GGBC Web Site: Index | Whats New | Info | Education | Practices | Operations | Links
You are here>> Home - Education - Universal Responsibility - Bodhisattvas Way Of Life Chapter 1 Commentary

Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Chapter One Commentary

Geshe Tsoephel

3.22 - 3.25 1999 - Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center, Silicon Valley

Transcribed by Kent Sandvik, with corrections from translator Rinchen and Geshe Tsoephel.


3-22-99  - First Evening.

Today Geshe-la will teach from the first three chapters of Shantideva's text. These chapters are for generating bodhichitta. The next three chapters are to for not decreasing what you have developed (bodhichitta). Chapter nine is the wisdom chapter, and chapter 10 is the dedication chapter.

Even if Shantideva's text deals with the whole path of Buddha's teachings, it's an important text. The text speaks of bodhichitta that is the essence of the path. Still, the text deals with the whole path of Buddha -- is a commentary of all Buddha's teachings, starting with the four noble truths (the first teachings Buddha gave, Heart sutra was the second teaching of Lord Buddha, third teaching was Distinguishing between definite and interpretive teachings). All these teachings on three levels were given based on mental disposition of the practitioners (Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana). So all these three major teachings are contained within the 84000 teachings of Buddha, with the purpose to provide enlightenment for the individual.

Different levels of Buddhist teachings are different paths to enlightenment, Hinayana, Sutrayana, Vajrayana. These all could lead to enlightenment. Bodhichitta is essential for whatever path you practice, as it's the essence of enlightenment. In some cases, bodhichitta serves as a cause of paths, in others bodhichitta serves as a simultaneous factor of the path, or then as the fruit of the path. Bodhichitta teachings are important in the Buddhist path. This is why Shantideva emphasizes bodhichitta in this text.

In order to generate this precious mind of enlightenment it is important to develop great compassion to all sentient beings. To do this it is important to develop compassion to yourself and develop the wish to reach nirvana for you (renunciation).

The first chapter primarily talks about developing bodhichitta, but at the same time it also talks about developing renunciation, about decreasing attachment to all the goodness of cyclic existence. This leads to the realization of renunciation. The first chapter talks about the faults of cyclic existence, especially of the lower realms, and of the importance of achieving the higher states (humans, devas (god beings)).

The second and third chapter directly talks about purification, and indirectly talks about the laws of cause and effect, the faults of cyclic existence, and the achievement of nirvana.

Geshe-la would like to talk about the background of Shantideva, the composer of this text. If we know the composer, we will develop faith towards the originator of this text.

Shantideva was born north of Bodh Gaya. His father's name was Gyel.wey Go.cha (Victorious Armor), his mother's name was Vajrayogini. His was born with many good signs. His given name was Shi.we Go.cha (armour of peace).

During his childhood he had great respect to his parents, and his friends had great respect for him due to his extraordinary behavior. His father died in order to show that sentient beings are subject to impermanence, and after this Shantideva developed more realizations into impermanence and death.

When his father died, the subjects asked Shantideva to take his father's position. He could not refuse this, so he accepted to take the position of king. The night before the ceremony he had a dream about the throne he was going to sit on. Manjushri showed up in his dream and said: "You are going to sit on my throne. You are my student. How could student and disciple sit on the same throne?"

As he rose up from this dream, he realized he would be more beneficial to other people if he became a monk than a king. The same night he left for Nalanda monastery. When he came to Nalanda, he went to see the abbot and the foremost scholar of Nalanda, Gyal.wa Lha. He received his ordination, and received the name Shantideva. Under this great scholar and master Shantideva also became a master in studies, debating, and so forth.

Even if he was a great scholar, he didn't show this openly to others, so others didn't know. Students at Nalanda who didn't like Shantideva wanted to have him expelled from the monastery. They stated that the place is full of scholars, and said Shantideva is no scholar, he just knows about eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom. So they asked Shantideva to give a teaching, and if he didn't do this, he would have to leave the monastery. They asked Shantideva to give a teaching. Shantideva didn't accept the first time, only the second time when asking did he accept their request. They planned to insult him in a big group of students. They built a very high throne, assuming Shantideva would not know how to get up on the throne. They also assembled a big group of monks. When Shantideva came to the throne, he touched the throne, and the big throne shrank down so Shantideva could go up on it. So this immediate gave a strange feeling to the group -- how could this happen?

Then Shantideva sat on the throne and asked the group what kind of teaching he should give, something that has been taught before, or something that has never been taught before? The monks requested him to teach something that has never taught before. So this is why Shantideva taught Bodhisattva's Way of Life.

Shantideva gave this teaching, and when his teaching came to the ninth chapter (wisdom chapter), there's a phrase in this chapter, "…whatever is existent and nonexistent..." At this point he rose to the sky, and from the sky he gave the tenth chapter. He was invisible for the people, but those who have eye clairvoyance could hear his teachings (such as highly realized beings). The monks and the people who liked Shantideva felt very sad as Shantideva was now gone, and those who were against him felt very impressed and very sorry about what they've done.

The text has ten chapters. The first chapter is called The Benefit of Bodhichitta. The explanation of bodhichitta begins with three outlines: paying homage, the promise of the composition, and the reason for the composition. The name of the text is Bodhisattva-avacharyatara in Sanskrit, Bodhi is enlightenment, sattva means mind (mind of enlightenment),  ava - conduct, charayatara, engage in.

The reason the Tibetan text has homage to Bodhichitta is that the text should belong to one of the three baskets of Buddhas' teachings. This text belongs to the Sutra basket. The text primarily deals with developing concentration. Each of these baskets individually contains the three principal teachings: developing concentration, developing wisdom, and developing morality.

