The root text of the

śāntidevaviracitaḥ bodhicaryāvatāraḥ|
[Santideva-Hero-Mind Awakening-Vehicle-Way]

Sanskrit: Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra
Tibetan: Byang. chub.sems.dpai’

Headed with the outlines of the commentaries:

Bodhicaryāvatārapañjikā by Prajñākaramati, internet, 1994
A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night by HH Dalai Lama, Shambhala, 1994
The Ketaka Jewel by Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, Shambhala, 2017
Meaningful to Behold by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, Wisdom, 1980
The Nectar of Mañjushrī’s Speech by Kunzang Pelden, Shambhala, 2007
No Time to Lose by Pema Chödrön, Shambhala, 2005
The Ocean of Good Explanation by Togmé Zangpo
Practising Wisdom by HH Dalai Lama, Wisdom, 2005
Transcendent Wisdom by HH Dalai Lama, Snow Lion, 1988-2009
The Way of Awakening by Geshe Yeshe Tobden, Wisdom, 2005

||om namo buddhāya||

Homage to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

May the supreme and precious jewel Bodhichitta (1)
take birth where it has not yet done so (2-3) (1-3);
where it has taken birth may it not decrease (4) (5-6)
but may it increase infinitely (5-10) (7-9).


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 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, 2000
The Commentary on the GREAT PERFECTION: THE NATURE OF MIND, THE EASER OF WEARINESS, known as the Great Chariot, found on, author, translator and date: unknown
Conseils Pour Bodhisattva: compiled & translated by Pháp Thân, found on, date: unknown
Destellos de Sabiduría: El Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra de Śāntideva según traducción de Isidro Gordi, Ediciones Amara, 1995
Engaging in Bodhisattva Behaviour: translated from the Tibetan, as clarified by the Sanskrit, by Alexander Berzin, found on 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 website, 2004
Entering the Path of Enlightenment: the Bodhicharyavatara of Śāntideva, 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.
Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: translated by Lama Sumati Marut (Brian K Smith), 2013-2015,
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., 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 Śāntideva, 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.

~~ O ~~

Prayer to the Lineage of the Bodhicharyavatara by Patrul Rinpoche (translated by Adam Pearcey, 2006)

Supreme Guide, Teacher of gods and men, Chief of the Shakyas,
The Bodhisattva Mañjughoṣa, Śāntideva,
Jetari, Chandrakirti the Lesser,
And lord Gunaśri, to you we pray!

Kanakaśri, Sumatikīrti,
Ngok Loden Sherab, Master Jetsünpa,
Learned Scholar Butön, Tuksé Lotsawa,
And Yaktruk Sangye Pal, to you we pray!

Sangye Pel, Trinlé Mikyö Dorje,
Könchok Jungne, Karma Chakmé,
Lord of Siddhas, Pema Rigdzin,
To you we pray, bless us with your compassion!

Namkha Ösel, Thekchok Tenzin,
Tashi Gyatso, Rigdzin Zangpo,
The great Bodhisattva Pema Tashi,
To you we pray, bless us with your compassion!

Son of the Buddhas, Gyalsé Shenpen Thayé,
Jikmé Ngotsar, Jikmé Chökyi Wangpo,
To all you Masters of Bodhichitta,
We pray, bless us with your compassion!

In the fertile field of the Four Boundless Qualities,
May the shoots of Bodhichitta take root,
Ripening into the excellent fruit of the Path of the Six Paramitas,
To become the basis of sustenance for beings of the three worlds.

Grant your blessings so that with the wisdom realising the equality of self and others,
All dualistic clinging to ourselves and objects may be cut right through,
Our own and others’ welfare may be accomplished spontaneously,
And we may perfect the supreme mind of Bodhichitta.

This was spoken by the one called Patrul.   May virtue abound!

~~ O ~~

Biography of Śāntideva excerpted from Butön’s History of Buddhism in India and its Spread to Tibet – A Treasury of Priceless Scripture

Translated by Lisa Stein and Ngawang Zangpo


Seven marvellous tales are told concerning the history of the Victor’s Heir Śāntideva:

(1) How Śāntideva Met his Personal Deity
(2) His Activities in Nālandā
(3) Refutation of Opponents
(4) Conversion of Pasandaka Proponents
(5) Feeding Beggars
(6) Helping a King
(7) Subduing Hindus

(1) How Śāntideva Met his Personal Deity

In Saurastra, south India, King Kalyanavarman was borne a son named Shantivarman.   While [this prince] was young, he studied many different subjects.   In particular, having requested from a renunciant adept the technique to accomplish the sword of Gentle Splendour, he practised it and came to behold [the Bodhisattva’s] face.

