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The Bodhisattvacharyāvatāra or Bodhicaryavatāra, sometimes translated into English as A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, is a famous Mahāyāna Buddhist text written in Sanskrit verse by Shantideva (Śāntideva), a Buddhist monk at Nālandā Monastic University in India around 700 A.D. It has ten chapters dedicated to the development of bodhicitta (the mind of enlightenment) through the practice of the six perfections (Skt. Pāramitās). The text begins with a chapter describing the benefits of the wish to reach enlightenment. The sixth chapter on the Pāramitā of patience, (Skt. Kṣānti, kshanti), is considered by many Buddhists to be the pinnacle of writing on this subject and is the source of numerous quotations attributed to Śāntideva. Tibetan scholars consider the ninth "Wisdom" chapter to be one of the most succinct expositions of the Madhyamaka view. The tenth chapter is used as one of the most popular Mahāyāna prayers.

Many Tibetan scholars have written commentaries on this text.

Chapter summary

  • 1. The benefits of bodhicitta (the wish to reach full enlightenment for others)
  • 2. Purifying bad deeds
  • 3. Adopting the spirit of enlightenment
  • 4. Using conscientiousness
  • 5. Guarding awareness
  • 6. The practice of patience
  • 7. The practice of joyous effort
  • 8. The practice of meditative concentration
  • 9. The perfection of wisdom
  • 10. Dedication

Exegetical discourse and commentary

Many Tibetan scholars have written commentaries on this text, such as Ju Mipham, for example.

Mipham's Commentary to Chapter Nine

Pettit (1999: p. 129) holds that 'apperception' (Wylie: rang rig) is key to Mipham's (1846–1912) system of epistemology and hermeneutics and that apperception is central to his commentary to the ninth chapter of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.[1]


Commentaries & Studies in English

  • Brassard, Francis (2000), The Concept of Bodhicitta in Santideva's Bodhicaryavatara, History of religions, State University of New York (SUNY) Press, ISBN 0791445755 
  • Dalai Lama, XIV; Padmakara Translation Group (1994), A Flash Lightning in the Dark of Night: Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (1st ed.), Shambhala, ISBN 0877739714 
  • Dalai Lama, XIV; Geshe Thupten Jinpa (trans & ed) (2004), Practicing Wisdom: The Perfection of Shantideva's Bodhisattva Way, Wisdom Publications,U.S, ISBN 0861711823 
  • Geshe Yeshe Topden (2005), The Way of Awakening: A Commentary on Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara, Wisdom Publications,U.S, ISBN 0861714946 
  • Gyatso, Kelsang (1980), Meaningful to Behold: View, meditation and action in Mahayana Buddhism : an oral commentary to Shantideva's A guide to the Bodhisattva's way of life, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0861710037 
  • Khenchen Kunzang Pelden; Padmakara Translation Group (2008), The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech: A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva, Shambhala, ISBN 159030439X 
  • Khenchen Kunzang Pelden; Minyak Kunzang Sonam; Padmakara Translation Group, Wisdom: Two Buddhist Commentaries on the Ninth Chapter of Shantideva's Bodhicharyravatara 
  • Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche; Holmes, Ken (trans); Doctor, Thomas (trans) (2001), A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life of Shantideva, Kathmandu: Namo Buddha Seminar, ASIN: B000UO76C6 
  • Williams, Paul (1997), Altruism and Reality: Studies in the Philosophy of the Bodhicaryavatara, Routledge Curzon Critical Studies in Buddhism, Routledge Curzon, ISBN 0700710310 
  • Williams, Paul (1997), The Reflexive Nature of Awareness (Rang Rig): Tibetan Madhyamaka Defence, Routledge Curzon Critical Studies in Buddhism (1st ed.), Routledge Curzon, ISBN 0700710302 


  1. Pettit, John Whitney (1999). Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Boston: Wisdom Publications. pp. 129. ISBN 0861711572. 

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