Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior

(sPyod-'jug, Bodhisattvacharyavatara)

by Shantideva

Translated from the Tibetan, as clarified by the Sanskrit by Alexander Berzin, 2004

4. Taking Care (about Bodhichitta)

(1) As a Triumphant Ones' offspring,
Having firmly gained hold of bodhichitta like this,
I'll strive never to transgress its training,
Without ever wavering.

(2) For something undertaken all of a sudden
Or something I didn't examine well,
Even if I've given a promise about it,
It's proper to examine, "Do it or give it up?"

(3) But how can I ever withdraw
From what the Buddhas and their s'piritual offspring
Have examined with great discriminating awareness
And I, myself, have repeatedly examined as well?

(4) If, having promised like this,
I don't carry it through with my actions,
Then, by deceiving every limited being,
What will become of my rebirth states?

(5) If (Buddha) has said that once someone's made up his mind
To give away even some small and trivial thing,
And then doesn't (actually) give it away,
He'll turn into a clutching ghost;

(6) Then, if I should deceive all wandering beings,
After having sincerely invited them
To unsurpassable bliss,
Will I go to a better rebirth state?

(7) And how the karma works for someone
Who gives up bodhichitta, yet attains liberation,
Is beyond all thought:
Only the Omniscient can understand.

(8) For a bodhisattva, (however,) this is the heaviest
From among (all) the downfalls;
Because, if something should happen like that,
It impairs the welfare of all limited beings.

(9) And should anyone else cause an obstruction,
For even an instant, to his positive acts,
There'll be no end to his worse rebirth states,
From impairing the welfare of limited beings.

(10) For if one's (state of rebirth) will worsen
By destroying the joy of even a single, limited being,
What need to mention destroying the bliss
Of embodied beings as vast as all space?

(11) Therefore, someone with the force from a downfall
And the force from (developing) bodhichitta (again)
Keeps bouncing down and up in samsara,
For a long time obstructed in reaching any arya level of realised mind.

(12) Therefore, with highest regard, I shall carry it through,
Just as I've promised, because
If, from now on, I don't make an effort,
I'll wander from lower to ever-lower states.

(13) Countless Buddhas, who have helped
All limited beings, have already passed.
Yet, I wasn't an object of their healing,
Because of my mistakes.

(14) And if I still were to act like this,
It would be the same, over and again:
Worse rebirth states, sickness, death,
Being dismembered and torn apart.

(15) If the advent of a Thusly Gone (Buddha),
And gaining embodiment as a human (with) belief in what's fact
And the properly constructive instincts are so rare,
When shall I attain them (again) like this?

(16) Although on a day like today, I'm not sick,
Have food, and haven't any injuries,
Life is but for a moment and will let me down:
The body is like something on loan for an instant.

(17) And with my behavior like this,
I won't even attain a human body (again).
And if I haven't attained (another) human body,
I'll have only (my) negative karmic force and nothing constructive.

(18) If even when having the chance for constructive behavior,
I do nothing constructive, then what course will I have
When completely struck dumb by the sufferings
In the worse rebirth states?

(19) If, while not doing anything constructive,
I continue to build up negative karmic force,
Then for hundreds of millions of eons
I won't even hear the words "better rebirth state."

(20) Because of just this, the Vanquishing Master has said
rebirth as a human is so difficult to attain,
Just as it is for a turtle to stick its neck through the hole
In a yoke adrift on the vast sea.

(21) If, by the negative force of committing (a heinous act) for an instant,
I must spend an eon in a joyless realm of unrelenting pain,
What need to mention not going to one of the better rebirth states
Because of the negative force I've built up over beginningless samsara?

(22) But just having experienced only that much,
I shall still not get free,
For while experiencing like this,
I'll prolifically create further negative force.

(23) So if, having found a respite such as this,
I don't make being constructive a habit,
There's nothing more self-deceptive than this;
There's nothing more stupid than this.

(24) If, having understood this,
I procrastinate stupidly still in the future,
Then, when the hour for (my) dying will come,
Enormous anguish will swell.

(25) Then, if my body will burn for so long
In the unbearable fires of a joyless realm,
There can be no doubt that my mind will be tortured
By the searing flames of unendurable regret.