Sometime later, his father passed away, and the prince was to be enthroned the following morning.   That night he had a dream in which noble [Gentle Splendour], seated on the throne that he was to occupy the next day, said to him,

My only son, this seat belongs to me.
I am your Spiritual Mentor.
For you and I to share this one throne
Is by no means right.

The prince awoke from his dream and knew that it was impossible for him to assume the throne.   So he fled and went to Nālandā, where he took ordination from Jayadeva, foremost among five hundred scholars, and became known as Śāntideva.

(2) His Activities in Nālandā

As for his inner conduct, Śāntideva received Noble [Bodhisattva Gentle Splendour’s] teachings, settled his mind in a state of meditative evenness, and wrote profound treatises.   Outwardly however, no one was aware of his conduct apart from his eating, sleeping and moving about.   As a result, he became known by the name “Bhusuku Who Has Only Three Concerns.”

Others judged his outward behaviour and thought, “Monastic life involves three cycles of activity – [Renunciation, meditation and activity] – but this [monk] engages in none of them.   It is not right that he partake of the offerings given by the faithful: we must expel him. When it becomes his turn to recite the discourses, he will decide to leave on his own”.

When ordered to recite the discourses, he replied that he was unable to.   He asked his preceptor to give him the order and, when the preceptor did so, he consented.   Some guessed that he knew nothing whatsoever and regarded him sceptically; in order to expose what was in his mind, they arranged a high throne in the midst of a large crowd.   It was not obvious how he could get upon it, but he pressed down with his hands [on the throne] and [easily] ascended.   At that, most began to have second thoughts.

Then he asked, “Am I to recite something previously heard, or what has not been heard before?”   They asked that he recite something new and unknown.   Because [his treatises] The Compendium of Training was too long and The Compendium of the Discourses too short, he recited Entering the Conduct of Bodhisattvas, conveying vast meaning in few words.   As he recited the chapter on sublime insight, with the words “when everything substantial and insubstantial”, he rose higher and higher into space until his form finally disappeared altogether.   His voice, however, continued to resound until the recitation was complete, then he departed.

Those with perfect retention compiled [the teaching] according to what they had heard, but differing versions arose, some with seven hundred, some with one thousand, and some with over one thousand verses, so doubts arose.   [Śāntideva] had said,

The Compendium of Training
Must be consulted again and again.

And further,

Consult the abridged summary –
The Compendium of the Discourses.

Since they did not recognise [these works] and had heard that [Śāntideva] was residing in the south at the stupa of Glorious Qualities, two monks were sent to extend an invitation to him.   When they met him, they asked [about the texts].   He informed them that The Compendium of Training and The Compendium of the Discourses were to be found in his storeroom’s pillar, written in small Sanskrit letters, and advised them that the version of Entering the Conduct of Bodhisattvas in a full one thousand verses was the [correct] one.   He gave the transmission on how to teach and practise the texts.

(3) Refutation of Opponents

After that, Śāntideva travelled to the east where he disputed in a large debate.   Through his miraculous ability, he reconciled everyone and brought happiness to all.

(4) Conversion of Pasandaka Proponents

In a country not far to the west from Magadha, [Śāntideva] lived in the vicinity of five hundred adherents of the Pasandaka view.   On one occasion, a great disaster struck, exhausting all their food and water.   Miserable, the people searched for someone able to acquire [food] who could serve as their leader and whom they would obey.   The master, having gotten a begging bowl of rice, blessed it and was able to satisfy everyone [with the single bowl].   After that he turned them away from the Pasandaka view and converted them to the Sage’s Doctrine.

(5) Feeding Beggars

Once, a great famine struck: about one thousand beggars were starving and near death.   The master provided them with nourishment and taught the Doctrine, establishing them in a state of happiness.

(6) Helping a King

Then in the east, the King of Arivishana was surrounded by indigent persons, intending to attack him.   Since it was possible that he could be killed, it was imperative to offer them money.   [Śāntideva] stood guard to protect the King, but the master had nothing more than a wooden sword bound with the seal of Noble [Bodhisattva Gentle Splendour].   The [King’s] companions saw this and entreated the King, “This man is a fraud!   Look at his weapon!”

