The Bodhicaryavatara – Chapter 7


Chapter VII: The Perfection of Zeal

1. Thus, one who has patience should cultivate zeal, because Awakening is established with zeal, and there is no merit without zeal, just as there is no movement without wind.

2. What is zeal? It is enthusiasm for virtue. What is said to be its antithesis? It is spiritual sloth, clinging to the reprehensible, apathy, and self-contempt.

3. Spiritual sloth arises from indolence, indulging in pleasures, sleep, and craving for lounging around due to ones apathy toward the miseries of the cycle of existence.

4. Scented out by the hunters, the mental afflictions, you have entered the snare of rebirth. Why do you not recognize even now that you are in the mouth of death?

5. You do not see that those of your own kind are gradually being killed. You even fall asleep like a buffalo among butchers.

6. When Yama watches you and your path is blocked on all sides, how can you enjoy eating, and how can you sleep and have sexual intercourse?

7. Since death will come swiftly, until it does, one should accumulate the collections of merit and knowledge. Even if one rejects spiritual sloth at the time of death, what will you do at this wrong time?

8. Thinking: "I have not achieved this. I have just started this, but it remains half done. Death has suddenly arrived, O I am wretched,"

9. Seeing despondent relatives with their eyes swollen and red, with tears on their faces from the impact of their grief, and the faces of the messengers of Yama,

10. Tormented by the recollection of your own vices, hearing the sounds of hell, and befouling your body with excrement out of fear, what will you do when you are so terrified?

11. Realizing, "I am like a live fish," (pulled from the water) your fear is appropriate now. How much more when you have committed vices and face the intense suffering of hell.

12. So, delicate one, you burn even when touched by hot water. Upon performing deeds leading to hell, how will you remain at ease?

13. You expect results with no effort. So delicate you are, and in so much pain! While in the clutches of death, you act like an immortal. Hey, miserable one, you are destroying yourself!

14. Upon finding the boat of human birth now, cross the great river of suffering. O fool, there is no time for sleep, for this boat is hard to catch again.

15. Forsaking the supreme joy of Dharma, which is an endless stream of joy, how can you delight in frivolity and jokes, which are two causes of suffering?

16. The absence of apathy, the array of abilities such as prudence, self-control, equality between oneself and others, and exchange of oneself for others

17. Should be practiced without the discouragement of thinking, "how can I possibly attain awakening?" For the truth speaking Tathágata proclaimed this truth:

18. "Even those who were gadflies, mosquitoes, bees, and worms attain supreme Awakening, which is difficult to attain, through the power of their effort."

19. Human by birth and capable of knowing what is beneficial and what is not, why could I not attain Awakening as long as I do not forsake the guidance of the Omniscient One?

20. If I fear, thinking, "I shall have to sacrifice my arms, legs, and the like," I may confuse the important with the insignificant due to my lack of discrimination.

21. For countless millions of eons I shall be cut, pierced, burned, and split open many times, but awakening will not occur.

22. However, this limited suffering of mine, which yields perfect Awakening, is like the suffering of extraction when removing the pain of an imbedded splinter.

23. All physicians cure with unpleasant treatments. Therefore, to destroy a multitude of pains, a slight one must be endured.

24. Although such treatment is customary, the Supreme Physician does not give it. He cures chronic diseases with gentle treatment.

25. At the beginning, the Guide prescribes giving vegetables and the like. One does it gradually so that later one can give away even one’s own flesh.

26. When insight arises that ones own flesh is like the vegetable, then what difficulty is there in giving away one’s own flesh and bone?

27. On account of abandoning vices, one does not suffer, and on account of being wise, one does not become troubled in mind; for mental pain is due to false conceptions, and bodily pain is due to sinful actions.

28. The body is well on account of merit; and the mind is joyful on account of wisdom. What can afflict a compassionate one who stays in the cycle of existence for the sake of others?

29. Extinguishing previous vices and accumulating oceans of merit, owing to the power of the Spirit of Awakening alone, one moves ahead of the Sravakas.

30. Upon mounting the chariot of the Spirit of Awakening, which carries away all despondency and weariness, what sensible person would despair at progressing in this way from joy to joy?

31. The powers of aspiration, steadfastness, delight, and letting go, are for the sake of accomplishing the benefit of sentient beings. Out of fear of suffering, one should generate that aspiration as one contemplates its blessings.

32. Uprooting its opposite in this way, one should strive to increase one’s zeal with the powers of aspiration, self-confidence, delight, letting go, dedication, and determination.

33. I must eliminate immeasurable faults for myself and for others. While the eradication of every single fault may take myriads of eons,

34. I shall eliminate my own and others’ immeasurable faults. While it takes oceans of eons to eliminate each of those faults, if I do not see even a fraction of a beginning of the elimination of faults, why does my heart not burst, as I am a locus of immeasurable suffering?

35. I must acquire many good qualities for myself and for others; otherwise, the cultivation of every single good quality may not take place in myriads of eons.

36. I have never trained in even a small fraction of good qualities. It is astonishing that this life, which I have somehow obtained, has been spent in vain.

37. I have not found joy in great festivals and offerings to the Blessed One. I have not paid my respect to the teaching, nor have I fulfilled the hopes of the poor.

38. I have not granted fearlessness to the frightened, nor have I comforted the distressed. I became a spear in the womb just for my mother to suffer.

