The Bodhicaryavatara
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Bodhicaryavatara

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  2,763 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Written in India in the early 8th century AD, 'S=antideva's Bodhicary=avat=ara addresses the profound desire to become a Buddha and rescue all beings from suffering. The person who acts upon such a desire is a Bodhisattva. 'S=antideva not only makes plain what the Bodhisattva must do and become, he also invokes the powerful feelings of aspiration that underlie such a commi...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1992)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Bodhicaryavatara, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Bodhicaryavatara

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...
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 so
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"
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
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
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
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
May 28, 2013 Mark added it
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
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
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
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.
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.
If you read this in the right time and right place it will really change you life. It's a really powerful book.
Actually, infinite stars. Goodreads only shows five.

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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
must read for someone seriously pursuing karma yoga/bodhisattva. This version is the best for english
Brent Werner
I'm so bummed. This is my favorite book and I've read it numerous times. I was so excited to have a recording on cd. But I listened to the sample and the guy's voice sounds really contrived. Kind of a contrived British accent with a strong feminine/gender neutral aspect. I just wanted to hear a relaxed, natural rendition. I wasn't looking for the British theatrical version. Bummer. Maybe they should have a different edition for American people since we speak differently than the English. No disr...more
Billy Leighty
This being is always a good ally to have on your side.
Jan 13, 2010 H.A. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of philosophy, world religion, and/or Buddhism
Recommended to H.A. by: The Dalai Lama (not personally, but I heard him say it's one of
I've had this book for years, but just never set out to read it. Despite it being the typical "fire and brimstone" Buddhism that is the Tibetan style (at least as Shantideva teaches it), it's surprisingly easy to read and contains a lot of practical wisdom, as well as important insight for anyone on a Buddhist path. It does bring into focus the big oxymoron of Buddhism that always tangles me up: if all is illusion, and there is "no-thing," then what/who are we supposed to release from suffering?...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Words of My Perfect Teacher
  • The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
  • Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness
  • The Heart Sutra
  • In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon
  • The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya
  • No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva
  • The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan
  • The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya
  • A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life
  • What Makes You Not a Buddhist
  • The Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-Neng
  • The Lotus Sutra
  • The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness
  • Breathe! You Are Alive: Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing
  • What the Buddha Taught with Texts from Suttas & Dhammapada
  • Moon In a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen
  • Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom
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 Intrarea pe calea iluminării Siksa, Samuccaya Uncommon Happiness

Share This Book

“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.”
More quotes…