The enraged King said, “Draw your sword!”

“O Lord, this may harm you,” begged [Śāntideva], but the King replied, “May I be harmed then!   Draw it out nonetheless!”

“In that case, please Lord, close one eye and look with the other,” pleaded Śāntideva.   When the King did so, [Śāntideva] drew the sword.   Its radiance was so unbearable that it blinded the King’s exposed eye.   He begged forgiveness, took Refuge, and converted to Buddhism.

(7) Subduing Hindus

Following that, the master went south to Glorious Mountain, where he lived as did the followers of Ucchusman, with the possessions of a vagabond, naked, and subsisting on discarded remains cleaned from food pots.   Kacalaha, a female servant of the King Khativihara, saw that the washing water she had thrown out boiled when it touched the master.   At that time a Hindu teacher named Shankaradeva entreated the King, saying, “The day after tomorrow I will draw Maheshvara’s sacred circle in the sky, and if you are unable to destroy it, you must burn all the Buddhist texts and images and adopt non-Buddhist doctrines.”

The King convened the monastic community and related the matter to them.   When no one promised that he could destroy the sacred circle the King became troubled.   The servant girl then related what she had seen, and the King gave the order to search [for Śāntideva].   After looking everywhere, they finally discovered him sitting under a tree and told him about the situation.   “I am able [to destroy it],” he said, and told them to prepare an urn of water, two pieces of clothing, and fire, which they did.

The next evening [Shankaradeva] drew the first lines [of the sacred circle], filling everyone around with doubt.   On the morning of the second day, he drew the sacred circle. Just as the eastern gate was finished, the master [Śāntideva] entered a meditative state and caused a great cyclone to rise, blowing away [the mandala] and wrecking or almost wrecking everything – all plants, trees and villages.   The people gathered there were carried away, and the Hindu teachers were scattered, swept off in every direction like tiny birds in the wind.   A great darkness fell [upon the area].   But then, from between his eyebrows, the master radiated light that showed the path for the King and Queen.   They were naked and caked with dust: he [provided] washing water, and they put on the new clothes, warmed themselves by the fire, and were comfortable.

Thereafter, the Hindu temples were destroyed and [their followers] were converted to Buddhism.   That place is known even to this day as “The Land Where Non-Buddhists Were Vanquished.”

The master speaks of himself as an ordinary person, but Master Prajñākaramati refers to him as an Exalted Being.   Kriśnacārya states furthermore that [Śāntideva] touched the lotuses of Gentle Melody’s feet with the crown of his head.   This master composed three works: The Compendium of Training, a comprehensive teaching; The Compendium of the Discourses, an abridged presentation; and Entering the Conduct of Bodhisattvas, a concise presentation of vast meanings.   It is said that more than one hundred commentaries to Entering the Conduct of Bodhisattvas existed in India, but only eight were translated into Tibetan.

~~ O ~~

Biography of Śāntideva from Taranatha’s HISTORY OF BUDDHISM IN INDIA

Translated from Tibetan by Lama Chimpa & Alaka Chattopadhyaya

Now about Śāntideva.

He was born as a son of a King in Saurastra.   Because of his past merit he had in his dream the vision of Mañjushrī from his early age.   On growing up, when he was about to ascend the throne, he saw in a dream the throne already occupied by Mañjushrī, who said, ‘Oh son! This seat is mine, I am your kalyānamitra.   It will be highly improper for you to sit on the same throne with me.’

In the dream he (also) saw Āryā Tara, in the guise of his own mother, pouring hot water on his head.   When he asked the cause of this, she said, ‘Kingdom is nothing but the unbearable boiling water of hell.   I am consecrating you with this.’

So he realised that it was not proper for him to accept the Kingdom.   In the night just before the day of his coronation he ran away.

After walking for twenty one days, he reached a spring on the fringe of a forest.   As he was about to drink the water, a woman appeared and asked him not to drink that water, and offered sweeter water instead.   She led him to a Yogi living in the cave of a forest.   He received samyak-upadeśa from him, attained samādhi and incomparable knowledge through meditation.

The Yogi was none but Mañjushrī and this woman none but Tara.   Since then he had always the vision of Mañjushrī.

