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A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life

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4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  3,230 ratings  ·  85 reviews
In the whole of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, there is no single treatise more deeply revered or widely practiced than A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Composed in the eighth century by the Indian Bodhisattva Santideva, it became an instant classic in the curricula of the Buddhist monastic universities of India, and its renown has grown ever since. Santideva prese ...more
Paperback, 152 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Snow Lion (first published January 1st 1992)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephanie
Jun 29, 2008 Stephanie is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is one that never goes on the "already read it" shelf. When I finish, I just start over again. One of these days it'll sink in...
Peter
I just finished this, and all I can say is 'Wow.' This work by Shantideva is a spiritual tour-de-force.

The introduction is indispensable, by the way. You really must read it if you want to understand the larger points of the text.

Aside from a good deal of inspiration and warning of sufferings to come, there are some brilliant arguments in this book. In one passage, for example, Shantideva demonstrates why loving our enemies is the only logical thing to do:

If something does not come to be when s
...more
Ben
Most of the books on Buddhism that I have read so far have come from the Theravada branch. This one is (I think) my first encounter with the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, which is the more popular one today, but a bit more complex and demanding for my taste. It views our positions in the life-death cycle (samsara) as humans as a unique opportunity, but one which is all too often squandered with trivialities and material distractions, focusing on bodily pleasures, confusing form with ideal (Plato, ...more
Patrick
I have now been studying Buddhist philosophy as a practicing Buddhist in the Mahayana tradition for many years. The Bodhisattva Way of Life is without any doubt in my mind the most meaningful and useful teaching I have read.

This epic poem by the well loved Buddhist Saint Santideva was of such assistance to my understanding of relevant aspects of other Mahayana commentaries to Buddha's teaching that it takes pride of place in my heart, mind and on my shrine.

Probably the most fascinating, and com
...more
Josh
This book made me a Buddhist and a Christian at the same time. What I love about Buddhism is that it doesn't try to pin God down or even call him "God," but they teach ways to experience him/her. Most memorable phrase: "the wandering elephant of the mind"
Sasha Zbarskaya
Остро, разнообразно, сверхплотно полезный текст.
VIII век - как вчера писано (да-да, я понимаю, что есть неизбежные издержки перевода на европейские языки) для нас сегодняшних. Для меня сегодняшней.
Пока - самая понятная мне буддийская книга. Переводческая группа "Падмакара" сделала мне лично громадный подарок. Математика буддийской духовности - умственное фигурное катание (индивидуальная программа, где и я, и рассказчик, и рассказываемое легко и непринужденно сливаемся воедино - в одно сияющее, н
...more
Sam
A wonderful poem about cultivating bodhicitta. Shantideva is revered in certain parts of the Mahayana and Vajrayana tradition, and it's no small wonder. To a casual reader, this will probably seem like a nice book of beatitudes intermixed with warnings about the torments of "hell" ending in a confusing chapter called Wisdom, but it's much more than that. There's a reason that the Dalai Lama and masters like Patrul teach and taught this as often as possible. More than any other single work I've r ...more
E. Michael
I won't ever become a bodhisattva, but I can still hold myself to a higher standard. While there are good ideas present in the poetry of this rather personal buddhist action plan, Shantideva consistently speaks from a position of superiority rather than authority. Many of the qualities he admires cannot be achieved by the "common run of people" but only by those with "yogic insight." I disagree and am disappointed with the exclusive tone. Ironically, the best points he makes are about equality a ...more
Mark
Comparatively later Buddhism (I grew up on the Dhammapada). It seems to me that "compassion" is a far more central concern of this text than in the Pali canon; it follows logically from that tradition, and yet I can't help but feel like the Buddha in the Dhammpada commentarial stories might have some words for Santideva. It's probably not a fair comparison, though---the Dhammapada, comparatively, is folk-wisdom (proverbs, which is probably why I love it so much) whereas this text is an incredibl ...more
Samuel Snoek-Brown
I plan to reread this often--I read it twice during His Holiness the Dalai Lama's week-long teachings from it. As in my review for His Holiness's "Stages of Meditation," I suppose I might appreciate this text more for the explanations His Holiness offered during those teachings, but this book is, so far, the other of those two most profound and instructive guides to formal meditation I've read so far. The translators claim they have lost some of the beauty of Shantideva's poetry, and I don't dou ...more
Lukez
This book was my first introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and while it is currently the only translation I have read I can definitely say it won't be the last. Highly accessible to the lay person such as myself and at the same time offering a depth and breadth of thought presented so succinctly and rarely equaled in the Mahayana. My only hang-up has been concerning the infamous 9th chapter on wisdom which alone seems to require a commentary to understand, at least for this reader. The appendixes a ...more
Isaac Spencer
Inspiring. Something to read again and again.