(26) Having found, somehow, a beneficial
rebirth, so hard to find,
If (now), while able to discriminate,
I drag myself down once more to a joyless realm,

(27) It amounts to not having had a mind while here,
Like having been stupefied by a m'antra spell.
If I don't know what's causing me to be so stupid,
Well, what is it there inside my (head)?

(28) Although enemies, such as anger and craving,
Have neither legs nor arms,
Are neither brave nor wise,
How is it that they've made me like their slave?

(29) For while squatting in my mind,
At their pleasure, they gleefully cause me harm.
To be patient and not become angry with them
Is an inappropriate, pathetic place for patience.

(30) Even if all the gods and anti-gods
Were to rise up against me as enemies,
They couldn't drag and feed me into the fires
(Of a joyless realm) of unrelenting pain.

(31) But those strong mighty enemies, my disturbing emotions,
Can, in a moment, hurl me into them, which,
When met, will cause not even the ashes
Of the King of Mountains to remain.

(32) My disturbing emotions are long-standing enemies,
Without a beginning or an end.
No other enemy can be like that,
For such a long time.

(33) With all (the others), becoming close and serving (them) nicely
Bring benefit and happiness;
But being close with my disturbing emotions
(Only) harms me with even more pain.

(34) These longtime, continuing enemies like this
Are the sole causes for masses of harm to multiply wildly.
How can I be joyful and not terrified in samsara,
If I set a secure place (for them) in my heart?

(35) Where can I have happiness
If, in a web of attachments within my mind,
They lurk as guards of my samsara-prison,
Becoming my murderers and butchers in joyless realms and the like?

(36a) Therefore, I shall never give up my efforts in this
Until, directly myself, I definitely smash these enemies.

(36b) Having become enraged at someone
   who caused them even some minor, occasional harm,
Those with full-blown pride won't sleep
   till they've smashed that (enemy).

(37) And if, while lined up in the height of battle
   against those with disturbing emotions,
Who will come to suffer their natural deaths (anyway),
Those obsessed with vindictively smashing them will dismiss the pain
   of being struck by the weapons of arrows or spears
And, till accomplishing their aims,
   will never run off in the opposite direction;

(38) Is there need to mention that I mustn't lose
   heart and procrastinate,
Even if I'm caused hundreds of sufferings
When, now, I strive to definitely overcome my natural enemies
   (my disturbing emotions),
Which are the continual source of all my sufferings?

(39) If wounds, without even some purpose, inflicted by enemies,
Are held up like ornaments on the body,
Then why are sufferings troublesome to me,
Who impeccably strive to fulfill the Great Purpose?

(40) If fishermen, outcastes, peasants and the like,
Even with the thought of merely their livelihoods,
Endure such sufferings as heat and cold,
Why aren't the likes of me patient for the sake of the happiness
   of wandering beings?

(41) When I promised to liberate from their disturbing emotions
Wandering beings in the ten directions
As far as the ends of space,
I myself was not freed yet from disturbing emotions,

(42) And didn't even realize the extent of my
   (being under their control);
Wasn't it crazy to have spoken (like that)?
But, as this is so, I shall never withdraw
From destroying my disturbing emotions.

(43) To do this shall be my obsession:
Holding a grudge, I shall meet them in battle!
Disturbing emotions, in forms such as these,
Are exclusively for destroying the disturbing emotions.

(44) Better for me to be burned to death
Or have my head chopped off:
I shall never, in any circumstances,
Bow to the enemy, (my) disturbing emotions.

(45) Common enemies, when driven off from a country,
Will settle and occupy other lands,
And when they've recovered their strength, return once again;
But the way of the enemy, my disturbing emotions,
   is not similar in this regard.

(46) Pitiful disturbing emotions, when gotten rid of by wisdom's eye
And kicked out of my mind, where will you go?
Where will you live to come back to harm me?
Weak-minded, it's fallen to my making no effort.

(47) If disturbing emotions don't live in sensory objects,
   in networks of sensory cells, in between (the two),
Or somewhere other than that, then where can they live to harass
    all wandering beings (again)?
They're like an illusion and, because of that,
   I shall get rid of the fear in my heart
   and devote myself resolutely to striving for wisdom.
Why have I been torturing myself, for no real reason,
   in joyless realms and the like?

(48) Having decisively thought like this,
I shall strive to actualize the training, just as explained.
Not listening to the doctor's instructions,
How can a patient in need of a cure be healed by his medicines?

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