From there he went towards the east and lived among the attendants of King Pañcamasimha.   As he was skilled in all arts and was extremely intelligent, he was requested to become a minister.   He accepted the post for the time being.

As a mark of the āyudha of his tutelary deity, he used to keep a wooden sword constantly hanging by his side.   He spread there the fine arts that were not known before.   He also helped (the King) to rule the kingdom according to the Doctrine.

This made the other ministers jealous, who reported to the King that this man was a cheat.   Even his sword was made of nothing but wood.

So all the ministers had to show their swords to the King.   The ācārya told the King, ‘Oh Lord! If I draw it out, it will do you harm.’   Thus told, the King became all the more suspicious and said, ‘Let it harm.   Nevertheless, show it to me.’

‘In that case, please shut up your right eye and have a look at it with the left.’

Thus shown, the left eye of the King was destroyed by the lustre of the sword.   From then on he was known as a siddha.

With great wealth and honour he (the King) tried to persuade him to stay on. He told the King, ‘Look after the Kingdom according to the Doctrine and establish twenty centres for the insiders.’

Instructing him thus, he went to the madhyadeśa, received ordination under upādhyāya Jayadeva and had the name Śāntideva.   He lived there in the company of the pandits and used to eat five mahā-dronas of rice at each meal, though inwardly he was always meditating and listening to the Doctrine from Āryā Mañjushrī.

He composed the magnificent works called the Śikṣā-samuccaya and Sūtra-samuccaya, studying the Doctrine in its entirety.   Outwardly he appeared to sleep day and night and to do nothing of the three – i.e. listening (śravana), cogitating (manana) and meditating (dhyāna).

[The other pandits] discussed among themselves and decided to drive him away, as he was causing drainage to the materials reverentially donated to the Saṃgha: ‘If we recite the Sūtras by turn, he will have to go away of himself.’

When this was arranged and it was Śāntideva’s turn to recite the Sūtra, he at first did not agree to do so.   On being repeatedly pressed, he said, ‘So you prepare a seat for me and I shall recite.’

This made some of them doubtful, but most of them assembled with the idea of humiliating him.   The ācārya sat on the simhāsana and asked, ‘Should I recite the existing ones or something new?’

For sizing him up, everybody said, ‘Recite something new.’

Then he started reciting the Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra.   During the recital, he came to the verse: ‘When existence and non-existence cease to be present before the intellect …’.   While uttering these he rose up in the sky.   His body was no longer visible, but his voice continued [to be heard uninterruptedly].   Thus he completed the recitation of the Caryāvatāra.

The Śrutidhara pandits retained this in their memory.

According to the Kashmiris, this work contained more than a thousand ślokas and the benedictory verse was added by them. According to the Easterners, the work did not contain more than seven hundred ślokas and the benedictory verse was taken from the Mūlamadhyamaka.   Further, it did not originally contain the chapters on Pratividhana and Prajñā.   According to the [scholars of the] madhyadeśa, it did not contain the benedictory verse and the verse stating the resolution; and the ślokas of the Sanskrit original, when actually counted, gave the total of one thousand.

All these create confusion.

According to the ancient Tibetan account [after disappearing into the air, Śāntideva] lived in Sri Dakshina.   However, on hearing that he was living in the city of Kalinga in Trilinga, three pandits went there and requested him to return to Nālandā.   But he did not agree.

‘But then, how are we to learn the Śikṣā-samuccaya and the Sūtra-samuccaya? Again, where are the three works?’

On being thus prayed he said, ‘The Śikṣā and Sūtra written in fine pandit script on birch bark are to be found in the window-sill of my cell.   The Caryāvatāra is to be accepted as retained in the memory of the scholars of the Madhya [deśa].’

There was a monastery in the forest and he lived there with five hundred monks.   This forest was full of deer, etc.   With his magic power, he used to devour the flesh of the animals that entered his cell.   Other monks noticed the animals entering the cell of the ācārya but did not see these coming out of it.   It was also noticed that the animals were getting reduced in number.   Through the window some of them saw him eating the flesh of these. When the members of the Saṃgha started accusing him, the animals came back to life; these emerged from the cell stronger than before and went away.   Then he left the place in spite of being entreated by them to stay on.

He renounced the marks of pravrajyā and followed the Ucchusma caryā.

