddhist practitioner along the complete Mahāyāna path, culminating in the attainment of enlightenment. The text is generally thought to have been written in the 8th century at the Buddhist university of Nālandā2 by the Indian master and monk Śāntideva. The text soon acquired great popularity, and a rich tradition of commentarial writing on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra developed. This, however, ended with the decline of Buddhism in India.
As part of establishing Indian Buddhism in Tibet, an enormous project of translating Buddhist texts was carried out by Tibetan translators assisted by Indian paṇḍitas, yogin-scholars. Of the many texts that were translated into Tibetan, the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra rapidly gained a prominent position. Many Tibetan explanation lineages3 of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra came into existence then and have been preserved in Buddhist monasteries and shedras4 up to the present day. All the main schools of
1 For comments on the poetic quality of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, see The Bodhisattva
caryāvatāra, a new translation, pages xxxviii-xxxix. 2 The Buddhist monastery and university of Nālandā was established by King Śaurāditya, also known as Kumāragupta I (ca. 415-455) and was destroyed by Muslim invaders in 1197. Nālandā University was the most famous institution of Buddhist education in medieval India.
3 bshad brgyud 4 A shedra [bshad grva], literally ‘the section for teaching’, is the section of a monastery devoted to the study of the five major and minor sciences, primarily Buddhist philosophy as taught in
Tibetan Buddhism—Nyingma, Kagyü, Sakya, the Old Kadampa, and the New Kadampa School, also known as the Gelukpa School—maintained their own explanation lineages of this revered text.
This work focuses on the explanation lineage of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra according to the Nyingma School as taught by the East Tibetan master Paltrül Rinpoche Orgyen Jigme Chökyi Wangpo5 (1808-1887). Paltrül Rinpoche, one of the greatest Nyingma scholars and practitioners of the 19th century, is reputed to have taught the entire text more than one hundred times during his life. Although he was a prolific writer, he left us no written commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. However, the Nyingma interpretation he gave orally was preserved in writing by a few of his main students,6 especially Khenpo Kunpal7 (1862-1943), who studied for many years with Paltrül Rinpoche and wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.
Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary is entitled, “A Word-by-Word Commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, called Drops of Nectar, according to the Personal Statement of the Mañjughoṣa-like Teacher.”8 This commentary, specifically designed for
the tripiṭaka [sde snod gsum] and the Tangyur. In a major monastery of East Tibet, monks had the opportunity to specialize in ritual practice, meditation practice, administration or scholarly pursuits. Not every monastery in East Tibet had a shedra, but those shedras that were developed followed a very strict curriculum, with a series of texts that were to be studied and mastered in a particular order and within a certain time-frame.
The five major sciences [rig gnas che ba lnga] include the science of arts [bzo rig gnas], medical science [gso ba’i rig gnas], the science of linguistics [sgra’i rig gnas], the science of logic [gtan tshigs kyi rig gnas] and the inner science of Buddhist philosophy [nang don rig pa]. To be learned in the inner science means that one is learned in both sūtra and tantra. The first four of these sciences are also called the ’four common sciences’ [thun mong gi rig gnas bzhi]. The five minor sciences [rig gnas chung ba lnga] consist of poetics [snyan ngag], synonymics [mngon brjod], prosody [sdeb sbyor], drama [zlos gar] and astrology [skar rtsis]. More details on the history of different East Tibetan shedras can be found later in the text.
5 Paltrül Orgyen Jigme Chökyi Wangpo [dpal sprul o rgyan ’jigs med chos kyi dbang po], known as Paltrül Rinpoche. For biographical notes see Masters of Meditation (pages 201-210), dpal sprul rnam thar. Further information was obtained from Enlightened Vagabond.
6 Masters such as Mipham Rinpoche [mi pham rin po che], Thubten Chökyi Drakpa [thub bstan chos kyi grags pa], Khenpo Kunpal [mkhan po kun dpal], Zhechen Gyaltsab Pema Namgyal [zhe chen rgyal tshab padma rnam rgyal], Mewa Sönam Chödrup and others.
7 Khenpo Kunpal had several names, including Gegong Khenpo Kunpal [dge gong mkhan po kun dpal], Kunzang Palden [kun bzang dpal ldan] and Thubten Kunzang Chödrak [thub bstan kun bzang chos grags]. Some sources give his birth date as 1862, while others say he lived from 1870-1940. Since Paltrül Rinpoche passed away in 1887, the birth date of 1862 seems more likely. Khenpo Kunpal was also a student of Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu and studied for many years at Śrī Siṃha Shedra of Dzogchen Monastery. For biographical notes see Masters of Meditation, pages 258-259 and page 375, footnote 286. According to kaḥ thog lo rgyus, page 145, Khenpo Kunpal lived to the age of 82.
8 byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa’i tshig ’grel ’jam dbyangs bla ma’i zhal lung bdud rtsi’i thig pa, here referred to as kun dpal ’grel pa.
practitioners of Buddhist meditation, has gained wide acceptance among followers of the Nyingma School and is highly respected by the Sakya and Kagyü Schools as well. Even now, Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary is studied and practiced in Buddhist monasteries, universities, and dharma centers throughout the world.
In this volume, we present the first chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra together with Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary, both in transliteration and translation. Khenpo Kunpal’s teachings are based on Paltrül Rinpoche’s oral lineage. At present, Paltrül Rinpoche’s explanation lineage of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is taught and maintained at many monasteries in East Tibet, particularly at Śrī Siṃha Shedra of Dzogchen Monastery. We have added to Khenpo Kunpal’s written commentary the oral explanations given by a modern scholar from that shedra, Dzogchen Khenpo Chöga.9 Following the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Khenpo Chöga studied with qualified masters and began teaching in the late 1980s at Śrī Siṃha Shedra. Throughout his commentary, Khenpo Chöga, in keeping with traditional Tibetan Buddhist didacticism, often reiterates key points, a method designed to reinforce the text’s crucial messages in the mind of the student. We felt it important to retain this element of repetition in order to present the total work in the manner of a classical oral commentary.
The reader will notice throughout the book repeated references to Dzogchen teachings. Dzogchen teaches a direct approach to buddha nature, the primordial enlightened essence common to all sentient beings. Dzogchen teachings were brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, and Vairocana in the 9th century and are considered the most profound teachings of the Nyingma School.
This present commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra by Khenpo Kunpal is suitable for all readers who are interested in studying a classical presentation of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Because of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra’s importance in the Buddhist world, we have translated this commentary to make it available to the non-Tibetan reader, thus introducing a small part of Tibet’s rich oral and written explanation lineages on this text. We suggest that the reader moves between Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary and Khenpo Chöga’s explanation of the commentary. Since each section of Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary is numbered, reference to Khenpo Chöga’s explanation of the text section bearing the same number is easy.
To save newer students of the Tibetan language from having to contend with formidable Tibetan dictionaries, we have provided a Tibetan-English glossary that contains the entire vocabulary of both the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary. Each entry in the glossary is cross-referenced by the section number where it appears in the transliterated Tibetan text so that each term may be seen in context.
9 We have divided the root text and both commentaries into small sections and numbered each section. This offers the reader an easy way to work with both commentaries.
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was written in the 8th century at the Buddhist university of Nālandā by the Indian master and monk Śāntideva. The students and teachers at Nālandā were exclusively male scholars and monks. Male lay people were allowed to study at the university. Female visitors, including nuns, were permitted entry only into certain public areas of the monastery and only during certain limited hours. The language of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, therefore, was exclusively designed to address a male audience.
When this text was brought to Tibet, Buddhist scholasticism remained the exclusive domain of male scholars and monks. The Tibetan commentaries on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, therefore, were also written by men for a male audience.
Given the cultural context of the time, the difficulty of travel, and Tibet’s geographical isolation, the lineage of vows for fully-ordained nuns, for bhikṣuni,10 was never transplanted in Tibet. Consequently, a system of institutionalized monastic scholasticism for women did not develop.11 For this reason, Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary often uses the specific phrase ’sons of the sugatas’,12 which cannot correctly be translated as ’children of the sugatas’ or ‘sons and daughters of the sugatas’, although that meaning is implied.
However, bodhicitta—the mind of awakening—is absolutely not gender-biased. Thus, there is no difference between a male and a female bodhisattva or between the sons [sras po] and the daughters [sras mo] of the sugatas. Once bodhicitta is generated in one’s mind, one becomes a child of the sugatas. As Khenpo Kunpal notes in text section 222, where he discusses bodhicitta’s transformative quality, once precious bodhicitta has taken birth in one’s mind, ‘regardless of whether one has a male or
10 The basic precepts or vows [sdom pa] that apply to all Buddhists are organized in seven sets, called ‘the seven categories of individual liberation’ [so thar ris bdun bdun]. These are the following: (1) a fully ordained monk [dge slong; skr. bhikṣu]; (2) a fully ordained nun [dge slong ma; skr. bhikṣunī]; (3) a monk [dge tshul; skr. śrāmaṇera]; (4) a nun [dge tshul ma skr. śrāmaṇerikā]; (5) a male lay practitioner [dge bsnyen; skr. upāsaka]; (6) a female lay practitioner [dge bsnyen ma; skr. upāsikā], and (7) a probationary nun [dge slob ma; skr. śikṣāmāṇā]. The laity or ‘householders’ must observe only the precepts of a male or female lay practitioner. Renunciates [rab tu byung ba; skr. pravajyā] are those who have voluntarily left their homes and entered into a state of homelessness. They must observe at least one set of precepts other than those for the lay practitioners. Note that we translate the Sanskrit term bhikṣu with ‘fully ordained monk’ and the term śrāmaṇera with ‘monk’—not with ‘novice’. The bhikṣu as well as the śrāmaṇera are both monks. Their status differs only in the number of precepts they must observe.
11 This situation is now changing, however, as nuns and female lay practitioners are being provided greater opportunities for formal studies both in nunneries and in Buddhist universities.
12 bde gshegs kyi sras po
female body, whether one is old or young, of good or bad family,’13 one becomes a bodhisattva.
Paltrül Rinpoche himself was instrumental in transmitting this text to large audiences of lay people, both women and men, thus greatly contributing to the wide dissemination of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra’s explanation lineage.
Authorship of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is traditionally ascribed to the renowned Indian master Santideva,14 who is generally believed to have lived in the first half of the 8th century, although no definitive historical verification according to modern academic standards can be found at present.15
Various legends about Santideva’s life story have circulated over the centuries. It is said that Śāntideva was born as the son of King Kalyāṇavarman of Saurāṣṭra. At some point he beheld a vision of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, renounced his kingdom, and entered the monastic university of Nālandā, where he received ordination as a monk from the abbot Jayadeva who gave him the name Śāntideva. Śāntideva was extremely secretive about his learning and realization, behaving outwardly like an ignorant and lazy fool. At one point he was on the brink of expulsion from Nālandā due to his behavior, which his peers deemed inappropriate. Forced to give a public recital of the scriptures on the assumption that he would instead leave Nālandā out of embarrassment, he shocked the scholars and monks by expounding one of his own compositions, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. Legend has it that during his recital, the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī appeared in the sky and, as the entire audience watched, Mañjuśrī and Śāntideva together rose into the sky and disappeared. Thus, Mahāyāna
13 lus la pho-mo // na-tshod la rgan-gzhon // rigs la bzang-ngan-med-par 14 As there is no certainty about the text’s original form and content, or exactly when and where it was written, some scholars argue that different parts of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra may have been written by different authors or even a group of authors, which would account for the sometimes disjointed nature of the text. The legend that Śāntideva alone was the author serves to instill confidence in the Buddhist reader that the entire text is the voice of one single great master and thus inspires faith in the author and his work. In addition to the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, Tibetan scholars ascribe the authorship of two further treatises, the Śikṣāsamuccaya and the Sūtra-samuccaya, to Śāntideva. For an English translation of the Śikṣāsamuccaya, see Compendium of Buddhist Doctrine. In the fifth chapter Khenpo Kunpal clearly ascribes the Śikṣā-samuccaya [bslab btus / bslab pa kun las btus pa] and a Sūtra-samuccaya [mdo btus / mdo kun las btus pa] to Śāntideva. Khenpo Chöga comments that Śāntideva’s Sūtra-samuccaya has been lost and only his Śikṣā-samuccaya is found in the Tangyur (Peking No. 5336). Khenpo Kunpal further mentions the Sūtra-samuccaya and a Śikṣā-samuccaya written by Nāgārjuna. Khenpo Chöga comments that Nāgārjuna’s Śikṣā-samuccaya has been
lost while Nāgārjuna’s Sūtra-samuccaya is preserved in the Tangyur (Peking No. 5330). See, kun dpal ’grel pa (si khron mi rigs edition), page 413. 15 See Weiterwirken des Werkes, page 29, by Siglinde Dietz, who notes that a more precise date
than the first half of the 8th century cannot be determined.
Buddhists view Śāntideva as a siddha—an accomplished being—as well as an outstanding scholar.
The earliest known biographical data on Śāntideva is given by Vibhūticandra16 in the 13th century. This Indian Sanskrit scholar came to Tibet in 1204 as part of the entourage of the famous Kashmiri paṇḍita Sakyasribhadra (1127-1225) and wrote a commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, which contains a short biography of Śāntideva.
Another important early biographical account of Śāntideva is found in a 14th century Nepalese manuscript fragment in Newari script. It was edited by Haraprasad Sastri17 and is very similar to Vibhūticandra’s Tibetan account of Śāntideva’s biography. Both texts—the Nepalese manuscript and Vibhūticandra’s biography of Śāntideva—were analyzed by J.W. De Jong, who concluded that they were based on a common but no longer extant source.18
Variations on the basic themes of Śāntideva’s life can be found in the writings of Butön Rinchen Drup19 (1290-1364), Sazang Mati Panchen Jamyang Lodro20 (1294-1376), Sönam Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo21 (1312-1374), Möndrub Sherab,22 Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa23 (1504-1566), Tāranātha24 (1575-1634), Sumpa Khenpo Yeshe Paljor25 (1704
16 vibhūti dgongs ’grel, page 236. For the French translation of this short biography, see La Légende de Śāntideva. We give a English translation from the Tibetan in Khenpo Chöga’s commentary to text section 93.
17 This Sanskrit version of Śāntideva’s biography was translated into French by Amalia Pezzali in Śāntideva mystique bouddhiste and into German by Dagma Benner in Zum Leben des Śāntideva.
18 La Légende de Śāntideva, page 177. 19 Butön Rinchen Drup [bu ston rin chen grub] divided the legend of Śāntideva into seven amazing episodes [ngo mtshar can gyi gtam bdun] in his famous History of Buddhism, pages 161166, written in 1322. For a French translation of only this part of Butön’s text, see Śāntideva mystique bouddhiste, pages 4-11.
20 Sazang Mati Panchen Jamyang Lodro [sa bzang ma ti pan chen ’jam dbyangs blo gros], also known as Lodro Gyaltsen [blo gro rgyal mtshan] (1294-1376), wrote a short biography of Śāntideva in the introduction to his commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryavatara. See sa bzang ’grel chen, folios 15b2-18b3.
21 Sönam Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo [bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po] (1312-1374) included a biography of Śāntideva in his commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryavatara that closely followed Vibhūticandra’s version of Śāntideva’s biography. See bsod nams rgyal mtshan ’grel pa, folios 4a6b.
22 Another account of Śāntideva’s life can be found among the life stories of the eighty-four mahā-siddhas. These stories are said to have been orally transmitted by the Indian scholar Mijigpa Jinpa Pal [mi ’jigs pa sbyin pa dpal] to the Tibetan monk and translator Möndrub Sherab [dge slong smon ’grub shes rab]. See grub thob rnam thar, folios 86a5-91a5. For an English translation see Masters of Mahamudra, pages 223-228.
23 In 1565, one year before his death, Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa [dpa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba] (1504-1566) wrote a very extensive commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryavatara. He used Vibhūticandra’s biography of Śāntideva as well as Butön’s version. See gtsug lag ’grel chen, folios 3a-5a.
1788), Tsechok Ling Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen26 (1713-1793), Khenpo Kunpal (18621943), Khetsün Zangpo,27 and others.
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra delineates and illuminates the motivation of bodhicitta28 and the application of the six transcendental perfections.29 Śāntideva, in a beautiful and poetic manner, gathers together all the essential points of the entire bodhisattva path from the vast extent of the sūtras and their commentaries. Thus, his composition has become the classic textbook30 of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra shows the beginner how to enter the path, develop bodhicitta, receive the bodhisattva precepts, and train in the six transcendental perfections of generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and knowledge.31 The canonical version has ten chapters bearing the following titles:
24 See Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism, pages 215-220. For a French translation, see Śāntideva
mystique bouddhiste, pages 11-18. 25 See dpag bsam ljon bzang, page 103. For a French translation, see Śāntideva mystique bouddhiste, pages 18-20.
26 In 1787, the great Gelukpa Lama Tsechok Ling Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen [tshe mchog gling yongs ’dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan] compiled two volumes with the biographies of all the lineage masters of the Lam Rim tradition, known as the graded stages tradition. See lam rim bla brgyud, pages 292.1-300.3. Yeshe Gyaltsen was the tutor [yongs ‘dzin] of the Eighth Dalai Lama. For details on Yeshe Gyaltsen’s life and work see Among Tibetan Texts, pages 171-176.
27 See mkhas btsun bzang po Vol. I, pages 496-504. This version is a copy of Śāntideva’s life story
as recorded in grub thob rnam thar. 28 Bodhicitta has two aspects: compassion [snying rje] and knowledge [shes rab]. Compassion focuses on benefiting others [snying rjes gzhan don la dmigs pa] through the mental commitment [dam bca’ ba]: “I will free all beings from their sufferings.” Knowledge focuses on perfect enlightenment [shes rab kyis rdzogs byang la dmigs pa] through the mental commitment: “I will establish all sentient beings on the level of perfect enlightenment.” Note that according to Paltrül Rinpoche’s tradition, compassion and loving-kindness [byams pa] by themselves are not bodhicitta; rather, they are the basis on which bodhicitta is developed.
29 The six transcendental perfections or pāramitās [pha rol tu phyin pa drug] are generosity [sbyin pa; dāna], discipline [tshul khrims; skr. śīla], patience [bzod pa; skr. kṣānti], diligence [brtson ’grus; skr. vīra], concentration [bsam gtan; skr. dhyāna], and knowledge [shes rab; skr. prajñā].
30 The term ‘textbook’ [gzhung] used in many contexts throughout this work refers to books that form the core curricula for the study of Buddhist philosophy and practice, such as ‘the thirteen great textbooks of Indian origin’ [gzhung chen bcu gsum] and ‘the eighteen famous textbooks’ [grags chen bco brgyad] and so on. These collections will be described later on.
31 Prajñā can also be translated as ’discriminative awareness’, ’intellect’,’higher knowledge’, ‘wisdom’ or ‘wisdom-knowledge’.
According to Kṛṣṇapāda42 and Butön,43 the first three and the tenth chapters elucidate the transcendental perfection of generosity, chapters four and five expound the transcendental perfection of discipline, and chapters six through nine deal with the four remaining transcendental perfections.
The Two Translation Periods and the Tibetan Canon
32 byang chub sems kyi phan yon bshad pa, 36 stanzas. Stanzas 1-4 cover the introduction and
stanzas 4-36 deal with the actual topic of the first chapter. 33 sdig pa bshags pa, 65 stanzas. When the term bshags pa appears in the phrase mthol zhing bshags pa, it means ‘to acknowledge and lay aside’. One acknowledges [mthol ba] one’s misdeeds and speaks out [brjod pa] without hiding [mi sbed pa]. Once one has acknowledged one’s negative deeds [sdig pa], one lays them aside [bshags pa]. For a detailed analysis of the term, see Illuminator.
34 byang chub kyi sems yongs su gzung ba, 33.5 stanzas. 35 bag yod bstan pa, 48 stanzas. 36 shes bzhin bsrung bar bya ba, 109 stanzas. 37 bzod pa bstan pa, 134 stanzas. 38 brtson ’grus bstan pa, 76 stanzas. 39 bsam gtan bstan pa, 187 stanzas. 40 shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa, 167 stanzas. 41 bsngo ba, 57.5 stanzas. 42 kṛṣṇa dka’ gnas, page 187.3.1-2 43 See bu ston ’grel chen, page 195.
In general, Buddhist texts were translated from Sanskrit and other languages into the Tibetan language during two great translation periods referred to as the ‘Early Translation Period’ and the ‘Later Translation Period’.44
All texts translated between the 7th and 9th centuries, under the royal patronage of the three kings, Songtsen Gampo (618-641),45 Trisong Detsen (756-797),46 and Tri Ralpachen (815-838),47 belong to the ‘Early Translation Period’. All texts that were translated after the 10th century by Rinchen Zangpo48 (958-1055) and others are considered to belong to the ‘Later Translation Period’.
The followers of the explanation and practice lineages of the Early Translation Period are known as the Nyingmapas, or ‘Old School’.49 The followers of the explanation and practice lineages of the Later Translation Period are known as the ‘New Schools’50 and include the Sakya, Kagyü, and Old and New Kadampa Schools.
Most of the sūtras, tantras, and commentaries were translated during the Early Translation Period. At the time of Tri Ralpachen these translations were then revised,51 and new translations were made according to the rules laid down in a transla
44 phyi ’gyur gsar ma. The Later Translation Period or the ’later spreading’ [phyi dar] began at the time of Rinchen Zangpo under the royal patronage of Lha Lama Yeshe Ö [lha bla ma ye shes ’od], one of the kings of the Ngari Khorsum [mnga’ ris ’khor gsum] region. At that time many great paṇḍitas and masters such as Atiśa came from India and Nepal to Tibet. Tibetan translators such as Marpa Lotsawa went to India and brought many new texts and traditions to Tibet. This stream of new texts and teachings lasted until the time of the great translator Zhalu Lotsawa [zhva lu lo tsā ba chos skyong bzang po] (1444-1529). For a detailed analysis of this period, see the chapter on the ’History Surrounding the Revisions’ in The Thirty Verses.
45 According to the chapter on the ‘Three Revisions of the Tibetan Language’ in The Thirty Verses, “In the period from 750 A.D. to 1000 A.D., there is a variation in the dating of events among the most reliable of Tibetan sources by as much as 60 years.” According to Tibetan Empire, page 227, the dates for srong btsan sgam po are 618-641.
46 According to Tibetan Empire, page 228, khri srong lde btsan reigned during the second half of
the 8th century, 756-797. 47 According to Tibetan Empire, page 228, Ralpachen [ral pa can], also known as Tritsug Detsen [khri gtsug lde bstan], reigned circa 815-836.
48 rin chen bzang po 49 snga ’gyur rnying ma pa 50 phyi ’gyur gsar ma 51 Students of Tibetan texts should be aware that three great revisions took place in Tibet. With
each revision the spelling and terminology was modified. Consequently, these changes had an impact on the way texts can be interpreted. The different translation stages of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra are closely linked with these revisions. The term ’revision’, ’revised language’, or ’revision of language’ [skad gsar bcad pa] refers to the modifications that translators added to the great grammarian Thumi Sambhoṭa’s (7th century) original system over the centuries with regard to orthography, standardization of translation terminology, and the incorporation of newly-defined translation terminology. During the reign of Mutig Tsenpo [mu tig btsan po], King Trisong Detsen’s youngest son, the first official attempt to standardize the terminology of
tion guide known as the ‘Second Tome on Grammatical Composition’,52 and also using the newly standardized vocabulary laid down in the glossary known as the Mahāvyutpatti.53
During the four-year reign of the anti-Buddhist king, Langdarma, who came to power around 838,54 the lavish royal patronage upon which translators and monasteries had relied since the middle of the 8th century ended due to his suppression of Buddhism, and the work of translation came to a halt.55 Translation of Buddhist texts resumed
translations was made and is known as the ’first language revision’ [skad gsar bcad dang po]. Under the reign of Tri Ralpachen, most Buddhist texts had already been translated, but since inconsistencies regarding the translation terminology existed, he had them corrected, and this became known as the ‘second language revision’ [skad gsar bcad gnyis pa]. The first two revisions fall under the Early Translation Period. In the 11th century, many masters such as Atiśa (982-1054) came to Tibet. Also during that time many new texts were brought from India, Nepal, and Kashmir to Tibet. This was the beginning of the Later Translation Period. While the standardization process begun during the first two revisons continued, a flood of new tantras brought many new terms to Tibet. Many translations from the Early Translation Period were again revised. This period, which lasted from the time of Rinchen Zangpo [rin chen bzang po] to Mahāpaṇḍita Rongzompa Dharmabhadra [rong zom pa dharma bhadra] (1012-1088), is known as the ‘third language revision’ [skad gsar bcad gsum pa], although some scholars argue that the third revision period lasted for as long as new texts came pouring in from India and Nepal. While the first translation of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra by Kawa Paltsek [ska ba dpal brtsegs] falls into the second revision period, the second translation by Rinchen Zangpo, and the third translation by Ngok Loden Sherab [rngog blo ldan shes rab] fall into the third revision period. For a detailed discussion of these three revisions, see the chapter called the ’Three Revisions of the Tibetan Language’ in The Thirty Verses.
52 The ‘Second Tome on Grammatical Composition’ [sgra sbyor bam po gnyis pa] was compiled at the time of King Ralpachen by great Indian scholars, such as Paṇḍita Jinamitra, Surendrabodhi, Śīlendrabodhi, Dānaśila and by Tibetan translators, such as Kawa Paltsek, Chokro Lui Gyaltsen [cog ro klu’i rgyal mtshan], and Zhang Yeshe De [zhang ye shes sde]. This composition was compiled as a set of guidelines designed to facilitate exact translation of the sūtras and tantras from Sanskrit and other languages into the Tibetan language. See The Thirty Verses, ’The Need for the Revisions, The Tome of Grammatical Composition’.
