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Buddhism Bodhicitta
by
John Powers

Introduction

The Sanskrit term bodhicitta (mind of awakening) refers to the state of mind of a bodhisattva, who pursues buddhahood in order to benefit others. There are two primary aspects: (1) a conventional aspect of a bodhisattva who aspires to buddhahood; and (2) an ultimate aspect, which is actualized when the nature of mind of a bodhisattva awakens. The conventional aspect also has two levels: (1) aspirational (praṇidhāna) bodhicitta, in which the bodhisattva takes a vow to attain buddhahood for the benefit of others; and (2) practical bodhicitta, which refers to actual practice on the path. Bodhicitta is the key concept that separates the two main traditions of Indian Buddhism, Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) and Hinayana (“Lesser Vehicle”). The latter is a polemical term (rejected by those to whom it is applied) coined by their Mahayana rivals. Mahayanists characterize the Hinayana pursuit of personal liberation as selfish and valorize the universal compassion of bodhisattvas, who are portrayed as mighty heroes who pursue the supreme religious goal because of their universal compassion. Note that, in Tibetan, the term bodhicitta is byang chub kyi sems. In East Asia, the term is written as 菩提心 and pronounced in Mandarin as pútí xīn; in Japanese as bodaishin; in Korean as pori sim; and in Vietnamese as bồ đề tâm.

General Overviews

Given its importance for Mahayana doctrine and practice and the central role it plays in polemical debates with its rivals, it is unsurprising that this topic has received a great deal of attention from scholars. Dayal 1932 is a classic overview of the bodhisattva doctrine that is useful but has been surpassed by subsequent scholarship. Williams 1989 provides a concise discussion of the doctrine of bodhicitta and its implications for Buddhist philosophy and practice. Kawamura 1978 contains articles that explore a range of topics related to the bodhisattva doctrine. Sparham 1992 is an erudite discussion of bodhicitta and related terms in Sanskrit and Tibetan literature. Wangchuk 2007 is the most comprehensive exploration of the concept to date, but discusses only Indian and Tibetan sources.

  • Dayal, Har. The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1932.

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    Somewhat dated, but still a good guide to Indic texts. The main discussion of bodhicitta can be found on pp. 58–64.

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  • Kawamura, Leslie, ed. The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhism. Waterloo, ON: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion, 1978.

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    The articles in this volume were written by some of the leading scholars in the field in the mid-1970s, and some remain useful. The main value of this volume today is its comprehensiveness: It begins with studies of Indic texts and also contains a number of articles that examine aspects of the bodhisattva doctrine that were debated in Tibet, China, and Japan.

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  • Sparham, Gareth. “Indian Altruism: A Study of the Terms Bodhicitta and Cittotpāda.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 15.2 (1992): 224–242.

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    Discusses the origins of the term bodhicitta and of related terms cittotpāda (mental arising) and bodhicittotpāda (arising of the mind of awakening) and argues that they should not be conflated. Sparham argues that bodhicitta is more profound than cittotpāda; the former implies a major existential transformation, while the latter appears to operate on a conceptual level.

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  • Wangchuk, Dorji. The Resolve to Become a Buddha: A Study of the Bodhicitta Concept in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 2007.

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    This is probably the most comprehensive discussion of bodhicitta to date. It contains an overview of how the term is construed in classical Indic sources, a survey of scholarly opinions, and some important Tibetan debates on the subject.

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  • Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London: Routledge, 1989.

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    This highly accurate and very readable book remains the best overall introduction to Mahayana doctrine. An excellent summary of the concept of bodhicitta begins on p. 198; this section is followed by an analysis of the bodhisattva path.

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Indic Sources

Bodhicitta is associated with Mahayana and is a central focus of a number of Indian discourses attributed to the Buddha (Sutras) and philosophical texts by Indian scholars (Śāstras).

Sutras

Some particularly influential sutras include the Discourse of the Great Final Release (Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra) and the Lotus Discourse of the True Doctrine (Saddharma-puṇḍarīka-sūtra).

