May 2024


May 22 2024


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Engaging in the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas – Day 3

Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra: Engaging in the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas by Śāntideva;

Students often wonder which Dharma books to study.  It is best to choose books that are true, undeceiving Dharma texts. Sakya Pandita, the fourth of the five founders of the Sakya Order, taught a rule of thumb for choosing such a Dharma book: it should have been taught by the Buddha, commented upon by great scholars, meditated upon by those who attained accomplishment, translated by great translators, and be well-known among scholars.

Engaging in the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas by Śāntideva is such a book.  It was written in the eighth century as a condensation of the Buddha’s teachings by the Indian master Śāntideva.  Śāntideva was a great scholar and meditation master at Nalanda University, who was specially blessed as Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom.

Engaging in the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas was composed as a lyrical spiritual poem in one thousand stanzas.  The work contains ten chapters which focus on two major topics: first, how to develop the motivation of enlightenment thought, and then how to practice it through the conduct of the six perfections.  The spiritual advice in the book is pure spiritual gold, and the beautiful poetry burnishes that gold to a fine luster.

Many great masters have used this text as a handbook for taming their own minds, as well as the minds of their students.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness the Sakya Trichen have both recommended this work as the best single encapsulation of the theory and practice of Mahayana Buddhism. A good knowledge of this text is essential for any serious Dharma student. Because it is such a great classic, Engaging in the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas is an important part of the philosophy curriculum at most Tibetan Buddhist religious colleges.

During the past 1300 years, more commentaries have been written by Indian and Tibetan scholars on Engaging in the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas, than on any other text. Its verses are frequently quoted by Buddhist scholars and teachers.  In the Sakya tradition alone, there are a number of classical commentaries, one of the most famous of which was written by Sabzang Mati Panchen.

This translation of the Sabzang Mati Panchen’s commentary is especially well-known and comprehensive and is helpful for English-speaking students because in addition to a clear, detailed description of each verse, it provides an outline of the entire text, theoretical discussion of each of the chapter topics, and numerous citations to other works.

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