53 The great glossary of terms known as Mahāvyutpatti [bye brag rtogs byed] lists Sanskrit terms followed by their standardized Tibetan equivalents. It was created at the time of Tri Ralpachen by many Indian scholars and great Tibetan translators, such as Kawa Paltsek, Chokro Lui Gyaltsen [cog ro klu’i rgyal mtshan], and Zhang Yeshe De [zhang ye shes sde]. Thus, a standardized dharma terminology was established during the Early Translation Period. See From bKa’ bstan bcos to bKa’ ’gyur, pages 89-90.
54 According to Tibetan Empire, page 228, Langdarma, also known as Tri’u Dumtsen [khri ’u
dum btsan], reigned from 838-842. 55 During the time of King Langdarma [glang dar ma], when the great Tibetan empire fell apart and translation of Buddhist texts ceased in Tibet, Indian scholars and Tibetan translators left the country, and Buddhist texts were hidden in caves and in the households of lay people in order to preserve them. Monastic centers were systematically dismantled, but the practice of tantra continued among lay practitioners. Langdarma was assassinated in 842 by Palgyi Dorje [dpal gyi rdo rje]. See From bKa’ bstan bcos to bKa’ ’gyur, pages 93-95.
again in the early 11th century in what became the second great period of translation known as the Later Translation Period. The pivotal work of the great translator Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) marks the beginning of this period.
During and after this renaissance, the compilation of a canon came to the fore. Great scholars, such as the Sakya masters Drakpa Gyaltsen56 (1147-1216), Chögyal Phakpa57 (1235-1280), and Butön Rinchen Drup58 (1290-1364), made attempts to compile the great variety of extant Tibetan translations.
The translated sūtras, tantras, and commentaries were compiled in two great collections known as the Kangyur59 and the Tangyur.60 All the sūtras and tantras regarded as having been taught directly by the Buddha were collected in the Kangyur, the ‘translated words of the Buddha’, and all the commentaries and treatises on the sūtras and tantras written by great Indian masters were collected in the Tangyur, the ‘translated commentaries on the words of the Buddha’.
Research has shown the absence of a standardized canon of texts of the Kangyur and Tangyur, and, therefore, scholars speak of multiple Kangyurs and Tangyurs. Furthermore, editions of individual texts have been transmitted through different Kangyurs and Tangyurs, as in the Peking, Lithang or Narthang editions,61 making it very difficult to trace the recension history of these texts.
Since the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is a Buddhist treatise from India, it is therefore found, together with its Indian commentaries, in the Tangyur62 rather than in the Kangyur. The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and its Indian commentaries are located in the section known as ‘sūtra commentaries’ within the sub-section known as ‘madhyamaka’.63
Tibetan scholars make references to the existence of more than 100 Sanskrit commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, most of which have been lost over the
56 grags pa rgyal mthsan 57 chos rgyal ’phags pa 58 bu ston rin chen grub. For biographical notes, see Life of Bu ston. 59 bka’ ’gyur. The Peking Kangyur consists of 45 volumes: vols. 1-11 rgyud; vols. 12-21 sher
phyin; vols. 22-24 dkon brtsegs; vols. 25-26 phal chen; vols. 27-40 mdo sna tshogs; and vols. 4145 ’dul ba. Both sūtras and tantras are considered to be the direct words of the Buddha [sangs rgyas kyi bka’].
60 bstan ’gyur. The Peking Tangyur consists of volumes 46-150: vol. 46 bstod tshogs; vols. 46-87 rgyud ’grel; vols. 88-150 mdo ’grel. Appendices: vol. 151 dkar chag; vol. 152-165 extra (btsong kha pa / lcang skya); and vol. 165-168 catalogue.
61 For an overview on this complex topic, see Introductory Remarks, pages 1-12; Structure of the
Tibetan Kanjur, pages 57-72; and From bKa’ bstan bcos to bKa’ ’gyur, pages 87-111. 62 For this work we have used a reprint of the Peking Kangyur and Tangyur as prepared in 1737 under the Qianlong emperor. This modern photographic reprint of the Peking edition was reprinted and catalogued between 1955 and 1961 and published as The Tibetan Tripitaka.
63 Madhyamaka, dbu ma, Peking, vols. 95-103.
centuries. However, since the time of Butön, who established his Tangyur compilation at Zhalu monastery in 1334,64 ten Sanskrit commentaries have been preserved in their Tibetan translations in the Tangyur. Of the ten, the only single complete commentary still in existence in the Sanskrit language is the Bodhi-caryāvatāra-pañjikā,65 written by the Indian scholar Prajñākaramati.66 A fragmentary, anonymous Sanskrit commentary on the Bodhicaryāvatarā from Nepal has not yet been analyzed and published.67 The numerous commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra written by Tibetan scholars were not included in the Tangyur but were published separately.68
According to tradition, Śāntideva wrote the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra in Sanskrit in the 8th century. As the popularity of this text in India was said to be extremely high, one would expect to find many extant Sanskrit manuscripts. However, only a few survived the decline of Buddhism in India.
A Sanskrit version of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was first edited in 1889 by the Russian scholar P. Minaev.69 Later, in 1904, Louis de la Vallée Poussin70 used Minaev’s critical edition plus two additional manuscripts and established what is now known as the ‘current Sanskrit version’ of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.71 So far, no
64 See Life of Bu ston, page 33. Ruegg also observes on pages 20-21: “It is thus evident that by the beginning of the fourteenth century the number of Sūtra and Śāstra works available in Tibetan was very considerable and that the time was ripe for collecting them together, the more so as the flow of new texts from India had considerably decreased since the twelfth century following the Muslim invasions of India and the virtual disappearance of Buddhism from the land of its origin. This almost complete severance of relations with India was a particularly important event in the history of Tibetan Buddhism which had hitherto been a most faithful follower of the fully developed Indian Buddhism. Thus, whereas the compilation of the Sūtra texts into a canon had been for long feasible, the collection and edition of the commentaries for which Bu ston is renowned would scarcely have been conceivable had authoritative new works been continuing to flow into Tibet from India in the same quantity as before.”
65 sher ’byung bka’ ’grel
66 shes rab ’byung gnas blo gros. For the Sanskrit edition by Louis De La Vallée Poussin, see Prajñā-karamati’s commentary. 67 Louis de la Vallée Poussin used this fragment for his edition of Prajñākaramati’s Pañjikā and
refered to this text as Bodhicaryāvatāra-ṭippānī. This text was discovered in the Durbar Library
in Kathmandu, Nepal, by Professor Cecil Bendall. 68 The only exception in the Peking Tangyur is Tsongkhapa’s commentary. See blo bzang grags pa sher ’grel, Peking No. 6133, added under extra in vol. 153. 69 See Bodhicaryāvatāra edited by Minayev (alternative spellings: Minayeff and Minaev).
See the introduction in Prajñākaramati’s commentary: “As concerns the text of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, I have used the edition of Minaev and his critical apparatus, together with the two MSS. in Paris (Devanāgarī 78, Burnouf 98, call Dev. and Burn).” 71 The Bodhicaryāvatāra, a new translation, page xli: “De la Vallée Poussin had the advantage of
utilizing Minaev’s work and taking account of Prajñākaramati’s explanation, a source of
details of the ‘current Sanskrit version’ of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra,72 such as the age, the exact place of origin, etc., are known. In this regard, the Tibetan translations of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra provide much more detailed information. First, the Tibetan versions can be dated very accurately, and second, they are to date the oldest known versions.
Important information about the translation history of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra can be gathered from the colophons of each translation written by the translators themselves. Each colophon identifies the main translators as well as the Indian and/or Nepalese scholars who assisted the translators in their work. Later colophons repeat and incorporate the previous colophons, giving us information regarding the details of each stage of the translation. The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was translated three times from Indian manuscripts into Tibetan over a period of almost 300 years.
correction not available to Minaev.” In 1960 P.L. Vaidya published his edition of the Bodhicaryāvatāra of Śāntideva with the Commentary Pañjikā of Prajñā-karamati. Also in 1960 Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya published an edition of the Bodhicaryāvatāra. In 1988 Dwaraka Das Shastri published his edition of the Bodhicaryāvatāra and Prajñākaramati’s commentary.
72 The current Sanskrit version is entitled ‘Bodhicaryāvatāra’. All Tibetan translations are entitled ‘Bodhisattva-caryavatara’ [byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa], often abbreviated to ‘Caryavatara’ [spyod ‘jug]. Bodhisattva-caryavatara seems to be the original title of the text, a conclusion supported by the manuscripts found in 1900 in the Tun-huang caves in China. Note that all Tibetan translations of the text and many of its commentaries give the spelling ‘bodhisatva’ instead of ‘bodhisattva’. The most obvious explanation is that Sanskrit grammar allows duplication of consonants. From this point of view there is no significant difference between the two forms of spelling.
According to Tony Duff, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche explained ‘satva’ as the correct spelling for the Tibetan term dpa’ bo, meaning hero or warrior, as used in byang chub sems dpa’. Khenpo Kunpal defines bodhisattva in text section 144 this way: “In order to attain this (bodhi), the (bodhisattva) is courageous, since his mind does not shy away from conduct that is difficult to do, such as sacrificing his head and limbs to others. Therefore, he is a satva, a ’hero’,” [de-nyid ’thob-pa’i ched-du dbu dang yan-lag gzhan la gtong-ba sogs bya-dka’-ba’i-spyod-pas sems-mizhum-par dpa’-bas-na sems-dpa’ ste]. He elaborates further in text section 158: “Bodhisattva means a hero whose mind does not shy away from accomplishing enlightenment through developing supreme bodhicitta as the motivation and through endeavoring in the practice of the six transcendental perfections as the application,” [bsam-pa byang-chub-mchog-tu-semsbskyed-cing sbyor-ba phyin-drug gi nyams-len la brtson-pas byang-chub sgrub-pa la sems mizhum-par dpa’-ba dang]. Khenpo Chöga interprets satva as sems dpa’ bo, ‘hero of mind’.
Har Dayal states in his Bodhisattva Doctrine, page 7: “Sattva may be a wrongly Sanskritized form of the Pāli word satta, which may correspond to Skr. sakta. Thus Pāli bodhisatta, from which the Sanskrit word is derived, would mean bodhi-sakta, ‘one who is devoted or attached to bodhi’.” And, on page 9: “It is almost certainly related to the Vedic word satvan, which means ‘Krieger’, ‘a strong or valiant man, hero, warrior’. In this way, we can also understand the final dpa’ in the Tibetan equivalent. Satta in Pāli bodhisatta should be interpreted as ‘heroic being, spiritual warrior’.” Kajiyama gives seven meanings of the word satva in his paper Bodhisattva and Mahāsattva. He points out that the Tibetan word sems dpa’ for ‘sattva’ combines the meaning ‘mind’ [sems] and ‘courage’ [dpa’].
The first translation: In the early 9th century the famed Tibetan translator Kawa Paltsek,73 assisted by the Indian scholar Sarvajñādeva, first translated the text from Sanskrit into Tibetan. The colophon of the first translation as rendered in the colophon of the third translation says:74
The Indian scholar Sarvajñādeva and the monk Paltsek, translator and
chief editor, (translated), edited and finalized (this text) based on editions
The earliest reference to Kawa Paltsek’s translation is found in a Tibetan source, the lDan dkar ma Catalogue,76 most likely compiled in 824,77 and is the terminus ante quem for the first Tibetan translation of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. This catalogue refers to Kawa Paltsek’s translation as “the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, comprising 600 stanzas and two bampo.”78 This translation was lost for centuries and rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century. Kawa Paltsek’s Sanskrit source is unknown to us.
The second translation: About 150 years later, the Indian scholar Dharmaśrībhadra and the two Tibetan translators, Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) and Śākya Lodro (dates unknown), corrected and re-translated the text using Sanskrit editions and commentaries from the ‘Central Land’.79 Up to now, neither Rinchen Zangpo’s
73 ka ba dpal brtsegs 74 See kun dpal ’grel pa (si khron mi rigs edition), pages 133-134. 75 rgya gar gyi mkhan po sarva jñana deva dang zhu chen gyi lo tsa ba bande dpal brtsegs kyis
kha che’i dpe las zhus te gtan la phab pa las. The colophon of the Tun-huang manuscript of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, St. 629, reads: rgya gar gyi mkhan po sar va jña deva dang zhu chen gyi lo tsa ba ban ’de dpal brtsegs kyis bsgyur cing zhus te gtan la phab pa’o. Note that the colophon of St. 629 does not state that Paltsek (translated), edited and finalized (this text) based on editions from Kashmir as the colophon of the third translation stage by Ngok Loden Sherab does.
76 The lDan dkar ma Catalogue, named after the stong thang ldan dkar gyi pho brang, was compiled by Kawa Paltsek [ska ba dpal brtsegs] and Namkhai Nyingpo [nam mkha’i snying po] during the reign of King Trisong Detsen (756-797). It lists all available translations at the time. Some sources attribute the catalogue to the time of Tri Ralpachen (815-838). See Life of Bu ston, page 19. See also A Study of Akṣayamati, page 16.
77 See Life of Bu ston, page 19: “G. Tucci, Minor Buddhist Texts II, p. 46 n. 1, however, considers that this catalogue was composed during the reign of Khri lde srong btsan, probably in 812, while the Mahāyvutpatti was composed in 814.”
78 byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa / śloka drug brgya ste / bam po gnyis, in Akira Saito, A Study of Akṣayamati, page 16. Bampo [bam po] refers to the ancient binding system of palm leaves bundled together by using a thread passed through holes in the manuscript’s leaves.
79 ’Central Land’ or ’Northern India Proper’, yul dbus, skr. madhyadeśa. Buddhists consider the places of Buddha’s activities to be the ‘Central Land’ [yul dbus] and all other surrounding areas as non-central. According to Words of My Perfect Teacher, pages 22-23, one should distinguish between a geographically central land [sa tshigs kyi yul dbus] and a central land in terms of the dharma [chos tshigs kyi yul dbus]. Geographically speaking, the central land is said
translation nor the Sanskrit source have been found, so we must rely on the colophon of the third translation for details:
Later, the Indian scholar Dharmasribhadra, the monk Rinchen Zangpo who was translator and chief editor, and Sakya Lodro corrected, retranslated, and finalized (this text) in accordance with editions and commentaries from the Central Land.80
The third translation: Subsequently, about 100 years later, the Indian (or Nepalese) scholar Sumatikīrti81 and the translator Ngok Loden Sherab (1059-1109) prepared a third translation. Its colophon reads:
Again, at a later time, the Indian scholar Sumatikirti and the monk Loden Sherab, translator and chief editor, corrected, re-translated, and finalized (this text) in an excellent manner.82
Tibetan scholars regard the third translation as the definitive version. It has ten chapters and 913 stanzas. Present-day scholars are still unsure whether or not Ngok Loden Sherab’s version83 is based on ‘the current Sanskrit version’. The differences between these two versions are delineated by Vesna and Allan Wallace in their translation of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from the Sanskrit version:84
As becomes apparent throughout the text, contrary to popular assumption, the recension incorporated into the Tibetan canon is significantly different from the Sanskrit version edited by Louis de la Valleé Poussin and P.L. Vaidya. This would seem to refute the contention of Crosby and Skilton that the canonical Tibetan translation by Blo ldan shes rab was based on the Sanskrit version available to us today.
When the great Tibetan scholar Butön (1290-1364) was working on his commentary to the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, he wrote in the colophon that he was unsatisfied with his copy of the third translation by Ngok Loden Sherab because he had discovered
to be the Vajra Seat [skr. vajrāsana] of Bodhgaya, India, at the center of Jambudvīpa, the Southern Continent [lho ‘dzam bu’i gling gi yul gyi dbus rgya gar rdo rje gdan], where the thousand buddhas of this Fortunate Aeon all attain enlightenment. In terms of dharma, a central land is any land where the dharma has spread. All other countries and regions are considered to be peripheral countries and regions [mtha’ ‘khob].
80 slad kyis rgya gar gyi mkhan po dharma sri bhadra dang / zhu chen gyi lo tsa ba bande rin chen bzang po dang / sakya blo gros kyis yul dbus kyi dpe ’grel pa dang mthun par bcos shing bsgyur te gtan la phab pa’o /
81 spyod ’jug rtsa ba, page 262.2.6, reads bal po’i paṇḍita sumatikīrti. Also sa bzang ’grel chen, page
443.4, reads bal po’i paṇḍita sumatikīrti. 82 yang dus phyis rgya gar gyi mkhan po su ma ti kirti dang / zhu chen gyi lo tsa ba dge slong blo ldan shes rab kyis dag par bcos shing bsgyur te legs par gtan la phab pa’o //
83 spyod ’jug rtsa ba, Peking No. 5272. 84 See Bodhisattva Way of Life, page 8.
numerous discrepancies between the translation, the Sanskrit text, and commentaries that were available to him. Despite his attempts, Butön reports that he was not able to find a satisfactory edition of Ngok Loden Sherab’s translation. He says:
It appears that there are a number of discrepancies with the Sanskrit text and commentaries. I have made efforts to search for a reliable copy of Ngok’s translation, which, however, could not be obtained.85
To give credence to the ten-chapter version of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and to lessen the importance of Kawa Paltsek’s translation and its Indian commentaries,86 Butön wrote a supportive passage in his version of the legend of Śāntideva:87
Those (paṇḍitas) who had attained perfect recall,88 when presenting what they could remember, came up with 700 stanzas, 1000 stanzas, and more than 1000 stanzas. This led to doubt… He (Śāntideva) said, ‘The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra complete with 1000 stanzas is the (correct) one.’
That Śāntideva supported the ten-chapter version was thenceforth copied by all later commentators of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. Butön may have invented this part of the legend as it appears neither in Vibhūticandra’s Tibetan version nor in the Sanskrit fragment edited by Haraprasad Sastri, but there is no further proof of this. Following Butön’s version, Khenpo Kunpal writes in text section 80:
The paṇḍitas from Kashmir produced a compilation of 700 stanzas in nine chapters, and the ones from the Central Land produced a compilation of 1000 stanzas in ten chapters. Their lack of agreement led to doubts.
And further, see text section 83:
When they reported the state of affairs to him (Śāntideva), he said, “The length of the text corresponds to the compilation of the ones from the Central Land.”
We know that the translator of the second translation, Rinchen Zangpo, still had access to Kawa Paltsek’s translation. Furthermore, the translator of the third translation, Ngok Loden Sherab, had access to Rinchen Zangpo’s translation. Each later translator stated that he had corrected and improved upon the previous translation.
85 See bu ston ’grel chen, page 601: rgya dpe dang ’grel pa dang mi mthun pa mang po snang yang / rngog ’gyur bzang ma zhig ’bad de btsal yang mi rnyed pas. This colophon of Butön’s Bodhisattva-caryavatara commentary has been researched by Akira Saito, Bu ston and the sPyod ’jug. See also A Study of Akṣayamati, pages 26-27.
86 See A Study of Akṣayamati, page 18: “It is, however, highly probable that this story, introduced by Bu-ston and Tāranātha, was created much later than Śāntideva’s age, whether in India or in Tibet, for the purpose of authorizing the version of 1000 śloka-s.”
87 See bu ston chos ’byung, page 167. 88 gzungs, skr. dhāraṇī, here has the connotation of gzungs spobs, which means ’complete recall’, ’perfect confidence’ and ’perfect recall’ (annotation by Tony Duff).
Tibetan scholars made no effort to preserve Kawa Paltsek’s and Rinchen Zangpo’s translations, perhaps because they regarded the third translation as the authoritative version. All Tibetan commentaries are based on Ngok Loden Sherab’s translation, which later became the only canonical version.
However, in the beginning of the 20th century, non-Tibetan scholars learned of the existence of unidentified fragments of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra discovered in the hidden library in Tun-huang. Four manuscript fragments89 of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra were acquired separately during several expeditions to Tun-huang, an oasis in the Kansu-Sinkiang desert, by two rival explorers: the Hungarian-British archaeologist and geographer, Sir Mark Aurel Stein,90 and the French Sinologist, Paul Pelliot.91
The Japanese scholar, Akira Saito,92 identified these four Tun-huang fragments of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra as four separate copies of Kawa Paltsek’s translation, which together allow reconstruction of the entire text. Saito compared the Kawa Paltsek translation with the current version of Ngok Loden Sherab’s translation and discovered enormous differences between the two:
1) The number of chapters. While Ngok Loden Sherab’s translation has
ten chapters, Kawa Paltsek’s has nine, the second and third chapters being
combined into one.
2) The number and order of stanzas. Akira Saito counted 701.5 stanzas in
Kawa Paltsek’s translation93 and 913 stanzas in Loden Sherab’s.
3) The name of the author. Kawa Paltsek’s colophon94 mentions
Akṣayamati95 as the author of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra instead of
Śāntideva. Saito suggests that Akṣayamati is an epithet for Śāntideva.
89 See Akira Saito, A Study of Akṣayamati, page 13; Tibetan manuscripts, pages 196-198, text St. 628,
St. 629, St. 630; Inventaire des Manuscritps, page 174, text Pt. 794. 90 When Stein first arrived at Tun-huang in 1907, he learned about a secret library that had been discovered in one of the many caves in the Valley of the Thousand Buddhas in 1900 by a Chinese Taoist priest called Wang Yuan-lu. This hidden library was walled up in a Buddhist cave-temple during the early 11th century (ca. 1015 or 1035) and remained untouched for 900 years until it was discovered by Wang. These fragments from Tun-huang are at present the oldest extant Tibetan language versions of the Bodhisattva-caryavatara.
91 See Devils On The Silk Road and Pioneer Of The Silk Road. 92 Saito prepared a critical edition of the Tun-huang manuscripts of the Bodhisattva
caryavatara. He so far has edited chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8, using the text St. 628. See Study of Akṣayamati and Study of the Dūn-hūang recension. 93 See Akira Saito, A Study of Akṣayamati, page 20. 94 See colophon in St. 629, A Study of Akṣayamati page 14: “The Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, written
by ācārya Akṣayamati, has been finished.” The Tibetan manuscript reads: [byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa // slobs dpon Blo-gros-myi-zad-pas mdzad pa rdzogs s-ho]. And furthermore, the colophon of St. 629 continues, A Study of Akṣayamati page 18: “An Indian
4) Saito concludes that the texts are based on two different Sanskrit manuscripts. We can deduce from the different translations that at least two, if not three, different Sanskrit versions of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra were in circulation during the different translation stages.
We conclude that the Tibetan scholars considered the longer version to be the authentic one, since five out of ten translations of Sanskrit commentaries incorporated in the Tangyur are based on a ten-chapter version. For these five commentaries, four are extensive: Peking No. 5273 by Prajñākaramati, Peking No. 5275 by Kalyāṇadeva, Peking No. 5277 by Vairocanarakṣita, and Peking 5282 by Vibhūticandra. These four extensive commentaries were all written by famous Indian scholars, and their translations are frequently quoted by Tibetan scholars. Also Peking No. 5276, a brief commentary written by the famous Indian master Kṛṣṇapāda, is frequently quoted by Tibetan scholars. Peking No. 5280 and Peking No. 5281 are short metrical synopses of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra brought to Tibet and translated by Atiśa (982-1054); they were written by his teacher Suvarṇadvīpa.96
Saito discovered that three of these ten commentaries are based on the same Sanskrit manuscript that Kawa Paltsek used for his translation. These are Peking No. 5274, anonymous author and translator; Peking No. 5278, translated by Paṇḍita Minyam Khölpo97 and Loden Sherab98 (1059-1109); and Peking No. 5279, anonymous author and translator. Peking No. 5279, a commentary exclusively on the chapter about transcendental knowledge, is identical with the eighth chapter of Peking No. 5274.99 These three commentaries are ignored by Tibetan scholars in their commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. However, non-Tibetan scholars such as Saito, Crosby, and Skilton consider the Kawa Paltsek translation to be “closer to the original (Sanskrit) composition.”100
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was also translated into the Chinese and Mongolian languages. It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese101 by T’ien Hsi-tsai (Devaśānti
scholar Sarvajñadeva, and a Tibetan translator, Buddhist priest, dPal-brtsegs, translated, edited and completed [the text in Tibetan].” The Tibetan manuscript reads: [rgya gar gyi mkhan po sar va jña deva dang zhu chen gyi lo tsa ba ban ’de dpal brtsegs kyis bsgyur cing zhus te gtan la phab pa’o].
95 For the discussion on Śāntideva [zhi ba lha] and Akṣayamati [blo gros mi zad pa], see A Study of Akṣayamati pages 20-22. Tshechok Ling Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltshan [tshe mchog gling yongs ’dzin ye shes rgyal mtshan] (1713-1793) does not hesitate to say in his lam rim bla brgyud, page 291.6, that Akṣayamati is an epithet for Śāntideva [‘di’i blo gros mi zad pa zhes pa rgyal sras zhi ba lha’i mtshan gyi rnam grangs yin no].