Discourse of the Great Final Release

The Discourse of the Great Final Release (Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra) is a Mahayana text that purports to recount the Buddha’s final days and passage into nirvana. It was originally written in Sanskrit and only fragments exist today. Eight of these have been preserved in Russian collections; one is at Kōyasan (高野山) in Japan, and another is in London. Shimoda 1997 is an influential analysis of the historical development of the sutra and its relation to other similar works. Liu 1982 discusses the concept of buddha-nature in the sutra, an idea that is closely linked to the capacity to develop the compassionate mind of a bodhisattva. Buddhabhadra and Faxian (see Buddhabhadra and Faxian 1924–1934) produced one of the Chinese canonical translations; another was prepared by Dharmakṣema (see Dharmakṣema 1924–1934); and a third is credited to Jñānabhadra, Huining, Huiguan, and Xie Lingyun (see Jñānabhadra, et al. 1924–1934). The standard Tibetan version of the text was done by Jinamitra, Jñānagarbha, and Devacandra (see Yongs su mya ngan las ‘das pa chen po’i mdo); another by Wang phab zhun, dGe ba’i blo gros, and rGya mtsho’i sde appears to be based on Dharmakṣema’s Chinese text. Yamamoto 2007 is an update of Yamamoto 1973–1975 that provides an English translation purportedly from Dharmakṣema’s Chinese version. Note that, in Tibetan, the Discourse of the Great Final Release is Yongs su mya ngan las ‘das pa chen po’i mdo. In East Asia, it is written as 涅槃經 and pronounced in Mandarin as Nièpán Jīng; in Japanese as Nehan gyō; in Korean as Yōlban kyōng; and in Vietnamese as Niết bàn kinh.

  • Buddhabhadra 佛陀跋陀羅, and Faxian 法顯, trans. Dabannihuan jing (大般泥洹經). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 376.12.853–899. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    Chinese translation of the text. Translated in 416–418. Six fascicles (juan).

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  • Dharmakṣema 曇無讖, trans. Dabanniepan jing (大般涅槃經). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 374.12.365c–603c. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    Chinese translation of the text. Translated in 421. Forty fascicles.

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  • Jinamitra, Jñānagarbha, and Devacandra, trans. Yongs su mya ngan las ‘das pa chen po’i mdo. Tohoku #119, sDe dge mdo sde, Vol. nya: 1b–339a.

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    Tibetan translation of the text. Translated in the 9th century.

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  • Jñānabhadra 慧嚴, Huining 慧寧, Huiguan 慧觀, and Xie Lingyun 謝靈運, trans. Dabanniepan jing (大般涅槃經). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 375.12.605–852. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    Chinese translation of the text. Translated in the Song dynasty. Thirty-six fascicles.

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  • Liu, Ming-Wood. “The Doctrine of Buddha-Nature in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinivāṇa-sūtra.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 5.2 (1982): 63–94.

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    Useful discussion of buddha-nature as described in the sutra. This capacity underlies the project of generating bodhicitta.

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  • Shimoda, Masahiro. Nehangyō no kenkyū: Daijō kyōten no kenkyū hōhō shiron (下田正弘. 涅槃経の研究―大乗教典の研究方法試論). Tokyo: Shunjū-sha, 1997.

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    An important study that links the development of the sutra with the development of Mahayana. Shimoda argues that there was an original proto-Mahayana text that was later expanded and augmented as the tradition developed, and he sees several identifiable stages in the composition of the sutrapp. 3–42 contain an English synopsis of Shimoda’s arguments.

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  • Yamamoto, Kosho, trans. The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana-sutra. 3 vols. Ube, Japan: Karinbunko, 1973–1975.

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    Translation of the sutra. Annotated with full glossary, index, and concordance.

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  • Yamamoto, Kosho, trans. The Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra. 2007.