I especially liked the translator's notes and introductions to the chapters. I found their writing very clear, simple, direct, and helpful. I thought they often were able to explain clearly in a short essay large amounts of complex material. For example their introduction to chapter 8 contextualizes in 11 and 1/2 pages the two kinds of Buddhist mediation, calm abiding and insight, and the philosophical differences between the Mahayana and so-called Hi
...more
Kroxx
Oct 26, 2014 Kroxx rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kroxx by: PHIL 291
Shelves: great-reads
Similar in teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, this book outlines some "rules" that one ought to follow if they are going to take the path towards Nirvana. There were a lot of good teachings in here -- cultivate diligence and do what is necessary, practice 100% concentration, be compassionate to all people even if they are hurting you, and be patient (control all passionate emotions like anger). This book taught me a lot and is very insightful. I wrote all over this book, too, and there are also a b ...more
John Lawrence
this is the most inspirational text i have ever read. it set my hair on fire. this is a clear translation of Shantideva's classic Buddhist text on how to develop bodhichitta and become a bodhisattva without the mess of comment between stanzas. bodhichitta is the wish to become enlightened so that one might liberate all sentient beings from suffering.

reading this changed my life.
Cassandra Kay Silva
The images Santideva conjures to counteract his inherent nature: the corpse, and flesh of surrounding humans is very vivid. Far better thoughts on consciousness than I have heard from many modern psychoanalysts. I also appreciated this translations additional notes and explanations for the work. Oxford always does a good job with this.
T.
Poetic and thought-provoking and challenging. Its an amazing achievement of preserving the oral transmissions of the Buddha that could have been lost forever if not for the efforts of this 8th century scholar.
Zack
If you read this in the right time and right place it will really change you life. It's a really powerful book.
Bradley
Actually, infinite stars. Goodreads only shows five.

thegift
not myself identifying as Buddhist, though read many books on the Way, fewer on the historical Buddha, fewer yet actual works of Buddhism. here am mostly commenting on the preface, introduction, translators introduction. am so very glad there are translators, humble, self conscious, aware of limitations and philosophical and textual complexity...

this is beautifully rendered into English. will read this, think of this, it continues as background for religion, science, and philosophy, background e
...more
Mary Overton
Translated by Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton; copyright 1995
From Translators' Introduction:

"Santideva was a medieval Indian Buddhist monk, who wrote for the benefit of his contemporaries and colleagues. To translate his work presents a number of challenges and problems to the modern translator. The intention of the present translators has been to produce a prose translation into standard British English, which will be accessible to the ordinary reader. Our emphasis has been upon accuracy and cla
...more
Mary Overton
translated from the Tibetan by the Padmakara Translation Group; revised translation copyright 2006
From Preface to the Revised Edition:

"When the first edition of THE WAY OF THE BODHISATTVA was published in 1997, it was stated that the commentary the Nyingma master Khenpo Kunzang Pelden (1872-1943) had been consulted for the elucidation of difficult passages. At the time, a translation into English of that long and important work was no more than a pious dream. Now, after a wait of almost ten year
...more
Mary Overton
Translation by Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace; copyright 1997.
From the Introduction:
"Although the BODHICARYAVATARA has already been translated several times into English, earlier translations have been based exclusively on either Sanskrit versions or Tibetan translations. To the best of our knowledge, no earlier translation into English, including the recent translation by Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton, has drawn from both the Sanskrit version and its authoritative Sanskrit commentary of
...more
Nicole
I had the distinct luck of being in McLeod Ganj, India, when the Dalai Lama gave a teaching and reading of "The Way Of the Bodhisattva", which I happened to bring my own copy all the way from the US via Kyrgyzstan. It was crowded but free, and I sat on a pillow and listened to the translation through headphones. The sad thing is that one of the things I remember most is my legs falling asleep a whole bunch. Still, a classic work that I hope to revisit one day.
Iso
Had the privilege to study the previous translation of this text in-depth for two semesters with a Tibetan Khenpo, then work with this translation later. Think I do slightly prefer the first translation (blue cover), since this seems more 'poetical', for want of a better word. Still, who am I to judge really, since works like this make such important texts accessible in my native language, and for that I am extremely thankful. Overall then, an excellent translation of an amazing and inspiring te ...more
Jan
I read this as a text for a class taught by a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He couldn't speak much English, so everything he said was translated via Skype by a lady in CA. Though I didn't think the book on its own was amazing, the experience of being taught by gestures, facial expressions, voice inflection, and laughter before actually knowing what was being said, was amazing. Picture 25 people in a tiny room in MT circled around a monk with a laptop in front of him, spellbound, while snow (and sometim ...more
Ellery
This book does not come with any interpretation. It is a great translation, so 5 stars, but you will need an addition book for interpretation. You can't really understand this text without someone explaining the meaning. I recommend Pema Chodron's No Time To Lose.
Will Simpson
This translation is filled with good old christian guilt and is a poor representation of Buddhism. Alan Wallace and Stephen Batchelor have superior translations, especially Alan Wallace with his very helpful notes.
jacks_eye
Not the best translation of the original text in my opinion, although many critics claim its the best.
Anna
This book makes me want to be a better person. Filled with wisdom and a little bit out-of-this world experience, it captivated me. The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was his attitude towards women, in one part he says he is thankful for not being born a woman...i guess it goes along with the environment and the time, but thank goodness it was towards the end.
Astrid
must read for someone seriously pursuing karma yoga/bodhisattva. This version is the best for english
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Śāntideva was an North Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist monk associate with Nālandā monastery, who flourished somewhere between 685 and 763 CE. His two extant works are widely considered to be classics of explication of the philosophy and practice of the Buddhist "Great Vehicle" path.
More about Śāntideva...
Entering the Path of Enlightenment: The Bodhicaryavatra of the Buddhist Poet Santideva Siksha-Samuccaya: A Compendium Of Buddhist Doctrine (1922) The Bodhicaryavatara: A Guide to the Buddhist Path of Awakening Siksa, Samuccaya Uncommon Happiness

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“Those desiring speedily to be
A refuge for themselves and others
Should make the interchange of "I" and "other,"
And thus embrace a sacred mystery.”
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“If there is a remedy, then what is the use of frustration? If there is no remedy, then what is the use of frustration?” 1 likes
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