In This Article Śāntideva (Bodhicaryāvatāra)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Life of Śāntideva

Buddhism Śāntideva (Bodhicaryāvatāra)
by
Francis Brassard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0026

Introduction

Śāntideva is a Buddhist philosopher and teacher who lived in India around the beginning of the 8th century CE. The details of his life, which are for the most part legendary, are known through the biographies of three Tibetan historians and one Nepali manuscript. Modern scholars agree on the fact that Śāntideva is the author of two treatises, the Bodhicaryāvatāra and the Śikṣāsamuccaya, both dealing with the spiritual practice of the bodhisattva and its philosophical foundation. From the point of view of his doctrinal presuppositions, Śāntideva is considered to be a representative of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism, most probably its Prāsaṅgika branch. From the early beginning of modern Buddhist studies, Śāntideva’s thoughts have attracted much attention among Western scholars. Numerous translations of his works, especially of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, have appeared since the early 20th century, and, more recently, analytical studies focusing on specific themes and issues related to his ideas have been published. In addition to scholarly works, Śāntideva’s thoughts have generated new commentaries to support the spiritual endeavor of Buddhist practitioners. As such, Śāntideva’s treatises are still very much part of a dynamic and evolving spiritual tradition as well as a privileged source of information for our understanding of the structure of the bodhisattva’s path as a whole.

General Overviews

Information about Śāntideva and his ideas can be found in the various translations and monographs produced by scholars cited in this bibliography. One of the first attempts to systematize that information is found in Pezzali 1968. One of the main features of the author’s work is a comparative analysis of the accounts of Śāntideva’s life produced by Tibetan traditional historians (Bu-ston, Tāranātha, Ye-šes dpal-’byor) and one found in a Nepali manuscript edited by Haraprasād Śāstri. A more recent attempt is Lele 2009. Apart from Lele 2009, other websites dedicated to the spread of Śāntideva’s teachings may be used as sources of general information and further research links. Many of these sites also provide guidelines to support Buddhist practitioners. A good example of such a site is the Rigpa Shedra Wiki.

  • Bodhicharyavatara. In Rigpa Shedra Wiki. 2011.

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    This webpage provides general information regarding the function of the Bodhicaryāvatāra in the context of Tibetan Buddhist practice. It includes an exhaustive list of important Tibetan commentators dating back as early as the 12th century.

  • Lele, Amod. “Śāntideva.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. 2009.

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    In addition to providing general information about the life and works of Śāntideva, this website presents Śāntideva’s main ideas related to meditative practices and ethical conduct. The various issues regarding the behavior of the bodhisattva are here summarized. For a more detailed account and discussion of these issues, one may refer to the author’s PhD dissertation (Lele 2007, cited in The Ethics of the Bodhisattva and Related Issues).

  • Pezzali, Amalia. Śāntideva, mystique bouddhiste des VIIe et VIIIe siècles. Florence: Vallecchi Editore, 1968.

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    Pezzali traces a portrait of Śāntideva that includes a discussion on whether he may be considered a tantric mystic. She also provides a comprehensive list of traditional and modern translations of Śāntideva’s works. De Jong 1975 (cited in Life of Śāntideva) does, however, question the accuracy of the information provided in Pezzali’s work.

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