96 For an analysis of Peking No. 5280 and No. 5281, see Suvarṇadvīpa’s Commentaries. 97 paṇḍita mi mnyam khol po 98 blo ldan shes rab 99 See A Study of Akṣayamati, pages 57-85. 100 See The Bodhicaryāvatāra, a new translation, page xxxi and A Study of Akṣayamati. 101 P’u t’i hsing ching, Taisho No. 1662, vol. 32, 543c-562a
from Kashmir?) between 980 and 1001. This Chinese translation has 782 stanzas in eight chapters.102 Chapters four and five, as found in the current Sanskrit edition, are missing, and this translation identifies Nāgārjuna as its author. In 1305 a Mongolian translation was made from Tibetan texts by Chökyi Özer.103
In 1892 parts of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra were translated for the first time into French by Louis de La Vallée Poussin. In 1909 L. D. Barnett published a partial English version, followed again in 1920 by Louis Finot’s French rendering. Then, in 1923 Richard Schmidt provided a German translation of the text. These four pioneering works, all of which derive from Sanskrit originals, led to the publication of many Western-language translations, based both on Sanskrit and Tibetan texts.104
The Tangyur105 contains ten translations of Indian commentaries on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.106 Butön organized his Tangyur based on the old Narthang edition,107 circa 1334 in Zhalu.108 Butön compiled a catalogue to the Tangyur109 one year later in which he incorporated all ten Indian commentaries. What follows is a list of these important commentaries for the interested student of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.110 Note that except for the commentary written by Prajñākaramati, all of their Sanskrit versions are lost.
1. sher ’byung bka’ ‘grel: byang chub kyi spyod pa la ‘jug pa’i bka’ ‘grel; skr. Bodhicaryāvatāra-pañjikā; written in Sanskrit by the Indian scholar Prajñākaramati111 (950-1030), translated by Marpa Chökyi Wangchuk112 (1012
102 See Weiterwirken des Werkes, page 31. 103 Chökyi Özer [chos kyi ’od zer]. See Quellenbezug Eines Mongolischen Tanjurtextes. In this treatise, Weller compares the Mongolian translation with various Tibetan sources. He concludes that the Mongolian translation must have been based on several Tibetan sources, although the colophon of the Mongolian translation states that Chökyi Özer translated the Bodhisattva
caryavatara from the Indian language (most likely Sanskrit). See Quellenbezug Eines Mongolischen Tanjurtextes, page 42. 104 For details on the translation history of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra into Western languages,
see Buddhist Literature, pages 262-353. 105 Peking vol. 100 106 The Bodhisattva-caryavatara root text, spyod ’jug rtsa ba, is found in Peking No. 5272, vol. 99. 107 snar thang 108 zha lu 109 dkar chag nor bu rin chen dbang gi rgyal po’i phreng ba 110 For a detailed analysis of all 10 Indian commentaries see Weiterwirken des Werkes by Siglinde
Dietz, pages 35-38; A Study of Akṣayamati by Akira Saito, pages 22-23; and Altruism and Reality, pages 3-5. 111 shes rab ’byung gnas blo gros 112 mar pa chos kyi dbang phyug
1096) and Darma Drakpa,113 revised by Yönten Gyamtso,114 Peking No. 5273, vol.
No commentary is given to the tenth chapter. This text is the only complete known commentary that still exists in Sanskrit115 and is considered by Tibetan scholars to be the most important among the ten Indian commentaries on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra preserved in the Tangyur. The author, Prajñākaramati, lived during the 11th century116 and was one of the Six Paṇḍitas of the Gates117 of Vikramaśīla.
113 gnyan dar ma grags pa 114 yon tan rgya mtsho 115 The Sanskrit text was first edited by Louis de la Vallée Poussin. See the introduction in
Prajñākaramati’s commentary: “The text of the Bodhicaryāvatāra-pañjikā is preserved in two MSS, now forming part of the collection of the Government of Bengal at Calcutta, both acquired by Professor Haraprasād Śāstrī. The first is in the Nepalese character and contains (with several large lacunae) the whole of the work. (Except the tenth chapter) The second, in Maithili character, contains only the commentary on the ninth chapter.” Further editions of Prajñākaramati’s Sanskrit commentary were made by P.L. Vaidya and Dwaraka Das Shastri.
116 For biographical notes on Prajñākaramati, see Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism, pages 296-297
and mkhas btsun bzang po Vol. I, page 246. 117 The Six Paṇḍitas of the Gates [mkhas pa’i sgo drug] or the Six Gatekeeper Paṇḍitas was an honorary title for the principal teachers at Vikramaśīla University during the reign of King Canaka of the Pāla dynasty. They were responsible for specific disciplines and required anyone seeking admission as a student to engage with one of them in debate. Lists of the Six Gatekeepers are mentioned in Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism and the Blue Annals. According to Tāranātha’s History of Buddhism, page 295, Prajñākaramati was the keeper of the Southern Gate; according to the Blue Annals, page 206, he was the keeper of the Western Gate. For further details, see also Crystal Mirror Vol. VI, pages 109-111.
118 shes rab 119 A Study of Akṣayamati by Akira Saito, pages 57-85.
100. This text was requested by Kamalarakṣita and Dīpaṃkara (Atiśa 982-1054) and was translated into Tibetan by Paṇḍita Dīpaṃkara (Atiśa) and the translator
120 kṛṣṇa / nag po pa, lived from the end of the 10th until the middle of the 11th century. See Life of Kṛṣṇācārya, page 144. 121 chos kyi grags pa 122 paṇḍita mi mnyam khol po 123 blo ldan shes rab 124 li ston rdo rje rgyal mtshan
125 See Study of Akṣayanati, pages 57-85. 126 Dharmapāla, the master from Suvarṇadvīpa [gser gling gi bla ma chos skyong], is also known as Dharmakīrti from Suvarṇadvīpa [gser gling pa chos kyi grags pa].
Tsültrim Gyalwa.127 As a metrical synopsis of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, it condenses the entire text into 36 main points [don sum cu rtsa drug bsdus pa].
Many great masters and scholars of Tibet wrote commentaries on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, and many of these commentaries were and still are used in monastic universities in Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Ladak. A selection of some of the more famous commentators follows:
Sönam Tsemo130 (1142-1182), Lhopa Kunkhyen Rinchen Pal,131 Ngülchu Thogme Zangpo132 (1295-1369), Butön Rinchen Drup133 (1290-1364), Lama Dampa Sönam
127 lo tsa ba tshul khrim rgyal ba 128 tshul khrims rgyal ba 129 gtso bo’i don bcu gcig bsdus pa 130 Sönam Tsemo [bsod nams rtse mo] wrote a famous commentary on the Bodhisattva
caryāvatāra. See bsod nams rtse mo ’grel pa. He was a direct student of Chawa Chö Seng [phya ba chos seng] (1109-1169) and based his commentary on his teacher Chawa Chö Seng’s commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod, page 1069.
131 Lhopa Kunkhyen Rinchen Pal [lho pa kun mkhyen rin chen dpal] was a direct student of Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyaltshen [sa skya paṇḍita kun dga’ rgyal mtshan] (1182-1251), from whom he received detailed teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. He wrote his commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra as a synopsis [zin bris] of the teachings he had received from Sakya Paṇḍita. See zin bris ’jam dpal zhal lung.
132 Ngülchu Thogme Zangpo [dngul chu thogs med bzang po] wrote a famous commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. According to Khenpo Ape, the three—Butön [bu ston], Lama Dampa Sönam Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo [bla ma dam pa bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po] and Ngülchu Thogme Zangpo [dngul chu thogs med bzang po]—were students and teachers of each other. See the introduction to dngul chu thogs med ’grel pa as well as dngul chu thogs med rnam thar, page 15.
Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo134 (1312-1375), Sazang Mati Penchen Jamyang Lodro135 (12941376), Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa136 (1357-1419), Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen137 (1364-1432), Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa138 (1504-1566), Drugpa Pema Karpo139 (15271592), Mipham Rinpoche140 (1846-1912), Khenpo Zhenga141 (1871-1927), Thubten
133 In 1338 Butön [bu ston] wrote his famous commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See
bu ston ’grel chen. 134 In 1338 Lama Dampa Sönam Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo [bla ma dam pa bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po] wrote a famous commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See bsod nams rgyal mtshan ’grel pa.
135 Sazang Mati Penchen Jamyang Lodro [sa bzang ma ti paṇ chen ’jam dbyangs blo gros], also known as Lodro Gyaltshen [blo gros rgyal mtshan], wrote a famous commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See sa bzang ’grel chen. He was a direct student of Lama Dampa Sönam Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo [bla ma dam pa bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po].
136 Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa [tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa] wrote a famous
commentary on the ninth chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See blo bzang grags pa sher ’grel. 137 Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen [rgyal tshab dharma rin chen], a direct student of Rendawa [red mda’ ba] (1349-1412) and Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa, wrote a famous commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See dar ṭik.
138 In 1565, one year before his death, Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa [dpa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba] wrote a very extensive commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See gtsug lag ’grel chen.
139 ’brug pa pad ma dkar po. See pad dkar ’bru ’grel. 140 Ju Mipham Jamyang Namgyal [‘ju mi pham ’jam dbyangs rnam rgyal] received teachings from Paltrül Rinpoche on the chapter concerning transcendental knowledge and shortly thereafter, in 1878, wrote a commentary to this chapter. See nor bu ke ta ka. Then, in 1889, Mipham Rinpoche wrote a refutation of the objections raised by the Gelukpa Tragkar Tulku [brag dkar sprul sku] from Drepung [‘bras spungs] against his commentary nor bu ke ta ka. See brgal lan nyin byed snang ba (brag dkar brgal lan). Around 1892, Mipham wrote another refutation of the objections to his interpretation raised by the Gelukpa Palriwa Lobzang Rabsel [dpal ri ba blo bzang rab gsal]. See gzhan gyis brtsad pa’i lan mdor bsdus pa (rab gsal brgal lan). During the years 1878 and 1880 Mipham Rinpoche engaged in a public debate on the ninth chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra with the famous scholar Japa Do-Ngag [‘ja’ pa mdo sngags] of the New Translation School. The debate lasted for several days during which Paltrül Rinpoche acted as the referee. For further details about the debate as well as about Mipham Rinpoche’s life and work, see Beacon of Certainty, pages 19-39; Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 869-880; Among Tibetan Texts, pages 227-233; Reflexive Nature of Awareness; and Werke des Mipham rnam-rgyal.
141 Gyakung Khenpo Zhenga [rgya bskung mkhan po gzhan dga’], also known as Khenpo Chökyi Nangwa [mkhan po chos kyi snang ba], was a student of Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu [dbon u rgyan bstan ’dzin nor bu] with whom he studied for thirteen years and from whom he received the oral explanation lineage of Paltrül Rinpoche. Based on these teachings, he wrote his famous ’annotation commentary’ [mchan ’grel] on the ‘thirteen great textbooks’ [gzhung chen bcu gsum] of Indian origin, including the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See spyod ’jug ’mchan ’grel.
Chökyi Drakpa,142 Khenpo Kunpal143 (1862-1943), Zhechen Gyaltsab144 (1871-1926) and Lodro Gyaltshen.145
The interpretation of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is closely linked to Buddhist scholasticism in Tibet. Buddhist scholasticism was brought from India to Tibet by the Indian paṇḍitas invited during the time of the three great kings: Songtsen Gampo,146 Trisong Detsen,147 and Tri Ralpachen.148 The first centers of learning were places such as Samye,149 Pangtang Kame,150 and Ushang Doyi Lhakhang,151 where great Indian masters152 trained Tibetan translators153 and helped them prepare exact translations of many sūtras and tantras from Sanskrit into the Tibetan language.
142 Thubten Chökyi Drakpa [thub bstan chos kyi grags pa], born in the 19th century, also known as Minyag Kunzang Sönam [mi nyag kun bzang bsod nams], was a direct student of Paltrül Rinpoche and wrote three commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See mi nyag kun bzang ’grel chen, mi nyag kun bzang sher ’grel 1 and mi nyag kun bzang sher ’grel 2. An English translation of mi nyag kun bzang sher ’grel 1 was completed by the Padmakara Translation Group, see Two Buddhist Commentaries.
143 mkhan po kun dpal / mkhan po kun bzang dpal ldan. See kun dpal ’grel pa. 144 Zhechen Gyaltsab [zhe chen rgyal tshab], also known as Zhechen Pema Namgyal [zhe chen padma rnam rgyal], a direct student of Mipham Rinpoche, wrote two important commentaries
on the ninth chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. See sher le’u’i ’bru ’grel nor bu’i sgron me and shes rab le’i mchan ’grel don gsal me long. 145 See sher ’grel snying po’i don gsal. 146 srong btsan sgam po reigned circa 618-641. 147 khri srong lde btsan reigned during the second half of the 8th century, 756-797. 148 khri ral pa can reigned circa 815-838. 149 bsam yas 150 The fortress at Pangthang Kame [‘phang thang ka med], located in Yerpa, was built by
Tride Tsuk [khri lde btsug] in the first half of the 8th century. The Blue Annals mention a flood at Pangthang during the reign of Trisong Detsen. Pangtang Kame is also the birthplace of Trisong Detsen. See From bKa’ bstan bcos to bKa’ ’gyur, page 91.
151 u shang rdo’i lha khang was erected by King Ralpachen. 152 Among many other paṇḍitas, five great masters [slob dpon chen po rnam lnga] were invited to Tibet during the reign of King Trisong Detsen: Padmasambhava from Oḍḍiyāna, Vimalamitra from Kashmir, the Preceptor and Bodhisattva Śāntarakṣita from Zahor (Sahor), the Indian master Kamalaśīla and the Ceylonese master Dānaśīla. See klong chen chos ’byung, pages
303. During the reign of King Tride Songtsen, the son of Trisong Detsen, six other masters are mentioned in particular: the Preceptor Prajñāvarma, Śākya Siṃha, Surendrabodhi, Jinamitra, Dānaśīla, and Vīryasiṃhakara. See klong chen chos ’byung, page 372.
153 The first and most famous of the early translators were ‘the seven trial translators’ [lo tsā ba sad mi mi bdun]: Pa Mañjuśrī [dpa’ mañjuśrī], Tsangthen Lendra [rtsangs then lendra], Tren Karamute [bran karamute], Pagor Vairocana [pagor vairocana], Khön Nagenda [’khon nagendra], Tsang Devendra [rtsangs devendra], and Lang Sugata [rlangs sugata]. All of them
Later, during the reign of King Ralpachen, many monastic centers were created following the tradition of the Indian paṇḍitas. King Ralpachen himself completed 108 Buddhist building projects that his forefathers had pledged to build but could not finish during their lifetimes.154 He also created twelve philosophical colleges, six monasteries, and six retreat centers.155 Thus, in the early days of Buddhism in Tibet, practitioners studied sūtra and practiced tantra in the tradition of the Indian paṇḍitas.
During the reign of King Langdarma these practice and scholastic centers were dismantled, the Indian scholars and translators left Tibet, and many practitioners went into hiding.
With the beginning of the Later Translation Period, from the time of Rinchen Zangpo onward, Buddhist scholasticism was revived throughout Central and Southwest Tibet.156 The Nyingma, Old Kadampa, Sakya, Kagyü, and later Gelugpa Schools developed great monastic universities. Scholasticism in the Nyingma School was preserved, on one hand, by great masters who appeared over the centuries such as Longchenpa and Rongdzom Mahāpaṇḍita, and, on the other hand, by the great monastic institutions of Central Tibet such as Samye, Mindröl Ling,157 and Dorje Trak.158
The Nyingma School in East Tibet produced great masters and scholars in many places such as Kathok, Dzogchen, Palyül, and Zhechen. However, only during the second half of the 19th century were institutional philosophical studies at Buddhist universities made available to a wider audience in East Tibet’s Nyingma monasteries. Before that time, the main focus of the Nyingma School in East Tibet was on the
received monks’ ordination from Śāntarakṣita. Equally famous were Kawa Paltsek [ska ba dpal brtsegs], Cokro Lui Gyaltshen [cog ro lu’i rgyal mtshan], Zhang Nanam Yeshes De [zhang sna nam ye shes sde], Ma Rinchen Chog [rma rin chen mchog], and Nyag Jñāna Kumāra [gnyags jñāna kumāra]. Minor translators included Denma Tsemang [ldan ma rtse mang], Nub Namkhay Nyingpo [snubs nam mkha’i snying po], and Acaya Yeshe Yang [acarya ye shes dbyangs]. See klong chen chos ’byung, page 304.
154 See klong chen chos ’byung, page 374: mes kyi gtsug lag khang brgya rtsa brgyad bzhengs par
dam bcas pa’i grangs ma tshang pa’i lhag ma rnams kha bkang / 155 See klong chen chos ’byung, page 376: de’i dus chos grva chen mo gsum du khod bshams te / thos bsam blo sbyong gi grva bcu gnyis / mkhas btsun stangs ’bul gyi grva drug / smra bcad sems phyos kyi grva drug ste grva bcu gnyis la sogs pa bshams te /
156 The first great centers of Buddhist scholasticism at the dawn of the Later Translation Period were Sangphu Monastery [gsang phu dgon pa] and Sakya [sa skya]. The great translator Ngok Lotsawa Loden Sherab [rngog lo tsā ba blo ldan shes rab] (1059-1109) taught extensively at Sangphu and Sakya Paṇḍita [sa skya paṇḍita] (1182-1251) at Sakya. Sangphu Monastery was founded in 1073 by Ngok Lotsawa Loden Sherab’s uncle Ngok Lekpey Sherab [rngog legs pa’i shes rab]. Sakya Monastery was established also in the year 1073 by Konchok Gyalpo [dkon mchog rgyal po].
157 Mindröl Ling [smin sgrol gling] was founded in 1670 by Terdag Lingpa (1646-1714). 158 Dorje Trak [rdo rje brag] was founded in 1632 by the Third Rigdzin, Ngagi Wangpo [rig ’dzin ngag gi dbang po].
practice of meditation, while philosophical studies were pursued at Buddhist universities in Central Tibet.
According to Khenpo Chöga, in general the Nyingma School’s Buddhist shedra159 follow the structure of the Nālandā monastic university in India, which emphasizes maintaining the entire Buddhist tradition through nine scholastic activities.160
The first three scholastic activities are study, contemplation, and meditation.161 A student who aspires to become a scholar must first listen to the teachings and thoroughly study the dharma. He must repeatedly contemplate the meaning of those teachings. Finally, to internalize the teachings, he must meditate on their meaning. Thus, he accomplishes something that benefits him personally. The next three activities of a scholar are teaching, debate, and composition.162 For the benefit of others, a scholar teaches the dharma, engages in debates about its meaning to clear away doubts in the minds of others, and writes compositions and treatises. The last three scholastic activities are founding universities, developing retreat centers, and engaging in Buddhist activities.163 For the benefit of both himself and others, the scholar creates Buddhist universities164 so that his students can study the dharma, and he develops retreat centers165 so that they can practice meditation. He also engages in Buddhist activities such as building monasteries, stūpas, and so forth.
The Nyingma School maintains a system in which scholasticism and meditation are practiced as a unity.166 Exemplary masters such as Vairocana, Longchen Rabjam, Rongzom Mahāpaṇḍita, Paltrül Rinpoche, and Mipham Rinpoche were equally accomplished scholars and yogins. These great masters took upon themselves the task of maintaining the entire teaching of Buddhism by preserving this unity of both the scholastic and practice traditions.
Institutional scholasticism and the founding of Buddhist universities in the Nyingma School of East Tibet began in the middle of the 19th century during the time of great masters such as Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo167 (1820-1892), Kongtrül Lodro Thaye168 (1813-1899), and Paltrül Rinpoche (1808-1887). East Tibetan monasteries such as
159 bshad grva / chos grva 160 mkhas pa’i bya ba dgu 161 thos bsam sgom gsum 162 ’chad rtsod rtsom gsum 163 bshad sgrub las gsum 164 bshad grva 165 sgrub grva 166 mkhas sgrub zung ’brel gyi lugs srol 167 ’jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po 168 kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas
Kathok,169 Dzogchen, Palyül,170 and Zhechen,171 as well as the Sakya monastery Dzongsar,172 and the Kagyü monastery Palpung,173 founded universities and set up rigorous Buddhist study curricula. With the founding of Śrī Siṃha Shedra, around 1842, Dzogchen Monastery was probably the first of the Nyingma monasteries in East Tibet to establish an institutional system for producing scholars and preceptors on a grand scale.
Called ‘Rudam Orgyen Samten Chöling’, Dzogchen Monastery was founded in 1685174 by the first Dzogchen Rinpoche, Pema Rigdzin (1625-1697). Later, the first Dodrupchen Jigme Thrinley Özer (1745-1821) sent his student Gyalse Zhenphen
169 The Vajra Seat of Kathok [kaḥ thog rdo rje gdan] was founded in 1159 by Kathok Dampa Deshek [kaḥ thog dam pa bde gshegs] (1122-1192). Mipham Rinpoche (1846-1912) charged his student Khenpo Kunpal with the task of creating a shedra [bshad grva] at Kathok. Khenpo Kunpal established this as commanded in the year 1906 [rab tshes me rta lo]. The shedra was named Shedrup Norbu Lhünpo [bshad sgrub nor bu lhun po]. See kaḥ thog lo rgyus, pages 145 and 155. Subsequently, Khenpo Ngagwang Palzang [mkhan po ngag dbang dpal bzang], also known as Khenpo Ngagchung [mkhan po ngag chung] (1879-1941), taught for five years at this shedra. See kaḥ thog lo rgyus, page 148, and Among Tibetan Texts, pages 28-29.
170 Palyül Namgyal Jangchub Ling [dpal yul rnam rgyal byang chub gling] was founded in 1665 by Rigdzin Kunzang Sherab [rig ’dzin kun bzang shes rab] (1636-1698). The shedra at Palyül was created in 1922 [chu khyi lo] under the second Pema Norbu [padma nor bu] (18871932). Khenpo Ngagchung [mkhan po ngag chung] gave an initial three-day lecture as part of the opening ceremony. At the beginning only fifty monks attended the shedra. Khenpo Ngagchung studied as a young man at the Śrī Siṃha Shedra at Dzogchen and became the main khenpo at Kathok.
171 Zhechen Monastery [zhe chen dar rgyas gling] was founded in 1734 [shing stag lo] by the second Rabjam Rinpoche, Gyurme Kunzang Namgyal [rab ’jams sku phreng gnyis pa ’gyur med kun bzang rnam rgyal]. According to Khenpo Chöga, it appears that the shedra at Zhechen was established much later than Śrī Siṃha Shedra.
172 Dzongsar Trashi Lhatse Monastery [rdzong gsar bkra shis lha rtse’i dgon pa] was founded in 1253 by Chögyal Phakpa [chos rgyal ’phags pa] (1235-1280). The Dzongsar Shedra [rdzong gsar bshad grva] was planned by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo [‘jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po], but it was Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodro (1893-1959), who, at the age of 26, actually founded it in 1918. The shedra was named Khamche Shedrup Dargye Ling [khams bye bshad sgrub dar rgyal gling]. He invited Khenpo Zhenga from Śrī Siṃha Shedra of Dzogchen to be the first khenpo in charge of studies. See Masters of Meditation, page 279. For further details see our chapter on the history of Dzongsar Shedra.
173 Palpung Monastery [dpal spungs] was founded in 1727 by the eighth Situpa, Mahāpaṇḍita Situ Chökyi Jungne [situ paṇ chen chos kyi ’byung gnas] (1699-1774). It was Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo [situ padma dbang phyug rgyal po] (1886-1952) from Palpung Monastery who requested Khenpo Zhenga (1871-1927) to write the famous annotation commentaries to all thirteen great textbooks. The annotation commentary to the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was written by Khenpo Zhenga at Palpung monastery. Khenpo Zhenga taught the entire ‘thirteen philosophical textbooks of Indian origin’ to Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo and founded at that time the shedra at Palpung Monastery.
174 However, the tshig mdzod chen mo says that Dzogchen Monastery was founded in 1675.
Thaye175 (1800-?) to a certain place in the valley of Dzogchen, where he had a vision of the great Dzogchen master Śrī Siṃha sitting on a rock.
In honor of Śrī Siṃha, Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye, the fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje176 (1793-?), Sengtruk Pema Trashi,177 Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Dorje178 (19th century), and Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje179 (1800-1866) established the Dzogchen Śrī Siṃha Shedra180 at the very place where Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye had seen Śrī Siṃha in his vision. Since Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye rebuilt Dzogchen Monastery in 1842 after it was totally destroyed by an earthquake, it is likely that Śrī Siṃha Shedra was founded around that time.
To understand how Tibetan scholars write commentaries on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, one must take a look at their educational system. Since the time of Nālandā, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was taught by an elite group of highly specialized monk-scholars to an exclusively male audience of scholarly monks. The didactic language in use at Śrī Siṃha Shedra was and still is classical Buddhist Tibetan, a very technical jargon understood only by those prepared through training in the vast field of Buddhist philosophy and sciences. Tibetan commentaries on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra reflect this enormous range of knowledge and thus force the reader to seek guidance from representatives of the Tibetan scholastic tradition.
175 Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye [rgyal sras gzhan phan mtha’ yas] was considered to be an incarnation of Śāntarakṣita. He studied with the first Dodrupchen Jigme Trinley Özer [‘jigs med phrin las ’od zer], Gyalwe Nyugu [rgyal ba’i myu gu] (1765-1843), the fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche, Mingyur Namkhai Dorje, as well as Sengtruk Pema Trashi [seng phrug pad ma bkra shis] and many others.
176 mi ’gyur nam mkha’i rdo rje was a direct student of the first Dodrupchen Jigme Trinley Özer. For biographical notes on Mingyur Namkhai Dorje, see Masters of Meditation, pages 174
178. Among his students were Paltrül Rinpoche, Adzom Drugpa, Mipham Rinpoche, and
Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. 177 Sengtruk Pema Trashi [seng phrug pad ma bkra shis], also known as Pema Trashi [padma bkra shis], studied as a young man for 15-20 years at Mindröl Ling Monastery. He was the main khenpo at Dzogchen Monastery and became the teacher of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye, who received from him a commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, the bodhisattva vows, and numerous other teachings.
178 Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Dorje [rdzogs chen mkhan po pad ma rdo rje] was a 19th century master who studied with Gyalse Zhenpen Thaye, the fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche, and Khenchen Sengtruk Pema Trashi. He was a classmate of Paltrül Rinpoche and one of the foremost khenpos of Dzogchen Monastery. For biographical notes see Masters of Meditation, page 200.