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    English translation purportedly based on Dharmakṣema’s Chinese version, revised by Tony Page. According to Akira Yuyama, however, Yamamoto really follows a classical Japanese translation by Shimaji, 國譯一切經 (Kokuyaku issakyō). (See Akira Yuyama, Sanskrit Fragments of the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra. Tokyo: Reiyukai Library, 1981.)

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Lotus Discourse of the True Doctrine

The Lotus Discourse of the True Doctrine (Saddharma-puṇḍarīka-sūtra) is one of the most widely popular Mahayana sutras; it contains seminal discussions of the doctrine of “skill in means” (upāya-kauśalya) and important themes such as the notion of “one vehicle” (eka-yāna), according to which all of the Buddha’s teachings, commonly divided into the doctrines of Hinayana and Mahayana, are really aspects of a single path. The Lotus Sūtra is the philosophical basis of a number of schools in East Asia, including Tiantai (天台) in China (Tendai in Japan) and Japanese traditions that trace themselves to Nichiren (日蓮, b. 1222–d. 1282), including Sōka Gakkai (創価学会) and Nichiren Shōshū (日蓮正宗). There are a number of translations of the Lotus Sūtra from Chinese, including Hurvitz 1976, Reeves 2008, and Kubo and Yuyama 2007, all based on Kumārajīva’s Chinese version (see Kumārajīva 1924–1934); and Watson 2002, which contains translations of selected chapters. The Kern 1963 translation is based on a Sanskrit manuscript. Kumārajīva (鳩摩羅什, b. 344–d. 413), a monk from Kucha, prepared the most widely used Chinese version of the text (see Kumārajīva 1924–1934). The earliest Chinese translation was done by Dharmarakṣa (竺法護, 法護, or 曇摩羅察, b. 230–d. 316) in 286 (see Dharmarakṣa 1924–1934). Jñānagupta (闍那崛多 or 德志, b. 523–d. 600) and Dharmagupta (達摩笈多, b. ?–d. 619) produced another Chinese translation (see Jñānagupta and Dharmagupta 1924–1934). The Tibetan canonical translation was assembled by Surendrabodhi and Ye shes sde (see Dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po’i mdo). Note that, in Tibetan, the Lotus Discourse of the True Doctrine is Dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po’i mdo. In East Asia, it is written as 妙法蓮華經 and pronounced in Mandarin as Miàofệ liánhuá jīng; in Japanese as Myōhō renge kyō; in Korean as Myobōp yōnhwa kyōng; and in Vietnamese as Diệu Pháp Liên Hoa Kinh.

  • Dharmarakṣa, trans. Zhèngfệ huā jīng (正法華經). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 263.9.63–133. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    The earliest Chinese translation of the text, completed in 286, divided into ten chapters and made up of twenty-seven fascicles (juan).

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  • Hurvitz, Leon, trans. Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma: The Lotus Sūtra Translated from the Chinese of Kumārajīva. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.

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    Classic translation from Chinese, still widely used and cited.

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  • Jñānagupta and Dharmagupta, trans. Tiānpện miào fệ liánhuá jīng (添品妙法蓮華經). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 264. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    Chinese translation by Jñānagupta, a monk from Gandhāra (犍陀羅國), and Dharmagupta, a monk from northern India: completed in 601–602. It is referred to as “appended” because it includes two extra chapters, one on the Buddha’s cousin and nemesis Devadatta (提婆達多品) and another on medicinal herbs (藥草喩品).

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  • Kern, Henrik. Saddharma-puṇḍarīka or the Lotus of the True Law. New York: Dover, 1963.

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    Somewhat dated but still useful translation from a Sanskrit manuscript.

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  • Kubo, Tsugunari, and Akira Yuyama, trans. The Lotus Sutra. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center, 2007.

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    A readable and accurate English translation of the text by two leading Japanese scholars, based on Kumārajīva’s Chinese version, which unfortunately lacks any background information or discussion of the translation.