Now, somewhere in the south there was a conflict between the ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. When the insiders failed in the contest of [miraculous] power, the ācārya reached the place.   It was found that the slop thrown at him started boiling as soon as it touched his body.   So they knew that he possessed miraculous power.   On being requested to enter the contest of [miraculous] power with the tirthikas, he agreed to this.

The tirthikas drew an enormous mandala in the sky with coloured stone dust.   He immediately caused a strong blast, of wind which threw the tirthikas along with their mandala beyond a place where there was a river.   The wind was about to blow off also those that favoured the tirthikas, but it did no harm at all to the King and others who were in favour of the ‘insiders’.

This defeat of the tirthikas helped the Doctrine to spread and the place became famous as that of ‘the victory over the tirthikas’.

This account is highly reliable, because it is mentioned in all the basic sources.   By the influence of time, however, the name of the place is changed.   So it cannot be identified now.

Further, according to the Tibetan account, when five hundred pasandikas were cut off from their livelihood, he gave them food and drink obtained by his miraculous power and thus led them to the Doctrine.   He also did the same for a thousand beggars.   It is said that he once went to a battle-field and stopped the war with his miraculous power.

Thus his seven wonderful acts were: having the vision of the tutelary deity, bringing prosperity to Nalendra, silencing [others] in debate, converting the pasandikas, the beggars, the King and the tirthikas.

~~ O ~~

Biography of Śāntideva from the ‘Jewel Garland of Buddhist History’

Translated from the Tibetan by Lobsang N. Tsonawa

Śāntideva was born in the town of Saurastra, north of Bodh Gaya.   He was the son of King Kuśalavarma and Queen Vajrayogini.   From childhood the young prince Śantivarman (as he was named at birth) displayed remarkable skill in all fields of knowledge.   At the early age of six he met with a yogi from whom he received his first initiation and teachings on the practice of Mañjuśrī.   As a result of his engaging in this practice, he perceived Mañjuśrī (the Wisdom Deity) and received many teachings directly from him.

Prince Śantivarman was the heir to the throne, so when his father died, preparations were made for his coronation.   On the eve of his enthronement, Mañjuśrī appeared to him in a dream.   Mañjuśrī was seated upon a royal throne and said, “This seat belongs to me, because I am your teacher.   It is inappropriate for both of us to sit upon the same throne.”

That same night Tara also appeared to him in a dream in the form of his mother.   She poured hot water over his head and said, “Kingship is like the hot water of the hells: such is the situation that you are about to enter.”   When he awoke he saw his impending Kingship as a poisonous tree and hastily fled the Kingdom.

Twenty-one days after his escape, Śāntideva felt very thirsty and went in search of water.   He found a spring in the middle of the forest, but just as he was about to drink, a girl appeared and warned him not to take the water because it was poisonous.   She gave him pure water to quench his thirst and led him to a yogi who lived in the forest.   This yogi empowered him and opened many doors of wisdom and concentration.   The yogi was a manifestation of Mañjuśrī and the girl a manifestation of Tara.

When he left the forest, Śāntideva carried with him a wooden sword which symbolised the wisdom sword of Mañjuśrī.   He journeyed to the Kingdom of Pañcamasimha.   The King of that country recognised Śāntideva as a man of great wisdom and proficiency in all worldly fields of knowledge and appointed him as one of his ministers.   Śāntideva accepted this position and during his term of office introduced the skills of various crafts into the Kingdom.

Although Śāntideva always performed his duties in accordance with the Dharma, another minister who was extremely jealous of him informed the King that Śāntideva was deceitful.   The fact that Śāntideva’s sword was only made of wood, he claimed, was evidence of this.   In order to investigate this charge, the King ordered all the ministers to show their swords.   Śāntideva warned the King that the sight of his sword would cause much harm, but the King did not believe him and insisted that he obey the royal command.   “In that case,” he told the King, “close your right eye and look only with your left.”   The King did as advised, and upon seeing the brilliant radiance of the wooden sword his left eye fell out.   Śāntideva picked up the eye and pushed it back into its socket, healing it completely.   The King realised that Śāntideva was in fact a great Siddha and faith arose in him.   He made many offerings to Śāntideva and asked him to remain in his kingdom, but Śāntideva declined.   He urged the King to rule his kingdom always in accordance with the Dharma and suggested that twenty Dharma Foundations be established.   Then Śāntideva left for the great monastic centre of Nālandā.