179 mdo mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje 180 śrī siṃha bshad grva, śrī siṃha chos grva.
The curriculum at Buddhist universities of the Nyingma School culminates at the highest level in the awarding of the title of ‘Zhungluk Rabjampa’, which means ‘Teacher of Infinite Textbooks’, and, on a lower level, in the title ‘khenpo’,181 which means ‘preceptor’. A khenpo is authorized to give the vows182 of individual liberation,183 i.e., he is a preceptor of monastic discipline.184 The main task of a khenpo is to uphold the unbroken ordination lineage of monks and nuns. In addition to the meaning of preceptor, the title khenpo can also mean ‘scholar’ or ‘paṇḍita’.185 A khenpo who functions as a preceptor must be a fully-ordained monk. He must be learned in the rules of monastic discipline but not necessarily in all of Buddhist philosophy and the sciences.186
Students at Śrī Siṃha Shedra are exclusively monks187 who enter at the age of eighteen and may then take full ordination188 at the age of twenty. If they complete the rigorous seventeen-year curriculum189 of study and practice, they may be appointed khenpo and perhaps be sent to another monastery to maintain the tradition of monastic discipline and scholasticism190 there.
181 mkhan po; skr. upādhyāya. A khenpo must have kept the prātimokṣa vows himself flawlessly for at least ten years in a central country such as India, and for five years in a border country such as Tibet, in order to pass them on to someone else. He must be learned in all monastic ceremonies and be knowledgeable in all aspects of the vinaya, the monastic discipline. For a detailed explanation see Buddhist Ethics, pages 44-46.
182 sdom pa; skr. saṃvara 183 so thar; skr. prātimokṣa 184 ’dul ba; vinaya 185 paṇḍita 186 Buddhist philosophy and the sciences are part of what is commonly known as the ten
sciences [rig gnas bcu], which are subdivided into the five greater sciences and the five lesser sciences. The five greater sciences [rig gnas che ba lnga] comprise the science of arts [bzo rig gnas], medical science [gso ba’i rig gnas], the science of linguistics [sgra’i rig gnas], the science of logic [gtan tshigs kyi rig gnas], and the inner sciences of Buddhist philosophy, ‘esoterics’ [nang don rig pa]. The first four of these sciences are also called the ’four common sciences’ [thun mong gi rig gnas bzhi]. The five lesser sciences [rig gnas chung ba lnga] consist of poetics [snyan ngag], synonymics [mngon brjod], prosody [sdeb sbyor], drama [zlos gar], and astrology [skar rtsis]. To be learned in the inner sciences means that one is learned in both sūtra and tantra.
187 According to Śrī Siṃha tradition, a student is allowed to receive the monk vows [dge tshul gyi sdom pa] from the age of sixteen years. Note that lay people and nuns were not allowed to study at Śrī Siṃha Shedra.
188 According to Śrī Siṃha tradition, a student is allowed to receive the vows of a fully ordained monk [dge slong gyi sdom pa] from the age of twenty.
189 mdzad rim 190 Khenpo Chöga received his training at Śrī Siṃha Shedra shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when the teaching of Buddhism was again permitted in Tibet. He studied for ten years the five major and five minor sciences. He began teaching as a khenpo at Śrī Siṃha Shedra in the late 1980s. Due to the special situation prevailing in Tibet at the time
The very best student is often appointed the Khenchen Tripa,191 a title meaning ‘Throne-Holding Great Preceptor’, and then takes a four-year appointment as the main teacher at Śrī Siṃha Shedra. The four-year term as Khenchen Tripa can neither be extended nor repeated for another four-year term.
Not only is the Khenchen Tripa responsible for the spiritual education of the monks, but he also teaches at Śrī Siṃha Shedra and maintains the monastic discipline at both the shedra and the monastery.192 In addition, he presides over the bimonthly poṣadha193 of the monks and is the main teacher during the annual ‘Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra Seminar’,194 which takes place in the ‘Saṃgha Garden Enclosure’ next to Dzogchen Monastery. The Khenchen Tripa at Śrī Siṃha Shedra teaches while sitting on a special throne, called the ‘Wish-fulfilling Jewel of the Preceptor’s Throne’.195 The first students to obtain the Khenchen Tripa post were Khenchen Pema Dorje196 and Paltrül Rinpoche.
Many khenpos enter into strict retreat after they complete their seventeen years of study. While studying at Śrī Siṃha Shedra, they dedicate 75 percent of their time to study and 25 percent to meditation. Later, when staying in Dzogchen Monastery’s retreat center, they practice 75 percent of the time and dedicate 25 percent to study. Thus, they always maintain the proper balance between study and practice.
In order to become a khenpo, one must complete the entire seventeen-year shedra program as a monk, having both studied the textbooks and maintained the monastic discipline197 of the full monk’s ordination. Following this the student is awarded the
and his great intelligence, he was made khenpo before he completed the traditional seventeen-year study period.
191 mkhen chen khri pa 192 The monastic discipline at Dzogchen Monastery is enforced by four disciplinarians [dge skos bzhi], by two secret informants [tho rdzi gnyis], and by 24 monastic servants [lha g.yog gnyis bcu rtsa bzhi].
193 Bimonthly poṣadha ceremonies are held either at Śrī Siṃha Shedra or at Dzogchen Monastery. According to the Illuminator, poṣadha [gso sbyong] literally means “healing and purifying” or “repairing and purifying.” It is the name of the principal ceremony conducted by ordained Buddhist monks and nuns in order to purify the breakage of vows and restore the purity of ordination.
194 spyod ’jug mchod pa / spyod rgan ma 195 mkhan khri yid bzhin nor bu 196 Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Dorje [rdzogs chen mkhan po pad ma rdo rje] was a 19th century
master who studied with Gyalse Zhenpen Thaye, the fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche, and Khenchen Sengtruk Pema Trashi. He was a classmate of Paltrül Rinpoche and one of the foremost khenpos of Dzogchen Monastery. For biographical notes see Masters of Meditation, page 200.
197 lta srung gnyis: dpe cha lta dang tshul khrims srung
title ‘khenpo’ and receives a diploma,198 authorizing him to teach the dharma and pass on monk’s vows as a preceptor.
To become a paṇḍita, the student must become learned in all five sciences.199 This is accomplished by first completing the seventeen years of study at Śrī Siṃha Shedra and studying another ten years with specialized teachers in the sciences. The title ‘Teacher of Infinite Textbooks’ is identical with the title ‘paṇḍita’, ‘scholar’ or ‘scholar of scholars’.200 It denotes someone who knows all the textbooks on Buddhist philosophy and the sciences.
At the next level is the title ‘Great Khenpo’.201 An exceedingly brilliant scholar, he has written commentaries on some, but not necessarily all, of the sciences and receives the title ‘Lion of Speech, Teacher of Boundless Textbooks’, taking his place in the assembly on a huge throne.
At the very highest level, a Mahāpaṇḍita is the most exalted of scholars. This title is reserved for those who know and teach the philosophical textbooks as well as the major and minor sciences, and who have also written commentaries to the treatises of all five major and minor sciences.202 Among those who achieved this exalted level of scholasticism are the masters Gertse Mahāpaṇḍita,203 Zhechen Öntrül Gyurme Thubtob Namgyal,204 Kongtrül Lodro Thaye, and Mipham Rinpoche.
The person mainly responsible for the curriculum at Śrī Siṃha Shedra was Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. He had travelled widely in Tibet, China, and India and had visited many Buddhist universities of all schools. Mindröl Ling Monastery and Dzogchen Monastery were among the many places where he studied. Based on the vast knowledge that he had obtained through his travels and studies, Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye then developed the Dzogchen Śrī Siṃha curriculum.205
Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye mainly taught the ‘thirteen great textbooks of Indian origin’206 which will be explained in detail below. He had studied them mainly with
198 bka’ shog 199 rig pa’i gnas lnga bshad mkhan 200 mkhas dbang / mkhas pa’i dbang po 201 mkhan chen 202 rig pa’i gnas lnga’i bstan bcos 203 The Paṇḍita from Katog [kaḥ thog gi paṇḍita] Gertse Mahāpaṇḍita Kunkhyen Gyurme
Tsewang Chogdrup [dge rtse mahā paṇḍita kun mkhyen ’gyur med tshe dbang mchog grub]
(born in 1761). 204 Zhechen Öntrül Gyurme Thubtob Namgyal [zhe chen dbon sprul ’gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal] (1787-?) was the teacher of Kongtrül Lodro Thaye. Thubtob Namgyal also studied with khenpos from the Dzogchen Monastery.
205 mdzad rim 206 gzhung chen bcu gsum
Sengtruk Pema Trashi and taught them extensively to his students Paltrül Rinpoche207 and Khenchen Pema Dorje, and to some extent to his young nephew, Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu.208
Khenchen Pema Dorje compiled the rules and the curriculum for the Śrī Siṃha Shedra as set forth by Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. Paltrül Rinpoche gave the complete teachings of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye to Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu. Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu in turn passed the complete explanation lineage he had received from Paltrül Rinpoche on to Khenpo Zhenga.209 Khenpo Zhenga wrote the famous annotated commentaries210 to the ‘thirteen great textbooks of Indian origin’ and also to the supplementary textbooks. Thereafter, the ‘thirteen great textbooks’ were always taught at Śrī Siṃha Shedra based on Khenpo Zhenga’s annotations. Khenpo Zhenga wrote his annotations based on the explanation lineage that came down to him from the abovementioned masters. Even now, the students at Śrī Siṃha Shedra must learn all ‘thirteen great textbooks’ by heart.
At the Śrī Siṃha Shedra, students would, over a period of nine, thirteen, or seventeen years, study the sciences,211 ‘thirteen great textbooks of Indian origin’,212 tantra,213 and eventually the Dzogchen teachings.214 The aim of the Śrī Siṃha Shedra has been to produce many accomplished scholar-yogins, i.e., qualified teachers trained equally in Buddhist scholasticism and meditation.215
The entire study program at the shedra is divided into three sections. The first section takes nine years to complete and focuses mainly on the ‘thirteen great textbooks of Indian origin’ and the Guhyagarbha Tantra. The second section takes four years to complete and deals mainly with tantra and the writings of Rongzom Mahāpaṇḍita and Longchen Rabjam. The third section takes another four years to complete and concentrates on the study of Atiyoga.
207 Paltrül Rinpoche had also received teachings from Sengtruk Pema Trashi. 208 Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu [dbon u rgyan bstan ’dzin nor bu], also known as Urgyen Tenga
[u rgyan bstan dga’], was a cousin [tsha bo] of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. He studied with Paltrül Rinpoche and also with Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. 209 rgya bskung mkhan po gzhan dga’ 210 mchan ’grel 211 rig gnas 212 gzhung chen bcu gsum 213 rgyud 214 rdzogs chen 215 mkhas sgrub gnyis
During the first section of nine years,216 the first two years217 are mainly dedicated to the study of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra218 and the vinaya;219 the second two years to the study of madhyamaka220 and cittamātra;221 the next three years to the study of prajñāparamitā222 and abhidharma;223 and the last two years to the study of the Mañjuśri-nāma-saṃgīti224 and the Guhyagarbha Tantra.225 During this first nine-year period, students also study the writings of Sakya Paṇḍita,226 Gorampa Sönam
216 Every day one student must recapitulate the previous day’s lesson before the entire class. Each student must roll up a piece of paper with his name written on it, and the khenpo will choose a student by drawing a name card. This procedure is called ’drawing the name cards’ [rtags dril ’phen]. Advanced students who have joined the science classes have to write a daily synopsis based on the textbooks and oral teachings [dpe brjod bris]. Through this the teacher can check the students’ understanding and writing skills. A final written examination [yid tshad / yig rgyugs] is held after the first section of nine years.
217 During the course of the first two years, students also received commentaries on the dkon mchog rjes dran mdo, rgyal sras lag len, and sdom gsum. To receive a commentary on the dkon mchog rjes dran mdo is considered to be a very auspicious beginning [rten ’brel] for any new student.
218 spyod ’jug
219 Among the ‘thirteen great textbooks’, this refers to the Prātimokṣa-sūtra [so sor thar pa’i mdo] and the Vinaya-sūtra [‘dul ba mdo rtsa ba]. 220 Among the ‘thirteen great textbooks’, the madhyamaka [dbu ma] textbooks refer to the
Prajñā-nāma-mūla-madhyamaka-kārika [dbu ma rtsa ba shes rab], the Madhyamakāvatāra [dbu ma la ’jug pa], and the Catuḥśataka-śāstra-kārikā-nāma [bstan bcos bzhi brgya pa]. Together with the madhyamaka textbooks the students also study logic [tshad ma].
221 Among the ‘thirteen great textbooks’, the cittamātra [sems tsam pa] refers to the Sūtrālaṃkāra [mdo sde rgyan]. After this text, the students study the Madhyānta-vibhaṇga (kārikā) [dbus mtha’ rnam ’byed].
222 Among the ‘thirteen great textbooks’, the prajñāparamitā refers to the Abhisamayālaṃkāra [mngon rtogs rgyan]. This text condenses the entire meaning of the extensive, medium and short prajñāparamitā-sūtras. It is said that merely reciting the Abhisamayālaṃkāra carries the same merit as reciting all the extensive, medium and short prajñāparamitā-sūtras. After this text the students study the Dharma-dharmatā-vibhaṇga-kārikā [chos dang chos nyid rnam par ’byed] and the Uttara-tantra [rgyud bla ma].
223 Among the ‘thirteen great textbooks’, the abhidharma refers to the Abhidharma-koṣa-kārikā [chos mngon pa’i mdzod] and the Abhidharma-samuccaya [chos mngon pa kun las btus pa]. 224 ’jam dpal mtshan brjod
225 rgyud gsang ba snying po 226 For biographical notes on Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyaltshen [sa skya paṇḍita kun dga’ rgyal mtshan] (1182-1251) see mkhas btsun bzang po Vol. X, 137ff; Luminous Lifes, pages 159-169.
Senge,227 the 7th Karmapa, Chötrak Gyamtso,228 and Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa.229
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is part of the curriculum and is taught during the first two years for a period of three months based on Khenpo Zhenga’s annotation commentary.230 After completion of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teachings, the student receives the bodhisattva vows and a bodhisattva name. Thus, he is officially made a bodhisattva. Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary is also taught during the first two years for a period of six months, not as part of the Śrī Siṃha Shedra curriculum but in a separate optional class. In addition to this, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is taught every year for a period of three months at the annual Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra Seminar.231
Of utmost importance to the entire curriculum is the study of the ‘thirteen great textbooks of Indian origin’.232 Through studying the ‘thirteen great textbooks’, the students master the key knowledge of the entire tripiṭaka. A short mnemonic poem from the Śrī Siṃha Shedra shows how the ‘thirteen great textbooks’ represent the entire tripiṭaka:233
The Prātimokṣa234 and Vinaya-sūtra235 represent the vinaya piṭaka. The Mūla,236 the Avatāra,237 the Catuḥ,238 and the Carya239 belong to the profound Madhyamaka group, and
227 go ram pa bsod nams seng ge (1429-1489). 228 chos grags rgya mtsho (1454-1506). 229 For biographical information on Lord Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa [rje tsong kha pa blo
bzang grags pa] (1357-1419) see Leben des Tsongkhapa and Life of Tsong Khapa. 230
231 spyod ’jug tshogs pa / spyod ’jug mchod pa / spyod rgan ma 232 gzhung chen bcu gsum: 1) Prātimokṣa-sūtra [so sor thar pa’i mdo], 2) Vinaya-sūtra [‘dul ba mdo rtsa ba], 3) Prajñā-madhyamaka-mūla [dbu ma rtsa ba shes rab], 4) Madhyamakāvatāra [dbu ma la ’jug pa], 5) Catuḥśataka-śāstra [bstan bcos bzhi brgya pa / dbu ma bzhi brgya pa], 6) Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra [spyod ’jug], 7) Sūtrālaṃkāra [mdo sde rgyan], 8) Abhisamayālaṃkāra [mngon rtogs rgyan], 9) Madhyānta-vibhaṇga [dbus mtha’ rnam ’byed], 10) Dharma-dharmatāvibhaṇga [chos dang chos nyid rnam ’byed], 11) Uttara-tantra [rgyud bla ma], 12) Abhidharma
koṣa [chos mngon pa’i mdzod], and 13) Abhidharma-samuccaya [chos mngon pa kun las btus pa]. See The Thirteen Great Treatises. 233 Tripiṭaka, the three baskets [sde snod gsum]: 1) vinaya piṭaka, the basket of monastic
discipline [‘dul ba’i sde snod], 2) sūtra piṭaka, the basket of discourses [mdo sde’i sde snod], and 3) abhidharma piṭaka, the basket of higher dharma [mngon pa’i sde snod]. 234 Prātimokṣa-sūtra [so sor thar pa’i mdo]
235 Vinaya-sūtra [‘dul ba mdo rtsa ba] 236 Prajñā-madhyamaka-mūla [dbu ma rtsa ba shes rab]. Supplementary textbooks [yan lag] for the Prajñā-nāma-mūla study are the so-called ’Six textbooks in the Collection of Reasoning concerning Madhyamaka’ [dbu ma rigs tshogs drug] written by Nāgārjuna: 1) Prajñā-nāmamūla-madhyamaka-kārikā [dbu ma rtsa ba’i tshig le’ur byas pa shes rab], 2) Vigraha
Together with the five teachings of Maitreya240 they represent the sūtra
The Koṣa241 and the Samuccaya242 represent the abhidharma piṭaka.
These are the ‘thirteen great textbooks’ of the tripiṭaka.243
The second section of four years is dedicated to studying the writings of Rongzom Mahāpaṇḍita244 and the Seven Treasures of Longchenpa.245 In addition, Jigme Lingpa’s Yönten Dzö based on the commentary by Khenpo Yönga246 and the commentary on the Three Vows247 by Minling Lochen Dharmaśrī are also taught.
The third section of four years focuses on the study of the Seventeen Dzogchen Tantras,248 Nyingthig Yabzhi,249 and the Tri Yeshe Lama250 by Jigme Lingpa.
The study of the other sciences such as Arts, Medicine, Astrology, and Linguistics are optional to the above curriculum. Upon completion of all the abovementioned courses, the students must take examinations in teaching, writing, and debate.
Due to the length, intensity, and complexity of this educational background, scholars often tend to be overburdened by the weight of all they know, feeling compelled to load as much doctrinal information as they can into their written commentaries on Buddhist treatises, and whenever possible they will insert extraneous references to the
vyāvartanī-kārikā-nāma [rtsod pa bzlog pa’i tshig le’ur byas pa], 3) Śūnyatāsaptati-kārikā-nāma [stong pa nyid bdun cu pa’i tshig le’ur byas pa], 4) Yuktiṣaṣṭikā-kārikā-nāma [rigs pa drug cu pa’i tshig le’ur byas pa], 5) Vaidalya-sūtra-nāma [zhib mo rnam par ’thag pa zhes bya ba’i mdo], and 6) Rāja-parikathā-ratnāvali [rgyal po la gtam bya ba rin po che’i phreng ba].
237 Madhyamakāvatāra [dbu ma la ’jug pa] 238 Catuḥśataka-śāstra [bstan bcos bzhi brgya pa] 239 Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra [spyod ’jug] 240 byams chos sde lnga: 1) Sūtrālaṃkāra [mdo sde rgyan], 2) Abhisamayālaṃkāra [mngon
rtogs rgyan], 3) Madhyānta-vibhaṇga [dbus mtha’ rnam ’byed], 4) Dharma-dharmatā-vibhaṇga [chos dang chos nyid rnam ’byed], and 5) Uttara-tantra [rgyud bla ma]. 241 Abhidharma-koṣa [chos mngon pa’i mdzod]
242 Abhidharma-samuccaya [chos mngon pa kun las btus pa] 243 mdo dang mdo rtsa ’dul ba’i sde snod dang / rtsa ’jug bzhi spyod zab mo dbu ma’i tshogs / byams chos sde lnga mdo sde’i sde snod dang / mdzod dang kun btus mngon pa’i sde snod te / sde snod gsum gyi gzhung chen bcu gsum lags /
244 rong zom bka’ ’bum 245 klong chen mdzod bdun 246 Khenpo Yönga [mkhan po yon dga’ / mkhan po yon tan rgya mtsho]. He studied with
Paltrül Rinpoche and with Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu. 247 sdom gsum dpag bsam snye ma 248 rgyud bcu bdun 249 snying thig ya bzhi 250 khrid ye shes bla ma
sciences they have studied, such as medicine, astrology, etc. In addition, their scholastic explanations must be supported by quotations from scriptures. For the uninformed or inexperienced reader, these explanations and quotations are usually so technical and ponderous as to require further explanatory commentary from a scholarly teacher. Thus, in the lineage teachings of Buddhism there tends to be a high level of inaccessibility dispelled only by the skilled personal teacher.
In the history of Buddhism in Eastern Tibet, Paltrül Rinpoche Orgyen Jigme Chökyi Wangpo was the greatest figure in the propagation of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. He dedicated his life to the dissemination of this teaching. Paltrül Rinpoche was one of the most illustrious spiritual teachers and authors of his time. He lived the life of an enlightened vagabond yogin, spending most of his time wandering through remote areas of East Tibet, living in caves and hermitages. The core of his practice was Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, infused with loving kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta.251
Paltrül Rinpoche studied with the greatest teachers of his era and was a scholar of the highest magnitude. He possessed not the slightest interest in fame or reputation but was one of the greatest meditation masters of the Dzogchen tradition, one who counted many great teachers among his students. He never remained very long at one place and would never accept offerings or gifts in return for his teachings.
A major lineage holder of Jigme Lingpa’s Longchen Nyingthig tradition,252 Paltrül Rinpoche set a very high standard among Buddhist practitioners. His entire life was dedicated to the genuine study and practice lineage of Buddhism. Although he taught at various monasteries, shedras, and hermitages throughout his life, he owned nothing, neither monastic nor worldly goods. He always remained a care-free yogin who might at any time wander off unaccompanied, his only possessions being the few books that he carried with him.
From time to time Paltrül Rinpoche would write profound treatises, commentaries, and poetry, bequeathing us six volumes of writings. Followers of all schools were his students, and together with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Chokgyur Lingpa,253
251 At all times Patrül Rinpoche held loving kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta as the very root of spiritual practice. To everyone, high and low, he would say, “Have a good heart, act with kindness; nothing is more important than that.” Quoted from Enlightened Vagabond.
252 From his root guru Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu [‘jigs med rgyal ba’i myu gu] (1765-1843), a direct student of Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798), Paltrül Rinpoche received the entire teachings of the Longchen Nyingthig tradition.
253 For biographical notes on the great treasure revealer Chokgyur Lingpa Dechen Zhigpo Lingpa [gter chen mchog gyur bde chen zhig po gling pa] (1829-1879 / 1870??) see Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 841-848; mchog gling rnam thar 1-3; and Life of Terchen Chokgyur Lingpa.
Kongtrül Lodro Thaye, Mipham Rinpoche, and other great masters, he spearheaded the non-sectarian movement,254 the great revival of Tibetan Buddhism originating in East Tibet.
Paltrül Rinpoche himself had studied sūtra and tantra under Gyalwe Nyugu,255 Jigme Kalzang,256 Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye,257 Jigme Ngotshar,258 Zhechen Öntrül Thubtob Namgyal,259 Khenpo Sengtruk Pema Trashi,260 and the fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche Mingyur Namkhai Dorje.261 He studied the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra primarily with Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye and Jigme Ngotshar, and through their teachings Paltrül Rinpoche became a great scholar himself. In addition, Paltrül Rinpoche received teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from many other teachers.
Paltrül Rinpoche is said to have taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra about one hundred times262 during his life. Interestingly, although Paltrül Rinpoche in his time was regarded as ‘the authority’ on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, he never wrote a commentary on it. However, he did teach it to many great masters of all schools, always in accordance with their own traditions. Thus, he was a truly non-sectarian teacher. His close student Khenpo Kunpal writes:263
In fact, my kind teacher (Paltrül Rinpoche) had realized all teachings without any contradictions and all texts appeared to him as instructions. Therefore, he became a lineage holder for the teachings of the Early and Later (Translation Periods).
On this basis, when asked, “How should this text (the Bodhisattva
caryāvatāra) be explained?”, I (Khenpo Kunpal) heard him say, “It should
254 ris med 255 Gyalwe Nyugu [rgyal ba’i smyu gu] (1765-1843) was Paltrül Rinpoche’s main root guru and
the teacher from whom he received the teachings of the Longchen Nyingthig tradition. See Masters of Meditation, pages 163-173. 256 Jigme Kalzang [‘jigs med skal bzang] see Masters of Meditation, pages 173-174. 257 See dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 9b4-5. 258 Jigme Ngotshar [‘jigs med ngo mtshar] was a direct student of Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798) as
well as a student of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. Also known as Dola Jigme, Jigme Ngotshar is one of the famous ’four fearless disciples’ [‘jigs med rnam bzhi] of Jigme Lingpa. 259 zhe chen dbon sprul mthu stobs rnam rgyal
260 mkhan po seng phrug pad ma bkra shis, see dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 11b3. 261 rdzogs chen sku phreng bzhi pa mi ’gyur nam mkha’i rdo rje, see dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 11b2.
262 Khenpo Kunpal reports miraculous events each time Paltrül Rinpoche taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 14b6-15a1: “Whenever he taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, numerous large yellow flowers appeared which had never before grown in that area. These (flowers) came to be known as ’the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra flowers’ [spyod ’jug me tog].”