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  • Kumārajīva 鳩摩羅什, trans. Miàofệ liánhuá jīng (妙法蓮華經). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 262.9.1c–62b. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    Chinese translation of the sutra in seven fascicles, completed in 406. Popularly referred to as Fahua jing (法華經).

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  • Reeves, Gene. The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2008.

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    English translation based on Kumārajīva’s Chinese text.

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  • Surendrabodhi, and Ye shes sde, trans. Dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po’i mdo. Tohoku #113, sDe dge, Vol. ja: 181a–195b.

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    Tibetan translation of the sutra.

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  • Watson, Burton, trans. Essential Lotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

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    English translation of selected chapters based on Kumārajīva’s Chinese text with a short introduction.

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Śāstras

The topic of bodhicitta is widely discussed in Mahayana literature, and it is possible to mention only some particularly important texts here. Three influential works that have detailed discussions of bodhicitta which have received a significant amount of commentary are: (1) Entry into the Bodhisattva Deeds (Bodhicaryāvatāra), attributed to Śāntideva in Tibetan canons and to Nāgārjuna in the Taishō and Korean colophons; (2) Exposition of the Mind of Awakening (Skt. Bodhicitta-vivaraṇa) by Nāgārjuna; and (3) Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vow (Skt. Bodhisattva-saṃvara-viṃśaka) by the lay scholar Candragomin.

Entry into the Bodhisattva Deeds

Entry into the Bodhisattva Deeds (Bodhicaryāvatāra) is one of the most important classical treatises on bodhicitta and is particularly popular among contemporary Tibetan teachers. It serves as the focus of more than forty published commentaries by Tibetan masters and a large number of translated oral commentaries available on the Internet. The Chinese version is divided into eight chapters (see Nāgārjuna 1924–1934), and the standard Tibetan version has ten chapters (see Byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa). The first chapter, “Benefits of the Mind of Awakening” (Skt. Bodhicittānuśaṃsā; Ch. 讚菩提心品), is concerned with the process of reorienting one’s mind through cultivating compassion with the goal of generating bodhicitta. Subsequent chapters build on this idea and discuss key aspects of the bodhisattva path, particularly cultivation of the perfections (pāramitā). Wallace and Wallace 1997 is a translation that uses both Sanskrit and Tibetan sources. Matics 1970 is a pioneering and still useful English translation. Crosby and Skilton 1995, a translation from Sanskrit, is both highly readable and well translated. Brassard 2000 is a useful study of the concept of bodhicitta in the text. Tenzin Gyatso 2004 is a commentary by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Williams 1998 is one of the best sources available for the philosophical implications of Śāntideva’s thought. Chapter 2, “Altruism and Rebirth,” is particularly interesting. It contains a detailed analysis of the interplay of logical reasoning and introspective meditation in developing genuine compassion and highlights the difficulties of making sense of the bodhisattva path if all beings are ultimately empty of inherent existence. Note that, in Tibetan, the Entry into Bodhisattva Deeds is Byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa. In East Asia, it is known as 入菩提行論 (Putixing jing).

  • Brassard, Francis. The Concept of Bodhicitta in Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

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    Good general overview of how bodhicitta is presented in Indic sources, a review of scholarly literature on the topic, and in-depth discussions of Śāntideva’s text and how it has been interpreted by Buddhist traditions.

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  • Crosby, Kate, and Andrew Skilton, trans. The Bodhicaryāvatāra: A Guide to the Buddhist Path to Awakening. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    Translation of the text from Sanskrit sources.

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  • Kunzang Pelden, Khenchen. The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech: A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala, 2007.

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    Oral commentary on the text by a master of the rNying ma order (mKhan chen Kun bzang dpal ldan, b. 1862–d. 1943), based on oral instructions by dPal sprul Rin po che (1808–1887).

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  • Matics, Marion L., trans. Entering the Path of Enlightenment: The Bodhicaryāvatāra of the Buddhist Poet Śāntideva. London: Allen & Unwin, 1970.

