Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyavatara — Chapter V
Monday 19 July 2010, by
Those who wish to guard their practiceShould very attentively guard their mindsFor those who do not guard their mindsWill be unable to guard their practice.
In this world subdued and crazed elephantsAre incapable of causing such harmsAs the miseries of the deepest hellWhich can be caused by the unleashedelephant of my mind.
But if the elephant of my mind is firmlyboundOn all sides by the rope of mindfulness,All fears will cease to existAnd all virtues will come into my hand.
Tigers, lions, elephants, bears,Snakes and all forms of enemies,The guardians of the hell worlds,Evil spirits and cannibals,
Will all be boundBy binding my mind alone,And all will be subduedBy subduing my mind alone.
The Perfect Teacher himself has shownThat in this way all fearsAs well as all boundless miseriesOriginate from the mind.
Who intentionally createdAll the weapons for those in hell?Who created the burning iron ground?From where did all the women in hell ensue?
The Mighty One has said that all such thingsAre the workings of an evil mind,Hence within the three world spheresThere is nothing to fear other than my mind.
If the perfection of generosityWere the alleviation of the world’s poverty,Then since beings are still starving nowIn what manner did the previous Buddhasperfect it?
The perfection of generosity is said to beThe thought to give all beings everything,Together with the fruit of such a thoughtHence it is simply a state of mind.
Nowhere has the killingOf fish and other creatures been eradicated;For the attainment of merely the thought toforsake such thingsIs explained as the perfection of moraldiscipline.
Unruly beings are as unlimited as space;They cannot possibly all be overcome,But if I overcome thoughts of anger aloneThis will be equivalent to vanquishing allfoes.
Where would I possibly find enough leatherWith which to cover the surface of the earth?But wearing leather just on the soles of myshoesIs equivalent to covering the earth with it.
Likewise it is not possible for meTo restrain the external course of things;But should I restrain this mind of mineWhat would be the need to restrain all else?
Although the development of merely a clearstate of concentrationCan result in taking rebirth in Brahma’srealm,Physical and vocal actions cannot so resultWhen accompanied by weak mental conduct.
The knower of reality has saidThat even if recitation and physical hardshipsAre practiced for long periods of time,They will be meaningless if the mind isdistracted elsewhere.
Even those who wish to find happiness andovercome miseryWill wander with no aim nor meaningIf they do not comprehend the secret of themind -The paramount significance of Dharma.
This being so,I shall hold and guard my mind well.Without the discipline of guarding the mind,What use are many other disciplines?
Just as I would be attentive and careful of awoundWhen amidst a bustling uncontrolled crowd,So I should always guard the wound of mymindWhen dwelling among harmful people.
And if I am careful of a woundThrough fear of it being slightly hurt,Then why do I not guard the wound of mymindThrough fear of being crushed by themountains of hell?
Should I behave in such a way as this,Then whether among harmful peopleOr even in the midst of women,The steady effort to control myself will notdecline.
It is better to be without wealth,Honor, body and livelihood;And it is better to let other virtues deteriorate,Rather than ever to let the virtues of the minddecline.
O you who wish to guard your minds,I beseech you with folded hands;Always exert yourself to guardMindfulness and alertness!
People who are disturbed by sicknessHave no strength to do anything useful,Likewise those whose minds are disturbed byconfusionHave no strength to do anything wholesome.
Whatever has been learnt, contemplated andmeditated uponBy those whose minds lack alertness,Just like water in a leaking vase,Will not be retained in their memory.
Even those who have much learning,Faith and willing perseveranceWill become defiled by a moral fallDue to the mistake of lacking alertness.
The thieves of unalertness,In following upon the decline of mindfulness,Will steal even the merits I have firmlygatheredSo that I shall then proceed to lower realms.
The host of thieves who are my owndisturbing conceptionsWill search for a good opportunity,Having found it they will steal my virtueAnd destroy the attainment of life in a happyrealm.