263 text section 137-138
be explained to the followers of the Sakya School according to the commentary of the venerable Sönam Tsemo;264 to the followers of the Genden School265 with the commentary of Darma (Rinchen);266 to the followers of the Kagyü School with commentaries such as that of Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa and others;267 and to the followers of the Old School— and (in particular) for the Śrī Siṃha (Shedra) of the ancient Dzogchen (monastery)—according to their own tradition of the Old School.”268
Khenpo Kunpal, who served as Paltrül Rinpoche’s attendant during his later years, writes that Paltrül Rinpoche carried a copy of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra269 and the Mañjuśrī-nāma-saṇgīti at all times, these texts being his daily prayers. But even these he would sometimes give away, as he knew them by heart.270 Since Paltrül Rinpoche dedicated so much of his time to teaching the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, his followers regarded him as an emanation of Śāntideva.271
Together with his two teachers, Sengtruk Pema Trashi272 and Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye, Paltrül Rinpoche inaugurated the tradition of an annual three-month intensive study and practice period on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra at ‘Saṃgha Garden Enclosure’ next to the Dzogchen Monastery, lasting from April until June each year. The monks from the monastery, the shedra, and their environs would all gather and arrange extensive offerings. They would recite the entire Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, chapter by chapter, throughout the day. At the proper places they would insert extensive offerings, prostrations, prayers, confessions, and so forth, thus turning the
264 See bsod nams rtse mo ’grel pa written by the great Sakyapa master Sonam Tsemo [bsod nams rtse mo] (1142-1182). 265 The Genden School [dge ldan pa] refers to the Gelukpa School [dge lugs pa].
266 See dar ṭik written by Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen [rgyal tshab dharma rin chen] (1362-1432). 267 See gtsug lag ’grel chen written in 1565 by Pawo Tsuglak Trengwa [dpa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba] (1504-1566).
268 See also a similar explanation of his teaching style of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra in dpal
sprul rnam thar, page 17a1-5. 269 Paltrül Rinpoche said that he himself has read the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra more than a thousand times and still gained new insight each time he read or recited the text.
270 See Masters of Meditation, pages 208-209. 271 See dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 6b1: “In the noble land he was Śāntideva and the Mahāsiddha Śavaripa” [‘phags pa’i yul du zhi ba lha dang grub chen sha ba ri]. See also dpal sprul rnam thar, 6b3-4: “Among the emanations of Jigme Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was known as the body emanation, Paltrül Rinpoche as the speech emanation, and Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje as the mind emanation” [‘jigs med gling pa’i rnam ’phrul / sku yi sprul pa ’jam dbyangs mkhyen
brtse’i dbang po / gsung gi sprul pa dpal sprul rin po che / thugs kyi sprul pa mkhyen brtse ye shes rdo rje yin par grags pa]. 272 Sengtruk Pema Trashi [seng phrug pad ma bkra shis] was the first khenpo at Śrī Siṃha
Shedra and the teacher of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye [rgyal sras gzhan phan mtha’ yas].
entire text into a vast liturgy. A khenpo would explain the text and everyone would meditate on it according to the oral instructions of the lineage.
This annual Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra seminar was called the ‘Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra Ritual’.273 All the teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra given during the seminar focused on practicing the teachings and were not overly academic in nature. The teachers would in most cases give a commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra proper, on Khenpo Zhenga’s annotation commentary, and occasionally would teach the commentary by Ngülchu Thogme Zangpo.274
Students at Dzogchen Monastery to this day must learn the entire Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra by heart. They are asked to stand up in class and recite the entire text in front of the khenpos and their fellow students. The absolute minimum requirement is that they memorize a selection of the text, known as the ‘four chapters of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra’.275 These four chapters are the first, second, third, and tenth.
For most of the latter part of his life, Paltrül Rinpoche lived at Dzagön, the seat of his root-teacher, Gyalwe Nyugu. Paltrül Rinpoche also established an annual three-month seminar on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra at Dzagön,276 similar to the annual teaching seminar at Dzogchen.277
Before Paltrül Rinpoche’s time, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was known and studied only in a few great monastic universities in East Tibet; at times even obtaining a copy of the text could prove difficult.278 Due to Paltrül Rinpoche’s tireless efforts, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is now widely taught in the monastic universities of Eastern Tibet. His inspiring teaching style led every small monk from the age of ten onwards to learn to recite this text by heart. In addition, he taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra many times to great gatherings of lay people, thus making the complete Mahāyāna path accessible to large, not simply monastic, audiences.
273 spyod ’jug tshogs pa / spyod ’jug cho ga / spyod ’jug mchod pa / spyod rgan ma. 274 dngul chu thogs med bzang po. See dngul chu thogs med ’grel pa. 275 spyod ’jug le’u bzhi ma. 276 See dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 16b4-5: rdza dgon du lo rer spyod ’jug zla khrid gsum re dang. 277 See Masters of Meditation, page 205. 278 See dpal sprul rnam thar, folio 23a1-4, as translated in Enlightened Vagabond: “Formerly, except
in large monastic communities, one could hardly find anyone who owned a copy of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra or of any other similar scripture, let alone understanding even their titles. Owing to the very kindness of Paltrül Rinpoche, the whole area became filled with people who would teach or listen to the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra [spyod ’jug], the Five Dharmas of Maitreya [byams chos sde lnga], the Three Sets of Vows [sdom gsum], the Yönten Dzö [yon tan mdzod], and other scriptures. Down to ten-year old monks, many people were able to recite and even teach the whole Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. Countless religious and lay people fully understood that to have a good heart and develop bodhicitta was the very root of the Buddha’s Doctrine.” Khenpo Chöga comments on this passage: “One must exclude the Sakya and Gelukpa Schools from this strong statement by Khenpo Kunpal, since they always maintained an explanation lineage of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.”
Among the students who received his teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra were great masters such as Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu,279 the Third Dodrupchen, Jigme Tenpai Nyima,280 Lungtok Tenpai Nyima,281 Thubten Chökyi Drakpa,282 Khenpo Kunpal,283 Khenpo Yönga,284 Mipham Rinpoche,285 and many others.
Khenpo Kunpal studied with Paltrül Rinpoche for many years and received extensive teachings from him. He was also a student of Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu and studied for many years at the Śrī Siṃha Shedra. Khenpo Kunpal wrote the commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra that we translate in this work and the volumes to follow. Concerning this commentary, Khenpo Kunpal mentions one important occasion, the time when Paltrül Rinpoche taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra to the great treasurerevealer, Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, at Dzogchen Monastery:286
In particular, he taught this text (the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra) for six months to students such as myself (Khenpo Kunpal), to masters such as Chokgyur Lingpa,287 who is mentioned in the prophecies, to his sublime lineage children, and others. At that time, mainly using the commentary of Ngülchu Thogme, he taught this text as an instruction for practice.
At that time, Khenpo Kunpal took detailed notes of Paltrül Rinpoche’s teachings. A hand-written manuscript of these notes was brought out of Tibet by Dilgo Khyentse
279 Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu [dbon u rgyan bstan ’dzin nor bu], also known as Urgyen Tenga [u rgyan bstan dga’], was a cousin [tsha bo] of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. He studied with Paltrül Rinpoche and also with Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye.
280 ’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma (1865-1926). 281 lung rtogs bstan pa’i nyi ma (1829-1901). 282 Thubten Chökyi Drakpa [thub bstan chos kyi grags pa], also known as Minyag Kunzang
Sönam [mi nyag kun bzang bsod nams], Paltrül Rinpoche’s foremost student of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, stayed a long time with Paltrül Rinpoche and wrote down his oral teachings [zhal rgyun]. He wrote three famous commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. Paltrül Rinpoche himself said: “Minyag Kunzang is more learned about the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra than myself [spyod ’jug rang las mkhas pa mi nyag kun bzang]. Loter Wangpo is more learned about the abhidharma than myself [mngon pa rang las mkhas pa lo gter dbang po]. Tendzin Trakpa is more learned about pramāṇa than myself [tshad ma rang las mkhas pa bstan ’dzin grags pa]. And Urgyen Tendzin Norbu is more learned about the vinaya than myself [‘dul ba rang las mkhas pa u rgyan bstan ’dzin nor bu].”
283 Khenpo Kunpal or Khenpo Kunzang Palden [mkhan po kun bzang dpal ldan].
284 Khenpo Yönga [mkhan po yon dga’ / mkhan po yon tan rgya mtsho]. He studied with Paltrül Rinpoche and with Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu. 285 Mipham Rinpoche [mi pham rin po che] (1846-1912). 286 This is quoted from text section 135 of Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary. 287 See foot-note 230.
Rinpoche (1910-1991) and recently printed by Tarthang Tulku in the U.S.A.288 Later, Khenpo Kunpal received further teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from other great students of Paltrül Rinpoche, such as Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu and others. From Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu he twice received forty-day long teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.289
Khenpo Kunpal wrote his own commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. He called it, “A Word-by-Word Commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, called Drops of Nectar, according to the Personal Statement of the Mañjughoṣa-like Teacher.”290 He wrote it using his own notes,291 the notes of other students of Paltrül Rinpoche, the various teachings he had received from the abovementioned masters, two short texts written by Paltrül Rinpoche,292 and the Indian and Tibetan commentaries available to him.
Concerning the style of the commentary, Khenpo Kunpal himself writes in the introduction,293
I principally relied on my notes,294 which guaranteed that everything he (Paltrül Rinpoche) taught remained in my mind, along with other (sources), in a chronological manner. For what I will explain here, scholastic elaborations such as quotations will be unnecessary, and I am fearful of (using too many) words. I have in mind something practical, a mere word-by-word commentary for beginners, easy to practice and understand. Therefore, I will not pursue (detailed) elaborations.
Khenpo Kunpal wrote his commentary as a guide for practitioners, people who train themselves in bodhicitta and the six transcendental perfections, and those who aspire to traverse the Mahāyāna path toward enlightenment. It is a particular feature of Paltrül Rinpoche’s teaching style that he shows how to apply the main points of practice295 from the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and the way in which the transformation
288 See dpal sprul zhal rgyun. 289 See kun dpal ’grel pa (si khron mi rigs edition) page 815. 290 byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa’i tshig ’grel ’jam dbyangs bla ma’i zhal lung
bdud rtsi’i thig pa, here refered to as kun dpal ’grel pa. Khenpo Kunpal wrote this commentary at Paltrül Rinpoche’s residence, the dharma camp of Gegong [dge gong chos sgar], requested by Kathok Situ Chökyi Gyatso [kaḥ thog situ chos kyi rgya mtsho] (1880-1925), Gyurme Thegchok Shedrub Gyaltsen [‘gyur med theg mchog bshad sgrub rgyal mtshan], who was a tulku from Yilung Tsashül monastery [yid lhung rtsa shul dgon], and Zhechen Gyaltsab Gyurme Pema Namgyal (1871-1926). See kun dpal ’grel pa (si khron mi rigs edition), pages 813-815.
291 See dpal sprul zhal rgyun 292 See spyod ’jug sgom rim and spyod ’jug sa bcad. 293 See text section 135-136. 294 See dpal sprul zhal rgyun. 295 bka’ gnas
from an ordinary being into a bodhisattva can be achieved by anyone who seriously applies the teaching.
Thus, Khenpo Kunpal has ensured that Paltrül Rinpoche’s direct teaching lineage is available to us in these times. The text he composed was first printed at Zhechen monastery in East Tibet and later reprinted a few times in Tibet, Nepal, and the
U.S.A.296 Very soon after its publication in Tibet, this commentary became known to many lamas, scholars, monks, and practitioners of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Three further authors whose commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra also represent Paltrül Rinpoche’s direct teachings are Khenpo Zhenga, Thubten Chökyi Drakpa, and Mipham Rinpoche. Based on Paltrül Rinpoche’s oral teachings, Khenpo Zhenga297 wrote his famous annotation commentaries298 on all thirteen great textbooks, including the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, which are still taught at Śrī Siṃha Shedra as well as many other shedras in Tibet, India, and the Himalayan countries.
Thubten Chökyi Drakpa299 was originally a follower of the Gelukpa school. He studied for more than twenty years with Paltrül Rinpoche and wrote three commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. One was an extensive commentary on the first eight chapters and the other two were commentaries on the ninth chapter.300
Mipham Rinpoche received teachings on the knowledge chapter from Paltrül Rinpoche and based on that in 1878 wrote his famous commentary, nor bu ke ta ka, regarded as the authoritative commentary representing Paltrül Rinpoche’s oral explanation lineage. When Paltrül Rinpoche later read the nor bu ke ta ka, he remarked, “Strange, it is written in the style that I used when I taught at Śrī Siṃha Shedra.”301
Although Paltrül Rinpoche never wrote a commentary on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, he did write a brief meditation guide302 for the entire text, teaching the key points of practice. Khenpo Kunpal incorporated this into his commentary. Paltrül Rinpoche also wrote a lineage supplication to the lineage masters of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra303 which will be discussed later.
296 See kun dpal ’grel pa (zhe chen edition); kun dpal ’grel pa (si khron mi rigs edition); kun dpal ’grel pa (Yeshe De edition); and kun dpal ’grel pa (sangs rgyas bstan ’dzin edition). 297 Khenpo Zhenga or Zhenphen Chökyi Nangwa [gzhan phan chos kyi snang ba] (1871-1927).
298 See gzhan dga’ mchan ’grel. 299 thub bstan chos kyi grags pa, also known as mi nyag kun bzang bsod nams, was born in the 19th century.
300 See mi nyag kun bzang ’grel chen, mi nyag kun bzang sher ’grel 1 and mi nyag kun bzang sher ’grel 2. An English translation of mi nyag kun bzang sher ’grel 1 has been made by the Padmakara Translation Group, see Two Buddhist Commentaries.
301 From Enlightened Vagabond, op cit. 302 spyod ’jug bsgom rim 303 spyod ’jug brgyud ’debs
Paltrül Rinpoche taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra by structuring the entire text according to the following four lines, attributed by some scholars to Nāgārjuna:304
May the precious and supreme bodhicitta Arise in those in whom it has not yet arisen; And where it has arisen may it not decrease But ever increase more and more.
byang chub sems mchog rin po che ma skyes pa rnams skye gyur cig skyes pa nyams pa med pa yang gong nas gong du ‘phel bar shog
This aspiration summarizes the entire Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and its ten chapters in 913 stanzas. The ten chapters are structured according to four main classifications as follows:305
Three chapters that give rise to the precious bodhicitta in those in whom it has not yet arisen306 (chap. 1, 2, 3):
304 See text sections 196-197 from Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary. 305 rtsa’i sa bcad 306 byang chub kyi sems rin po che ma skyes pa bskyed par byed pa’i le’u 307 byang chub sems kyi phan yon bshad pa’i le’u 308 sdig pa bshags pa’i le’u 309 byang chub sems yongs su gzung ba 310 byang chub kyi sems rin po che skyes pa mi nyams par byed pa’i le’u gsum 311 bag yod 312 shes bzhin
Three chapters that not only prevent the decrease (of the precious bodhicitta) but cause it to ever increase more and more314 (chap. 7,8,9):
Following this format, the first three chapters deal with arousing bodhicitta; the second three chapters deal with how to sustain it and prevent it from being lost or diminished; the third three chapters deal with methods for increasing it; and the tenth chapter deals with the subject of dedication. One dedicates the merit coming from bodhicitta which one has aroused, sustained, and increased through the teachings of the previous nine chapters.
Paltrül Rinpoche wrote a short text called ‘Structure of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra’,320 in which he taught a method of structuring the entire body of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. In this text he identifies the various topics and sections of the work and assigns titles to them. If one applies this framework to the verses of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, one immediately gains considerable insight into the subject matter of each respective verse. Khenpo Kunpal followed for the most part this format in structuring his commentary.
If you follow the structural chart that outlines Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary, given before the translation of Śāntideva’s root text and Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary, you might find it easier to comprehend the structure of the text, particularly that of the first chapter.321
The Two Great Lineages of Mahāyāna
313 bzod pa 314 byang chub kyi sems rin po che mi nyams par gong du spel ba’i le’u gsum 315 brtson ’grus 316 bsam gtan 317 shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa 318 de ltar spel ba’i ’bras bu gzhan don du bngo ba’i le’u gcig 319 bsngo ba 320 See spyod ’jug sa bcad 321 Vollkommenheit im BCA, pages 45-59.
Authenticity of any Buddhist teaching is established by demonstrating an unbroken master-student lineage starting with Buddha Śākyamuni and continuing down to the present day. A teaching is considered lost or no longer valid if the lineage of its transmission has been broken.
According to the Tibetan tradition, Buddha Śākyamuni himself taught the dharma through the following three promulgations as follows.322 The first promulgation, ‘the dharma wheel of the four truths’,323 corresponds to the Hīnayāna teachings. The second promulgation, ‘the dharma wheel devoid of attributes’,324 and the third promulgation, ‘the dharma wheel of excellent analysis’,325 constitute the Mahāyāna teachings. The Mahāyāna teachings include both sūtra326 and mantra.327 Yet, the Vajrayāna teachings328 are generally considered to be the fourth promulgation, the ‘promulgation of the Secret Mantra’.329
These promulgations should be understood in the context of the doctrine of Buddha Śākyamuni’s three bodies.330 Mahāyāna doctrine does not consider Buddha Śākyamuni as a human being as does the Hīnayāna; Buddha Śākyamuni is seen as a wisdom field. This wisdom field, the ‘wisdom body of the Buddha’,331 is not bound by time and space. Western scholars view Buddhism as developing historically from Hīnayāna to Mahāyāna and finally to Vajrayāna. Tibetan Buddhist scholars on the other hand see such deterministic, chronological sequencing of Buddha’s promulgations as too linear and as not in accord with the ultimate aspect of the reality that Buddha’s teachings describe.
The Tibetan tradition divides the Mahāyāna teachings into two parts: the ‘tradition of the profound view’332 and the ‘tradition of vast activities’.333 The first comes through Bodhisattva Mañjughoṣa and the latter through Bodhisattva Maitreya.
According to tradition, Mañjughoṣa,334 the main lineage holder of the second promulgation, ‘the dharma wheel devoid of attributes’, received teachings directly
322 For details on the three promulgations of the wheel of dharma see Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 154-155. 323 bka’ dang po bden bzhi’i chos ’khor 324 bka’ bar pa mtshan nyid med pa’i chos ’khor 325 bka’ tha ma legs pa rnam par phye ba’i chos ’khor 326 mdo 327 sngags 328 gsang sngags rdo rje theg pa
329 gsang sngags kyi chos ’khor 330 Skr. trikāya: dharma-kāya [chos sku]; saṃbhogakāya [longs sku]; and nirmāṇakāya [sprul sku].
331 sangs rgyas kyi ye shes kyi sku 332 zab mo lta ba’i srol 333 rgya chen spyod pa’i srol
from Buddha Śākyamuni. During this second promulgation, Buddha Śākyamuni mainly taught transcendental knowledge335 and profound emptiness336 to Mañjughoṣa and others. Mañjughoṣa’s lineage is called the ‘tradition of the profound view’ and was recorded by Nāgārjuna.337
The treatises written by Nāgārjuna which summarize this view are called the ‘Six Textbooks in the Collection of Reasoning concerning Madhyamaka’. Some scholars state that these refer to five of Nāgārjuna’s texts on Madhyamaka while others say six. When classified as being six, they are called the ’Six textbooks in the Collection of Reasoning concerning Madhyamaka’.338 These six textbooks are classified as ‘writings on profound emptiness’;339 since Nāgārjuna’s lineage primarily teaches on profound emptiness, it is called the ‘lineage of the profound view’.340
Maitreya, the main lineage holder of the third promulgation, ‘the dharma wheel of excellent analysis’, also received teachings directly from Buddha Śākyamuni. In the third promulgation, Buddha Śākyamuni explained in great detail to Bodhisattva Maitreya the subtle distinctions that can be made between emptiness341 and wisdom342 as well as the various distinctions of the ten bodhisattva levels and the five paths.343 Maitreya’s lineage is called the ‘tradition of vast activities’ and was recorded by Asaðga.344
The treatises written by Asaðga summarizing Maitreya’s teachings are called the ‘Five Teachings of Maitreya.’345 Since Asaðga’s lineage primarily expounds the extensive
334 ’jam dpal dbyangs 335 shes rab gyi pha rol tu phyin pa; skr. prajñāparamitā 336 zab mo stong pa nyid 337 klu sgrub 338 ’Six textbooks in the Collection of Reasoning concerning Madhyamaka’ [dbu ma rigs tshogs
drug] written by Nāgārjuna: 1) Prajñā-nāma-mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā [dbu ma rtsa ba’i tshig le’ur byas pa shes rab], 2) Vigraha-vyāvartanī-kārikā-nāma [rtsod pa bzlog pa’i tshig le’ur byas pa], 3) Śūnyatāsaptati-kārikā-nāma [stong pa nyid bdun cu pa’i tshig le’ur byas pa], 4) Yuktiṣaṣṭikā-kārikā-nāma [rigs pa drug cu pa’i tshig le’ur byas pa], 5) Vaidalya-sūtra-nāma [zhib mo rnam par ’thag pa zhes bya ba’i mdo], and 6) Rāja-parikathā-ratnāvali [rgyal po la gtam bya ba rin po che’i phreng ba].
339 zab mo lta ba’i skor 340 zab mo lta ba’i brgyud pa / zab mo lta brgyud 341 yul stong pa nyid shes rab gyi pha rol tu phyin pa 342 yul can ye shes shes rab gyi pha rol tu phyin pa 343 sa bcu dang lam lnga 344 thogs med 345 byams chos sde lnga: 1) Sūtrālaṃkāra [mdo sde rgyan], 2) Abhisamayālaṃkāra [mngon
rtogs rgyan], 3) Madhyānta-vibhaṇga [dbus mtha’ rnam ’byed], 4) Dharma-dharmatā-vibhaṇga [chos dang chos nyid rnam ’byed], and 5) Uttara-tantra [rgyud bla ma].
conduct of bodhisattvas, it is called the ‘lineage of vast activities’.346 Asaðga’s five textbooks are classified as ‘writings on vast activities’.347
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra combines both lineages in one single practice manual. Therefore, this lineage is called the ‘lineage that combines both view and practice’348 or ‘the lineage of blessing and practice’.349 This lineage is said to have been transmitted from Buddha Śākyamuni to Bodhisattva Mañjughoṣa. It was then received and recorded by Śāntideva.350 However, if one analyzes the manner of receiving the bodhisattva vows,351 as will be discussed in great detail in volume three, then the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra must be classified under the ‘lineage of the profound view’.
In addition to being a commonly studied text, large sections of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra are used by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism for recitation, ritual, and prayer. For example, the second and third chapters contain a great deal of source material used in Mahāyāna ritual. These two chapters extensively teach the methods used for gathering ‘conceptual merit’ through the ‘practice in eight sections’.352
All schools use verses from the first, second, third, and tenth chapters for the ritual known as ‘the ceremony for transmitting the development of bodhicitta’,353 also called ‘receiving the bodhisattva precepts’.354 Paltrül Rinpoche himself arranged such a text.355 All ritual texts for transmitting bodhicitta and the bodhisattva precepts that are
346 rgya chen spyod brgyud 347 rgya chen spyod pa’i skor 348 lta spyod zung ’jug gi brgyud pa 349 nyams len byin rlabs kyi brgyud pa 350 Khenpo Chöga comments, “Although Śāntideva had many visions of his meditation deity,
Mañjuśrī, this lineage in no way implies that Śāntideva had received the teachings of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra directly from Mañjuśrī. Rather, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is a mnemonic poem written by Śāntideva, synthesizing all the sūtras and śāstras he had studied.”
351 sdom pa len tshul 352 The traditional yan lag bdun pa is enlarged into yan lag brgyad pa through adding going for refuge, as follows: 1) The section on presenting offerings [mchod pa ’bul ba’i yan lag], 2) the section on paying respect [phyag ’tshal ba’i yan lag], 3) the section on going for refuge [skyabs su ’gro ba’i yan lag], 4) the section on confessing negativities [sdig pa bshags pa’i yan lag], 5) the section of rejoicing [rjes su yi rang ba’i yan lag], 6) the section of requesting to turn the wheel of dharma [chos ’khor bar bskul ba’i yan lag], 7) the section of supplicating not to enter into
nirvāṇa [mya ngan las mi ’da’ bar gsol ba ’debs pa’i yan lag], and 8) the section of dedicating the merit for the benefit of others [dge rtsa gzhan don du sngo ba’i yan lag]. 353 sems bksyed ’bogs chog 354 See byang sdom blang chog. For further discussion on the ritual of receiving the bodhisattva
vows in the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra see Ritual der Entschlussfassung. 355 See sems bskyed ’bogs chog by Paltrül Rinpoche.
based on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra follow Nāgārjuna’s lineage of the profound view, which accords with the tradition of Madhyamaka.356 In Nāgārjuna’s tradition the precepts for bodhicitta of aspiration and for bodhicitta of application are received together during the ceremony, while in Asaðga’s tradition, which accords with the Cittamātra tradition,357 the precepts for both types of bodhicitta are received separately.
During the afore-mentioned yearly Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra practice seminar358 at Dzogchen Monastery, the entire text of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is organized for ritual recitation and interspersed with various well-known Mahāyāna offerings, homages, confessions, and so forth.359
Giving evidence of an unbroken, oral explanation lineage for a treatise such as the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is of utmost importance for a teacher, since it proves his authority and the validity of his interpretation. That is why Butön lists, in the colophon of his commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra,360 the oral explanation lineage361 of the masters through whom the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra was handed down to him:
When this Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, composed by the great master Śāntideva, who practiced one-pointedly the conduct of a bodhisattva, was spoken as a recitation, those who had achieved perfect recall and who were present in his entourage at that time successively handed down the direct oral explanation lineage through Jetāri,362 Candrakīrti the lesser,363 Kunayaśrī,364 the Nepalese Kanakaśrī,365 Sumatikīrti,366 Ngok Loden
356 dbu ma’i lugs 357 sems tsam lugs 358 spyod ’jug tshogs pa / spyod rgan ma 359 This ritual arrangement according to Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye and Paltrül Rinpoche has
been printed at Dzogchen Monastery but was not available to the author. A similar text according to Paltrül Rinpoche’s tradition as maintained at the Kyangma hermitage was recently published by Khenpo Thubten in India. See mthong ba brgyud pa’i phyag srol.