Geshe-la gave this teaching several times before, and usually gives a brief explanation of the stanzas. But this made it difficult for students to get the whole meaning of the text, so later Geshe-la changed the style so he lets the students read the text, and then gives a commentary, and then the students read commentaries from others as well, and also do question and answer sessions as part of the teaching.


As it says in the text, Sugatas are very precious. Within our own mind stream we have the nature of our mind, the emptiness of the mind. When we purify our mind stream, eradicate the faults of our mind, we realize the clear light, nature of emptiness of the mind, pure and perfect, the perfect abandonment. The Sugatas, perfect abandonment has three characteristics. These are abandonment, abandonments without exception, and thorough abandonment.

The reason it's called abandonment is that the non-buddhist great yogis/yoginis and masters do not have this excellent abandonment. Even if they have achieved high powers, and have temporarily eradicated delusions and bad emotions, they are not perfect. They have no perfect abandonment of the delusions and bad emotions. Buddha eradicated his all bad mental imprints, including subtle ones.

The second abandonment, abandonment without exception, is that the delusions will never come back again. Hinayana practitioners who have achieved a high state, such as stream-enterers, have abandoned great many but not all mental afflictions.

The third abandonment, thorough abandonment, is that foe destroyers have reached nirvana, but have not eradicated the subtle mental afflictions that hinders full enlightenment. Buddhas also have eradicated all the deluded states including the subtle imprints that are obstacles towards enlightenment.

The perfect abandonment that has three characteristics is the nature of Buddha's mind, Dharmakaya, wisdom truth body. If we look at ourselves, this nature resides within ourselves, the nature of Buddha, the seed of Buddhahood, the abiding Buddha. At this moment this nature is covered by deluded states of mind. When we try to eradicate the ignorance and other deluded states of mind we are able to actualize the nature of Buddha, Dharmakaya.

The Sugata also has a notion of perfect realization. A Buddha with the omniscient mind can see the nature of all phenomena, selflessness of persons and phenomena. Buddha can directly see all the phenomena because of the omniscient mind, and this realization is very stable and continuous. Buddhas know entire phenomena, they could directly see all existence.

The first perfect realization is that a Buddha could see the selflessness of persons and phenomena. The second perfect realization is that a Buddha is very firm in this realization of selflessness of persons and phenomena. The third perfect realization is that a Buddha could experience both the conventional truth and the ultimate truth at the same time.

Dharmakaya is a perfect abandonment and perfect realization, symbol of dharma. We need to develop this.

Noble sons refers to Sangha, and to all those who are worthy for the veneration, Foe Destroyers, those who have achieved Nirvana (Hearer/Listeners, Solitary Realizers), and also to your Lamas and your masters.

The purpose of Shantideva's homage to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, has two purposes:

a) temporal purpose, compose the text successfully

b) ultimate purpose, to achieve enlightenment


Vows of the Buddhas sons refer to the teachings in the lower scope of persons (Vinaya). Shantideva says that he will not explain something that is not explained by Buddha. 

Here the stanza talks about a self-purpose, to realize one's own faults. Shantideva directly talks about recognizing the faults of those listening to the teaching. Shantideva is referring to knowing one's own faults. He is giving the teaching to develop his own mind.  The listeners’ motivation has to be good, and not think of faults of others, and have similar negative states of mind.

This part talks about recognizing the qualities from the side of listeners.  Shantideva talks about the purpose of others.  If you look at stanza 1-2 and 1-3, they look to contradict each other. However, the second stanza refers to three faults of the listeners, if the three faults are there, the teachings are not of any benefit. In stanza 3, if the listener is free from the three faults, then the teaching is of benefit.

Listen carefully, with no distractions in mind. Don't be like a leaking pot, holds nothing. Whatever you hear, keep it in mind. What you have heard, hold this with mindfulness, without loosing any of the knowledge.


Q: What are the two Buddha Bodies of Mind?

A: There are two Buddha natures:  emptiness of Buddha's mind, and the buddha nature of the subtle mind. We have delusions just now, when these are purified we get these two kayas (Buddha Bodies). Therefore Buddha has a perfect abandonment, and perfect realizations, both having three exceptional characteristics. Whoever has these abandonments and realizations are called Sugatas. While Solitary Realizers and Hearer/Listeners (achieved nirvana) also have same kind of abandonments and realizations, but these realizations are not perfect. Also, those who have achieved different paths have achieved levels of these abandonments and realizations. Buddha's realizations and abandonments came from the path when they practiced as ordinary beings before becoming buddhas, and finally these realizations and abandonments became perfect.



3-23-99  - Second Evening. 

Great Indian master Dharmakirti made offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha, being the most perfect person, Sugata.

Yesterday Geshe-la talked about the perfect abandonments and attainments, three each. These could be proved by logical reasoning, in terms of self-purpose, and in terms of purpose of others. The truth body and the nature truth bodies are perfections for oneself. The two form bodies, Nirmanakaya and Sambogakaya, these are perfections for the purpose of others.

Bodhichitta, mind of enlightenment, is a very powerful mind. When we talk about the four kayas (bodies), these kayas are all fruits of bodhichitta. All future Buddhas (as well as past) depend on bodhichitta. So this text talks about developing bodhichitta for oneself, and also about developing the three stages of the path (lower, middle, highest).