Therefore I shall never let mindfulness departFrom the doorway of my mind.If it goes, I should recall the misery of thelower realmsAnd firmly re-establish it there.
Through staying in the company of spiritualmasters,Through the instructions of abbots andthrough fear,Mindfulness will easily be generatedIn fortunate people who practice withrespect.
I am ever dwelling in the presenceOf all the Buddhas and BodhisattvasWho are always endowedWith unobstructed vision.
By thinking in this wayI shall mindfully develop a sense of shame,respect and fear.Also through doing this,Recollection of the Buddha will repeatedlyoccur.
When mindfulness is set with the purposeOf guarding the doorway of the mind,Then alertness will come aboutAnd even that which has gone will return.
When, just as I am about to act,I see that my mind is tainted with defilement,At such a time I should remainUnmovable, like a piece of wood.
Never should I look aroundDistractedly for no purpose:With a resolute mindI should always keep my eyes castdownwards.
But in order to relax the gazeFor a short while I should look around,And if someone appears in my field of visionI should look at him and say, "Welcome."
To check if there is any danger on the pathI should look again and again in the fourdirections.To rest, I should turn my head aroundAnd then look behind me.
Having examined both ahead and behindI should proceed to either come or go.Being aware of the necessity for suchmindful alertnessI should behave like this in all situations.
Once having prepared for an action with thethought,"My body will remain in such a way,"Then periodically I should look to seeHow the body is being maintained.
With the utmost effort I should checkTo see that the crazed elephant of my mindIs not wandering off but is boundTo the great pillar of thinking about Dharma.
Those who strive by all means forconcentrationShould not wander off even for a moment;By thinking, "How is my mind behaving?" -They should closely analyze their mind.
But if I am unable to do thisWhen afraid or involved in celebrations, thenI should relax.Likewise it has been taught that at times ofgivingOne may be indifferent to certain aspects ofmoral discipline.
I should undertake whatever deed I haveintended to doAnd think of doing nothing other than it.With my mind applied to that task,I should set about for the time being toaccomplish it.
By acting in this way all will be done well.But by acting otherwise neither action will bedone.Likewise there will be increase in theproximate disturbing conceptionsThat come from lack of alertness.
If I happen to be presentWhile a senseless conversation is takingplaceOr if I happen to see show kind ofspectacular show,I should abandon attachment towards it.
If for no reason I start digging the earth,Picking at the grass or drawing patterns onthe ground,Then by recalling the advise of the Buddhas,I should immediately stop out of fear.
Whenever I have the desireTo move my body or to say something,First of all I should examine my mindAnd then, with steadiness, act in the properway.
Whenever there is attachment in my mindAnd whenever there is the desire to be angry,I should not do anything nor say anything,But remain like a piece of wood.
Whenever I have distracted thoughts, thewish to verbally belittle others,Feelings of self-importance or selfsatisfaction:When I have the intention to describe thefaults of others,Pretension and the thought to deceive others;
Whenever I am eager for praiseOr have the desire to blame others;Whenever I have the wish to speak harshlyand cause dispute;At all such times I should remain like a pieceof wood.
Whenever I desire material gain, honor,fame;Whenever I seek attendants or a circle offriends,And when in my mind I wish to be served;At all these times I should remain like a pieceof wood.
Whenever I have the wish to decrease or tostop working for othersAnd the desire to pursue my welfare alone,If motivated by such thoughts, a wish to saysomething occurs,At these times I should remain like a piece ofwood.
Whenever I have impatience, laziness,cowardice,Shamelessness or the desire to talk nonsense;If thoughts of partiality arise,At these times too I should remain like apiece of wood.
Having in this way examined his mind fordisturbing conceptionsAnd for thoughts that strive for meaninglessthings,The courageous Bodhisattva should hold hismind steadyThrough the application of remedial forces.
Being very resolute and faithful,Steady, respectful, polite,With a sense of shame, apprehensive andpeaceful,I should strive to make others happy.
