Bodhicharyavatara Study Resources

Here is a small collection with some study resources for Shantidevas 'Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life':

bde gshegs chos kyi sku mnga' sras bcas dang
phyag 'os kun la'ang gus par phyag 'tshal te
bde gshegs sras kyi sdom la 'jug pa ni
lung bzhin mdor bsdus nas ni brjod par bya

"In adoration I make obeisance to the Sugatas and their sons,
and to their bodies of Dharma, and all those worthy of praise.
In brief, and in accordance with scripture,
I shall describe the undertaking of the observance of the sons of the Sugatas."


Original Texts:

Bodhicharyavatara in Tibetan (PDF)

Bodhicharyavatara in Tibetan (Roman transliteration)

Bodhicharyavatara in Tibetan

Bodhicharyavatara in Sanskrit

Translations online:

Alex Berzin's Translation

Alex Berzin's Translation (PDF)

Nick Barr's Translation (PDF)

Steven Batchelor Translation (PDF)

Alan Wallace' Translation

Biona Translation


Commentary by Patrul Rinpoche

Tulku Thubten Rinpoche Commentary

Commentary by Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche

Commentary by Khenpo Kunpal

Padma Karpo Translation Committee

Audio/Video Commentaries:

His Holiness, the XIV. Dalai Lama: Teachings on A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Chod jug)

H.H. Dalai Lama: Shantideva’s Compendium of Precepts (Laptu) and A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Chod jug)

H.H. Dalai Lama: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Chod jug - Wisdom Chapter), The 37 Practices of A Bodhisattva (Lak-len so dun-ma) and Chapters 18, 22, 24 & 26 of Nagarjuna's The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way (Uma Tsawa Sherab)

H.H. Dalai Lama: Oral Commentary to Chapter Eight

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche: Teachings on the Bodhicharyavatara
    complete playlist

Geshe Michael Roach: Teachings on A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (ACI Course 10 - 12)
    complete playlist

Geshe Ngawang Dakpa: Teachings on the Bodhicharyavatara

Geshe Tsulga: The Way of the Bodhisattva
    complete playlist

Stephen Batchelor: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life

Thubten Chodron: Commentary on Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life

Venerable Marut: Boddhisattva's(?) Way of Life - In Depth Course

Translations & Commentaries in Print:

Translation by the Padmakara Translation Group

Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life: Translation by Alan Wallace

Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life Translation by Stephen Batchelor

Bodhicaryavatara Translation by Crosby & Andrew Skilton

Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life Translation by Thrangu Rinpoche

Santideva's Bodhicharyavatara (Sanskrit & English) Translation by Pramananda Sharma

No Time to Lose; A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva by Pema Chodron

The Importance of Pacience: Commentaries on Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Chapter Six, "Patience" by the H.H. the XIV. Dalai Lama

Meditation: Teachings on Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (DVD)

The Way of Awakening: A Commentary on Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara by Geshe Yeshe Tobden

Practicing Wisdom The Perfection of Shantideva's Bodhisattva Way by the H.H. the XIV. Dalai Lama

A small comparison between the different translations (PDF)


And here is a nice little summary of the various translations of the Bodhicharyavatara, written and kindly posted on E-Sangha by my Vajra-brother Gady:

I will give my summary first, in case people know even less Tibetan than I do, or don't want to go into the details.

If you wish to read a version that is close to the exact words of the Tibetan version (for the original Sanskrit we should open another thread) the best you could do, it seems to me, is choose Stephen Batchelor's version, or perhaps the Wallaces'. Stephen's is a bit nicer design-wise, I recall from glimpsing it, and is translated from the Tibetan, whereas the Wallaces' is transalted from Sanskrit and Tibetan, Sanskrit being more dominant but when the Tibetan has major differences a footnote lists the alternate translation.

If, however, you wish to read a standalone version in English, and you are willing to sacrifice considerable (but not fatal) accuracy in order to read a work that is superb and superior in and of itself in terms of poetical beauty, flow, and, as Will has said, 'Bodhicitta Vibes', I would go for the Padmakara group's work, which is also the most beautiful, by far, in its design and cover, especially the newer exquisite reddish-gold cover. In and of itself, I also like its title best, simple and pure.

So here is a more detailed report. Perhaps I have exaggerated in the details, but I became quite fascinated with it.

Stephen Batchelor's version - A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979.

This was actually a pleasant surprise. I didn't know what to expect from an old translation that was published in LTWA, when at that time the standards of translation weren't high and were (explicitly in most cases) interpretative, based on some of their other old editions I checked.

