Covering the earth with leather

“Bodhicharyavatara composed in the 8th century C.E. by Shantideva is one of the most celebrated text of Mahayana Buddhism… In this masterpiece, the author, who belonged to the Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna, describes in detail the conduct of a Bodhisattva.”
– From the foreword by The Dalai Lama to the English translation of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara by Prof. Parmananda Sharma

In one of our workshops, Samdhong Rinpoche made a reference to a sloka by Shantideva that talked about how anger is always counterproductive. The sloka said something like ‘If there is a solution what is the use of anger and if there is no solution again what is the use of anger.’ I was intrigued! I started looking for the original Sanskrit sloka online and could not find it anywhere. But I tracked down and bought the book with the original Sanskrit and English translation and managed to find the quote. This is what it looks like…

यद्यस्त्येव प्रतीकारो दौर्मनस्येन तत्र किम् ।
अथ नास्ति प्रतीकारो दौर्मनस्येन तत्र किम् ।। १० ।।

  1. If remedy is possible, what use is ill-will there? If no remedy exists, ill-will will be of no avail.

If there is a way to resist or remedy the erosion of ‘ishta’ or to counter the onslaught of ‘anishta’, there is no place for anger or feelings of ill-will in the process. The remedy to forestall the undesirable should be sought by renouncing anger. Contrarily, if a remedial course of action does not exist, anger will be equally futile. Hence the best course under both situations is to overcome ill-feeling and eschew anger. Such an attitude alone will lead to happiness.

– From Page 186, chapter 6, of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara translated by Prof. Parmananda Sharma

I am still going through it but let me share another short sample that shows the power of this text…

कियतो मारयिष्यामि दुर्जनान् गगनोपमान् ।
मारिते क्रोधचित्ते तु मारिताः सर्वशत्रवः । । १२ ।।

  1. How many enemies, limitless as the sky, shall I kill? With the killing of the angry mind, all enemies are killed.

भूमिं छादयितुं सर्वं कुतश्चर्म भविष्यति ।
उपानच्चर्ममात्रेण छन्ना भवति मेदिनी ।। १३ ।।

  1. Where shall be available so much of leather as to cover up the whole earth? But, just with the leather of the shoes, the whole earth is covered.

बाह्यभावा मया तद्वच्छक्या वारयितुं न हि ।
स्वचित्तं वारयिष्यामि किं ममान्यैर्निवारितैः ।।१४।।

  1. Similarly, it is not possible for me to restrain external thoughts. So I shall restrain this mind of mine. What need for me, then, to restrain other things?

– From page 119 and 120, chapter 5, of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara translated by Prof. Parmananda Sharma

Education in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition

In the first post in a series on current and past masters who speak from within the Indian tradition, I thought of starting with Samdhong Rinpocheji. The small reason is that I was listening to a YouTube lecture by him today and the more substantial reason is that Pawanji (who I consider one of my Gurus) considers him one of his Gurus. I thought that the format for these posts could be:

  1. A link to a video or text by the master.
  2. A summary or interesting extract from the video or text to start a conversation.
  3. A few words about the master.
  4. Links for further viewing or reading.

So here goes…

A (longish) summary of the main ideas in the talk is given below:

  • Objective of shiksha is to dispel ignorance and awaken wisdom
  • Learning, teaching, arguments, debates, reading etc are all tools towards above
  • The guru word is not used and Kalyanmitra is used in the Buddhist tradition. It assumes a peer relationship and approachability

Three types of purush:
adam, madhyam and uttam purush – need different levels of shiksha

Kalyanmitra’s requirements/ tasks:

  1. Dispel fear from the student. Remove ‘i cannot do this’ from the student.
  2. Imparting teaching.
  3. Remove difficulties of student.

Students qualifications/ requirements:

  1. Non-biased mind
  2. Intelligence
  3. Willingness to learn, Inquisitiveness

Kalyanmitra-vidyarthi relationship is very important and very sacred. Based on a common agreement/ determination to work towards the awakening of wisdom in the student.

Kalyanmitra wisdom cannot be transferred directly to the student. No shaktipath possible. The metaphor used is a lit candle lighting an unlit one (no transfer of material from lit). So the awakened Kalyanmitra through dialogue, teaching etc. inspires manifestation of awakening in student.

Shiksha process. Threefold:

  1. Sheel
  2. Samadhi
  3. Pragya
    The above required to various degrees from learning the simplest tasks to achieving Buddhahood. At lowest level we need discipline, concentration and knowledge to even learn to write the letter ‘ka’.

How to do the process. Three ways:

  1. Shrutpragya – hearing and reading (knowledge)
  2. Chintan-pragya – thinking, analysis, examination (verification)
  3. Bhavanamayi pragya – 2 types contemplative/ concentration (experience)

Four skillful methods adopted by the Kalyanmitra:

  1. Take care of all needs of student (food, cloth, book, teaching etc.).
  2. Skillful conversation.
  3. Observe his or her own behavior. Live the teaching. Be an example.
  4. Wisdom to understand likes/ dislikes of student and to tailor the teaching accordingly.

About Rinpocheji (written by Pawanji):

Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, who makes a sharp distinction between shiksha and education, is a very senior buddhist monk, extremely erudite, a scholar, but more than that a person with deep wisdom, insights and endowed with an original mind. He has a very deep understanding of tradition and modernity and is able to live in the modern world with all its contradictions and strife without letting it affect him. He single handedly built the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. He was its founding Director and later retired from there as the Vice Chancellor. He was chairman of Association of Indian Universities, perhaps the only person ever to head this body who did not come from a formal educational background. He later became the speaker of the parliament of the Tibetan Government in Exile and later its first elected Prime minister.

Links for further study:
Rinpocheji’s website:

Pawanji talking about Rinpocheji on YouTube