This text talks about the development of bodhichitta, and this stanza also talks about developing the lower scope of the path. When you have achieved the precious human form, if you don't take use of it, it will be harder to achieve a similar human rebirth in future. The lower scope is to attain higher rebirth, the middle scope is to achieve liberation from samsara, the highest scope to attain full buddhahood. By having this human form one could achieve all these aims. But if you don't take advantage of this opportunity, and think "I could get another human form later", it is very wrong to think like this, you might not get the human form for a very long time.

This stanza talks about the logic of how difficult it is to develop a virtuous mind, and how it's very easy to develop negative states of mind. You should eradicate negative states of mind, and develop virtuous states of mind. If we look at a moment of a light in the night, it's a very short moment, while the moment of darkness is very long. Similarly for ordinary people, we have mostly negative states of mind, or neutral states of mind. But the virtuous states of mind are very rare. Try to develop more positive states of mind and eradicate the negative states of mind.

Many human beings live their whole life without practicing dharma. Many of us who practice, maybe we only practice a very short time, while meanwhile we eat, drink, sleep, and the mind is not focused on virtuous activities. By practicing you will spend more and more time on actual dharma.

This talks about the many benefits of bodhichitta.  Bodhichitta is a very powerful antidote that eradicates negative karmas you have accumulated. It could eradicate even very strong negative karma, such as killing one's own parents, or killing masters, sangha, arhats (sacred objects), or killings done with four factors such as having a very strong motivation and hatred of killing, and doing the actions of killings, and rejoicing in what one has done, and wanting to do it again. With these four powers the action becomes very powerful.

We have had countless past lives, and we had done killings of other sentient beings. Even if we had done small negative actions, by not purifying these small actions the fruit of these negative actions increase such as the interest on loans. This ‘interest’ becomes very powerful and results in very negative effects.

Bodhichitta is the only thing that has the powerful potential to purify these powerful negative karmas.

If you ignore these negative karmas that you have accumulated without applying antidotes to eradicate them, these negative karmas can produce various negative fruits.

"Ripening fruit" will result in rebirth in lower realms. It can also give you the fruit that is similar to its own actions. Once you are able to free yourself from lower realms, and take rebirth in a higher realm, you will still get a similar effect in that life. For example, if you have done killing, you rejoice in the actions of killing later, resulting in again more negative karma.  It is very important to purify these negative actions (karmas). The best way to purify these negative actions is by bodhichitta.

This stanza says that bodhichitta can produce the four resulting kayas, and the five exalted wisdoms, possessed by Buddhas. In many eons, Buddhas investigated, and all came to the conclusion that the mind of enlightenment gives the birth of buddhahood. Therefore bodhichitta is a very important part that will give as a result buddhahood in itself. However, that birth has to be accompanied with the path of wisdom.

This says that bodhichitta will not only bring the ultimate state of buddhahood, but it also has the potential to fulfill other wishes. Those who wish to destroy the sorrows of cyclic existence, bodhichitta can become free from such sorrows. Also, bodhichitta has the potential to free different kinds of sufferings of different beings, and it also has the potential to give happiness of all kinds. You should never give up the mind of enlightenment, even if you have to experience many difficulties when developing bodhichitta. One should try very hard, never to give up bodhichitta, having a firm confidence in the benefits of bodhichitta.

This stanza says that it's possible to develop bodhichitta, whether one tries or not. One could definitely cultivate bodhichitta, in various forms. All the beings of the six realms could develop it, even beings in hell realms, and other realms. Many of beings in hell realms and animal realms have developed bodhichitta! This human form is very precious, and one should try to develop bodhichitta in this form. One should try very hard to do this.

According to the sutra "Contemplating the kindness of others and repaying it" Buddha Shakyamuni before his enlightenment first developed bodhichitta when he was in a hell realm. He, in one of his previous incarnations, was pulling a wagon with a friend, and his friend was physically very weak, and not capable of pulling the wagon. He developed great compassion and pulled the wagon for his friend and this action developed bodhichitta at that time.

In the "Sutra Requested by the king of Nagas" it says that about 21000 nagas developed bodhichitta. Nagas are regarded as animals living in the animal realm. If we look at ourselves, we could definitely develop bodhichittas as human beings, especially if the beings in lower realms could do this.

If you strive hard and develop bodhichitta, you receive two benefits:

1. You receive an exceptional name. Even if the being is still in cyclic existence, whether as a human or animal, or even a hell being, if developed bodhichitta the being will receive the name 'the child of buddhas'.

2. You receive an exceptional purpose. You will become worthy of veneration, homage, prostrations, and offerings.

Everyone likes good service. Buddha's son means bodhisattva whether a man or a women. Anyone who has bodhisattva is the son of a Buddha.


This talks about the benefits of bodhichitta, giving examples:

1. The example of gold. Making elixir can change various metals into gold. Just like this, having developed bodhichitta, even if we have this unclean human form, composed by flesh and bones and so forth, this unclean body could be transformed into a clean and precious form of a Buddha (two forms of Buddha, or four forms of Buddha).

Therefore we should try hard to develop bodhichitta that has the potential to transform this physical body into the enlightened form of a Buddha.

Everyone likes to clean the body, take long showers and son. With bodhichitta, you clean the body from inside and transform it into the body of a Buddha, so you no longer need to clean your dirty body every day!

This stanza talks about the difficulty of developing and finding the precious bodhichitta, the preciousness of it. Since the limitless mind of the Buddha, with the enlightened mind investigated and found that it is only bodhichitta that has the potential to overcome the sufferings and the weaknesses of all sentient beings, so it is very rare, and few beings have developed this mind. Buddha says that this precious mind of enlightenment has a very great potential to fulfill the purposes of all sentient beings.

It is very difficult to find and develop bodhichitta, and it also has the great potential to fulfill the wishes of all sentient beings. Those who wish to develop bodhichitta should think of the benefits and when developing it firmly hold to it.

This stanza says that the fruit of bodhichitta is not only finished when used, it will increase limitlessly. The fruits of our virtuous actions depend on our motivation. If one has a strong motivation to achieve a higher rebirth, and practices dharma, due to the actions one will experience the fruits of higher rebirth. However when this fruit has been experienced, it is gone.

If you have the motivation to achieve nirvana, and as a result of this you achieve nirvana, then the fruit is finished. This is analogous to a banana tree. Once the fruit is gone, then the branch is cut down. However the fruit of bodhichitta is very different. The fruit of bodhichitta will continuously increase all the time. Once you use the fruit, it will not finish, it will be there all the time, and the fruit will even increase.

If you practice giving motivated by bodhichitta, then the fruit of this will continuously increase. Next time you practice giving, you will do it with bodhichitta, this way the fruit will increase all the way to enlightenment.

This is the example of that bodhichitta can give protection from great fear. For example, if you want to go to a place, and the road is dangerous (thieves, robbers), you have to rely on someone (police) and with this help you reach the destination. Similarly, we have accumulated very negative karmas, and these can give you rebirth in hell realms. If you do not apply antidotes and purify these karmas, this will definitely happen. So it will be very difficult to purify these negative karmas using other practices. Bodhichitta has the most power and potential to purify these strong negative karmas. So by relying on bodhichitta, by developing it you could purify very powerful negative karmas.

The first two lines says that having developed bodhichitta, it can purify strong negative karmas in a very short time. The example is given here with the fire at the end of the eon. At the end of this eon the universe is emptied, it begins from the hell realms, going through hungry ghost realms, human realms, deva realms of the first concentration beings. Eventually the whole universe with all the beings becomes empty, and the beings move to another universe. Hell realm beings' black karma is exhausted, and the beings move to deva realm. Animals move to other realm, and finally the universe has no longer any sentient beings. Then the sun shines, everything burns, two suns shine, water dry up, five-six suns, all oceans die, and after last big sun shines, one movement, the universe is gone.

Similarly with the help of bodhichitta very negative karmas instantly disappear.

The next two lines says that if you want to know more about the benefits of bodhichitta,  the information is given in a text by Lord Maitreya to the disciple Sudhana.


Q: Why once you generate bodhichitta it will purify all negative karmas?

A: The reason is that when we create negative actions, it is based on relationship to other beings. If we develop bodhichitta, mind of enlightenment for other beings, this mind can eradicate the black karmas.


Q: Do you still experience the fruits of negative karma, or eradicate the seeds of the negative karmas when developing bodhichitta?

A: Here when we say that bodhichitta could eradicate karmas, it relates to the fruits of negative karmas. To eradicate the seeds of negative karma, one needs to get the realization of emptiness in combination with bodhicitta.


Q: When you see emptiness, it does not mean that you have generated bodhichitta, and vice versa?

A: Some first practice emptiness, and then experience bodhichitta, others do the other way around. Solitary realizers practice emptiness realizations, and then reach nirvana. Some bodhisattvas practice bodhichitta first, and then realize emptiness later. Some do the other way around.


Q: All beings could generate bodhichitta. What about animals that are dumb? How could they generate bodhichitta?

A: Usually animals and beings in lower realms have unfavorable conditions to practice dharma. Sometimes they instantly develop a virtuous mind, such as bodhichitta. In this situation they are in a favorable condition to practice dharma. Sometimes emanations of Buddhas manifest amongst animals. Buddhas think of all sentient beings. Buddha could teach for example by talking like a bird.  There are many stories of Buddhas manifesting as dogs. Buddhas could even manifest as food. When the sentient being receives this food, the being will get free from suffering of hunger and thirst. Unfortunate beings would not see the food and drink that even a Buddha has manifested.

For example beings in hell realms and hungry ghosts, they suffer from thirst for many eons (long time). Even if they come in front of an ocean, they could only see the underground of the ocean itself. The trees look dead even if they are full of fruit. This all is due to their karma.



2-24-99  - Third Evening

This stanza talks about recognizing bodhichitta, it also talks about the nature, the definition of bodhichitta, and the divisions of it. There exist two types of bodhichitta: wishing and engaging bodhichitta.

The definition is, as Maitreya stated, that generating bodhichitta is becoming enlightened for the purpose of others. This bodhichitta has two aspirations. The first aspiration is (the cause of bodhichitta) to serve for others' well being. The second aspiration is to achieve the state of enlightenment for oneself. Bodhichitta is the primary mental consciousness that has these two aspirations.

How do you develop these two aspirations? First you develop the thought of wishing others to be placed into enlightenment. Then you develop the aspiration for enlightenment for yourself. However, when you actually achieve enlightenment, you first gain this state of Buddhahood, and then you will place others into this state of enlightenment.

In brief, the nature of bodhichitta has two types, wishing and engaging. But if you extensively talk about the nature of bodhichitta, there are many different divisions: simultaneous factors, examples, and more divisions. The examples are not explained here, for example like the moon, the fire, the treasure, precious things, king, clouds and so forth... Simultaneous factors are altruistic thought, aspiration, and so forth.

This gives examples of the two types of bodhichitta. The example of the wishing and engaging bodhichitta is: suppose we decide to go to a certain place, but we have not yet started the process of going. Just like this, even if we have a strong wish to achieve enlightenment and go on the path to this goal, if one is not engaging in bodhisattva activities and dharma practices, this is called the wishing bodhichitta.

Engaging bodhichitta is actually involved in the bodhisattva practices. This happens after a strong wish to become enlightened, and this is thus engaged bodhichitta.

This wishing bodhichitta is started from the path of accumulation up to the ten grounds of a bodhisattva (bhumi levels). The engaging bodhichitta is started on the path of accumulation up to enlightenment; even Buddhahood has this practice of engaging bodhichitta.

Bodhisattvas who do the practice of meditative equipoise from the first ground to the tenth ground (from Joyous ground to Dharma cloud), in these states they have the wishing bodhichitta. This is not engaged bodhichitta, as the bodhisattvas are completely absorbed in the state of meditative equipoise, and are not engaged in the six perfections at the same time. Even if they have the inclinations of the six perfections, these are not present during this meditation state. The engaging bodhichitta could only be practiced after they arise from this meditative state.

The moment of generating wishing and engaging bodhichitta is very uncertain for practitioners. For instance, even if someone has not achieved any of the five paths, a person takes the bodhisattva vows. He or she engages in the practice of giving, and simultaneously he or she develops bodhichitta. This bodhichitta is called engaging bodhichitta. Late this person would develop wishing bodhichitta. The other way is that someone first develops wishing bodhichitta, and later when this person takes bodhisattva vows he or she develops engaging bodhichitta.

Many practitioners first achieve wishing bodhichitta, and then engaging bodhichitta, but some achieve in the beginning engaging bodhichitta, and then later wishing bodhichitta. The texts state that one can develop actual engaging bodhichitta before reaching any of the five paths. You could take bodhisattva vows before reaching any of the paths, and you could practice any of the six perfections. If you practice the perfection of giving it is called engaging bodhichitta, so you could achieve engaging bodhichitta before reaching any of the five paths. Other texts say that this is not doable. There's debate amongst the monks on this point of view.

In Shantideva's text (Bodhisattva's Way of Life) it says that if one is involved in the practice of giving while having wishing bodhichitta (strong wish to reach enlightenment) it is called actual engaged bodhichitta.

This verse is about the benefit of wishing and engaging bodhichitta. It says that by developing wishing bodhichitta, even if you dwell in cyclic existence, you will have greater fruit than all the goodness and excellence of cyclic existence. Yet, this fruit is incomparable with engaging bodhichitta, this is far, far greater than wishing bodhichitta.

What is the benefit of engaging bodhichitta? Verses 18 and 19 talks about this topic.

1-18, 1-19
Who has perfectly seized this mind, when one takes the bodhisattva vows, and engages in the six perfections, such a person is involved with engaging bodhichitta. By having the vows and engaging, in whatever worldly action one does, eating, sleeping, walking, drinking, the merit of the virtues naturally increase more and more.

There are differences between engaging bodhichitta and the bodhisattva vows. The engaging bodhichitta is a primary mental consciousness, while vows is something you promise, a commitment. When you take the bodhisattva vows, the way of taking these, and also when doing engaged bodhichitta, this all happens at the same time.

When a person develops wishing bodhichitta, and then takes the bodhisattva vows, when he takes the vows, his or her wishing bodhichitta transforms into engaging bodhichitta.

After having developed wishing bodhichitta and taken the vows, when engaged in activities such as sleeping, when the bodhisattva is still having the bodhisattva vows, his or her virtues will increase all the time due to the power of the bodhisattva vows.

How can one say that the two types of bodhichitta have so many benefits? This is first proven by oral transmissions by Buddha, and secondly by logical reasoning.

The engaging bodhichitta benefits are described by sutras, in the Sutra Requested by Subahu. This sutra was given for those who are on the lower vehicle path, in order to inspire them to the Mahayana path.

Secondly, in this it talks about the logical reasoning, proving the benefits of engaging bodhichitta. There are four reasons.  This stanza talks about the limitless benefits of wishing bodhichitta.

If you have a headache, you wish that your headache will free all sentient beings from their headaches. This prayer has very profound benefits.

Geshe-la would like to tell a story about this topic. There was a captain called General Zawo, he had three sons. His first and second sons died. When he got his third son he called him his daughter, to remove the obstacles. However, his son also had a bad headache that he knew he was going to die anyway. Before he died he did a strong prayer from the bottom of his heart to develop the bodhichitta mind: "May my own headache serve all the beings that have headaches." After this son died, he was reborn in deva realm, at that time he came to understand why he was born there. This was due to the strong prayers and motivation. So this is the benefit of the great wish of bodhichitta, the fruit of his prayers. His motivation was very strong, even if he didn't have bodhichitta.

The next verse says that if someone has a strong motivation to eliminate sickness, no need to mention about the power of that motivation that eliminates the different difficulties of limitless amounts of sentient beings.

A single individual in their daily life have different kinds of sufferings, mental, physical, and these beings are numberless. At the same time the sentient beings can achieve ultimate happiness that is limitless. If one has a strong wish to eliminate all the sufferings and provide ultimate happiness, then the benefit of such a motivation is of course limitless. If there is a great benefit of eliminating even a single suffering, what about then the motivation of eliminating all the sufferings of all sentient beings?

The next verses talk about the different levels of kindness, wishing to help others. There's no greater beneficial thought than bodhichitta.

This verse says that there is no greater part of benefit than the bodhichitta path. Bodhichitta concerns about eliminating the entire suffering of all beings, and giving the ultimate happiness to all beings, from this life, to next life, to the state of achieving enlightenment. There's no comparison.

Even if parents do have good thoughts and kindness, their concern is mostly for this life for their kids, eliminating problems in this life. Deities such as Brahma and Indra do have potential and power to give some help, but they have very temporary powers that last a short time, and they are also very partial, so their deeds are very minor compared with bodhichitta deeds.

The next verses talks about ordinary beings that have self-cherishing attitudes, yet their self-cherishing attitude is incomparable compared with bodhichitta, of far less value than bodhichitta.

Ordinary beings have a strong self-cherishing attitude, trying to get all the good and happiness, but they do not have the wisdom and intelligence to give ultimate happiness for this life and future lives. With this attitude, how could they give ultimate happiness for other sentient beings?

This condenses the benefits of bodhichitta and gives a brief explanation about this.

Buddhas and bodhisattvas have the mind of enlightenment, the concern for all sentient beings, eliminating their sufferings, and giving them ultimate everlasting happiness. This is something that is never developed by ordinary beings. Therefore this bodhichitta mind is very precious, like a jewel. Those who possess such a mind are precious, are worthy of veneration.

Until here the text has talked about the benefits of wishing bodhichitta. Now the text will talk about the benefits of engaging bodhichitta.

If there is great benefit for developing wishing bodhichitta, of course the benefit of engaging bodhichitta is immeasurable. The text says "the source of all joys". This is the causes of getting higher rebirths, human, deva births, and liberation from samsara. Engaging bodhichitta is also called the panacea that removes the pain, a medicine that eliminates all sufferings.

Engaging bodhichitta is something that is practiced by bodhisattvas, by deeds and activities. It has immeasurable benefits.

This has a logical reasoning explaining that engaging bodhichitta is of great benefit.

The sutra says that the motivation of benefiting all sentient beings is greater or superior than making offerings to all objects of refuge throughout the space.

The merit from the wish to reach enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings is greater than making offerings to all Buddhas.

If someone has great benefit from the mere wish of enlightenment for all sentient beings, then what needs to mention about bodhisattvas and Buddhas engaging in the activities, no need to mention the benefit from their practices.


Q: Earlier Geshe-la was saying that there was a different sequence, doing engaging bodhichitta before wishing bodhichitta. How could this happen, don't you need the wish before the thought and action?

A: When we take bodhisattva vows, before this, we develop the intention to do this. This is not wishing bodhichitta. This is similar to actual bodhichitta. Then one takes the bodhisattva vows, by keeping these vows, if you engage in the practice of giving, you develos bodhichitta. This is engaging bodhichitta (definitely qualified engaged bodhichitta). Later one could develop qualified wishing bodhichitta.

The earlier we have the qualities for wishing bodhichitta, it's like like having a taste of the sugar cane. If you taste the outside, you will have the same taste as the inside, but the taste is not actually the same as the inside of the sugar cane. It is similar, a little bit sweet, but not fully sweet and delicious as in the inside of the cane.

When you practice engaging bodhichitta, and later realize emptiness, then bodhichitta is an obvious state of mind.


Q: When you meditate on emptiness, you don't generate bodhichitta?A: It's not obvious at this moment, but you have the mind of bodhichitta underneath.

Chandrakirti wrote in his praise of the Great Compassion, the compassion, bodhichitta and non-dual wisdom are the three causes of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

This particular bodhichitta refers to what is like a sugar cane skin, which is developed with effort by an ordinary practitioner before one takes the Bodhisattva vows.


Q: Every time I'm sick, I give all the good to all sentient beings, but they are still stick. I can't help them, and I want all the benefits going to them...

A: The natural thing is to cry... In reality, it is difficult for this to happen, even as you wish this to happen. But this is a great method of developing bodhichitta, a great system by Shantideva, who talked about equalizing self with others. Even if we are not able to exchange the happiness with others' problems, directly, still, this is a good way to quickly develop bodhichitta.

Usually you take the sufferings of all sentient beings, and give strong love, and past, present and future virtues to all sentient beings. This is a good practice of compassion. Then bodhichitta is close. Compassion is thinking of all sentient beings that suffer.

When you have compassion, you take the suffering of all sentient beings. With love you give happiness and your virtues to all sentient beings. Do this at least three times a day. Shantideva says you breath in and take the suffering of all sentient beings, and you breath out and give love and merit. This develops bodhichitta.


2-25-99  - Fourth Evening

Earlier we talked about the benefits of bodhichitta. Bodhichitta has the potential; bodhisattvas develop bodhichitta concerning of eliminating the suffering of all sentient beings that nobody wants to experience, and bodhisattvas want to provide ultimate happiness to sentient beings that the sentient beings are seeking.

Do we really need to develop bodhichitta towards sentient beings, as sentient beings are already experts on fulfilling one's own purposes, and also good at eliminating their own sufferings, and generate happiness for themselves. So do we really need to help them?

The answer is that of course we need to work to give happiness and peace to other beings, because we know the causes and source of happiness, bodhichitta and bodhisattva practices, and wisdom realizing emptiness, and all the conditions and factors that eliminate the sufferings and provide ultimate happiness.

Although other sentient beings want happiness, they do not know how to collect the causes of happiness, and do not know how to eliminate the causes for suffering. So this is why we need to help them.

The verse talks about sentient beings that do not know about the causes of happiness. Even if all sentient beings wish happiness, they have the causes of suffering, ignorance. Ignorance is the root cause of suffering, and is present in our mind and mental factors. Our mind is influenced by ignorance. Therefore all beings have very few positive states of mind, while they have many more negative states of mind, caused by ignorance. Therefore the mind becomes the servant of ignorance, and constantly collects the causes of suffering, and the sentient beings experience this suffering.

Why do we have this ignorance? We have two kinds of ignorances, ignorance of self-grasping, and the ignorance of grasping of other objects. We suffer because of these two ignorances.

We classify people into three groups, friends, enemies and strangers. We have good feelings towards friends, feel hatred towards enemies, and have neutral states of mind concerning strangers.

Due to this attitude, hatred, attachment, and ignorance increases more and more, naturally increasing our sufferings. This is how sentient beings run towards misery.

As it says, bodhichitta can benefit (greatly) all sentient beings, and the causes of bodhichitta are the four limitless thoughts (love, compassion, equanimity, rejoicing). However, since we are under the influence of ignorance and other deluded states of mind (hatred, anger, desire...), the deluded states of mind destroy our virtuous states of mind, bodhichitta and the virtues we have accumulated. This is why we constantly destroy our ultimate happiness, and do not reach this state.

Sentient beings do not know the sources of happiness and suffering, so they are involved in misdeeds and bad actions. It says that as we train on the practice of bodhisattva's path, after being well trained, we meditate on this topic, and then we are able to place all sentient beings on the path of happiness and eliminate their sufferings. The next two verses talk about this.

1-29, 1-30
Verse 29 talks about those who are deprived of happiness. This refers to the states of the higher rebirths, human beings, deva realms, and also refers to nirvana, and the state of enlightenment. Those who wish to achieve these states of happiness could produce it by developing bodhichitta. The beings that are in the lower realms, hells, hungry ghosts, animals, have intense sufferings. By the practice of bodhichitta these rebirths could also be eliminated.

Bodhichitta has so much potential, so much power to fulfill the wishes of all sentient beings, that it can give the happiness of satisfying the wishes of all sentient beings, and could also cut off the sufferings of all sentient beings, even the root of the deluded mind, ignorance. Therefore there is no comparable virtue such as bodhichitta. Bodhichitta can also lead to the state of enlightenment. There is no such a friend or spiritual master such as bodhichitta. There is no merit such as bodhichitta.

Since bodhichitta is very precious and beneficial, those who possess bodhichitta are worthy of veneration and homage. There are a couple of reasons why: They have a genuine and pure great compassion for all sentient beings. In general, in worldly life people who help other beings give temporary help, these are also very nice people and worthy of praise. Then, bodhisattvas who are concerned of all sentient beings and want to give peace and happiness to all sentient beings, then they are indeed worthy of praise and homage.

Bodhisattvas are also objects of purification and confession, and also objects of accumulating merits and virtue.

The next three verses make praise to bodhisattvas (31, 32, 33).

In this world, if someone helps someone else who needs help, and the person repays the kindness the person will be called a very nice person, worthy of praise, as he and she repaid the kindness.

The bodhisattvas analyze how to give happiness to all sentient beings. They try very hard to do this with various bodhisattva practices, to develop bodhichitta for the benefit of sentient beings, and are trying to give ultimate peace and happiness to all. This is why bodhisattvas are worthy of praise and homage.

The next verse, 32, says, that a person gives a little bit food to a few beings, and people praise such a person. What to mention then of bodhisattvas that help all sentient beings? In this world, suppose that someone gives food and cloth to hundred people, disrespectfully, and has a very big sense of pride as being very important, and others would call him respectful benefactor. This is the way of ordinary people. While bodhisattvas are concerned of limitless sentient beings, and they are involved in the practice of the six perfections such as giving and so forth, and they give whatever others need, and they lead all sentient beings to the state of full enlightenment.

With respect to all sentient beings, bodhisattvas perform giving and the other five perfections. They think that all the sentient beings are the supreme object of veneration that could lead them to enlightenment. So the bodhisattvas' acts are worthy of praise.

Bodhisattvas are the supreme objects of refuge, and they dispel sufferings of all sentient beings. You should not do any acts of hatred and anger towards them. They are the object we should make prostrations to, and take refuge to. One should not insult bodhisattvas, and not develop hatred towards them.

Let's say a child or someone else does bad actions towards his or her benefactors, such as your parents who gave you everything in this life, who took care of you with their kindness, and later a child repays in a bad way this kindness, does something against the parents. Others would say that this person is a very bad person.

If this is the case, then what about the bodhisattvas who voluntarily fulfill the wishes of all sentient beings, and remove all the sufferings of all sentient beings, if we develop hatred and anger towards such a being, one accumulates a great amount of negative karma. This will also lead to take a rebirth in lower realms, and experience the sufferings of lower realms for a very long time.

This is why it is so important to be patient. We can't judge if other persons are bodhisattvas or not. Bodhisattvas could be very ordinary persons. We could never judge if anyone has bodhichitta or not. So that's why we need to be very careful not to develop anger and hatred towards other people. If it happens with bodhisattvas, we accumulate a lot of negative karmas. Dharmakirti in this Commentary on Logic says that one can't judge other people. It is like walking burning coals covered with ashes, you might burn your feet. So this is the reason one should be careful when judging other people.

This talks about bodhisattvas that are the object one can develop faith upon.  Earlier we said that bodhisattvas are supreme objects; if we say harsh and bad words towards them, and have bad feelings towards them, we take rebirth in lower realms with sufferings. Here, the opposite is that one could develop faith towards the bodhisattvas, and the positive fruits are far greater.

We talk about external or outer causes and effects, and also about inner causes and effects. Small causes could bring big fruits. For example, a small tree seed could produce a big tree that can make hundreds and hundreds of chariots. A small fire can burn big forests.

Just like this, the inner causes and effects can have much bigger effect than expected. Inner causes and effects are related to our happiness and suffering. Therefore, even a small virtuous action that you complete is not just a small virtuous action. You should rather continuously accumulate such virtuous actions so that one gets a huge amount of virtue.

Even a small negative action should not be considered as small, and neglected. Try to remove it, again and again. Try antidotes, this way you could eliminate the negative actions causing bad karma. Therefore you should try very hard to eliminate the negative karmas that one has accumulated. If you do negative actions, try to remove, purify, confess the negative action immediately, and one should not neglect the small negative actions, even if it is a small virtuous action, one should constantly do it.

The next six lines talks that bodhisattvas are worthy as objects to prostrate to, and take refuge to.

1-35.2, 1-36
It is very important to think that one should not have ill will towards bodhisattvas who are the children of Buddhas. This is a very important practice. Try to make such a commitment, not to do such actions towards bodhisattvas. This is a very important practice. You develop faith towards bodhisattvas, and this way you will increase more and more the virtues generated. Bodhisattvas who possess the most precious mind, they bodies are worthy to make homage and prostrations to. Bodhisattvas are also objects we want to take refuge. They have all the factors needed to take refuge to.  Ordinary beings are like this: if someone harms you, you respond by harming back. While bodhisattvas, even when harmed, their response would be to help to try to help you. Bodhisattvas always think of your happiness. This is why they are worthy of taking refuge to.

Practice virtues and generate bodhichitta, hard work from such practice makes this human life very precious, the mind is very clear, and all happiness will happen. Then practice will become very easy, and it will be easy to develop bodhichitta and become a bodhisattva.

The present human form we have is very precious. It is a very precious vessel. If there's a precious vessel made of gold, and is marked with many precious jewels, and could contains nectar, you could make virtues with this vessel. If you put dirt into such a precious vessel, you could destroy it, and people say you are stupid in destroying such a vessel.

The best thing is to develop bodhichitta. This is the essence of all the virtuous thoughts. Just as we get butter from churning the milk, so bodhichitta, the practice of bodhisattvas, is the essence of the entire 84000 teachings of Buddha. Having this precious form, one should study and develop bodhichitta. This is the way of taking the essence of this precious human form.

Furthermore, bodhichitta has great benefits. Shantideva stated that bodhichitta is like a nectar that will free from death, it's a great treasure that will eliminate poverty, it's a great medicine that will purify sicknesses, a great shade that will protect from the heat from the sun, a great path that will lead to higher rebirths, a great moon that is free from deluded states of mind, a great sun that will dispel the misunderstandings of ignorance. Therefore it's of great benefit, and if you could develop pure bodhichitta, or at least similar kind of practices of bodhichitta, a similar mind, a virtuous state of mind similar to bodhichitta, this is still of great benefit. It will help, it will be meaningful in your life, and will make the human form very meaningful.

This concludes the first chapter of Shantideva's text who talks about the benefits of the mind of enlightenment, bodhichitta.


Q: Geshe-la talked about generating bodhichitta, and the wisdom part was not emphasized. Is meditation on those two the only way, and why wasn't emptiness mentioned if that's a very important part?

A: Developing wisdom realizing emptiness is not mentioned for developing bodhichitta. There are many bodhisattvas who have developed bodhichitta, but not developed wisdom realizing emptiness, so it's not a requirement for developing bodhichitta. But it's a requirement for becoming enlightened to also realize emptiness.


Q: Yesterday Geshe-la mentioned that wisdom was one of the causes that generates bodhichitta, according to Chandrakirti, so why was this not mentioned?

A: Chandrakirti said in that Heroes and Solitary Realizers are born from buddhas, they achieved the state from following buddhas' teachings. Buddhas are born from bodhisattvas, and bodhisattvas are born from three factors (great compassion, wisdom realizing emptiness, and bodhichitta). This is not actual bodhichitta, but the cause for bodhichitta (great compassion). This gives birth to the first level of a bodhisattva (first bhumi level on the path of meditation). It is not necessary that all bodhisattvas develop bodhichitta at this level, and there are bodhisattvas that have developed bodhichitta at earlier levels.


Q: Are there two ways of developing bodhichitta, exchanging self with others, and the seven-point cause and effect? If someone does not know anything about emptiness, the self-for-others method would not work. Bodhichitta and wisdom realizing emptiness is growing together, your bodhichitta is not complete until you realize emptiness. With no emptiness you don't get the realization of emptiness, coming to the no-more-learning state?

A: Geshe-la says that in the case of no more learning there are three ways: solitary realizers, hearer/listeners, and Mahayana. For the first two one does not need to develop bodhichitta when reaching the state of no more learning. In the case of the Mahayana path one needs to develop bodhichitta when reaching the path of no more learning.

It is not necessary to develop wisdom realizing emptiness for developing bodhichitta.

If your mind is very sharp, they just check your minds. Earlier in the text we talked about Sugatas, those have two connotations, perfect abandonments and perfect realizations. In the Buddhist path there are two kinds of practitioners:

Intelligent practitioners that hear of the concept of Nirvana, and then they investigate this state of cessation of suffering, and analyze how to achieve it, and what are the obscurations, and learn about the ignorance. They analyze if ignorance could be removed or not, and find the anti-dotes to remove ignorance. When they understand Nirvana, they come to understand the wisdom of emptiness.

Ordinary practitioners hear of the benefits of bodhichitta, and want to develop the benefits of bodhichitta.

[end of the commentary]