Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verse 119

Transglomeration: And furthermore, given that (the Buddhas) have become so closely and precisely related to the needs of beings, and that they manifest such immeasurable benefit for the world, and I, having previously given up and abandoned such conciliation with beings, how otherwise might I better recompense their kindness than by giving service to beings and making them happy?

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 118 beings = part and condition of generating virtues \ worthy of recognition and veneration
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 119 – … and besides, what other way of repaying the Buddhas (who have taken beings as their own)

Elements: (Buddhas) = closely bonded to all beings, give immeasurable benefit; ourselves (having abandoned those beings), how else to reconcile (with Buddhas) than through (giving) close bonds and benefit; a rhetorical verse: in acting adversely with beings we create an infraction with the Buddhas because they are so closely tied to beings – the have completely exchanged self for other; the only way to rectify that infraction is to proffer that same bond and benefit back to beings

Reflection: (related to the trichotomy of Buddhas/all beings/oneself): just as the Buddhas have dissolved all trace of self-concern/care into care for all beings (such there is no ‘them’ but the care they have for others, the perfection of love (for others’ happiness) and compassion (for others’ suffering), such that there is no thought in their minds of their need over and above others’, a complete selflessness that doesn’t even conceive an ‘I’, let alone its needs, such that there is only the needs of others), then we (‘ourselves’) need to do likewise in order to complete the mutual-dissolution – there’s no other way; this trichotomy is a dynamic: when the elements are distinct, there is no dynamic, only a stasis, stuck within a mutual incompatibility, which, at best is a personal Nirvāṇa, but mostly is suffering and blind conditionality – conventional and ultimate natures have not been reconciled; when the elements are dynamic, then the path (to reconciling the two truths) is being worked to the benefit of all and no one

Embroidery: it recurs – up to verse 111 is the whole treatment of the problem of anger and the means to control and stop it; from verse 112 onwards is the treatment of taking it a step further towards recognising what is going on here from an overview: patience is more than just stopping oneself getting angry, it is actually following through with the recognition that all beings, things, and, of course, ourselves, are all wholly and inescapably conditioned within an infinitely intricate web of cause and effect; this recognition is used to deconstruct for us that there is really nothing substantial ‘out there’ for us to get angry with, so we use this realisation in order to curb our anger; but additionally, let’s step back from just ourselves, and reflect what this means:

  • the Buddhas have completely realised and understand the intricacy of cause and conditionality
  • their response to this realisation is to become – by default – infinitely loving and infinitely compassionate towards the infinite frustration and suffering that sentient beings experience because they don’t realise this interdependency
  • they have become extremely close to sentient beings – far closer than sentient beings can become to each other, dogged as they are in self-grasping and self-cherishing – not close to the extent that they can’t tell the difference between sentient beings and themselves (i.e. they have ‘lost’ themselves in ‘others’), but to the extent that they have realised both their own selflessness and so too the selflessness of others
  • and yet sentient beings remain limited by their own sentience, hence the infinite love and compassion, and hence the Vow that all sentient beings become Enlightened
  • of course, ‘ourself’ (the reader of the text, the practitioner, the aspiring Bodhisattva) is one of the ‘sentient beings’, but the fact that ‘I’ am reading and studying and trying to practise this text – that I am trying to ‘bridge’ between being a sentient being and an Enlightened Being – creates the perspective from which I need to practise:
  • up to verse 111 Śāntideva has been exploring that we need adversaries in order to practise patience, but we don’t just use sentient beings as a ‘springboard’ for our development, we take the condition of sentient beings to train ourselves – yes – but also to complete the process (the recognition of, and rectification of conditionality) by getting all sentient beings to recognise their own conditionality; if you only strived in the ‘field’ of the Buddhas only you would end up only sorting yourself out gaining a personal Nirvāṇa, you would have achieved neither your own full benefit (by not becoming fully Enlightened, a Buddha) or others’ benefit (by liberating them, you’ll just have escaped from where they are)
  • this is why aspiring Bodhichitta is so important; of having the macro perspective from the beginning, even before you have made any gains at all, so that one’s practise of Dharma doesn’t become some limited personal project