360 See bu ston ’grel chen, pages 600-602. This colophon has been discussed and analysed by Akira Saito in Bu ston and the sPyod ’jug, pages 79-85. 361 man ngag gi legs bshad brgyud pa 362 dze ta ri 363 zla grags chung ba 364 ku na ya śrī 365 bal po ka na ka śrī 366 su ma ti kirti
Sherab,367 Khyung Rinchen Trak,368 Tölung Gyamar,369 and Chawa Chö
It is said that Chawa Chö Seng also received it from Trolungpa.371 (From
Chawa Chö Seng the lineage continues with) Tsangkar372 to Trophu Lo
tsawa Jampe Pal373 (1172-1225).
Again, Trophu Lotsawa Jampe Pal received the explanation from the
three: Khache Panchen Śākyaśrī,374 Paṇḍita Buddhaśrījñāna,375 and the
Nepalese Paṇḍita Devaśrī.376
(Trophu Lotsawa Jampe Pal gave it) to both Lama Sönam Gyalwa377 and
Khenpo Zhönu Dorje378 (1207-1263). I (Butön) received it from my great
teacher Tseme Kyebu.379
In 1787, the great Gelukpa author Tsechok Ling Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen (1713-1793) compiled two volumes with the biographies380 of all the lineage masters of the Lam Rim tradition, the ‘graded stages to enlightenment’.381 The tradition of the graded stages to enlightenment describes the development of bodhicitta and the application of the six transcendental perfections, the entire sūtra Mahāyāna path to enlightenment. The graded stages tradition is the most essential teaching of the Gelukpa School that arose out of the Old Kadampa School382 as founded by the Indian master Atiśa.383
367 rngog blo ldan shes rab 368 khyung rin chen grags 369 stod lung rgya dmar 370 phyva ba chos seng / phyva ba chos kyi seng ge 371 gro lung pa 372 gtsang dkar 373 Trophu Lotsawa Jampe Pal [khro phu lo tsā ba byams pa’i dpal] was a direct student of
Tsangkarpa [gtsang dkar pa]. 374 kha che paṇ chen śākya śrī 375 paṇḍita buddha śri jñāna 376 bal po’i paṇḍita deva śrī 377 bla ma bsod nams rgyal ba 378 mkhan po gzhon nu rdo rje 379 tshad ma’i skyes bu 380 See lam rim bla brgyud 381 byang chub lam gyi rim pa 382 Gene Smith mentions in Among Tibetan Texts, page 228, that the early Kadampa masters
included the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra among the ‘six basic texts of the Kadampa School’ [bka’ gdams gzhung drug], which are: 1) the Sūtrālaṃkāra [mdo sde rgyan] of Maitreya, 2) the
Atiśa received the complete teachings and instructions on the graded stages to enlightenment through three lineages:384 the two afore-mentioned great lineages, i.e., the ‘lineage of the profound view’ and the ‘lineage of vast activities’, as well as the ‘practice lineage of great blessings’.
The ‘practice lineage of great blessings’ is said to begin with the Bodhisattva Mañjughoṣa and was recorded by Śāntideva in his texts the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, the Śikṣā-samuccaya, and, according to the Tibetan view, the Sūtra-samuccaya. The ‘practice lineage of great blessings’ is said to run through Mañjughoṣa, Akṣayamati,385 master Eladhari,386 master Śuravajra,387 the MahāŚrī Ratna Bodhisattva,388 Atiśa’s root guru Lord (Dharmakīrti of) Suvarṇadvīpa,389 and Atiśa. From Atiśa the lineage runs in an unbroken succession of masters through the Old and New Kadampa schools390 up to the present day.
Terdag Lingpa Gyurme Dorje’s ‘manual of received teachings’391 provides us with another lineage of the reading transmission392 of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra393 and
Bodhisattva-bhūmi [byang chub sems dpa’i sa] of Asaðga, 3) the Śikṣā-samuccaya [bslab btus] of Śāntideva, 4) the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra [spyod ‘jug] of Śāntideva, 5) the Jātakamālā [skyes pa’i rabs kyi rgyud] of Āryaśūra, and 6) the Udāna-varga [ched du brjod pa’i tshoms].
383 Dīpaṃkaraśrī [dpal mar me mdzad] or Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna [dpal mar med mdzad ye shes] or Jobo Je Palden Atiśa [jo bo rje dpal ldan a ti śa] are names of Atiśa (982-1054). 384 See lam rim bla brgyud, page 290. 385 blo gros mi zad pa, an epithet for Śāntideva. 386 slob dpon e la dha ri (ti) 387 slob dpon dpa’ bo rdo rje 388 byang chub sems dpa’ chen po rin chen dpal
389 mgon po gser gling pa 390 The Old Kadampa School [bka’ gdams rnying ma] began with Atiśa and the New Kadampa School [bka’ gdams gsar pa] with Tsongkhapa. The New Kadampa school is also called the Gendenpa [dge ldan pa] or Gelukpa School. The Old Kadampa School has again two lineages: the lineage of textbooks of the Kadampas [bka’ gdams gzhung pa], lam rim bla brgyud, pages 475-576; and the lineage of oral instructions of the Kadampas [bka’ gdams gdams ngag pa], lam rim bla brgyud, 576-end. There is also the lineage of upadeśa of Kadampa [bka’ gdams man ngag pa], which is sometimes given as the third lineage.
391 thob yig, pages 20-21. 392 Reading transmission [lung]: From the earliest periods of instruction in Buddhism, teachings were transmitted orally from teacher to student. When the teachings were eventually written down, this tradition persisted. Before a student can study a sacred text, he must first hear it orally from his teacher. Every text that is read or studied must first be read aloud to the
student before he is even allowed to look at it. After this oral recitation, the teacher begins giving the explanation [bshad pa] of the text. 393 byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa’i lung brgyud
the Śikṣā-samuccaya394 that was passed on through the masters of the New Translation Period before it became exclusively Nyingma:
Śāntideva, Eladhari, Jetāri,395 Candrakīrti the lesser,396 Puṇyaśrī, the Nepalese Kanakapa,397 Sumatikīrti,398 Ngok Loden Sherab399 (10591109), Zhangtshe Pongwa400 (1059-1109), and Tsang Nagpa401 (11091169).
From Ngok Loden Sherab the lineage also comes down to Tsang Nagpa through Trolungpa402 and Chawa Chö Seng403 (1109-1169). From Tsang Nagpa the lineage continues with:
Palden Tro,404 Chim Chenpo405 (1290-1285), Zeu Traktsön,406 and Chim
Lobzang Trakpa407 (1299-1375).
From Chim Lobzang Trakpa the lineage comes down to Kangyurwa Śākya Gyaltshen408 and continues with:
Dorje Denpa Kunga Namgyal,409 Sönam Chogden,410 Lodro Thogme,411
Palden Dondrup,412 Wangchug Gyaltshen,413 Ngagwang Namgyal,414
394 bslab btus / bslab pa kun las btus pa 395 dze tā ri 396 zla grags chung ba 397 bal po ka na ka pa 398 su ma ti kīrti 399 rngog blo ldan shes rab 400 Zhangtshe Pongwa Chökyi Lama [zhang tshe spong ba chos kyi bla ma] was a direct
student of Ngok Loden Sherab.
401 Tsang Nagpa Tsöndrü Senge [gtsang nag pa brtson ’grus seng ge] was a direct student of Chawa Chö Seng [phyva ba chos seng]. 402 Trolungpa Lodro Jungne [gro lung pa blo gros ’byung gnas] was a direct student of Atiśa,
Dromtön Gyalwe Jungne [’brom ston rgyal ba’i ’byung gnas] (1005-1064) and Ngok Loden
Sherab. 403 Chawa Chö Seng [phyva ba chos seng / phyva ba chos kyi seng ge] was the teacher of Sönam Tsemo [bsod nams rtse mo] (1142-1182).
404 dpal ldan gro
405 Chim Chenpo [mchims chen po] or Chim Namkha Dragpa [mchims nam mkha’ grags pa] was a direct student of Palden Tro. 406 ze’u grags brtson 407 Lobzang Trakpa [mchims blo bzang grags pa] 408 bka’ ’gyur ba śākya rgyal mtshan 409 rdo rje gdan pa kun dga’ rnam rgyal 410 bsod nams mchog ldan 411 blo gros thogs med
Tsültrim Trashi,415 Rinchen Gyamtsho,416 Kunga Tendar,417 Domtsön Kunga Dargye,418 and Terdag Lingpa Gyurme Dorje.419
Paltrül Rinpoche composed a ‘Supplication to the Lineage Masters of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra’,420 which begins with Buddha Śākyamuni and continues all the way down to himself. This lineage supplication also presents the lineage maintained at Śrī Siṃha Shedra. The lineage is not always historically connected in a teacher-student relationship but at times skips a generation or two. The lineage is as follows:
Buddha Śākyamuni, Mañjughoṣa, Śāntideva, Jetāri,421 Candrakīrti the lesser,422 Guṇa Śrī,423 Kanakaśrī,424 Sumatikīrti,425 Ngok Loden Sherab426 (1051), Master Jetsünpa,427 Butön Rinchen Drup428 (1290-1364), Thukse Lotsawa,429 Yagtruk Sangye Pal430 (1350-1414), Sangye Phel431
412 dpal ldan don grub 413 dbang phyug rgyal mtshan 414 ngag dbang rnam rgyal, only mentioned in the lineage of the Śikṣā-samuccaya. 415 tshul khrims bkra shis 416 rin chen rgya mtsho 417 kun dga’ bstan dar 418 sdom brtson kun dga’ dar rgyas 419 gter bdag gling pa ’gyur med rdo rje 420 spyod ’jug brgyud ’debs 421 dze ta ri, an Indian scholar who studied in Śāntideva’s tradition. 422 zla ba grags pa chung ba, a student of Jetāri. 423 gu ṇa śrī [yon tan dpal], a student of Chandrakīrti. 424 ka na ka śrī (or kāṇakaśrī), a student of Guṇa Śrī. 425 A student of Kanakaśrī. 426 rngog blo ldan shes rab 427 slob dpon rje btsun pa who might be identical with Trolungpa [gro lung pa]. 428 bu ston rin chen grub 429 thugs sras lo tsā ba, a direct student of Butön. 430 g.yag phrug sangs rgyas dpal, a great scholar of the Sakya school, who wrote a detailed
commentary on the Prajñāpāramitā [sher phyin]. His most famous students were Rongtön Mawe Senge [rong ston smra ba’i seng ge chen mo] (1367-1449) and Rendaba Zhönu Lodro [red mda’ ba gzhon nu blo gros] (1349-1412). He is also known under the name g.yag ston or g.yag phrug pa. See also Blue Annals, page 339. See gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod, pages 1573-1573.
431 sangs rgyas ’phel, a great Sakya Lama whose teacher was Rongtön Mawe Senge [rong ston smra ba’i seng ge chen mo] (1367-1449), also known as Rongtön Sheja Kunrig Shakya Gyaltshen [rong ston shes bya kun rig shākya rgyal mtshan]. See Blue Annals, pages 339-340.
(1348-1414), Trinle Mikyöpa432 (1507-1554), Könchok Jungne,433 Karma Chagme434 (1613-1678), Pema Rigdzin435 (1625-1697), Pönlob Namkha Özer,436 Thekchog Tendzin,437 Trashi Gyamtso,438 Rigdzin Zangpo,439 Pema Trashi,440 Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye,441 Jigme Ngotshar,442 and Paltrül Rinpoche.443
It is striking that Paltrül Rinpoche, a great Nyingma scholar, traces his explanation lineage of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra back to masters of the New Translation Period, such as Ngok Loden Sherab, Butön and others. This lineage supplication again suggests that an independent Nyingma explanation lineage tracing itself back to Kawa Paltsek and his first translation of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra no longer exists.
Paltrül Rinpoche’s explanation lineage originates from the great masters of the New Translation Period and becomes an exclusively Nyingma lineage only in the 17th century with masters such as Pema Rigdzin and others. This refutes the commonly held belief that all sūtra lineages of the Nyingma School can be traced back to the First Translation Period through an exclusively Nyingma lineage. Nevertheless, Tibetan scholars believe that the reading transmission444 and explanation lineage445 of Kawa Paltsek’s first translation and Rinchen Zangpo’s second translation of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra were all absorbed by Ngok Loden Sherab in his third and final translation of the root text from the Sanskrit.
According to the tradition of Śrī Siṃha Shedra, Paltrül Rinpoche’s lineage continues with his famous students such as Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu,446 Thubten Chökyi
432 phrin las mi bskyod pa, the eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje [mi bskyod rdo rje]. 433 dkon mchog ’byung gnas, the ninth Shamarpa (???). 434 karma chags med. 435 pad ma rig ’dzin, the first Dzogchen Rinpoche. 436 dpon slob nam mkha’ ’od zer 437 theg mchog bstan ’ dzin, the second Dzogchen Pema Rigdzin. 438 bkra shis rgya mtsho 439 rig ’dzin bzang po 440 Khenchen Sengtruk Pema Trashi [seng phrug pad ma bkra shis]. 441 rgyal sras gzhan phan mtha’ yas. 442 ’jigs med ngo mtshar was a direct student of Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798) as well as a student
of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. 443 Paltrül Rinpoche [dpal sprul ’jigs med chos kyi dbang po]. 444 lung brgyud 445 bshad brgyud 446 Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu [dbon u rgyan bstan ’dzin nor bu], also known as Urgyen Tenga
[u rgyan bstan dga’], was a cousin [tsha bo] of Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye. He studied with Paltrül Rinpoche and also with Gyalse Zhenphen Thaye.
Drakpa,447 Khenpo Kunpal,448 Khenpo Yönga,449 Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Dorje,450 and Mipham Rinpoche.451 Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu’s main student was Khenpo Zhenga, who taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra extensively to Batur Khenpo Thubga.452 Batur Khenpo Thubga taught the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra according to Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary to Khenpo Pentse (1931-2002).453
447 Khenpo Thubten Chökyi Drakpa [thub bstan chos kyi grags pa] was also known as Minyag
Kunzang Sönam [mi nyag kun bzang bsod nams]. 448 Khenpo Kunpal (1862-1943) had several names, including Gegong Khenpo Kunpal [dge gong mkhan po kun dpal], Kunzang Palden [kun bzang dpal ldan], and also Thubten Kunzang Chödrak [thub bstan kun bzang chos grags].
449 Khenpo Yönga [mkhan po yon dga’ / mkhan po yon tan rgya mtsho] studied with Paltrül
Rinpoche and with Ön Urgyen Tendzin Norbu. 450 Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Dorje [rdzogs chen mkhan po pad ma rdo rje] was a 19th century master who studied with Gyalse Zhenpen Thaye, the fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche, and Khenchen Sengtruk Pema Trashi [mkhan chen seng sprugs padma bkra shis]. He was a classmate of Paltrül Rinpoche and one of the foremost khenpos of Dzogchen Monastery. For biographical notes see Masters of Meditation, page 200.
451 Mipham Rinpoche [mi pham rin po che] (1846-1912), also known as Ju Mipham Jamyang Namgyal [‘ju mi pham ’jam dbyangs rnam rgyal], received teachings from Paltrül Rinpoche on the chapter concerning transcendental knowledge and shortly thereafter, in 1878, wrote a commentary to this chapter. See nor bu ke ta ka.
452 Batur Khenpo Thubga [ba thur mkhan po thub dga’] was also known as Khenpo Thubten Chöphel [mkhan po thub bstan chos ’phel]. Along with a group of about one thousand Mongolians, his family had migrated from Mongolia to East Tibet following the visit to Mongolia of the third Dzogchen Pema Rigdzin. In addition to Khenpo Zhenga, Batur Khenpo Thubga also received teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from Khenpo Yönga. As he had studied at Paltrül Rinpoche’s hermitage called Changma Ritrö [lcang ma ri khrod], he was also known as Changmay Khenchen Thubga Yibzhin Norbu [lcang ma’i mkhan chen thub dga’ yid bzhin nor bu].
453 Regarding Khenpo Pentse’s [mkhan po pad ma tshe dbang] education in sūtrayāna, his main root guru [thun mong ma yin pa’i rtsa ba’i bla ma] was Batur Khenpo Thubga. For his education in the teachings of the Great Perfection according to the Longchen Nyingthig tradition, his main root guru was Adzom Drugpa’s son Gyalse Gyurme Dorje [rgyal sras ‘gyur med rdo rje / sras ’gyur dga’]. In 1958 he received from Gyalse Gyurme Dorje the extraordinary oral transmission [thun mong ma yin pa’i snyan brgyud] of the Longchen Nyingthig tradition. During the time when the Chinese suppressed the practice of Buddhism in East Tibet, from the late 1950s until the mid 1970s, Khenpo Pentse was unable to wear robes; pretending to be a lay person, he remained in retreat in his native village, Arik Deba [a rig sde ba], in the district of Arik Dza [a rig rdza] in East Tibet. When the Chinese stopped the persecution of Buddhist practitioners toward the end of the 1970s, Khenpo Pentse again began teaching and was free to wear his robes. Upon the recommendation of Khenpo Thubnor [mkhan po thug nor], Khenpo Pentse was invited in 1982 by Alag Zenkar Rinpoche [a lag gzen dkar rin po che] to teach khenpos at a newly-founded (1980) school for Tibetan studies called Pöyig Lobdra Chenmo [bod yid slob grva chen mo], next to Dzogchen monastery. At the time, this was the only place of study at Dzogchen monastery, since the Śrī Siṃha Shedra had been completely destroyed by the Chinese around 1959. Khenpo Pentse stayed for three years at the Pöyig Lobdra and taught
Khenpo Pentse received Khenpo Zhenga’s annotation commentary454 on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from Dzogchen Khenpo Thubnor.455 He also received Ngülchu Thogme’s commentary456 on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from Dzogchen Khenpo Tsering Nyima.457 Furthermore, he received teachings on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra from Khenpo Thubga’s student Khenpo Chödor.458 During the latter part of his life, until his death in 2001, Khenpo Pentse was considered the main khenpo at Dzogchen Śrī Siṃha Shedra, although his main residence was Phugkhung Gompa459 in the district of Arik Dza.460
Khenpo Chöga461 received teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from many masters, and studied and practiced the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra for many years. He received numerous commentaries on the root text of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra from his main teacher Khenpo Pentse, including Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary twice, and Khenpo Zhenga’s annotation commentary once. Khenpo Chöga also received a commentary on Khenpo Zhenga’s annotation commentary from Khenpo Thubnor. He received teachings on Ngülchu Thogme’s commentary from Khenpo Tsering Nyima and from Serta Khenpo Sori.462 He received a very extensive commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra root text over a period of two years from Khenpo Kunub Özer,463 who had received his transmission from Khenpo Thubnyen,464 who in turn was a direct student of Khenpo Zhenga. Furthermore, Khenpo Chöga received detailed teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra root text from Khenpo Akhu Dolo.465 He also received Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary as well as another
extensively. He then returned to his native village and founded a shedra called Ngedön Shedrub Dargye Ling [nges don bshad sgrub dar rgyas gling] at Phugkhung Monastery [phug khungs bde chen chos ’khor lhun po], his childhood monastery, a sub-monastery [dgon lag] of Zhechen. This shedra became his main residence. At present, 200 monks are studying at this shedra, which has produced many khenpos. Every year Khenpo Pentse used to go for a short period of time to teach both at the Śrī Siṃha Shedra and at Zhechen, where he had also started a shedra. In 2002 Khenpo Pentse passed away at the age of 70/71 at Samye Chimphu [bsam yas mchims phu].
454 gzhan dga’ mchan ’grel 455 rdzogs chen mkhan po thub nor 456 dngul chu thogs med ’grel pa 457 rdzogs chen mkhan po tshe ring nyi ma 458 mkhan po chos rdor 459 phug khungs bde chen chos ’khor lhun po 460 a rig rdza 461 rdzogs chen mkhan po chos dga’ 462 mkhan po gso rig 463 sku gnubs ’od zer 464 mkhan po thub bstan snyan grags 465 a khu rdo lo / a khu rdo rje
commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra root text from his classmate Khenpo Urgyen Rigdzin.466
These days, scholars at Dzogchen Monastery first give new students a commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra root text, which they must memorize. The students next study Ngülchu Thogme’s commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. At the same time, the students learn the interpretations of other schools on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra. Later, they study Khenpo Zhenga’s annotation commentary. Finally, they learn Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary in conjunction with an oral commentary on the root text. All these commentaries on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra are taught in the practice-oriented tradition of Paltrül Rinpoche, in which all scholastic knowedge must be meditated upon and thereby applied to one’s mind.
We hope that presenting this detailed introduction gives the reader sufficient background information to be able to appreciate the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra in an historical perspective. Although this text has been taught, re-interpreted and expounded upon for centuries by hundreds of teachers from various lineages, Paltrül Rinpoche stands head and shoulders above them all. As a leading exponent of the non-sectarian movement467 of East Tibet in the 19th century, Paltrül Rinpoche studied and mastered all the major Indian and Tibetan commentaries on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra. His eclectic knowledge has been preserved in the written commentaries of his personal students and in the unbroken oral explanation lineage that is still transmitted to this present day.
From the written reports of his students and the surviving folklore concerning him, we can surmise that Paltrül Rinpoche’s open-mindedness, acute analytical skills, profound understanding and impressive gift for synthesis made his teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra the most complete and perceptive ever given on this scripture.
Among the written commentaries on Paltrül Rinpoche’s teachings, Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary best captures Paltrül Rinpoche’s interpretation of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra according to the practice lineage of the Nyingma School. This commentary, however, is not self-explanatory and was never meant to be studied alone. This is a treatise that requires careful explanation from qualified Buddhist scholars.
466 mkhan po u rgyan rig ’dzin 467 The non-sectarian movement [ris med], headed by Jamyang Khyetse Wangpo (1820-1892), Kongtrül Lodro Thaye (1813-1899), Chokgyur Lingpa (1829-1879), Paltrül Rinpoche (1808-1887) and many other great masters, was a movement to counteract sectarianism. These masters, renowned authorities on the teachings of all schools and lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, actively spread the teachings of all schools without any sectarian bias.
The great scholars at Śrī Siṃha Shedra, such as Khenpo Kunpal, Batur Khenpo Thubga, Khenpo Pentse and Khenpo Chöga, are eminently qualified exponents of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra explanation lineage, a lineage that can be traced back for over a thousand years to India, the land of its origin. From the 8th century until this very day, a vital and uninterrupted tradition of devotion, study and commentary has been maintained on this most seminal of sacred Buddhist texts.
Introduction by Dzogchen Khenpo Chöga
This famous Mahāyāna text, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, ‘Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas’, was composed as a teaching poem in the Sanskrit language by the 8th century master, Śāntideva, at the great Buddhist university of Nālandā, one of the major centers of Buddhist learning and practice in ancient India. The main subject of the text is the motivation of bodhicitta and the practice of the six transcendental perfections. The precious bodhicitta and the six transcendental perfections are the very core of the path of the bodhisattva, the heroic practitioner who aspires to perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.
The precious bodhicitta is the unfailing seed which gives rise to buddhahood. “With it you can attain buddhahood. Without it you have no chance of attaining enlightenment at all.” The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teaches how to generate bodhicitta and how to practice the six transcendental perfections, thus showing us how to attain the unexcelled level of perfect enlightenment. Whoever comes in contact with this text will benefit greatly.
At first it is important to understand that becoming a buddha is the supreme attainment possible for any being. There is no state higher than that of a buddha. A buddha is someone who has attained supreme enlightenment and is, therefore, endowed with inconceivable wisdom, compassion and powers, with all possible qualities, as well as being devoid of all defects. A buddha is free from any delusion or error. In all of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, none is superior to a buddha.
If we wish for someone to achieve even the exalted status of a world monarch, this is still a very limited wish. But, to wish for someone to become a buddha, to attain perfect enlightenment, is the very greatest wish one can make. Wishing for all sentient beings to attain the level of buddhahood is the ultimate, the highest of all wishes. This unexcelled wish is called the precious bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is most precious because it is directed toward the most precious of all achievements, buddhahood itself.
Bodhicitta is the wish: “May I free all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment.” Or, even better, it is the commitment: “I will free all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment.” If, as a practitioner, you lack this wish or commitment, you will never reach enlightenment. Even when you practice meditation intensively, at some point your progress toward enlightenment will become impeded. Thus, even the progress of the śrāvakas, arhats and pratyekabuddhas,468 who lack this wish and commitment, is limited.
Most Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhists practice bodhicitta as an aspiration,469 wishing, “May I free all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment.” However, while they may give rise to this wish, they often lack the courage to develop the firm commitment:470 “I will free all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment.” Practicing with that commitment is true bodhicitta. In order to develop that level of commitment and confidence, you must have some realization of the buddha nature,471 profound emptiness.472 Unless you have gained some degree of realization of profound emptiness, genuine compassion for all sentient beings cannot truly arise in your mind.
Bodhicitta has two aspects,473 compassion474 and knowledge.475 With compassion you focus on the benefit for others476 by committing, “I will free all beings from their suffering.” With knowledge you focus on perfect enlightenment477 by committing, “I will establish all sentient beings on the level of perfect enlightenment.” Note that compassion and loving kindness478 are by themselves not what is known as bodhicitta; instead, they are the basis from which bodhicitta develops.
