Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verse 120

Transglomeration: How else might I recompense their benevolence, they so closely bonded to the benefit of beings, who would do anything that is good for them, who would dismember their own body and give it away, who would enter right into the deepest avīci hell, all for their sake; how, other than behaving towards all beings in the best possible way in all my actions, even when they might have inflicted the greatest harm on me.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 119 – what other way of repaying the Buddhas (who have taken beings as their own) …
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 120 … those Buddhas who have completely self-sacrificed for beings

Text: this verse seems to have four lines in the Sanskrit whereas most verses have two: is this right (or is there some fault/conjecture about this verse), if right what significance is there that Śāntideva (or the settlers of the original text … from Magadha) delivered just this verse in a slightly different format; in the meaning of the verse itself it continues the line of thinking as started in verse 112 and seems to have no significant meta-point to make (like the lengthened verse lines of chapter 4, verse 47, which is the first explicit mention of meditation of emptiness in the text) and there is no change in the type of reasoning used from previous verses; in fact the point made in this verse is just answering the rhetorical question posed in verse 119, still …

Text: line 2 (of 4, this time), this is translated along the lines of ‘if we act poorly with beings, we thereby harm the Buddhas because of their close ties to beings, but I read it as they do the rending and relinquishing of their bodies ‘for the sake of doing good’ for all beings – as in ‘to the extent of’…; probably hubris, but I’m sticking with this for a while until I’m shown otherwise … as seems to inevitably end up happening, the seemingly contrary, or even contradictory, readings are a matter of ostensible and affective readings of the same thing – outside-in and inside-out: (Sanskrit) the Buddhas work for sentient beings to the extent that they would rend their bodies and enter the deepest hell for them (outer) (because they (the Buddhas) have effectively and actually relinquished all sense of self-grasping and self-concern and entertain only (Enlightened) thoughts of concern for others) (inner); (Tibetan) because the Buddhas have perfected the exchange of self for others such there is no sense of self where the needs of others are concerned (inner) then anything done to beings (those same ‘others’) is both affectively and effectively done to the Buddhas, a precept of conduct which is wholly detrimental to oneself if one acts negatively toward them (outer); the fact that many of the translators of the Sanskrit text – even the early ones – often take (what turns out to be) the ‘Tibetan’ reading, I would venture is the ease with which that line can be read either way

Reflection: this verse explores the effects of the relationship of the Buddhas towards sentient beings, being one of having exchanged self for other – the Buddhas have no sense of self from their realisation of emptiness, but also from their response to beings who are likewise empty of intrinsic existence and yet have not realised this, and so suffer; this affectively means that they have no sense of self (they have realised that there is no self), but from sentient beings’ (and obviously oneself’s) side they would perceive that there are Buddhas because they/we are still stuck in dualistic perception projected upon the apprehension of intrinsic existence; the trichotomy (Buddhas/beings/oneself) only exists from the deluded/saṃsāric point of view, it is not an absolute trichotomy, neither is it unchangeable, but that the perception that there are Buddhas to be perceived, and that once perceived, one enters a path to understand what the implication and nature of these perceptions of Buddhas means – it is the redress of the problem (1st Truth of Suffering, 2nd Truth of the Cause of Suffering) by entering into relationship with the solution of the problem (3rd Truth of there being a Cessation of suffering (look, there are Buddhas!), 4th Truth of the Path to Enlightenment)

Practice: again, these last verses of the chapter are establishing a whole perspective regarding the practice of patience, again, moved it far beyond the mere stopping of anger and rising it to accept the full implication of the distinction of the two truths (conventional and ultimate) and their reconciliation by practising the Perfections rather than merely stopping unfortunate and unskilful actions; the Perfections are presented as the practices of giving, discipline, patience etc. with the realisation of emptiness: a clunky understanding of this renders practitioners wandering around practising their virtues with emptiness in their minds as if they were stoned out hippies saying everything is beautiful and everything is alright; it’s clunky because it simply juxtaposes the two (practice of virtue & realisation of emptiness), there is little sense of integration there, emptiness is just tagged on behind the event as if an afterthought; realising emptiness is more than just concluding ‘oh, nothing exists inherently’ otherwise it has tended towards an extreme of (a perverse) realism (i.e. that a phenomenon’s real nature is its empty nature of existence, that its real nature lies ‘behind’ its apparent nature; the two truths, thereby, have not been integrated and they need to be integrated to ‘step out’ of the double bind of conceiving something to exist or not exist in co-dependence with one’s own sense of self existing or not existing); so how do you integrate the two truths, that all is conditioned and that all is empty of intrinsic existence: you do it through engaging with all sentient beings on a non-self-personal-grasping-or-cherishing level, responding to their needs within a conditioned and cyclical world with the mind of bringing them to realisation of their own nature liberated from the prison of perceiving the world as intrinsically real or intrinsically illusory; the key to realising oneself the union of the two truths is the indispensability of engaging all sentient beings within one’s practice, anything short of engaging all sentient beings I one’s practice limits one’s integration of the two truths and by default de-limits one’s realisation of emptiness; the practice of this verse is, therefore, realising the indispensability of sentient beings in one’s practice of patience and realisation of emptiness