At Nālandā, he received the ordination of a monk from the Abbott Jayadeva and was given the name Śāntideva.   During his stay in Nālandā, he received many teachings from Mañjuśrī and realised all the important points of both Sūtra and Tantra.   By overcoming all internal and external distractions, he attained realisations of the highest Stages of the Path.

Externally it seemed that all he did was to eat rice five times a day, not working or studying or meditating.   Because of this some monks named him Bhu-Su-Ku: meaning “One Who Only Eats, Sleeps and Defecates”. Having no powers of clairvoyance, they did not know the extent of his realisations and they gossiped among themselves, saying, “Śāntideva never engages in any of the three activities prescribed for a monk.   He should be expelled from the monastery.”   But as it would have been difficult to have him expelled, they decided to publically humiliate him, so that he would leave of his own accord.   Their plan was to request each monk to recite the Prātimokṣa Sūtra, thinking that Śāntideva would be unable to do this and thus would be shamed into leaving.

Initially, Śāntideva refused their request, but they persisted so he told them that he would do the recitation if they built him a throne to sit on.   They agreed to this readily and built a very high throne without any steps, thinking that there would be no way he could get onto it.   When Śāntideva approached the high throne he reached out one hand, pushed it down with his magical powers and ascended it easily.   Unperturbed, he asked the assembly if they wanted him to recite a Sūtra teaching which had previously been recited or something they had never heard before.   They answered that they would like him to recite something never before heard.   Thus he began to recite the Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra starting with the words:

“Respectfully I prostrate myself to the Sugātas
Who are endowed with the Dharmakāya
As well as to their Noble Sons
And to all who are worthy of veneration.”

When he reached the ninth chapter, which is about wisdom, and which explains the profound view of emptiness, he ascended into the air.   As he went higher and higher, his body disappeared from view but his voice could still be heard clearly.

Later, those who possessed clairaudience and those who possessed the Dhāraṇī of perfect memory recorded Śāntideva’s words.   However, there were discrepancies between the different versions.   The version of central India (Magadha) contained one thousand stanzas, the version of the eastern country of Bengal had less than eight hundred stanzas (it is said to have lacked the confession and wisdom chapters) and the Kashmiri version contained more than one thousand stanzas (excluding the verses of salutation).   It is uncertain which version was a correct record of everything that Śāntideva had said.

Hearing that Śāntideva was residing at Śrī Dakshina Kalinga (a part of Trilinga), three pandits went there to see him.   They invited them to return with them to Nālandā but Śāntideva declined.   They asked him which version of the Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra was most accurate and he stated that the version of the central country (Magadha) was a correct record of his words.   They also asked him the whereabouts of the Śikṣā-samuccaya and the Sūtrasamuccaya texts that he had previously advised them to study.   He told them that they could be found on the shelf in his old house at Nālandā.   Then he proceeded to give them teachings on these two texts.

In the same forest where Śāntideva was staying, there was a monastery of five hundred monks.   Some of these monks noticed animals entering Śāntideva’s cave but did not see them come out again; so they suspected Śāntideva of killing them.   But later, watching the cave carefully, they observed animals leaving in good health.   Then they felt contrite for having harboured such negative thoughts about him.   They asked Śāntideva to remain in the forest and teach, but he took off his monk’s robes and went to south India where he led the life of a wandering ascetic.

Once, as Śāntideva was passing by, a householder threw his washing water out of the doorway.   It fell on Śāntideva’s feet and started boiling, just as water does when dropped on a hot iron.   The householder was startled and disconcerted by this strange event.   About the same time, a non-Buddhist teacher named Shankaradeva, wanting to challenge a Buddhist pandit went to see King Khatibidhari, the ruler of this region.   The conditions he proposed for the competition were that whoever was defeated should adopt the victor’s doctrine and his places of worship would be destroyed.   He asked the King to witness this contest.   The King agreed and sent a messenger to inform the Buddhist community of the challenge.   They replied that no Buddhist was prepared to accept this challenge, and King Khatibidhari felt very disheartened.

Just then, the householder who had thrown the water at Śāntideva’s feet arrived to relate that incident to the King and to ask who this mysterious ascetic could be.   When the King had heard the householder’s story, he immediately sent messengers in every direction to find the Buddhist ascetic.   After a long search Śāntideva was found sitting under a tree as a beggar.   Śāntideva accepted the non-Buddhist’s challenge and asked to be supplied with a pot of water, some clothing and a fire so that he could tidy himself for the event.

A large crowd of people came to watch the debate.   The contestants were seated on two thrones in the center.   King Khatibidhari was seated to one side with his ministers on his left and the other pandits on his right.   The debate began.   It did not take long for Śāntideva to defeat Shankaradeva.   Then the non-Buddhist challenged his opponent to compete in a display of magic and proceeded to draw a huge Śiva mandala in the air.   When Shankaradeva had completed the eastern gate of the mandala, Śāntideva entered into the samādhi of Destructive Wind and suddenly a strong gale blew.   The King, his ministers and all the other spectators were blown over; the surrounding area was wrecked and covered with dust.   Shankaradeva with his mandala was carried up and tossed about like a bird in a fierce storm.   Then the whole area became shrouded in darkness.   Suddenly, Śāntideva shot out an intense ray of light from between his eyebrows and the wind stopped.   Instantly, everyone recovered from the ordeal and the whole area became clean and orderly once more.   To fulfil the conditions of the contest, non-Buddhist temples were closed and many non-Buddhists embraced the Buddhist doctrine.   The town in which the competition was held became known as “The Defeat of non-Buddhists”.

Once when some non-Buddhist philosophers were experiencing difficulties with their means of livelihood, Śāntideva produced food through magical power and gradually led them into the practice of Buddhadharma.   On another occasion, there was a famine and thousands of people were dying from starvation.   Śāntideva saved their lives and gave them teachings which enabled them to lead a contented existence from then on.   In Eastern Ariboshana, there lived a King who had many evil people conspiring against him.   Śāntideva helped the King avert this threat and led him and all his subjects onto the path of goodness.   Another time he prevented a war by expounding the holy Dharma and showed the warring parties the true means to attain happiness.

These are just a few examples of the many exalted deeds that Śāntideva, the great Bodhisattva, performed in his lifetime and because of which he is revered as one of the greatest Indian Masters of all time.

~~ O ~~

Biography of Śāntideva (Bhusuku) from ‘Buddha’s Lions, the Lives of the Eighty-Four Siddhas’ by Abhayadatta

Translated from the Tibetan by James B Robinson


Because Bhusuku, who was of the Kṣatriya caste, appeared to have an auspicious character, he was accepted as a monk in the monastery of Nālandā.   At this time, Devapāla was king, and he provided food and drink for the group of seven hundred monks in the Dharma-circle of Nālandā; the abbot of the ordinary section of the four sections of the Sangha had about three hundred students.   By their diligence, they had all become skillful in the five sciences, except for this Kṣatriya monk, who was very lethargic in his studies.   Moreover, each morning he ate five full bowls of rice because his appetite was like a raging fire.   King Devapāla said of him, “this person is a bhusuku, a lazy bum.”   And so the monk became known by the name of Bhusuku because he did only three things: eat, sleep and wander around.

It was the general practice in Nālandā to have those in the Dharma-circle recite the Sūtras in turn.   The abbot, speaking for the entire place, said to Bhusuku, “Since you will not take your turn reciting the Sūtras, please go elsewhere!”   But Bhusuku replied, “I have not broken any of the rules.   It is not right to throw me out. It is just that I have no luck in learning academic subjects.”   So he was permitted to stay.

But when it was again time for Bhusuku to recite the Sūtras, the monks told him to prepare well, because this time he would have to take his turn.   He accepted that he would have to do it, and all the monks of Nālandā planned to come to hear him and laugh at him.

The abbot said to Bhusuku, “When you should have been studying, you were eating or sleeping instead of preparing the Sūtras for the master of Nālandā.”   Bhusuku replied, “I will recite the Sūtras.”

The abbot then said to him, “If you cannot recite the Sūtras, you will be expelled.”   Bhusuku said he understood.   But he still could not do it, so the abbot taught him the mantra of the holy Mañjuśrī – A RA BA TSA NA – and told him to recite the mantra during the night without sleeping. He set Bhusuku to reciting the mantra with a meditation cord around his neck and knee to prevent his dozing.

