A Great Commentary on Shantideva’s
Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life Vol. I
Based on Thogme Zangpo’s the Ocean of Good Explanation
By Khenpo Sodargye
Translated by the Wisdom and Compassion Translation Center Bodhi Institute of Compassion and Wisdom USA
I pay homage to Buddha Shakyamuni:
Nying je chenpo tso den nyik mey shing (Out of great compassion, he adopted the turbid world,) Zung Nay monlam chenpo nga gya tob (And made five hundred great aspirations.) Pay kar tar ngak tsen to chir mi tok (He was praised as the white lotus; whoever hears his name will never decline in the path,) Ton pa tuk je chen la chak tsal lo (I prostrate respectfully to my Guru, Venerable Great Compassion.)
Guru Yoga — quick bestowal of blessings
Nay chen riwo tsey nga-ay shing kam su (From the holy site-Mount Wutai,) Jampal tuk kyi jinlop yi la min (The blessings of Manjushri are infused into your heart) Jigme puntsok shabla sol wa dep (I pray at the feet of my Guru Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche) Gong ju tokpa po war jin gyi lop (To attain your heart transmission and blessings.)
I pay homage to my Guru Buddha Shakyamuni!
I pay homage to the wisdom warrior Manjushri!
I pay homage to all the great lineage loving masters!
The unsurpassed profound subtle wonderful Dharma
Is difficult to meet for hundreds and thousands million eons.
Since I get the chance to see, hear, receive and practice it now,
May I understand the ultimate meaning of the Thus Coming One.
In order to liberate all sentient beings,
Please generate the unsurpassable supreme bodhichitta!
Introduction Lesson 1
We will now begin to study A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (the Bodhisattvacharyavatara or the Bodhicaryavatara) together. The reasons for teaching the Bodhisattvacharyavatara are as follows: About three years ago, we aspired to study the Five Great Mahayana Texts. We learned “Precepts (Vinaya)” in the first year, and “the Treasure of Knowledge (Abhidharmakosa)” in the second year. Until now, we have almost finished the study of “the Middle Way (Madhyamaka)”.
This year, we are planning to study “the Buddhist Logic (Pramanavada)” and the Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamaya-alankara). As we know, in all schools and traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, each monastery and every individual practitioner believes “the Five Great Texts” are extremely important. As recently as three years ago, we made the aspiration that as long as there are no obstacles, we will study the Five Great Texts together! At the same time as we are studying the five texts, I also frequently emphasize some practical teachings. With any kinds of knowledge, if we study in a pure theoretic and academic manner, it will not necessarily be able to derive the greatest benefit in our continuum. Even if you are proficient in hundreds and thousands of sutras and commentaries, your continuum sometimes still easily contradicts the Dharma.
Therefore, on one hand, we should study the profound teachings such as the Madhyamaka, the Abhidharmakosa and the Hetuvidya; worldly people in the modern time have very strong conceptual thoughts, teachings on cause and effect and very simple practices alone cannot subdue those conceptual thoughts, we must completely study the related Buddhist knowledge. On the other hand, we also need to study some mind training teachings. Thus, I ask everyone to study the Bodhicaryavatara while we are studying the Buddhist logic-Hetuvidya.
This is the first reason. As mentioned earlier, the second reason is that, before entering paranirvana, our precious Guru, Dharma Lord Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, was planning to teach us The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation after we finished studying the Jewel Nature Treatise (Mahayana-Uttaratantra-Shastra). When our Dharma Lord announced this good news in the Great Sutra Hall, all the fourfold assemblies were ecstatic. I was also very happy to hear it myself. I have received the transmission and verses of the Bodhicaryavatara several times in front of our Dharma Lord Rinpoche, as well as this specific teaching the Ocean of Good Explanation from other teachers. I believe we are definitely able to generate bodhichitta in our continuum when a Great Bodhisattva like our Guru Rinpoche teaches the supreme works of the Bodhisattvas Thogme and Shantideva. This was what I felt at that time.
It was well known that, in Tibetan Buddhism the Bodhisattva Thogme is a wellrecognized Master who has fully developed bodhichitta. All his great works, such as “The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva”, The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation, are not very long; however, due to the great power of his aspiration, anyone who hears these teachings will certainly be able to develop genuine bodhichitta in his or her continuum.
This was agreed upon by all the historical great Masters and high Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. Our Guru Rinpoche had previously mentioned several times in class that if one can study the entire teaching of The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation, the benefits and merits are immeasurable. Even if you do not have enough time to finish the entire teaching but can only chant on several verses at the beginning or end of this text, bodhichitta will still arise within your continuum. Hereby, we were extremely happy to receive this teaching from our Guru.
This can only rarely occur after the accumulation of merit in many life times and eons. Having kept this in mind, I translated The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatar – the Ocean of Good Explanation as quick as I can.