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Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life: A Buddhist Poem for Today [Paperback]

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso , Belinda Ho , Chating Jamyang Lama , Chew Choon
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2002
This famous and universally loved poem for daily living has inspired many generations of Buddhists and non-Buddhists since it was first composed in the 8th century by Shantideva. This new translation, made under the guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, conveys the great lucidity and poetic beauty of the original, while preserving its full impact and spiritual insight. Reading the verses slowly, while contemplating their meaning, has a profoundly liberating effect on the mind. The poem invokes special positive states of mind, moves us from suffering and conflict to happiness and peace, and gradually introduces us to the entire Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment.

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Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life: A Buddhist Poem for Today + Meaningful to Behold: Becoming a Friend of the World + Universal Compassion: Inspiring Solutions for Difficult Times
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Product details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Tharpa Publications; 1st New edition edition (1 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0948006889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0948006883
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 12.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 462,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

The great Indian Pandit Shantideva (AD 687-763) was born the crown prince of a royal family in Gujarat, a kingdom in western India. His father was King Kushalavarmana (Armour of Virtue) and his mother was recognized as an emanation of the Tantric Deity Vajrayogini. At his birth the prince received the name Shantivarmana (Armour of Peace). Even as a very young boy Shantivarmana showed great ability in spiritual matters and by the age of seven was already highly skilled in the inner science of religion. His principal Teacher at that time was a Yogi who had so fully developed penetrating wisdom that it is said he achieved unity with Manjushri, the Buddha embodying the wisdom of all enlightened beings. When Shantivarmana himself engaged in a meditation retreat, he too received a direct vision of Manjushri and many prophetic omens as well. Shortly afterwards King Kushalavarmana died, leaving Shantivarmana to inherit the throne. The night before his intended coronation, however, Manjushri appeared to him in a dream. He told the prince that he should renounce his kingdom and become a celibate monk. Immediately upon waking, Shantivarmana fled the palace and disappeared into the forest to meditate. Once again he received a vision of Manjushri, who handed him a symbolic wooden sword. Upon taking it Shantivarmana attained eight perfect realizations. He then travelled to the great monastic university of Nalanda where he took ordination from the Abbot Jayadeva (God of Victory) and was given the ordination name of Shantideva (God of Peace). At Nalanda Shantideva's spiritual development progressed rapidly, especially as the result of his training in the profound and demanding methods of Tantra. However, because he did all his practices secretly at night and rested during the day, it appeared to others that he performed only three activities: eating, sleeping and defecating. For this reason, the other monks sarcastically referred to him as the 'Three Realizations'. Feeling he was a very irresponsible monk and a discredit to their illustrious university, they devised a plan to get rid of him. Incorrectly believing him to be deficient in meditational ability and ignorant of doctrinal theory, they arranged for Shantideva to deliver a discourse before the entire monastery. Their idea was that he would be so humiliated by this exposure of his ignorance that he would be shamed into leaving. When the day of the scheduled public humiliation arrived, Shantideva mounted the teaching throne and, much to the amazement of those assembled, delivered a discourse which, when written down, became known as Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, still considered the best set of instructions ever written for becoming a Bodhisattva - a being bound for full enlightenment. Afterward, having no desire to return to Nalanda, Shantideva left for South India. Needless to say, the monks he left behind were profoundly impressed and somewhat bewildered by Shantideva's teachings so several monks left Nalanda in search of the one they had once despised and requested him to repeat his discourse. This he did, and he also gave them the text of his Compendium of Trainings (Skt. Shikshasamuchchaya), which also explains the practices of a Bodhisattva. From that time onwards the study and practice of Shantideva's works flourished widely throughout India and other Mahayana Buddhist lands. This has been only a brief biography of the great Bodhisattva Shantideva, who throughout his entire life performed countless deeds for the sake of spreading Buddha's teachings, the Dharma, and helping sentient beings. Even today those who are fortunate enough to read, study and meditate on his outstanding texts can find them a source of great insight and benefit.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Treasurehouse of Profound Wisdom 12 Feb 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This beautifully presented ancient text contains nuggets of wisdom which deserve profound meditation - probably far more profound than I can manage as yet! I am pretty new to things Buddhist and would certainly not claim to be anywhere near enlightment, but I have found this book useful as a source to dip into and savour. The presentation itself has been skillfully designed to draw the reader in to an attitude of serenity. Each section is prefaced by a beautiful line drawing which illustrates a key verse. The illustrations themselves are inspiring. The content, being ancient, is highly poetical and hence highly wordy. It is probably not the best introductory text for those unfamiliar with Buddhist thought. For those with some familiarity however it provides a clear and logical progression towards enlightenment. I am glad that I bought it and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Buddhism seeking inspiration.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Kate
A beautiful book, provides a concise and logical progression towards enlightenment as already stated, the concepts are easy to understand and it has been well translated for western audiences. A must-have for anyone exploring Buddhism!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended 16 Feb 2013
The translation by Neil Elliot and Kelsang Gyatso is interpolated at least in some verses, and it brings some distortions into Shantideva's text.

In Chapter 5, Tharpa Publications, 2002, p.61, both translators give the following translation of Shantideva:

Verse 88
I should listen to Dharma
With respect and a good heart,
Recognising it as the supreme medicine
For curing the pains of anger and attachment.

Verse 89

I should teach the vast and profound Dharma with a pure intention,
Free from any wish to acquire wealth or reputation;
And I should always maintain a pure motivation of bodhichitta
And make great effort to put Dharma into practice.

Verse 90

I should explain Dharma to release those who are listening
From samsara, the cycle of suffering,
And to lead them to the ultimate goal -
The attainment of full enlightenment.

This "translation" is a spin of what Shantideva is actual saying.

Although there are different translations the real verses by Shantideva are similar to Dr. Alexander Berzin's translation (available online):

(88) I shall not explain Dharma to those lacking respect,
To those with heads bound (with cloth) while not being sick,
To those holding parasols, canes, or weapons,
Or to those whose faces are veiled,

(89) Nor the vast and profound to those who are modest,
Nor to women without (also) a man.
I shall always pay equal respect
To the modest and the supreme Dharma teachings.
Read more ›
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1.0 out of 5 stars Buyer Beware 16 Aug 2014
I read this translation and found it 'lacking' the grandeur and scope of other translations. It seemed to come from a single particular perspective rather than offering the breadth that connects to the wider body of Buddhist Teachings. It reads as a simplified text although it is apparently a full translation. There is little nuance and other more authoritative reviews point out it's inaccuracies.

I liked the pictures which made me wonder why other Buddhist texts don't make more use of illustration. Dharma texts though are more than just words on a page they are part of a living tradition. I think that potential buyers should bear in mind when buying this book that their purchase supports an organisation which is active in campaigning against the intentions and work of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dharma 24 Nov 2011
By Nick
This is by far the best piece of literature I have ever come across. The words are beautiful and very meaningful. The advice offered in this text can be applied to everyday life and if followed correctly can lead to one becoming very peaceful. I would recommend this book to every living being.
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