39. Due to my former lack of aspiration for Dharma, such a disaster has befallen me now. Who would forsake the aspiration for Dharma?

40. The sage declared that aspiration is a root of all virtues, and the root of that is constantly meditating on the results of the maturation of karma.

41. Miseries, depressions, various fears, and impediments to their desires befall those who do evil.

42. By performing an intended virtue, wherever one goes, one will be honored with the resultant benefits of one’s merit.

43. But wherever the desire for happiness of the evildoers goes, their vices destroy it with weapons of sufferings.

44. On account of their virtues, the Children of the Sugata, who dwell in the hearts of spacious, fragrant, and cool lotuses, whose splendor is enhanced with the nourishment of the sweet voice of the Jina, and whose handsome bodies emerge from the Lotuses Blossomed by the rays of the Sage, are born in the presence of the Sugata.

45. On account of non virtues, one cries out in distress, one’s entire skin is ripped away by the agents of Yama, one’s body is immersed into copper melted by the heat of fire, pieces of one’s flesh are cut off by hundreds of strokes of blazing spears and swords, and one repeatedly falls on intensely heated iron grounds.

46. Therefore, one should nurture an aspiration for virtue, cultivating it with reverence. Once one has begun, one should cultivate self confidence according to the method discussed in the Vajradhvaja Sutra.

47. After first examining one’s means, one should either begin or not begin. Surely, it is better not to begin than to turn back once one has begun.

48. This habit continues even in another life; and due to that sin, suffering increases. Another opportunity for action is lost, and the task is not accomplished.

49. One should apply self-confidence to these three: actions, secondary mental afflictions, and ability. "I alone should do it" expresses self-confidence with regard to action.

50. This world overwhelmed by mental afflictions is incapable of accomplishing its own self-interest. Therefore, I must do it for them. I am not as incapable as the world is.

51. Why should someone else do inferior work while I stand by? If I do not do it out of pride, then it is better to let my pride be destroyed.

52. Even a crow behaves like a garuda when attacking a dead water snake. If my mind is weak, even a small adversity is troubling.

53. When one is made powerless by despondency, adversities are easily caused, but one who is uplifted and zealous is invincible even in the face of great adversities.

54. Therefore, with an unswerving mind, I shall bring disaster to adversity. For as long as I am conquered by adversities, my desire for victory over the three worlds is ludicrous.

55. I should overcome everything and not be overcome by anything. I should acquire this self-confidence, for I am a Child of Lions, the Jinas.

56. Beings who are overcome with pride are wretched and not self-confident; they are under the power of the enemy, pride. A self-confident person does not succumb to the power of the enemy.

57. Led by pride to miserable states of existence, they are devoid of joy even in human life. They are slaves who eat others’ morsels, stupid, ugly, and feeble.

58. They are despised everywhere, puffed up with pride, and miserable. If they are included among the self confident, they are pitiable. Say, of what kind are they?

59. They are self confident and victorious heroes who bear their self-confidence in order to conquer the enemy, pride. Upon killing that growing enemy, pride, they demonstrate the fruit of their victory to the world as they please.

60. Abiding amidst a multitude of mental afflictions, one should be vigorous in a thousand and unconquerable by the hosts of mental afflictions, like a lion by a herd of deer.

61. Even in great troubles, the eye does not perceive flavor. Likewise, upon encountering difficulty, one should not be overcome by mental afflictions.

62. One should diligently apply oneself to the action in which one engages. Intoxicated by that action, one should be of an insatiable mind, like one striving for the satisfaction of the result of a game.

63. An action is performed for the sake of happiness, and yet happiness may or may not occur. But how can one who delights in action itself be happy when inactive?

64. In the cycle of existence, there is no satisfaction in sensual desires, which are like honey on a razors edge. How can there be satiation with the nectar of merits, which are sweet in their maturation and beneficial?

65. Therefore, even upon the completion of an action, one should immerse oneself in it again, just as an elephant, scorched by the midday sun, immediately approaches a lake.

66. And when one’s strength begins to decline, one should quit so that one can re-engage later. When a task has been well completed, one should leave it with the desire for more and more.

67. One should ward off the blows of mental afflictions and severely attack them, as if engaged in a sword-combat with a trained enemy.

68. Just like one would quickly, fearfully pick up a dropped sword, so one should pick up the dropped sword of mindfulness, while bearing the hells in mind.

69. Just as a poison spreads throughout the body once it has reached the blood, so does a fault spread throughout the mind once it has reached a vulnerable spot!

70. A practitioner should be like someone carrying a jar of oil while under the scrutiny of swordsmen, careful of stumbling out of fear of death.

71. Therefore, just as one quickly jumps up when a snake creeps into one’s lap, so should one swiftly counteract the advent of drowsiness and sloth!

72. At every single disgrace, one should burn with remorse and ponder: "How shall I act so that this does not happen to me again?

73. One should seek for companionship or for an appointed task with this motive: "how may I practice mindfulness in these circumstances?"

74. Bringing to mind the teaching on conscientiousness, one should arouse oneself so that one is always prepared before encountering a task.

75. Just as cotton is swayed in the direction of the winds coming and going, so should one surrender oneself to one’s enthusiasm, and in this way one’s supernormal powers will thrive.

Click here: The Bodhicaryavatara – Chapter 8