Mind has a natural tendency to avoid suffering and accomplish happiness. If this natural tendency becomes vast and altruistic, it turns into bodhicitta. Instead of trying to accomplish personal happiness, a bodhisattva aspires to establish all infinite sentient beings on the level of the ultimate happiness of buddhahood. Rather than freeing only himself from misery, he aspires to free all infinite beings from suffering and the root of suffering.
468 The term ’śrāvaka’, literally ’listener’, refers to the followers of the Hīnayāna tradition, who proceed through four levels of spiritual attainments and reach the level of an arhat. A pratyekabuddha, literally ’self-arisen buddha’, is someone who has accumulated sufficient merit and wisdom in former lifetimes to attain nirvāṇa without the teachings of a buddha. A pratyekabuddha stays totally private and will never teach others.
469 smon lam 470 dam bca’ ba 471 bde gshegs snying po 472 zab mo stong pa nyid 473 don gnyis sam zur gnyis 474 snying rje 475 shes rab 476 snying rjes gzhan don la dmigs pa 477 shes rab kyis rdzogs byang la dmigs pa 478 byams pa
To understand suffering and the causes for suffering, a bodhisattva must understand the truth of suffering479 and the truth of its origination.480 To understand true happiness and the causes for happiness, a bodhisattva must understand the truth of cessation481 and the truth of the path482 that leads to cessation. In this manner bodhicitta encompasses the four noble truths.483 Among all thoughts and wishes, bodhicitta is the most noble.
Generating bodhicitta484 means ‘making your mind vast’ or ‘making your mind courageous’. In general, our minds are limited and restricted by ego-clinging.485 But the mind itself is as vast as space. A bodhisattva seeks to open his mind and to make it as vast as the reaches of space. He contemplates the infinite number of sentient beings, the objects of his attention. He contemplates the infinite amount of suffering, which he wants to remove. He contemplates the infinite qualities of buddhahood, which he wants all sentient beings to obtain. He contemplates the infinite time-span, as he has decided to free all beings from their infinite past karmas and to establish them forever on the level of complete enlightenment. Through these contemplations he breaks through the confines of a mind limited by ego-clinging. The precious bodhicitta is the antidote to ego-clinging.486 The feature of bodhicitta is to focus on others,487 while the character of ego-clinging is to focus on oneself.488
When generating bodhicitta, three levels of courage489 can be distinguished: the courage of a king, the courage of a boatman, and the courage of a shepherd.
What is meant by the courage of a king? A king’s first priorities are to overcome all his rivals, to promote those who support him, and to proclaim himself sovereign. Only once these aims have been secured does he turn to the care of his subjects. Similarly,
479 sdug bsngal gyi bden pa 480 kun ’byung gi bden pa 481 ’gog pa’i bden pa 482 lam gyi bden pa 483 Among the four noble truths [bden pa bzhi], the truth of suffering is something one needs to
understand [sdug bsngal shes par bya], the truth of origination is something one needs to overcome [kun ’byung spong bar bya], the truth of cessation is something to aim for [‘gog pa sngon du bzhag dgos], and the truth of the path is something that must be applied to one’s own mind [lam rgyud la brten dgos].
484 sems bskyed 485 bdag ’dzin 486 bdag ’dzin gi ldog phyogs byang chub sems rin po che 487 gzhan la dmigs pa 488 bdag tu dmigs pa 489 blo stobs
the wish to attain buddhahood for oneself first and then to bring others to buddhahood subsequently is called the king’s way of generating bodhicitta.490 This is the wish: “May I be liberated from suffering and obtain the level of perfect enlightenment.”
What is meant by the courage of a boatman? A boatman aims to arrive on the other shore at the same time as all of his passengers. Likewise, the wish to achieve buddhahood for oneself and all beings simultaneously is known as the boatman’s way of generating bodhicitta.491 This is the wish: “May I liberate myself and all sentient beings from suffering and obtain the level of perfect enlightenment.”
What is meant by the courage of a shepherd? A shepherd drives his sheep in front of him, making sure that they find grass and water, and are not attacked by wild beasts. He himself follows behind. In the same way, wishing to establish all beings of the three realms on the level of perfect enlightenment before attaining perfect enlightenment for oneself is known as the shepherd’s way of generating bodhicitta,492 or the incomparable way of generating bodhicitta.493 This is the wish: “May I liberate all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment.”
The king’s way of generating bodhicitta is the least courageous of the three, the boatman’s way is more courageous, and the shepherd’s way is the most courageous of all. Practitioners of ordinary capacity, those who follow the way of the king, will reach perfect enlightenment within ‘thirty-three countless aeons’;494 those of mediocre capacity, who follow the way of the boatman, will reach perfect enlightenment within ‘seven countless aeons’;495 while those of highest capacity, who follow the way of the shepherd, will reach perfect enlightenment within ‘three countless aeons’.496
490 rgyal po lta bu’i sems bskyed 491 mnyan pa lta bu’i sems bskyed 492 rdzi bo lta bu’i sems bskyed 493 dpe med pa’i sems bskyed 494 bskal pa grangs med sum cu rtsa gsum 495 bskal pa grangs med bdun 496 See kun bzang bla ma’i zhal lung gi zin bris, page 221-222. The term ’incalculable’ or ’countless’
[grangs med; skr. asaṃkhya] is a number that is described as ‘ten to the power of fifty-nine’. See Jewellery of Scripture, pages 144-145; bu ston chos ’byung, pages 71-72; and ston pa śākya thub pa’i rnam thar, page 25. Most of the Buddhist scriptures report that it took Buddha Śākyamuni ‘10 to the power of fifty-nine great aeons’ to perfect the two accumulations of merit and wisdom in order to accomplish the first bodhisattva level [sa dang po]. This is called ‘the first countless (time period)’ [grangs med dang po]. Then it took him another ‘10 to the power of fifty-nine aeons’ to perfect the two accumulations of merit and wisdom in order to progress from the second bodhisattva level to the seventh [sa dang po nas sa bdun pa’i bar]. This is called ‘the second countless (time period)’ [grangs med gnyis pa]. And another ‘10 to the power of fifty-nine aeons’ was required for the Buddha to perfect the two accumulations of merit and wisdom in order to progress from the eighth to the tenth bodhisattva level [sa brgyad pa nas sa bcu pa’i
One must also distinguish between relative497 and absolute bodhicitta.498 Absolute bodhicitta refers to one’s buddha nature and only begins to be realized from the first bodhisattva level onward. Relative bodhicitta has two aspects: the bodhicitta of aspiration and the bodhicitta of application. Neither the bodhicitta of aspiration nor the bodhicitta of application refers to action.499 Instead, both are concerned with motivation500 and intention.501
Both types of relative bodhicitta are concerned with motivation, rather than the actual application502 of the six pāramitās, the six transcendental perfections.503 It is essential that one first give rise to the correct motivation; then, while maintaining this motivation, you can carry out any of the six transcendental perfections.
To commit oneself to the fruition, the state of perfect enlightenment, is what is known as ‘the bodhicitta of aspiration’.504 It is the motivation: “I will liberate all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment.”
To commit oneself to the causes of perfect enlightenment, which are the practice of the six transcendental perfections, is what is known as ‘the bodhicitta of application’.505 This is the motivation to enter into the conduct of any of the six transcendental perfections: “In order to liberate all sentient beings from their suffering and to establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment, I will practice generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and knowledge.” Again, at this stage, one is simply giving rise to the commitment to do so; one has not yet come to the actual application of any of the six transcendental perfections.
For example, the commitment, “In order to liberate all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment, I will study this text,” is the bodhicitta of application. The bodhicitta of application requires the
bar]. This is called ‘the third countless (time period)’ [grangs med gsum pa]. Thus Buddha Śākyamuni needed ‘three countless great aeons’ [bskal chen grangs med gsum] to perfect the vast accumulations of merit and wisdom required to reach the tenth bodhisattva level. See ston pa śākya thub pa’i rnam thar, pages 17-29; bu ston chos ’byung, pages 72-75; klong chen chos ’byung, pages 79-83. For details on the term ‘great aeon’ [bskal chen] see Khenpo Chöga’s commentary to text section 39.
497 kun rdzob byang chub kyi sems 498 don dam byang chub kyi sems 499 spyod pa 500 kun slong 501 bsam pa 502 sbyor ba 503 phar phyin drug 504 ’bras bu la dam bca’ ba smon pa byang chub sems 505 rgyu la dam bca’ ba ’jug pa byang chub sems
motivation of actually wanting to do something; you actually want to engage in the conduct of the perfections. When you then study the text with that motivation, you are already practicing the perfections. You have brought bodhicitta of application into the application of the perfections. Intention and application have come together.
Bodhicitta generates the highest degree of virtue, virtue that leads to the liberation of the greater vehicle,506 the attainment of complete enlighenment. This ultimate degree of virtue entails practice with the intentional focus or aim507 of reaching perfect enlightenment. Otherwise, the practice of the six perfections is reduced to a lesser degree of virtue, either the virtue that leads to the accumulation of worldly merit,508 or in the best case, the virtue that leads to liberation509 from saṃsāra. On the other hand, to only give rise to the bodhicitta motivation without actually carrying out the six transcendental perfections will also fail to lead one to the state of perfect enlightenment.
Understanding the preciousness of buddhahood and generating the wish to attain the state of fruition,510 complete enlightenment, is the bodhicitta of aspiration. Maintaining this motivation and wishing to bring this fruition about by practicing the causes that lead to it, the practice of the six transcendental perfections, is the bodhicitta of application.
Both of these types of bodhicitta are directly concerned with motivation rather than with action. These two motivations are what is called ‘relative bodhicitta’. To actually practice the six transcendental perfections of generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom is the actual application itself. Finally, truly seeing one’s own buddha nature is ‘absolute bodhicitta’.
For three countless aeons Buddha Śākyamuni was occupied with nothing other than cultivating the motivation of bodhicitta and practicing the six transcendental perfections. This practice alone led him to the attainment of perfect enlightenment. All the vast teachings of the Buddha are included within this central practice of the bodhisattva, cultivating the motivation of bodhicitta and practicing the six transcendental perfections. The six transcendental perfections are generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and knowledge.
Generosity:511 The practice of generosity has the aim of cutting through all fixations512 and attachments513 such as clinging to the body,514 to material wealth and
506 theg chen thar pa cha mthun gyi dge ba 507 dmigs yul 508 ’jig rten gyi bsod nams cha mthun gyi dge ba 509 thar pa cha mthun pa’i dge ba 510 ’bras bu thob ’dod kyi blo 511 sbyin pa
enjoyments,515 and finally even to whatever spiritual merit516 you may have accumulated. In order to practice generosity, you must develop a generous mindset.517 With a generous mindset you are able to give away things that you are fond of, things you really wish to possess, as well as things that you truly need. To merely give up something that you neither like nor need is not what is meant by a generous mindset.
If your practice of generosity is embraced with the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom,518 then only can it truly be called ‘transcendental’ generosity. If your practice of generosity lacks the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom, it is still only conventional generosity.519 Enlightenment is only possible through the quality of transcendence. Transcendence520 means ‘to go beyond saṃsāra’, ‘to go beyond egoclinging’,521 ‘to go beyond worldly thinking’.522 In order to attain enlightenment, one must include the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom in the application of all six perfections. Then only are they ‘transcendental perfections’.
Discipline:523 Discipline means giving up all fixation on non-virtue.524 Due to our afflictions525 and our habitual patterns,526 we often react and behave in non-virtuous ways. Discipline is nothing other than letting go of fixating on negative thoughts, emotions and patterns. Instead, you make the firm resolve, “I will not allow myself to stray into non-virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind.” For instance, the thought, “I hate that person and I will hit him”, is a mental fixation on a negative emotion. Discipline means learning how to release this negativity. If your practice of discipline
512 ’dzin pa 513 chags pa 514 lus 515 longs spyod 516 bsod nams 517 btong sems 518 lit. wisdom that does not conceptualize the three spheres [‘khor gsum mi dmigs pa’i ye
shes], i.e., wisdom beyond subject, object, and the interaction between them. This is explained at length in chapter nine of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. 519 sbyin pa tsam 520 pha rol 521 bdag ’dzin las pa rol du phyin pa 522 ’jig rten pa’i bsam pa las pha rol tu phyin pa 523 tshul khrims 524 mi dge ba 525 nyon mongs 526 bag chags
is grounded in the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom, only then can it be called ‘transcendental discipline’.527
Patience:528 If afflictions and negative patterns arise in your mind and you do not act them out, you are practicing patience. For instance, anger may arise in your mind, causing you to think, “I want to harm this person.” However, if you refrain from acting on this fixation, on this negative impulse, you are practicing patience. Furthermore, patience means to actually release all fixation on the varieties of mental turmoil.529 You release your grasping at anger, greed, arrogance, jealousy, suffering, anxiety, and so forth. Finally, only if your practice is grounded in the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom may it truly be called ‘transcendental patience’.530
Diligence:531 Diligence means to endeavor joyously in virtue, to be happy to practice virtue.532 Diligence involves overcoming fixation on the lazy mind which fails to practice virtue, which fails to practice dharma. Grounding your practice of diligence in the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom, it becomes ‘transcendental diligence’.533 Whenever you engage in study, contemplation, and meditation534 or any other virtuous action, you should undertake these tasks in a happy and inspired frame of mind. If you practice the dharma when your mind is tainted by afflictions, you will only create non-virtue.
Meditation:535 Meditation means letting go of all fixations which involve being caught up in distraction.536 The state of meditation refers to an undistracted mind, which is also a centered and relaxed state of mind. People are very attached to distractions. They must keep their minds occupied with something and find themselves unable to leave the mind in its natural state. When your meditation is grounded in the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom, then only can it truly be called ‘transcendental meditation’.537
Meditation here mainly refers to the two types of meditation practice: śamathā´,538 which means ‘calm abiding´, and ´vipaśyanā’,539 which means ‘clear insight’. The
527 tshul khrims pha rol tu phyin pa 528 bzod pa 529 sems ’khrugs par ’dzin pa 530 bzod pa pha rol tu phyin pa 531 brtson ’grus 532 dge ba la spro ba 533 brtson ’grus pha rol tu phyin pa 534 thos bsam bsgom gsum 535 bsam gtan 536 g.yeng ba la ’dzin pa 537 bsam gtan pha rol tu phyin pa 538 zhi gnas 539 lhag mthong
beginner first trains his mind in ´calm abiding´, free from analysis and mental distinctions. Once he has attained a certain stability in ‘calm abiding’, he then applies his knowledge of the dharma to this state and sees the nature of the truth.540
Knowledge:541 The perfect bodhisattva has the knowledge and wisdom which enable him to maintain the recognition of the buddha nature while he continues to practice generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, and meditation. Bodhisattvas are able to acquire this knowledge through studying, contemplating, and meditating according to the teachings of the Buddha. They apply this knowledge to all the other five perfections. Only by bringing the recognition of the buddha nature, of profound emptiness, into the practice of the perfections do they become ‘transcendental’.
Knowledge in this case means ‘transcendental knowledge’. This knowledge goes far beyond the knowledge of what is visible and tangible via sensory perception alone. Rather, it is the knowledge that is able to recognize the buddha nature, profound emptiness, non-conceptual wisdom. Within the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom,542 all thoughts, fixations, and attachments are naturally absent. This recognition must be applied to every situation in life. This recognition, the true meaning of transcendental knowledge, must be applied to the practice of each of the first five perfections. ‘Transcendental’ literally means ‘gone beyond’.543 Transcendental knowledge is a knowledge that has gone beyond ego-clinging544 and ignorance.545 The knowledge that has recognized egolessness546 is transcendental knowledge. Genuine transcendence547 is only gained from the first bodhisattva level onward.
Since time without beginning, all sentient beings have been circling about in the limitless ocean of saṃsāra. Though all beings harbor an infinite variety of thoughts, hopes and fears, all have one common wish—all wish to achieve happiness. Our present situation results from our past actions, from our karma. Through the power of formerly accumulated causes, various experiences of happiness, of suffering, and of neutral states manifest. These range from the experience of the very peak of saṃsāra, all the way down to that of the lowest depths of saṃsāra.
540 bden pa’i gnas lugs mthong ba 541 shes rab 542 dmigs pa med pa’i ye shes 543 pha rol tu phyin pa 544 bdag ’dzin 545 gti mug 546 bdag med rtogs pa’i shes rab 547 pha rol tu phyin pa mtshan nyid pa
While by nature we all aspire to happiness, nonetheless, we seem ignorant about the cause for happiness, which is the accumulation of merit through virtuous deeds. Through the power of our habits, we tend not to engage in virtuous actions but automatically tend toward non-virtuous actions. Virtuous actions often seem to require great struggle and effort, while non-virtuous deeds come quite easily to us.
Karma548 means action,549 which is the mind’s capacity to set into motion a virtuous, non-virtuous, or neutral thought, emotion, or deed. Merit550 is a powerful mindset which grants us the capacity to avoid conditions such as disharmony, suffering, obstacles, illnesses, and so forth. It is the power of the mind to create harmonious circumstances. Merit is something that each being must actively generate and accumulate.
The subtle workings of karma can only be understood by a perfectly enlightened buddha. A buddha clearly sees which action leads to which kind of result, even over aeons and aeons of birth upon rebirth. Based on this knowledge, a buddha teaches the points of conduct, such as the ten virtuous actions, the behavior that one must adopt and the actions that one must avoid. If we want to achieve happiness in this and future lifetimes, we must practice the ten virtuous actions. If we continue to follow the ten non-virtuous actions, in spite of aspiring to happiness, our actions are opposed to our expectations, and we will end up in miserable states of existence.
All actions that give rise to harmony and positive conditions are called virtuous or wholesome actions.551 All actions that cause disharmony and negative conditions are called non-virtuous or unwholesome actions.552 Happiness and its causes are positive and virtuous. Suffering and its causes are negative and non-virtuous. Both virtue and merit, non-virtue and de-merit depend on the mind and are created by the mind.
The very fact that virtuous actions lead to happiness and non-virtuous actions to suffering is what is referred to as the law of cause and effect, the law of karma.553 At the very beginning, even before deciding that you want to become a Buddhist and take refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the saṃgha, you must first understand and accept the law of karma. Without understanding and accepting the law of karma, and hence living a life which accords with the ethics of the bodhisattva, there is no chance of attaining enlightenment.
You are heir to your own past karma and in the present are actively creating your future karma. Buddhist practitioners assume complete responsibility for their own karma. They know they have created their own suffering as well as their own
548 las 549 las ka 550 bsod nams 551 dge ba, skr. kuśala 552 mi dge ba, skr. akuśala 553 las rgyu ’bras
happiness, and they recognize that the process of freeing themselves from saṃsāra’s suffering also depends entirely upon themselves.
A Buddhist acknowledges the law of cause and effect. If one does not believe in the positive or negative consequences of one’s actions and does not follow the ten virtuous actions and the conduct of the bodhisattva, the practice of the genuine dharma is simply not possible. Believing one can cause harm to others and still progress on the path to enlightenment is delusion.
The very essence of the Buddhist teachings, the buddha dharma, is to cut through fixation.554 Fixation and attachment are the roots of saṃsāra; they bind us to saṃsāra. Mind has the capacity to generate powerful thoughts which can serve to loosen up our fixations on saṃsāra. Thoughts that carry such power are known as ‘conceptual merit’.555
The purpose of accumulating conceptual merit is to change our negative patterns into virtuous ones, to loosen up our habitual fixation on negativity.556 Eventually, the gathering of conceptual merit brings fixation to an end, allowing wisdom to dawn. Once grasping and fixation have gone, the buddha nature is revealed and can be recognized. The power of merit ultimately leads to the dawn of wisdom, the recognition of our buddha nature.
To attain enlightenment one must gather the two accumulations, the ‘accumulation of conceptual merit’ and the ‘accumulation of non-conceptual wisdom’.557 One truly possesses relative bodhicitta only through having gathered considerable conceptual merit. Therefore, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teaches many methods for generating conceptual merit.
When relative bodhicitta has firmly taken root in your mind, you are able to generate a power of merit through which absolute bodhicitta, non-conceptual wisdom, can arise. Non-conceptual wisdom is none other than the recognition of the buddha nature, egolessness, profound emptiness. This recognition is beyond thoughts; it utterly cuts through all fixation on saṃsāra.
The practice of relative bodhicitta558 furthers the accumulation of merit; the practice of absolute bodhicitta559 furthers the accumulation of wisdom.
554 ’dzin pa 555 dmigs bcas kyi bsod nams 556 sdig pa 557 dmigs med ye shes kyi tshogs 558 kun rdzob byang chub kyi sems 559 don dam byang chub kyi sems
In addition to gathering the two accumulations, one must also purify the two obscurations. These are the obscurations of afflictions560 and the obscurations of cognition.561 To attain enlightenment one must both perfect the two accumulations and purify the two obscurations.
Generally, one can say that the two accumulations are the remedies for the two obscurations. The accumulation of conceptual merit562 remedies the obscuration of the gross afflictions,563 and the accumulation of non-conceptual wisdom564 remedies the remaining subtle levels of afflictions and the obscurations of cognition.565
Furthermore, practicing the first five perfections gathers the accumulation of merit, while practicing the perfection of wisdom gathers the accumulation of wisdom. If a bodhisattva has the transcendental knowledge to maintain the recognition of non-conceptual wisdom while simultaneously practicing the other five perfections, then both accumulations are being gathered together. This is called practicing the unity of merit and wisdom.566 The practice of merit enhances the wisdom practice, and the wisdom practice enhances the merit practice.
The accumulation of merit alone leads to rebirth in the higher realms and to the perfect conditions necessary to practice dharma. When a practitioner has gathered great merit, transcendental knowledge may dawn in his mind. Without sufficient merit, people will not be able to recognize transcendental knowledge.
Buddha Śākyamuni practiced the accumulation of merit on its own for one incalculable aeon,567 an inconceivably long time. During the second incalculable aeon he was able to recognize wisdom and hence practiced the union of the accumulation of merit and the accumulation of wisdom. In this way, he traversed the first through the seventh bodhisattva levels. Finally, during the third incalculable aeon, he continued to practice the union of merit and wisdom, traversing the eighth through the tenth bodhisattva levels.
Having thus completed the five paths and the ten levels, he was able to transcend even the realization of a tenth level bodhisattva and thus attain perfect enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, becoming a fully enlightened buddha. A practitioner must understand the connection between merit and wisdom. Only when great merit has been gathered will wisdom dawn in the practitioner’s mind. As it is said in the Vajrayāna teachings:
560 nyon mongs kyi sgrib pa 561 shes bya’i sgrib pa 562 dmigs bcas bsod nams kyi tshogs 563 nyon mongs pa’i sgrib pa 564 dmigs med ye shes kyi tshogs 565 shes bya’i sgrib pa 566 tshogs gnyis zung ’jug 567 bskal pa grangs med gcig
As far as the ultimate, the co-emergent wisdom, is concerned,
Know that it is foolish to rely upon any methods other than
Practices for gathering the accumulations and purifying obscurations,
As well as the blessings of the glorious root guru.
don dam lhan cig skyes pa’i ye shes ni
tshogs bsags sgrib pa dag pa’i lag rjes dang
dpal ldan bla ma’i byin rlabs kho na las
thabs gzhan brten pa rmongs par shes par bya
Gathering the accumulations, purifying the obscurations, and receiving the blessings of the guru all lead to the same point. Gathering the accumulations leads to the creation of harmonious circumstances.568 Purifying the obscurations causes all disruptive circumstances569 to be dispelled. When all harmonious circumstances have been established, all disruptive circumstances have naturally vanished. ‘Blessing’ is the energy through which this transformation is brought about.
When you have gathered great merit your mind will change, and wisdom will dawn. This transformation is known as the blessing of the master. Through the master’s blessing, the practitioner’s mind is ripened, and wisdom dawns.
Thus, we can see that these three aspects of purifying the two obscurations,570 perfecting the two accumulations,571 and ripening one’s mind572 through the blessing of the master all occur simultaneously. The rising of the sun, the dispelling of darkness, and the illumination of the world happen all at once.
A beginner should start out with practices for gathering the accumulation of conceptual merit. He should practice going for refuge, developing relative bodhicitta, practicing visualization, as well as the practice of the seven branches. The seven branches are: offering prostrations, presenting offerings, making confessions, rejoicing in merit, requesting the buddhas not to pass into nirvāṇa, supplicating the buddhas to turn the wheel of dharma, and dedicating the merit. Once these teachings have been received, a beginner has the perfect tools for generating great conceptual merit without needing to undergo any hardships.
One must also practice the accumulation of wisdom at the same time as engaging in these practices. A practitioner should receive the teachings on how to recognize buddha nature from a truly qualified master. Although the beginning student might
568 mthun rkyen 569 ’gal rkyen 570 sgrib gnyis dag 571 tshogs gnyis rdzogs 572 rgyud smin
still be thoroughly caught up in dualistic mind, nonetheless, he would make some progress toward wisdom practice.
Wisdom can only be recognized by transcendental intelligence or transcendental knowledge.573 The ordinary conceptual mind574 can never recognize wisdom.575 Thoughts always need an object, hence the dualistic mind is forever bound to know, understand, and function within the confines of a fundamental subject-object dichotomy. Wisdom is beyond thoughts, beyond the subject-object dichotomy, beyond the grasp of dualistic mind. As Śāntideva said in the 9th chapter:576
Since the ultimate is not within the reach of intellect,
The intellect must be described as the relative.
don dam blo yi spyod yul min
blo ni kun rdzob yin par brjod
All sentient beings are endowed with the perfect buddha nature. The infinite qualities of the perfectly enlightened Buddha, such as knowledge-wisdom,577 lovecompassion,578 and sheltering power579 are completely present in the essence of the mind of all sentient beings. The enlightened basis with which every being is endowed has many names, such as buddha nature, essence of mind,580 profound emptiness, non-conceptual wisdom, primordial purity581 and so forth.