Furthermore, I didn't know what to expect form a person who, though a Tibetan tradition monk at the time of translating, later switched to Zen, then disrobed, then published a controversial book.

This version is in many ways the most simple, direct and faithful version, at least based on these three verses, from the three versions here (excluding the Wallaces') which were translated from the Tibetan alone (though consulting the Sanskrit and/or other translations from the Tibetan and Sanskrit many times).

One slight thing that bothered me just a little was that he translated 'gro ba as 'living beings' in verse #1, a bit clumsy to me. Another minor matter is that he extrapolated the 'all' those who remain in cyclic existence. The one thing that really bothered me was the fanciful 'receive Waves of joy' which is totally unrelated to the root text I have.

The Wallaces' version - A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, translated by Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace, Snow Lion, 1997.

This version is actually primarily from Sanskrit, so I don't know how good it is for our specific purpose, though it states that it always consulted the Tibetan and when the Tibetan considerably differs brings an alternate translation of the verse in a footnote (which isn't a good idea, design-wise, imho).

A faithful and precise translation, it seems to me, based on these three verses. I found the use of 'joy and contentment' for bde dga' a little unwarranted, because I couldn't find 'contentment' for any one of these common Tibetan terms in themselves in the online dictionaries I checked (nor in the Illuminator, which I happily bought and downloaded today, which looks impressive but not comprehensive so far) and because all three other translations used 'joy' and 'happiness'. Another thing was that in the third verse they translated 'may the world attain...' which is a bit peculiar, I don't see any 'world', but rather just 'gro ba, but there might be a 'world' in the original Sanskrit, I don't know.

The Padmakara Group Version - The Way of the Bodhisattva, translated by Wulstan Fletcher, Shambhala, 1997.

I was actually a little disheartened after checking this version. It is the only version I fully read and the effect it had on me was profound. As a standalone version, it is a superb work of spiritual poetry, sublime, profound and astonishingly beautiful at one and the same time. It states in the introduction that it is not a word by word translation, but I didn't realize the extent of its stylistic rerendering, and it is a little bothering, though as a work-in-itself I still greatly prefer it to the other versions.

The many ways in which it differs from the source I have are numerous, but here are a few examples: 'the virtue I have now amassed': ammased is extrapolated, as far as I can tell (though I don't understand what rnam par does in the first verse, which seems to have been glossed over by all versions, I know its common usage, but can't make sense of it here, anyone?). Instead of 'oceans' (of joy and happiness) it has 'boundless measure', which is a bit strange considering that this is the most poetic of the translations I checked. In veres #3, in 'present joy', the 'present' is (perhaps understandably) extrapolated, and byang chub sems dpa' yi bde ba which is clearly 'bodhisattva's joy/happiness/bliss' translates as 'unsurpassed beatitude' which they may 'taste', which is perhaps good for non-Buddhists but a bit too personally- interpretatively-spelling-it-out for people who know what a Bodhisattva is, I think.

While this is the least faithful version word-wise, it is the only one who had both adjectives in the end, 'constant and unbroken'.

Alexander Berzin's version - The Berzin Archives, 2004.

This is the most interpretative and didactic of the versions, even after I have excluded (for reasons of space) the further interpretative additions in parentheses. At times it is a bit bizzare.

In verse #1 he adds 'my constructive act' (of having composed), which as far as I can tell is unwarranted and also somewhat his own idea. If by this he means to translate rnam par it is quite strange. Similarly, in verse #2 he gives 'Through the forces of my positive acts' for bsod nams kyis. As far as I can tell bsod nams is usually rendered as 'merit' or 'virtue', perhaps 'positive' is appropriate, but it can also mean mental 'actions' which isn't implied by Berzin's choice of English. This is a big difference, but of course I know next to nothing about Tibetan and will humbly stand corrected. 'forces' is also unwarranted in this case, though it could easily have been used had the common dbang appeared here, but it doesn't.

Furthermore, he also uses 'unsurpassed bliss' (though in parentheses he does add "bodhisattva's"), which is too far away from the literal to my mind, like Padmakara's.

One thing I did like was that he was the only one who used 'wandering beings' for 'gro ba, which is both more literal and conveys the flavor of this common Tibetan term. I myself might have chosen 'wanderers' by itself, I think it is one of those rare cases where the English word is in this case perhaps even better in a way, in what it gives rise to in the mind of the reader, than the original term it translates.


Flavio said...


Long life for the Masters!

Fernando said...


Thanks for posting the info about Shantideva's work. I would really appreciate if you could send me the tibetan transliteration, please. I've tried to download it, but is an unkown format.

I'm thinking to make a spanish translation of that text.

Thanks again, best wishes...