I should not be disheartened by all the whimsOf the childish who are in discord with oneanotherI should know them to arise in their mindsdue to disturbing conceptionsAnd therefore be kind towards them.
In doing that which by nature is notunwholesomeBoth for the sake of myself and other sentientbeingsI should always hold my mind fast,Acting like an apparition, with no sense ofself.
By thinking again and againThat after a long time I have won the greatestleisure,Likewise I should hold my mindAs utterly unshakeable as the king ofmountains.
If, mind, you are not made unhappyWhen this body is dragged and tossed aboutBy vultures greedy for flesh,Then why are you so concerned about itnow?
Holding this body as "mine",Why, mind, do you guard it so?Since you and it are separate,What use can it be to you?
Why, confused mind,Do you not hold onto a clean, wooden form?Just what is the point of guardingThis putrid, dirt-filled machine?
First of all, mentally separateThe layers of skin from the fleshAnd then with the scalpel of discriminationSeparate the flesh from the skeletal frame;
And having split open even the bonesLook right down into the marrow.While examining this ask yourself,"Where is its essence?"
If, even when searching with such effortYou can apprehend no essence,Then why with such much attachmentAre you still guarding this body now?
What use is this body to youIf its dirty insides are unfit for you to eat,If its blood is not fit to drinkAnd if its intestines are not fit to be sucked?
At second best it is only fit to be guardedIn order to feed the vultures and jackals.Truly this body of a human beingShould only be employed in the practice ofvirtue.
But should you instead guard it withattachmentThen what will you be able to doWhen it is stolen by the unsympathetic lordof deathAnd given to the dogs and birds?
If servants are not given clothing and so forthWhen they are unable to be employed,Then why do you exhaust yourself lookingafter the flesh aloneWhen even though caring for the body, itgoes elsewhere?
Now having paid my body its wages,I shall engage it in making my lifemeaningful.But if my body is of no benefit,Then I shall not give it anything.
I should conceive of my body as a boat,A support for coming and going.And in order to benefit all othersTransform it into a wish-fulfilling body.
Now, while there is freedom to act,I should always present a smiling faceAnd cease to frown and look angry:I should be a friend and counsel of the world.
I should desist from inconsiderately andnoisilyMoving around chairs and so forth,As well as from violently opening doors:I should always delight in humility.
The stork, the cat and the thief,By moving silently and carefully,Accomplish what they desire to do;A Bodhisattva too should always behave inthis way.
With respect I should gratefully acceptUnsought-after words that are of benefitAnd that wisely advise and admonish me.At all times I should be a pupil of everyone.
I should say, "Well said," to all thoseWho speak Dharma well,And if I see someone doing goodI should praise him and be well pleased.
I should discreetly talk about the goodqualities of othersAnd repeat those that others recount.If my own good qualities are spoken aboutI should just know and be aware that I havethem.
All deeds of others are the source of a joyThat would be rare even if it could be boughtwith money.Therefore I should be happy in finding thisjoyIn the good things that are done by others.
Through doing this I shall suffer no losses inthis lifeAnd in future lives shall find great happiness.But the fault of disliking their good qualitieswill make me unhappy and miserableAnd in future lives I shall find greatsuffering.
When talking I should speak from my heartand on what is relevant,Making the meaning clear and the speechpleasing.I should not speak out of desire or hatredBut in gentle tones and in moderation.
When beholding someone with my eyes,Thinking, "I shall fully awakenThrough depending upon this being."I should look at him with an open heart andlove.
Always motivated by great aspirationOr being motivated by the remedial forces,If I work in the fields of excellence, benefitand miseryGreat virtues will come about.
Endowed with wisdom and joyI should undertake all that I do,I need not depend upon anyone elseIn any actions that I undertake.
The perfections such as generosityAre progressively more exaltedBut for a little morality I should not forsake agreat gift.Principally I should consider what will be ofthe most benefit for others.
