Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10
The first extended teaching I received orally was from the late, and beautiful-minded, Brian Beresford, in the winter of 1979. A small group of us travelled up, every week, from Lancaster University to Conishead Priory in Ulverston, Cumbria, to hear these teachings. It seemed the next logical step on from where our interests were taking us anyway; I had little idea where this was leading me. The teachings were based on the just-published Meaningful to Behold by Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, his first major published release, and a significant commentary on the Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra by Śāntideva. Stephen Batchelor’s translation of the root text had also recently been released by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. I bought a copy of both books with my meagre student means, and began my first naïve and pencil-scribbled study of a Buddhist text.
Towards the end of my stay in Ulverston, Geshe Kelsang gave the lung transmission of many of the texts and commentaries he had so far taught. I was most excited about receiving the transmission of Śāntideva’s root text which, considering the transmission is simply a public reading-out-loud of the root text, in Tibetan (which I didn’t, and still don’t, read/speak), must have been a deeper part of myself responding than just the intellectual need for some inspiration or entertainment. There was a sense of ‘getting’ it, ‘receiving’ it, a sense that I would be able to do something with this text now (like walking away from a bookshop having found a rare and little-found book or comic – ‘this will enhance my entire collection’).
And then I had a family and a career. I continued reading and reciting Buddhist texts and teachings. Marking time for formal practice, all the while missing the transformative facet of practice while moving about on my own two feet. I came across a practice-tradition that included copying texts as one of the practices of the Dharma. I started making my own copy of Batchelor’s translation of the Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra onto a word processor in the early new-millennium. It was something I could do, and then drop whenever a hat was, and return to over time; as long as I hit that Save-button, it accumulated. And then I found I could weave the headings of the Meaningful to Behold commentary into the text. And then I found there were other translations of the text. And then I retired from work.
What to do? Without any great ta-dha revelation I found myself settling into stirring the other translations I had found into the text, of seeding the headings from other commentaries into the text, of finding partial translations and folding them in, of finding translated quotes from other teachings and peppering them in, of realising that I had studied French and Spanish at school (… at last, I knew there must be a reason for sitting through all of those lessons so many years ago) and spicing those translations in too, and then I found the root text in Sanskrit and percolated that in (… maybe I should learn Sanskrit), of realising that reciting, thinking about and meditating on the texts are other facets of Dharma-practice, and that I have an oven. And I’m not afraid to use it. I am cooking in a wonderful cake and have been busy getting the kitchen ready for most of my life, now, without really noticing or realising.
So why publish it? Why not keep it secret and be the secret Bodhisattva you always wanted to be? I’m not sure I can answer that … because, certainly, I have a HUGE desire and tendency to seek recognition and approval through my works and words. Look at the thousands of poems I publish, ever-hopeful that I’ll be ‘discovered’, thinking that only then would I have an identity and a value and a purpose. I have spent six years posting poems waiting for the Great Reveal, I spent 29 years working a career offering my plans for salvation to all those who teach and learn, I have spent 33 years trying to find the wise words-enough to pass down to my children to read, I’ve spent most of my life trying to be the ‘Man of the House, Now’ (or whatever quirky understanding a perpetual eight year old might make of that, again and again). It hasn’t happened. None of it. All of these lifetimes. Certainly, not as I’d naïvely conceive it, or understand it, to be. I’m still unknown and difficult to find, no matter how much I publish; I sustained more mini-breakdowns than I care to count up, now, and lost all dignity at school; I listen to my adult kids but they just think I’m getting old; I’m still a child. And yet things have happened in this world because of the existence of Mark Redford amid them, some of them quite beautiful when he wasn’t noticing or trying too hard [to be the identity he thought he should be to make beautiful things happen in the world] … OK, I think I get it now: it’s not what I think (‘that thinking makes it so…’), but what I be [it’s not so much about the ID but the IB? And there’s no ‘I’ in being … damn, that didn’t work (philologically), but it should ontologically – ‘I’ should disappear into the being … beng]. So … I’ll have to be careful of that if I publish it. But this is how Śāntideva started off his own text: by proclaiming little virtue or skill in writing himself, but that he would write the text in order to acquaint himself to the Dharma teachings, for his own development; if anyone else, equal in fortune to himself were to read it, then it might also be of like benefit. In other words, he was sharing, is all. Selflessly. Now, of course, Śāntideva was under the constant tutelage of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Mañjuśrī, so the development of his text carries its own singular momentum and compelling authenticity. I am not under the tutelage of Mañjuśrī – as far as I know, and the more I get to know, the less I find I knew – but I am finding myself under the guidance of Śāntideva, through his text, if only I could read it right with this tattered mind I find myself with. So anyone of like propensity and muddle as myself might also benefit from my working with the text. And in this intention I will offer it, through the medium of this uncanny resource of the internet which we seem to have stumbled upon. Where I tend to be over-building the (natural) identity I already have, please excuse (and comment, if you so wish) and I will try to edit it out because I endeavour to take responsibility for any mistakes I make in the project. But the offer, and sharing, is there; here it is … what do you make of it?
So why include every translation you can find, and counting? Firstly, I’m a sucker for collecting. But also I have been learning a teaching within Buddhism when studying: do not rely just on the words, but the meaning. Aren’t the meanings contained in the words? Well, yes they are, but not only, and not word for word, and not literally, and not without contemplation, exemplification, commitment and a meditation (and a transmission, I might add) that realises the meaning rather than just transliterates it. Meaning is much more than word-deep and takes much more commitment than a clinical objectivity to get to it. First steps into the voyage are to find the words, and then recite them. In reciting up to twelve translations of the same verse I have found that I slow down my contemplation (even while my superficial mind is keeping busy and enunciated) so that I consider the verse by, at least, up to twelve differing angles, emphases, inflections, starting points, orders, hierarchies. And then, many of these translations were from Tibetan, which itself was from the Sanskrit root, which itself was settled in numerous manuscripts over the centuries found in different countries and cultures, which themselves were ‘heard’ and remembered in at least three different recensions from the time of Śāntideva’s original discourse. It is like looking at a perfect figure in a case in a museum: you consider it, first off, from the front, maybe, take in its features and lines, and then move to one side to see the same figure from a differed perspective, and then shifting again, still contemplating, still comparing how features from the front appear from the side, or from behind, or from the other side, or from below, or from above, maybe. All the angles build into a whole understanding of the figure, and it is your work that has integrated all those angles together into a whole understanding. And this would start the basis for meditation. So there are no good or bad translations (the same as there are no good or bad languages to translate the text into), there may be more or less literally accurate ones, (I guess, not being fluent in Sanskrit or Tibetan; or even English, for that matter), but their agglomerate allows an inveterately busy-scattered mind in the age of the five degenerations to settle to an appreciation of the meaning in Śāntideva’s text. And the more I keep finding meaning in the text, the more I find there is to be found. This is truly a profound text; I will say so myself.
I would like to declare here all the translations I have used in this collection. I have copied them all either from books I have bought or texts I have found on the internet. I have copied them as accurately as I can, and, obviously, check them quite frequently as I recite them over again. Some I have taken the liberty of correcting the odd typo from the printed, others I have put square brackets around phrases that seem to be added into the translation more than is needed for its semantic explication. I have also taken the liberty of standardising the use of Capital Case for proper nouns and made my own decisions on what is to be capitalised and what not; I realise this is a liberty, which I have taken to shape the tool for recitation easier for my use, and so while acknowledging my gratitude to the many translators used, their work here is not necessarily wholly presented exactly as they had published. For which I apologise, but hope I have their understanding and forgiveness – I am always contactable through this blog if not.
- Achieving Bodhichitta: Instructions of Two Great Lineages Combined into a Unique System of Eleven Categories, commentary by Sermey Khensur Losang Tarchin, Mahāyāna Sūtra and Tantra Press, 1999
- Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra: found on the Buddhachannel.tv website, no details on translators findable … 2009; selected translations in Spanish and French
- Bodhicaryāvatāra-Samgraha: compiled and translated by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D, found on abuddhistlibrary.com, 2000
- The Commentary on the GREAT PERFECTION: THE NATURE OF MIND, THE EASER OF WEARINESS, known as the Great Chariot, found on sacred-texts.com, author, translator and date: unknown
- Conseils Pour Bodhisattva: compiled & translated by Pháp Thân, found on fcom, date: unknown
- Engaging in Bodhisattva Behaviour: translated from the Tibetan, as clarified by the Sanskrit, by Alexander Berzin, found on buddhistische-gesellschaft-berlin.de website, 2005
- Entering into the Conduct of the Bodhisattva: translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos (Shérab Zangpo); Sugatagarbha Translations, found online, 2009
- Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas: translation by Andreas Kretschmar, found on the Buddhism.org website, 2004
- Entering the Path of Enlightenment: the Bodhicharyavatara of Shantideva, translated by Marion L. Matics, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1971
- Gems of Dharma, Jewels of Freedom – the Classic Handbook of Buddhism by Je Gampopa, (quotes from the Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra from this text), translated by Ken and Katia Holmes, Altea Publications, 1995
- Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: a Buddhist Poem for Today, translated by Neil Elliott under the compassionate guidance of Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche; Tarpa Publications, 2002.
- A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: translated into English by Stephen Batchelor in accordance with an oral teaching of Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey on the commentary The Ocean of Good Explanation by Tog-me Zangpo; Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979.
- A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life: translated by David Tuffley, printed in Lavergne, TN, 2016
- A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life: translated from the Sanskrit and Tibetan by Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace, Snow Lion Publications, 1997
- A Guide to the Buddhist Path to Awakening: translated by Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton, Windhorse Publications, 1995
- Introduction à la Pratique des Futurs Bouddhas: traduit par Louis de la Vallée Poussin, findable on numerous websites, e.g. archive.org, 1907
- An Introduction to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: translated by Adam Pearcey, found online: Rigpa Translations, 2007 Lotsawa House
- La Marcha Hacia la Luz: versión en Castellano de Dokushô Villalba, Miraguano Ediciones, 1993
- La Marche à la Lumière: Bodhicharyavatara, poème Sanscrit de Çantideva; traduit avec introduction par Louis Finot, Bibliothèque de la Sagesse, 1920
- La Marche vers l’Éveil: traduit par le Comité de Traduction Padmakara (Patrick Carré et Christian Bruyat), Padmakara Publications, 2007
- The Path of Light: rendered from the Bodhicharyavatara of Shantideva, by L.D. Barnett, John Murray, 1909
- Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra: original Sanskrit text with English translation by Parmananda Sharma, Aditya Prakashan, Delhi, 1990
- Vivre en Héros pour L’Éveil: traduit du Tibétain par Georges Driessens, Éditions du Seuil, 1993
- The Way of the Bodhisattva: translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala, 1997.
- Meaningful to Behold – View, Meditation and Action in Mahāyāna Buddhism, by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, translated by Tenzin Norbu, edited by Jonathan Landaw, Wisdom Publications, 1980.
- The Nectar of Mañjushrī’s Speech – a Detailed Commentary on Śāntideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva, by Kunzang Pelden, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala, 2010
- [the headings of]: The Ocean of Good Explanation by Togmé Zangpo, published as Économie du Texte par Togmé Zangpo, translated from Tibetan by Georges Driessens, Éditions du Seuil, 1993
The headings from the commentaries I have sited throughout the root text where they comment on the text. I have used their own tabulation but intend to add the verses to which each heading refers in brackets after the heading. Each verse, or cluster of verses, is given first in Sanskrit, with, underneath each line, my own working translation, word for word. Then follow the translations, listed alphabetically according to the overall translated title of the translation, or the name of the book in which the reference to Śāntideva’s text appears. At the end of each translation’s title appears the surname of the translator in brackets. Some verses in the root text make reference to sections from Sūtra teachings, and these are included after the respective verse.
My thoughts and workings with the text appear between each verse, or cluster of verses. They appear under various (and blooming) commentarial headings:
- meaning – the unpacking of the points where they might need it
- etymology – an audit of the varying translations of key words; may include quotes of particularly noticeable translations (translator, ‘quote’)
- conclusion – made by Śāntideva or as directed by the commentaries
- simile – a collection of the many similes and metaphors used by Śāntideva
- structure – observations on the divisions and sections of the text using mostly the commentary headings I have collected
- embroidery – reflection and consideration on how a particular point, section or chapter exemplifies and delineates the whole subject matter of the text: relative and ultimate Bodhichitta
- stitch – how a particular verse or section connects with previous or later verses or sections
- reflection – developments of thought spring-boarded from the current verse or section
- determination – that arises from the verse or section, objects for meditation
- history – considerations that seem particularly pertinent to the place (Nālandā University) and time (8th century) that Śāntideva delivered his discourse and that might be in need of some constructive updating or re-referencing without losing the meaning intended
Idam Guru Ratna Mandalakam Niryatayami.