573 shes rab pho rol tu phyin pa 574 sems 575 ye shes 576 Khenpo Kunpal comments: “Since the absolute, the natural state of things, is beyond all
extremes—of ‘existence’, of ‘non-existence’, of ‘both existence and non-existence’, and of ‘neither existence nor non-existence’—it is not within the reach of the intellect. Consequently, the intellect and verbal expressions conceptualizing (positions) such as ‘existence’ and ‘nonexistence’ must be described as being the relative and therefore not as being the absolute” [dngos po’i gnas tshul don dam pa ni yod pa dang med pa dang gnyis ka dang gnyis min kyi mtha’ kun dang bral bas na blo yi spyod yul min te yod med la sogs par rtog pa’i blo dang brjod pa’i sgra ni kun rdzob yin par brjod kyi don dam pa ma yin pa’i phyir ro]. See kun dpal ’grel pa (si khron mi rigs edition) pages 621-622.
577 mkhyen pa’i ye shes 578 brtse ba’i thugs rje 579 skyob pa’i nus stobs 580 sems kyi ngo bo 581 ka dag
This enlightened basis is also called the ground.582 Every being is primordially endowed with this ground. All enlightened qualities are unchangingly present in the buddha nature of all beings from a tiny insect up to a perfectly enlightened buddha. No being is ever separated from its buddha nature, not even for a single instant.
Through the power of delusion,583 ego-clinging,584 obscurations,585 habitual patterns,586 and karma, the enlightened qualities are not manifest but remain hidden. Ego-clinging collapses, and enlightened qualities gradually manifest as a practitioner of Buddha’s teachings develops a virtuous mind, gathers the two accumulations, and purifies the two obscurations.
Enlightenment is only possible because all beings are primordially endowed with the buddha nature. The practice of the dharma can lead to enlightenment for this reason alone. The very nature of every being is wisdom and compassion. A deluded mind, bound by ignorance and ego-clinging, is not abiding in accordance with the wisdom of its own essence, the buddha nature. Nor is a mind suffused with anger and hatred in accord with the compassion that is its very essence.
Certain things, such as light and darkness, cannot exist simultaneously587 and are thus exclusive of one another.588 For example, a person cannot be loosely relaxed and yet tense and uptight at the same time. The more people are able to let go of fixations and attachments, the more they will experience relaxation and the happiness that follows. This is because when fixations and attachments loosen up, the peaceful, blissful, and compassionate qualities of the buddha nature are finally able to begin shining through.
All beings naturally tend to strive for happiness because their very nature, the buddha nature, is itself endowed with happiness. However, beings lack the knowledge with which to uncover this nature. All beings want to attain a level of peace for themselves because their nature, the buddha nature, is peaceful. All beings dislike pain and suffering because their nature, the buddha nature, is itself free from suffering. Unfortunately, beings are generally unaware of this.
All beings have as the essence of their minds the perfect state of peace and happiness. That state is empty, cognizant, and free from all fixation. It is naturally-existing wisdom,589 endowed with all enlightened qualities. The more a person can let go of
582 gzhi 583 ’khrul pa 584 bdag ’dzin 585 sgrib pa 586 bag chags 587 lhan cig mi gnas ’gal 588 phan tshun spong ’gal 589 rang byung ye shes
fixations and attachments, the more the qualities of that person’s enlightened essence are able to manifest. Although all beings already possess this enlightened ground, sentient beings, being lost in the delusion of saṃsāra, are utterly unaware of their own perfect essence.
The teachings of the Buddha show us how we can reconnect with the Buddha within and so gain enlightenment. This is the path. If we want to reach enlightenment, from the very beginning of our journey we must strive to develop the precious bodhicitta. Once we are totally free from fixations, and the natural state of the buddha nature has been completely actualized, we have attained enlightenment. We have become buddhas. That is the fruition.
A good example describes the relationship between sentient beings and the buddha nature at the time of the path. The buddha nature is likened to the sun; ego-clinging, delusion, fixations, attachments, and obscurations are like clouds covering the sun. To the degree that clouds fade away, to that degree will the sun’s brilliance naturally shine forth. The sun itself is always present, whether or not it is covered or obscured.
Likewise, the buddha nature is always present, regardless of whether it is obscured or not. However, in the general experience of sentient beings it is as though they are cut off from the buddha nature. In the case of practitioners, on the other hand, they sometimes come into contact with the buddha nature and sometimes lose it. This is the experience of delusion on the one hand and of glimpses of enlightenment on the other. In the end, the process of uncovering the buddha nature comes down to letting go of fixations. It is fixation which solidifies the cloud banks of obscuration; letting go of fixation reveals the sun of buddha nature.
Because this buddha nature is already perfectly present in the essence of the mind of every sentient being, the wish and commitment, “I will free all sentient beings from their suffering and establish them on the level of perfect enlightenment,” is in accord with the true potential of every being. If beings lacked the buddha nature, bodhicitta would be totally meaningless, mere wishful thinking without any inherent basis in the individual.
Developing the bodhicitta of aspiration and of application is still considered relative bodhicitta. Once we begin to get glimpses of our buddha nature, our primordially pure essence,590 we begin to realize absolute bodhicitta. At the time when the buddha nature has been fully revealed, we will have reached perfect enlightenment; we will have reached the fruition.
All of saṃsāra, nirvāṇa, and the path to perfect enlightenment must be understood within the framework of ground, path, and fruition. The buddha nature is called the ground or basis. This is the primordial buddha, endowed with all qualities and devoid of all defects. Unaware of this essence, beings live their lives in delusion. The teachings of the Buddha show the way out of this delusion; they teach beings how to reconnect
590 ngo bo ye dag
with their buddha nature. This is the path. Once this buddha nature has been completely realized, one is a fully awakened buddha. This state is called the fruition.
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teaches us how to follow the path to enlightenment. It teaches us how to develop bodhicitta and how to practice the six transcendental perfections. It teaches us how to realize the view591 of buddha nature and how to let this view mature into complete enlightenment.
Buddha nature, ‘the enlightened essence’,592 is also called, among many other names, ‘the root of buddha’,593 ‘the pure essence, the core of buddha’,594 or ‘the heart-drop of buddha’.595 Buddha nature actually means ‘the real buddha’.596 The term buddha nature indicates that all of us sentient beings are endowed with the real buddha within. This true buddha is no different from your own mind; in fact, it is your mind’s true essence.
This internal buddha is the ground. When fully realized, this ground is the fruition. Between the ground and the fruition there is not the slightest difference. The ground is the true and real buddha, endowed with all qualities and devoid of all defects. Due to our delusion we are not aware of this true buddha within us. We must embark on the path to eliminate our delusion. The teachings of the Buddha are the perfect remedy to remove delusion and lead us to our true nature.
On the path we learn methods for removing obscurations, for gathering the accumulation of merit and the accumulation of wisdom. We learn how to recognize our buddha nature in the ninth chapter of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and how to let this recognition ripen into full realization. This is the framework in which to understand ‘Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas’.
Until we reach the ultimate fruition, the dharma is our true refuge, since it is the dharma that teaches us how to attain enlightenment. If from the very beginning you direct your mind to attaining perfect enlightenment, your mind will open up. As bodhicitta develops in your mind, your delusion will gradually fall away, and the genuine view of the buddha nature will begin to dawn. Eventually, you will reach the ultimate fruition, perfect enlightenment.
Delusion597 means to be mistaken in your mind.598 If you see a piece of rope and think it is a snake you are mistaken, but your mistaken perception stirs up anger and
591 lta ba 592 bde bar gshegs pa’i snying po; skr. sugatagarbha 593 sangs rgyas kyi rtsa ba 594 sangs rgyas kyi snying gi dvangs ma 595 sangs rgyas kyi snying gi thig le 596 sangs rgyas kyi dgnos / sangs rgyas dngos ma 597 ’khrul pa 598 sems nor ba tsam gyis
fear. These afflictions disappear the moment your mistaken perception collapses, and you clearly see the rope for what it is, just a rope.
The collapse of delusion is related to the accumulation of merit and the accumulation of wisdom. Merit has the power to pacify your negative thoughts, afflictions, habitual patterns, and to transform your negative karma. The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teaches many methods for gathering merit such as taking refuge, presenting prostrations, offering confessions, and so forth. The accumulation of merit leads to the dawning of wisdom.
The idea of purifying your mind of delusion does not imply that your mind has somehow become dirty and therefore must be cleaned. Do not think of your mind as dirty, but rather think that your mind is mistaken and deluded. Once your error is pointed out you will realize the truth. After someone shows you that the rope is just a rope and not a snake, you see it as it actually is. You have realized the truth about the rope. That is what the phrases ’delusion has collapsed’ or ‘obscuration has been purified’ mean. When realization dawns, obscurations vanish. Since you have realized the truth, your mistaken view has ceased.
First, practitioners must gain a theoretical understanding599 of the true nature of reality. Next, they must gain direct experience,600 and eventually they will reach true realization.601 Only then will delusion truly and permanently collapse. Mere theoretical understanding does not lead to the collapse of delusion.
Within the Mahāyāna system, even for the most gifted practitioners such as Buddha Śākyamuni, traversing the path to complete and perfect enlightenment takes a minimum of three incalculable aeons, an incredibly long time-span. A bodhisattva, however, is not at all discouraged by the time-span, the difficulties, hardships, and sacrifices that must be endured. Bodhisattva means ‘courageous being’. Khenpo Kunpal describes the bodhisattva in the following way:602 “Bodhisattva means a hero whose mind does not shy away from accomplishing enlightenment, through developing supreme bodhicitta as the motivation and through endeavoring in the practice of the six transcendental perfections as the application.”
If one lacks the courage of a bodhisattva, one cannot become a perfectly enlightened buddha. A bodhisattva is a fearless hero. Though Buddha Śākyamuni taught the way of the bodhisattva to his students, many preferred not to aim for buddhahood but rather aspired to become arhats, to attain merely a state of peaceful cessation of saṃsāra’s suffering.
599 go ba 600 myong ba 601 rtogs pa 602 See text section 158
The Mahāyāna practitioner is aware that he has already been circling in saṃsāra since time without beginning and that he will continue to circle endlessly if he does not attain enlightenment. When one compares three incalculable aeons with the endlessness of saṃsāra, three incalculable aeons seem only as long as three days in an ordinary human being’s lifetime.
Once bodhisattvas have reached the first bodhisattva level, the path of seeing,603 they can easily handle any situation. Starting out on the path of accumulation and the path of application, a beginning bodhisattva might at times perceive the journey as difficult. Therefore, at the beginning, bodhisattvas are advised to stay close to their teachers and mingle only with good friends who support their quest for enlightenment.
When reaching the first bodhisattva level, bodhisattvas become true heroic beings and will never again be so discouraged as to deviate from the bodhisattva path. Before attaining the first bodhisattva level, a bodhisattva could still possibly stray from the path due to the influence of negative circumstances or negative friends. Therefore, relying on a true master is extremely crucial until attaining at least the first bodhisattva level.
If a beginner feels the dharma is too difficult to practice, this is a sure sign of not yet understanding the main points of the teaching. Once a beginning bodhisattva has gained a profound understanding of the main points of the dharma, he will have the confidence that he will be able to proceed on the blissful path of bodhicitta to the level of unexcelled buddhahood. The more one fully understands and practices the dharma, the less will one fear the difficulties of life; negative as well as positive situations will have less power to influence us.
Ordinary persons with no knowledge of the dharma always experience difficulties and hardships in their lives without knowing how to handle them. Instead of being intimidated by the enormous time-span required to reach complete enlightenment, one should rather be frightened by the unending suffering that lies in wait if one fails to practice the dharma at all. Without the dharma, freedom from suffering can never be attained, and there will be no chance of ever reaching enlightenment.
603 The bodhisattva traverses the ten bodhisattva levels [sa bcu; skr. daśabhūmi] and the five paths [lam lnga; skr. pañcamārga] toward enlightenment. The five paths are: 1) the path of accumulation [tshogs lam; skr. sambhāra-mārga], 2) the path of application [sbyor lam; skr. prayoga-mārga], 3) the path of seeing [mthon lam; skr. darśana-mārga], 4) the path of meditation [sgom lam; skr. bhāvanā-mārga] and 5) the path of no more learning [mi slob pa’i lam; skr. aśaikṣa-mārga]. The first four are subsumed as the path of learning [slob pa’i lam]. The first bodhisattva level is attained when reaching the third path, the path of seeing.
The ten bodhisattva levels are: 1) Joyful [rab tu dga’ ba; skr. pramuditā], 2) Immaculate [dri ma med pa; skr. vimalā], 3) Illuminating [’od byed pa; skr. prabhākarī], 4) Radiant [’od ’phro ba; skr. arcṣmatī], 5) Difficult to Conquer [sbyang dka’ ba; skr. sudurjayā], 6) Manifest [mngon du gyur pa; skr. abhimukhī], 7) Far-Reaching [ring du song ba; skr. duraðgamā], 8) Unmoving [mi g.yo ba; skr. acalā], 9) Excellent Intelligence [legs pa’i blo gros; skr. sādhumatī] and 10) Cloud of Dharma [chos kyi sprin; dharma-meghā].
The vast array of teachings that the Buddha himself presented are called ‘the direct words of the Buddha’.604 The words of the Buddha have the hallmark of being true605 and beneficial.606 The recorded volumes of Buddha’s words are so numerous and vast that, unless one is a great scholar, reading, studying, and understanding them all in one lifetime is virtually impossible. Therefore, Śāntideva extracted the most important points regarding the practice of the bodhisattvas from the entirety of the Buddha’s vast teaching and compiled this treatise,607 ‘Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas’. The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is classified as ‘a treatise that has gathered what was scattered’,608 as well as ‘a treatise on the practice of meditation’.609
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra represents the three types of genuine treatises610 in one text: ‘a treatise that is meaningful’,611 ‘a treatise that leads to the overcoming of suffering’,612 and ‘a treatise concerned with the application of practice’.613
The word ‘treatise’ translates the Sanskrit word śāstra, which is derived from śāsti, to overcome,614 and from trāyate, to protect.615 A true Buddhist treatise must possess the two qualities of overcoming and protecting. It must teach how to overcome the five afflictions of attachment, aversion, ignorance, arrogance, and jealousy, and thus protect one from the causes leading to rebirth in the three lower realms.
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra owes its great influence and power to the fact that Śāntideva was an enlightened and accomplished master. The son of an Indian king, he renounced the throne in his youth due to a visionary experience of the bodhisattva of wisdom, Mañjuśrī, and entered the great Buddhist monastery of Nālandā, where he studied and practiced the tripiṭaka, the scriptures of sūtra, vinaya, and abhidharma with his teacher, Jayadeva. Śāntideva met the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī in various visions and received many teachings from him. To summarize his vast knowledge of the buddha dharma, he composed three books: the Śikṣā-samuccaya, the Sūtrasamuccaya, and the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.
604 sangs rgyas kyi bka’ 605 bden pa 606 phan ’dogs pa 607 bstan bcos; skr. śāstra 608 ’thor ba sdud pa’i bstan bcos 609 sgrub pa nyam len gyi bstan bcos 610 bstan bcos yang dag gsum 611 don dang ldan pa’i bstan bcos 612 sdug bsngal spong ba’i bstan bcos 613 sgrub pa lhur len pa’i bstan bcos 614 ’chos 615 skyob
Śāntideva composed the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra as his personal meditation manual,616 his daily recitation text.617 In the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra he condensed all the knowledge and wisdom he had gained by studying and practicing. Therefore, the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is also a ‘record for his personal recollection’,618 a mnemonic poem composed so that he himself could remember all he had learned and studied. He wrote this text mainly so he could repeatedly cultivate the motivation of bodhicitta and the practice of the six transcendental perfections. Śāntideva kept all his compositions secret, hiding them in the rafters of his room at the Nālandā monastery.
Outwardly, he gave the impression of being utterly disinterested in any scholastic studies or monastic duties. He spent his days eating, wandering around and sleeping. His fellow monks felt that he was not worthy to live in their community and planned to expel him. Considering him an unlearned fool, they conspired to force him to give a public recitation of the scriptures, hoping that he might flee Nālandā to avoid embarrassment.
To everyone’s surprise, Śāntideva accepted the challenge and recited the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra in front of all the great scholars of Nālandā. Everyone was stunned, and all were moved to heartfelt devotion during the course of his recital. When he came to a particular verse from the wisdom chapter that expresses the most profound view of all the Buddhist teachings, he miraculously levitated from his throne and vanished into the sky, while the audience continued to hear his voice resounding from above until the end of the recital.
The scholars within the audience recorded his words from memory, composing texts of varying lengths. Later, to clarify their doubts about the length of the text, they searched for Śāntideva and requested him to decide which was the authentic version of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. At the same time, Śāntideva alerted the scholars to the existence of his other writings, still hidden in the rafters of his old room at Nālandā.
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teaches the actual methods for journeying toward enlightenment on the path of the bodhisattva, just as Śāntideva himself practiced them. In this way the text reflects Śāntideva’s own personal practice. His life story tells us that he had kept his knowledge of the way of the bodhisattva secret throughout his many years of practice. Thus, it is an eminently practical text written by a great master for all dharma practitioners, both those of his time and of the future. Ordinary scholastic works written by intellectuals can never approach the powerful impact and blessing of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra.
Even until the present day, no treatise ever written on the way of the bodhisattva, neither in India, Tibet, nor elsewhere, can compare to the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. It is said that in India alone more than one hundred commentaries were written on the
616 sgrub pa nyams len gyi bstan bcos 617 kha ’don 618 mi brjed pa’i dran tho
Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, of which only ten are still in existence in their Tibetan translations.
Many renowned Tibetan scholars and masters wrote commentaries on this book. To this day, scholars and practitioners in Tibet maintain an unbroken lineage of the study and practice of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. It is the most effective and popular treatise on the practice of bodhicitta.
Whoever intends to study the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra with any teacher should initially pose a few questions to his new teacher in a tactful and polite manner. First, ask from whom he received the teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. Next, ask how often and for how long he received teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. Then ask how many times and how much he has read, studied, and practiced the teachings of the text. Finally, ask whether he has truly understood the entire text or if he still has unresolved questions.
If your teacher has studied and practiced the teachings of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra under qualified masters, this will inspire in you faith and trust. If your teacher cannot answer these questions in a way that satisfies you, you should skillfully avoid requesting teachings from him.
You have to read the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary again and again. Every time you read it and ponder the meaning, you will gain some new insight. Unlike reading a magazine where one time through is enough, you need to read and study this text many times to begin to penetrate its profound meaning. The more you study it, the more profound and vast will your understanding become. In the best case, a practitioner should study this text one or two hundred times. You should aim to achieve a degree of understanding whereby the text and its meaning are indelibly engraved in your mind.
When I was studying at Śrī Siṃha Shedra, I lived in a cave above the valley. At the beginning of my studies, I learned the root text of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra by heart. I got up every morning at 5 a.m. and for two hours I read out loud all the texts I had to learn by heart. The teachings at the shedra began at 8 a.m. and continued until 5
p.m. In the morning, on the way down to the shedra, I would recite half of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra by heart, and in the evening, on the way up to my cave, I would recite the rest of the text. Back in the cave I would practice meditation until late at night. In this way I recited the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra for two years every day. It is my experience that the early morning hours are most suited to learn texts by heart.
For students who did not grow up in a Buddhist environment such as the Śrī Siṃha Shedra, it is difficult to study all the important sūtras and textbooks. I truly believe that by focusing on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra and Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary alone and making this text part of your life, in conjunction with your yidam practice, you will become a true scholar and practitioner.
I further believe that, in this day and age, ‘Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra’, the ‘Life Story and Songs of Milarepa’, and Paltrül Rinpoche’s ‘Words of My Prefect Teacher’ are all the reading and studying a practitioner of the Nyingmapa School needs. If you do not aspire to become a khenpo, a preceptor of the monastic tradition, or a teacher of sūtra and tantra, but aim to become an excellent practitioner of the dharma, then these three books and the oral meditation instructions of your root guru are all you need. Following this advice, you are neither in danger of going astray into stupid meditation nor of becoming a mere scholastic intellectual.
Therefore, read the root text and Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary again and again, allowing fresh insights to continually ripen in your mind. When reading the root text, you will inevitably come to sections you do not fully comprehend, about which you are uncertain. Let these difficult passages remain with you, and an understanding or insight may surface in your mind when you least expect it, perhaps while eating, while taking a walk, or while talking to a friend. Such insight comes about through the blessings of the Buddha. Through the blessing of the Buddha, insight into the sublime dharma arises in the minds of beings. When such an insight arises, remember it again and again, allowing it to become part of your being. Also, perceive any new insight that you gain to be nothing other than the Buddha’s blessing.
This is the genuine technique by which you may become a true scholar. If you have some kind of understanding on your first reading of the text and you think that your initial insight is sufficient, you are really only deluding yourself. It would be of great benefit if you could truly try to read this text one hundred times. Then your understanding will definitely deepen.
Such intense study and meditation on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra will affect your whole being. Slowly ego-clinging will lessen and your mind will open up. Gradually the qualities of bodhicitta will manifest in your mind. Many practitioners in Tibet defeated their pride, arrogance, jealousy, attachment, and aggression through the subtle workings of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra. You should always strive to bring study and meditation together.
If you do not understand certain passages in the text, even upon intense reflection, you must ask your teacher. If you truly want to internalize the teachings of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, you do need a qualified teacher.619 Only through the guidance of a real master will you be able to transform yourself from an ordinary worldly person into an exalted being who can truly help others.
When you read this text or listen to teachings on the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, it is of paramount importance to develop respect toward the teacher, his lineage, and the teaching of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra itself. If you receive teachings from a qualified master but do not respect him as your teacher, the teaching cannot benefit you.
619 mtshan ldan gyi bla ma
Buddha’s cousin Devadatta had known the Buddha all his life and had received his teachings, but his jealousy kept him from gaining any benefit. Likewise, Buddha’s cousin Sunakṣatra620 served the Buddha for twenty-five years as his attendant and knew all his teachings, but he was unable to see any good qualities in the Buddha.
In the best case your teacher will be a qualified master, his teaching a perfect teaching621 like the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra, and you will regard him with perfect faith and devotion622 as the Buddha in person. In such a case you will realize the teachings very quickly and attain perfect results. Even if your teacher is not a perfect master, if his teachings and lineage are perfect, and you regard him as your teacher with heartfelt respect, you will benefit greatly from his teaching. In case your master is not qualified, however, and if his teachings also are not properly presented, then even if you believe in him and his teachings, you will not benefit very much.
Paltrül Rinpoche said that the followers of his tradition never aim to reach high positions in this life, nor do they seek approval and praise from other people. Likewise, they are not affected by unjust criticism from others. I advise interested students to let the teachings of the Great Perfection infuse their point of view and to let the teachings of the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra guide their conduct.623
620 legs pa’i skar ma 621 gdams ngag tshad ldan 622 yid ches tshad ldan 623 The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra includes all the important teachings on view, meditation and
conduct of the Mahāyāna path. Those students who want to go into further details should study the most important manual on view, meditation, conduct and fruition: The most important manuals on Mahāyāna view [lta ba] are the Prajñā-mūla [rtsa ba shes rab] by Nāgārjuna [klu sgrub] and the Madhyamakāvatāra [dbu ma la ’jug pa] by Candrakirti [zla ba grags pa]. The most important manual on Mahāyāna meditation [sgom] is the Abhisamayālaṃkāra [mngon rtogs rgyan] by Asaðga [thogs med]. The most important manual on Mahāyāna conduct [spyod pa] is the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra [spyod ’jug] by Śāntideva [zhi ba lha]. The most important manual on Mahāyāna fruition [’bras bu] is the Uttara-tantra [rgyud bla ma] by Asaðga [thogs med].
Introduction by Tsoknyi Rinpoche
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is a text that can greatly benefit any practicing Buddhist. Among the many commentaries that exist on this text in Tibetan, I have personally found Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary to be the most practical, containing many key points essential to Buddhist practice. During my education I studied the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra with eminent scholars, and I read Khenpo Kunpal’s commentary many times.
The Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra teaches the complete Mahāyāna path to enlightenment, including all necessary preliminary, main, and concluding practices. A perfect path in itself, it is also at the same time a perfect support624 for all practitioners of the Vajrayāna teachings in general. Practitioners learn how to develop the motivation of bodhicitta, as well as how to carry out the application of the six transcendental perfections. They learn how to fuse their practice of bodhicitta and the five first perfections with the sixth perfection, transcendental knowledge.625
Buddhism came to Tibet and remained undisturbed for over a thousand years. There Buddhism was so widespread that even lay people naturally grew up with faith in the Buddha, in the law of karma, in past and future lives, in the existence of pure realms or buddha fields, and in the terrible forms of rebirth known as hell realms.
These beliefs were simply part of Tibetan culture. Uneducated Tibetans did not know why they held these beliefs although they did keep them in their hearts. Therefore, it was relatively easy for Buddhist masters to teach the dharma in the classical format, beginning with the preliminary practices626 and continuing on to advanced meditation.
Buddhism is now increasingly being taught to foreign students from a great variety of cultural backgrounds. Concepts such as karma, past and future lives, the six realms of saṃsāra, and so forth are new to them and so require considerable explanation.
I believe that the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra is the perfect introduction for Western students to come to a similar understanding and appreciation of Buddhism as have people who have been raised in a Buddhist culture. Students who have studied and practiced the Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra for some time under a qualified teacher will have a very stable Mahāyā