When this is well understood,I should always strive for the welfare ofothers.The Far-Seeing Merciful Ones have alloweda BodhisattvaTo do some actions that for others wereforbidden.
I should divide my food amongst those whohave fallen to lower realms,Those without protection, and practitioners.And eat merely what is sufficient for myself.Except for the three robes I may give awayall.
This body which is being used for the sacredDharmaShould not be harmed for only slight benefit.By my behaving in this wayThe wishes of all beings will be quicklyfulfilled.
Those who lack the pure intention ofcompassionShould not give their body away.Instead, both in this and future lives,They should give it to the cause of fulfillingthe great purpose.
The Dharma should not be explained to thosewho lack respect,To those who, like sick men, wear clotharound their heads,To those holding umbrellas, sticks orweapons,To those with covered heads,
Nor to a woman unaccompanied by a man.The vast and profound should not be taughtto lesser beings,Although I should always pay equal respectTo the Dharmas of the lesser and higherbeings.
I should not communicate the Dharma of alesser beingTo one who is a vessel for the vast Dharma.I must not forsake the Bodhisattva way oflife,Nor mislead others by means of sutra ormantras.
When I spit or throw away the stick forcleaning my teeth,I should cover it up with earth.Also it is shameful to urinate and so forthIn water or on land used by others.
When eating I should not fill my mouth,Eat noisily or with my mouth wide open.I should not sit with my legs outstretchedNor rub my hands together.
I should not sit alone in vehicles, upon bedsNor in the same room with the women ofothers.In brief, having observed or inquired aboutwhat is proper,I should not do anything that would bedisliked by the people of the world.
I should not give directions with one finger,But instead indicate the wayRespectfully with my right armWith all my fingers fully outstretched.
Nor should I wildly wave my arms aboutBut should make my pointWith slight gestures and a snap of fingers. -Otherwise I shall lose control.
Just as the Buddha lay down to pass awaySo should I lie in the desired direction whengoing to sleep,And first of all with alertnessMake the firm decision to quickly rise again.
Although I am unable to practice allThe limitless varieties of Bodhisattvaconduct,I should certainly practice as much as hasbeen mentioned hereOf this conduct that trains the mind
Three times by day and three times by nightI should recite The Sutra of the Three Heaps;For by relying upon the Buddhas and theAwakening MindMy remaining downfalls will be purified.
Whatever I am doing in any situation,Whether for myself or for the benefit ofothers,I should strive to put into practiceWhatever has been taught for that situation.
There is no such thing as somethingThat is not learned by a Conqueror’s Son,Thus if I am skilled in living in this wayNothing will be non-meritorious.
Whether directly or indirectly, I should notdo anythingThat is not for the benefit of others.And solely for the sake of sentient beingsI should dedicate everything towardsAwakening.
Never, even at the cost of my life,Should I forsake a spiritual friendwho is wise in the meaning of the greatvehicleAnd who is a great Bodhisattva practitioner.
I should practice entrusting myself to myspiritual masterIn the manner taught in The Biography ofShrisambhava.This and other advise spoken by the BuddhaI can understand through reading the sutras.
I should read the sutrasBecause it is from them that the practicesappear.To begin with, I should look at The Sutra ofAkashagarba.
In addition I should definitely readThe Compendium of all Practices again andagain,Because what is to constantly practicedIs very well and extensively shown there.
Also I should sometimes look atthe condensed Compendium of All Sutras.And I should make an effort to studyThe works by the same two titles composedby the exalted Nagarjuna.
I should do whatever is not forbidden inthose works,And when I see a practice there,I should impeccably put it into actionIn order to guard the minds of worldlypeople.
The defining characteristic of guardingalertnessIn brief is only this:To examine again and againThe condition of my body and mind.
Therefore I shall put this way of life intoactual practice,For what can be achieved by merely talkingabout it?Will a sick man be benefitedMerely by reading the medical texts?
Translated into English by Stephan Bachelor
For the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives,