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The Way of the Bodhisattva

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  5,717 ratings  ·  137 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 ...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...
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 ...more
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
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
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"
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
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.
311213: i do not myself identify as Buddhist, though i have read many secondary books on the 'Way', fewer books on the historical Buddha, fewer yet actual primary works of Buddhism. here i am mostly commenting on the preface, introduction, translators introduction. i am so very glad there are translators, humble, self conscious, aware of limitations and philosophical and textual complexity...

this is beautifully rendered into English. i will read this, think of this, it continues as background
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 ...more
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 ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grown-up-books
Actually, infinite stars. Goodreads only shows five.

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
Ericka Clouther
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
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 ...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 ...more
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
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: french, buddhism, 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.
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhist-books
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.
Aug 15, 2013 added it
If you read this in the right time and right place it will really change you life. It's a really powerful book.
Bernie Gourley
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in Buddhist thought.
A bodhisattva is one who achieves enlightenment but sticks around to help others pursue the path. Shantideva was a Buddhist monk who lived [mostly] in the 8th century in the part of India that is today in the state of Bihar. Shantideva’s lesson on how to be a good bodhisattva is delivered via 10 chapters of verse, mostly in four-line stanzas. This instructional poem makes up almost 240 pages of the edition of the book put out by Shambhala as translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, and the ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Presented in the form of a personal meditation, this classic text of mahayana buddhism goes into the boddhisatva way, striving for the well-being of others.

Many people have noted similarities between stoicism and buddhism, and they are on display in many of these pages. When shifting the focus from the teachings of emptiness and impermanence and all those things to how one should act in the world, the fruits of buddhism closely resemble the words of an Epictetus or Aurelius:

Since disrespect,
Brad McKenna
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
This is one of the more important texts in Buddhism, the preface even clued me into the fact The Dalai Lama used it as part of his training. I’ve read plenty of Western-focused books on Buddhism, but they’re more introductory than anything else. They’re helpful but not as deeply helpful as this book.

It’s in verse and translated from Tibetan and Sanskrit. Like most ancient Buddhist texts there’s no one authoritative work. Each translation was done with a specific audience in mind. In all cases,
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Boddhisatva in itself would not tell you how to meditate, but it will give you the foundational thinking about Buddhism. This specific edition is a very recent one and thus most of the learnings are adaptable. Especially the chapter of Carefulness, Introspection and Patience are very practical. How it helped me personally was that I can practice meditation (using different apps, videos) with much more ease now. In fact, I can meditate very well with music because I am very clear on why I was ...more
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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.
“If there is a remedy, then what is the use of frustration? If there is no remedy, then what is the use of frustration?” 11 likes
“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…