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The Way of the Bodhisattva

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  6,632 ratings  ·  159 reviews
One of the great classics of Mahayana Buddhism, The Way of the Bodhisattva ( Bodhicharyavatara) is a guide to cultivating the mind of enlightenment, and to generating the qualities of love, compassion, generosity, and patience. Presented in the form of a personal meditation in verse, it outlines the path of the bodhisattvas--those beings who renounce the peace of an indi ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 4th 1997 by Shambhala (first published 700)
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Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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... ...more
Justin Evans
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great collection of aphorism, but also a sophisticated philosophical consideration of two major problems for salvific religions: if I'm concerned with my own salvation, should I care about other people, and why? The obvious answer, of course, is that your treatment of other people is intimately related to your own salvation, but that's much harder to justify than you might think. Santideva was a monk, writing to other monks, and prone to answering questions like how will all this meditation re ...more
010420: can this actually be seven years since read? apparently so. and i remember it well. the only difference is that by now i have read some other indic philosophy, advaita-vedanta and jaina, some 'primary texts', some sutras, some work as 'the fundamental wisdom of the middle way' but my philosophical stance has not altered. as inspiring and fascinating as buddhism is, i still do not identify with it as religion, but learn from it as philosophy...

Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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" ...more
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Clear, beautifully-translated directions on self-control.

Quotes :

"For those who have no introspection - though they hear the teachings, ponder them, or meditate - like water seeping from a leaking jar their learning will not settle in their memories."

"It is taught that rules of discipline may be relaxed in times of generosity."

"Work calmly for the happiness of others."

"Do not inconsiderately move chairs and furniture so noisily around. Likewi
Eric Rupert
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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
Rishab Katoch
Bodhicharyavatara or The Way of the Bodhisattva, is a classic work of Mahayana tradition of Buddhism written by the Indian Buddhist master Santideva a member of the famed Nalanda university of ancient India. Santideva's beautiful verses, originally written in Sanskrit and later translated into Tibetan contains profound meditations on many themes of Mahayana Buddhism. The chapters can be divided into three stages, the first three are designed to stimulate the bodhichitta (desire for enlightenment ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grown-up-books
Actually, infinite stars. Goodreads only shows five.

Nov 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library

Bodhi: enlightenment/awakening
Sattva: Buddhist - being/person. Hindu - goodness, positivity, truth, wholesomeness, serenity, wholeness, creativity, constructiveness, balance, confidence, peacefulness, and virtuousness
Chitta: attitude/mind/consciousness

Having encountered the idea of the Bodhisattva in college, I finally got around to reading one of the greatest works on the concept. The current Dalai Lama has said of the Shantideva, “If I have any understanding of compassion and the practice of
Mark Mulvey
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In the same way, since I cannot control external events, I will control my own mind. What concern is it of mine whether other things are controlled?”

“One should be the pupil of everyone all the time.”
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most beautiful books ever composed. I have read 3 different translations and like this one best. Although it may not be as accurate of a translation, it is the most poetic. This piece includes bits of timeless wisdom that I use to point my mind in the right direction over and over again. Hopefully someday it will all be in my heart and I won't have to read it anymore, but for now it is on the top of my list of favorite books.

Some years ago when everyone was worried about sudd
Erica Clou
Some interesting things to think about. Some weird stuff. Short but dense. Read it because Dan Harris said Dalai Lama recommended it. Hm.

I was particularly interested in some (accidental?) overlap with Christianity (love thy enemy) and modern particle physics.

As one reviewer mentioned, this is definitely not an introductory text for Buddhism but a more advanced book, and despite the previous Buddhism books I've read, a substantial amount was probably just above my head.
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.
Benjamin Barnes
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Thought the book was all pretty good til the mind numbingly boring next to the last chapter it was a boring discourse. worth reading just skip the next to the last chapter.
I felt as though I could not give this book a rating. I was very in the middle the entire time. It will remain in my book shelf because there were quite a few stanzas that I highlighted, the discussion of the Madhyamika school in the 9th chapter, and the definitions section in the back.

There were many views that are presented in this translation that I do not agree with nor want to incorporate into my life. I am grateful that I read it once, but I have no intention of reading it a second time a
Chris Coccaro
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A treatise on selfless living, healing yourself and others, and being a force for good in a dark world. A primary example of how darkness is defeated simply by casting light.


Do not be downcast, but marshal all your powers

Make an effort; be the master of yourself!

Practice the equality of self and other

Practice the exchange of self and other.

We should at once cast far away Our mind’s attachments

Tinder for the fiery flames of hate.

The stream of sorrow is cut through by patience.

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
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
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
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
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
K. Vita
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reread over and over for decades. Chapters 5-8 —lifetime reflection.
Isaac Spencer
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
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
Jim Kinkaid
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing insight into how to live your life clearly and fully by cutting through the illusions that we can be blinded by. Not a book for those who have little capacity or desire for self-awareness since it requires you to think about your speech and actions, and how you look at the world. Highly recommended though if you want to have less suffering and be more content and make the world a little bit better.
John Lawrence
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
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.
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism, french, tibetan
A clean copy of the first French-language edition in very good condition (probably never read!) showed up at Powell's Books this morning for $2.50! I've read the first (of ten) chapters so far, and will probably gobble up the rest this weekend. How long will it take to really understand it?
21 March 2014.
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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

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