As Bhusuku was reciting the mantra, the holy Mañjuśrī appeared to him and said, “How are you doing Bhusuku?” Bhusuku replied, “In the morning, it will be my turn to recite the Sūtras.   It is about this that I am making a request to the holy Mañjuśrī.”   The holy one said, “Do you not recognise me?”   “No, sir, I do not,” he answered.   “I am Mañjuśrī.”   “Oh!” said Bhusuku.   “Mañjuśrī, please, I want the siddhi of the most excellent wisdom.”   “Prepare your Sūtra in the morning,” said Mañjuśrī.   “I will give you the knowledge.”   Then Mañjuśrī disappeared.

On the morning of the Sūtra recitation, the monks, the mass of people and the king arrived at the assembly hall, all telling each other how they had come to look at Bhusuku.   The implements of offering, the flowers, and so forth were then carried in, and the assembly settled down, ready to have a good laugh.

Bhusuku, having requested the monk’s parasol, went to the throne of the vihāra without apprehension; when he sat down, he became extraordinarily radiant.   Even though there was a curtain in front of Bhusuku, everyone was wondering what was happening.

“Should I recite the Sūtras in the way they have been done before, or should I explain them in a way that has not been done before?” asked Bhusuku.

The scholars all looked at each other while the king and the people laughed.   The king said, “You have developed a method of eating that has never been seen before, and a method of sleeping and strolling about that has never been seen before.   Now preach us the Dharma in a way that has not been done before.”

Bhusuku proceeded to explain the essence of the ten divisions of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, and then rose up into the air.   The five hundred scholars of Nālandā, King Devapāla and the crowds of people all took faith and threw flowers that nearly covered Bhusuku up to his knees.   “You are not a bhusuku,” they said.   “You are a master.”

The king and all the scholars called him Śāntideva, ‘Peaceful Deity’, because he quieted the pride of the king and scholars.   The assembled scholars requested him to make a commentary.   When that was done, they asked him to become the abbot.   But he did not agree to that.

He placed in the temple his most precious belongings as a monk, the monk’s robes and the begging bowl, and to the surprise of the abbot and the monks, he left the vihāra.   Eventually he came to the city of fifty thousand inhabitants called Dekira.   Holding a gilt-handled wooden sword in his hand, he went to the king and said: “It is seemly that I be your swordsman.”   And so he made his living in this way, and was given ten times gold coins a day.   For twelve years he was a swordsman, yet he never deviated from his noble aim.

Then one day in autumn, the swordsmen, including Śāntideva, made offerings to an image of the goddess Umā.   While they were all washing their swords, one of the men saw that Śāntideva’s sword appeared to be of wood, and he reported this to the king.

The king said to Śāntideva, “Show me your sword.”   But Śāntideva replied, “If I showed it to you, it might bring you harm.”   “Even if it were to harm me, so be it,” said the king.   “Then cover your eyes,” said Śāntideva.   He then drew the sword from its scabbard; its light was so bright the people could not endure it.   They begged him to put the sword away, for even their covered eyes were blinded.   Śāntideva then anointed them with his tears, and their sight was restored.   Amazed, they asked him to remain and be an object of veneration, but he would not stay.

Śāntideva went up onto a rocky mountain, where he was seen killing wild animals by his magic power.   He was also seen eating their flesh, and this was reported to the king.   The king and his court went to the mountain and questioned Śāntideva: “Once you were an ascetic, chief of those at Nālandā.   There you explained the Dharma; here you demonstrated that you could cure blindness.   With such abilities, how can you bear to do an injury, let alone take life?”

But Śāntideva said, “I have not killed anything.”   He then opened the door of his hut.   They all looked out upon the mountain and saw that the wild animals had been restored to life, and had even doubled in number.   Soon the animals extended over mountain and valley.   When the animals finally disappeared into the distance, and the king and the fortunate others were again alone, they realised that all existing things are illusory, only a dream.   Then, realising that things are not real from the very beginning, they set out upon the spiritual path.   Śāntideva spoke:

These animals which I killed
in the beginning did not come from anywhere.
In the duration, they did not stay anywhere.
In the end, they were not destroyed into anything.
From the outset, existing things are not real,
so how can the killing and the killed be real?
Behold, still having compassion for living beings,
Bhusuku has said this.

Reciting this, manifesting his abilities to all, he humbled the king and all the others and instructed them in the Dharma.   He obtained the siddhi of Mahāmudrā, realising the unity of body, speech and mind.   The qualities of the Dharma arose in him instantly; finally, after a hundred years, he went in that very body to the realm of the Dākas.