This project was envisioned and completed in Kathmandu, Nepal, when it was still unharmed by the devastating series of earthquakes starting on April 25, 2015. The recording studio was located in Naradevi, in the heart of the old city, where many lost their lives, many more were injured and lost their homes, and numerous historic buildings were destroyed. Over the period of three years, we spend much time there, met new friends and shared our love for the ancient Buddhist culture of the Indian subcontinent. Without the support and kindness of so many people from Nepal this would never have become a reality. We would like to dedicate this project to Nepal, with its ancient spiritual heritage, and to its people, who had to endure so many hardships in the recent past.
May the wounds heal quickly and the hearts find peace and strength.
Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra figures among the most celebrated works of Sanskrit Buddhist literature. Revered for its poetic beauty and profound purport, it is the classic text studied in all Tibetan Buddhist monastic institutions and in many universities and Dharma centres throughout the world. It is also often taught by many Lamas around the world, who unanimously praise this work for the powerful influence it has on their spiritual development.
Śāntideva was a Buddhist master who lived in India around the beginning of the 8th century CE. His is generally accredited with the composition of two works, the Bodhicaryāvatāra and the Śikṣāsamuccaya, the former of which became the most influential.
Outlining the entire Mahayana path to awakening – from the altruistic motivation to attain awakening for the sake of all beings, to the practice of dedicating all wholesome deeds to their benefit – the text describes in detail how a bodhisattva must practice to gain the highest fruit of the spiritual journey. At the centre of this path lies bodhicitta, the heart of awakening. It is the proactive resolve to become a Buddha in order to help limitless beings, leading to the engaged application of the six pāramitās (‘perfections’), the wholesome qualities and practices which culminate in the cultivation of supreme insight into reality.
We started this, our first project, in spring 2011. For every recording session, we travelled the busy and dusty roads of Kathmandu between Boudha and the old city to go to REC STUDIO in Naradevi where Sunit Kansakar and his audio engineers provided us with the help and expertise needed for this project. The recording was completed in the summer of 2013, but it took some time to prepare it for publication and to think about how we could best make it avaible to others.
The reciter: Prof. Kashinath Nyaupane
Kashinath Nyaupane is professor and head of the Department of Buddhist Studies (Bauddha darshana) at the Nepal Sanskrit University, Balmiki Campus, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Born into a traditional Brahmin family, he started his Sanskrit training at an early age with his father and grandfather, and later studied the various branches of classical Indian philosophy, including Buddhism, in Varanasi. He has been teaching Sanskrit and Indian philosophy in Nepal and abroad for many years, and has published books in Sanskrit, as well as translations into Hindi, English and Nepali of Sanskrit classics from the Buddhist, Jain, Vedanta, and Mimansa schools, and translations of Pali and Prakrit scriptures.
Editions and translations of the text
As none of the available editions of the text is free of errors, Prof. Kashinath created his personal edition in accordance with the rules of Sanskrit prosody, correcting other editions as we progressed in the recording. Unfortunately his edition will remain personal, at least for the time being. For reference, we have included the Sanskrit text for each chapter according to the Vaidya edition, kindly made available by Miroj Shakya from the Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon Project.
The principle Sanskrit editions of this text available to us are:
- Śāntideva; Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara (ed.) (1960): Bodhicaryāvatāra, Calcutta: The Asiatic Society.
- Śāntideva; Vaidya, P.L. (ed.) (1960): Bodhicaryāvatāra of Śāntideva with the Commentary Pañjikā of Prajñākaramati, Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning.
- An online edition of the text in transliteration and Devanagari script, based on Vaidya, is found at the Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon Project here.
- The Bibliotheca Polyglotta (BP) Project by Jens Braavig from the University of Oslo offers an online edition of the text, with Chinese, Tibetan and English translations, available here.
Translations: the text has been translated several times into English and other European languages. We recommend the following English translations:
- Shantideva; Crosby, Kate and Skilton, Andrew (trans.) (1998): The Bodhicaryāvatāra: A Guide to the Buddhist Path to Awakening, Oxford (from the Sanskrit).
- Shantideva; Padmakara Translation Group (2006): The Way of the Bodhisattva (revised ed.), Shambhala (from the Tibetan).
- Shantideva; Batchelor, Stephen (trans.) (1992), A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (6th revised ed.), Snow Lion Publications (from the Tibetan).
Sanskrit metre in the Bodhicaryāvatāra
The Bodhicaryāvatāra was composed in many different metres, making it suitable material for the study of Sanskrit prosody. The first and the last chapters in particular are very beautiful, we feel, written in and sung according to various metres such as indravajrā, śiśulīlā, anuṣṭub and others. At this point we are unfortunately unable to present a detailed list of the verses and the metres used, but we hope to expand the website with this and other features in the future. If you would like to help us with this work, please contact us.
In the first chapter, Śāntideva explains the meaning of bodhicitta and its benefits.
In the second chapter, Śāntideva teaches how to purify one’s mind in order to prepare it for the generation of bodhicitta.
The third chapter discusses the correct procedure to give birth to bodhicitta.
The fourth chapter deals with the level of conscientiousness necessary to prevent one from impairing one’s bodhicitta.
The fifth chapter contains an explanation of ethical discipline rooted in mindfulness and awareness.
The sixth chapter discusses the means that enable one to skilfully face adverse conditions and obstacles.
The seventh chapter is about the pāramitā of diligent perseverence.
The eighth chapter discusses the prerequisites for mental calm and stability, and the meditative practices based on bodhicitta, i.e. equalising oneself with others and exchanging self and others.
The ninth chapter contains a profound analysis of reality according to the Madhyamaka school of philosophy.
This last chapter is a beautiful poem of aspirations, dedicating all the good generated with bodhicitta to the wellbeing of others.