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    This highly readable and accurate translation provides a good overview of the text and explanatory notes.

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  • Nāgārjuna 龍樹 or 那伽閼剌樹那 (kLu sgrub). Putixing jing (入菩提行論). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 1662.32.543–562. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    Chinese translation of the text in eight chapters, translated by Tianxizai (天息災) during the Song dynasty; four fascicles (juan). See Byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa.

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  • Śāntideva (Zhi ba lha). Byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa. Translated by Dharmaśrībhadra, bLo ldan shes rab, dPal brtsegs. Tohoku #3871, sDe dge mdo ‘grel, Vol. la: 1a–40a.

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    Tibetan translation of the text. According to Tibetan tradition, Śāntideva was one of the greatest scholars of Nālandā Monastic University in India. Entry into the Bodhisattva Deeds, originally written in Sanskrit, is his most widely popular work.

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  • Tenzin Gyatso. Practicing Wisdom: The Perfection of Shantideva’s Bodhisattva Way. Translated by Geshe Thubten Jinpa. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    Translation of the root text and oral commentary by the Dalai Lama.

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  • Wallace, Vesna A., and B. Alan Wallace, trans. A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life by Śāntideva. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1997.

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    Translation of the text from Sanskrit and Tibetan sources.

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  • Williams, Paul. Altruism and Reality: Studies in the Philosophy of the Bodhicaryāvatāra. Richmond, UK: Routledge Curzon, 1998.

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    This collection of five essays is probably the best discussion to date of various aspects of the bodhisattva doctrine in relation to Śāntideva’s Entry into the Bodhisattva Deeds.

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Exposition of the Mind of Awakening

The Exposition of the Mind of Awakening (Bodhicitta-vivaraṇa) is a short text consisting of 112 verses in Sanskrit anuṣṭubh meter with a brief prose introduction. It is considered in Lindtner 1986 to be an authentic work of Nāgārjuna. The author notes (p. 248) that it is not mentioned by either Buddhapālita or Candrakīrti, but that it is discussed by Bhavya in his Ratnapradīpa. Lindtner 1986 provides a translation and study of the text. Dragonetti 1986 discusses the attribution of authorship of the text to Nāgārjuna. Mahoney 2003 offers a romanized Sanskrit version of the text. Schroeder 2000 examines Nāgārjuna’s perspective on “skill in means” in several texts, including the Exposition of the Mind of Awakening. Thubten Jinpa 2007 has an English translation as well as one of the Tibetan text. Gyaltsen Namdol 1991 provides an oral commentary. Nāgārjuna 1991 includes the Tibetan text, a romanized Sanskrit reconstruction, and a Hindi translation. Padmakara Translation Group 2008 makes available English and French translations of the text along with oral commentary. Schroeder 2000 discusses Nāgārjuna’s understanding of the concept of skill in means in several texts, including Exposition of the Mind of Awakening. In Tibetan, the Exposition of the Mind of Awakening is Byang chub sems kyi ‘grel pa (Tohoku #1800, translated by Guṇākara, Rab zhi bshes gnyen, sDe dge rGyud, Vol. ngi: 38a–42b). In East Asia, it is known as 菩提心 釋.

  • Dragonetti, Carmen. “On Śuddhamati’s Pratītyasamutpādahṛdayakārikā and on Bodhicittavivaraṇa.” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens und Archiv für indische Philosophie 30 (1986) 1.1: 109–122.

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    Discusses the authenticity of the attribution of the Bodhicittavivaraṇa to Nāgārjuna.

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  • Gyaltsen Namdol. Bodhicitta-vivaraṇa of Ācārya Nāgārjuna and Bodhicitta-bhāvāna of Ācārya Kamalaśīla. Bibliotheca Indo-Tibetica 23. New Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 1991.

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    Tibetan text with English translation that includes a text on bodhicitta attributed to the buddha Vairocana.

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  • Lindtner, Christian. Master of Wisdom: Writings of the Buddhist Master Nāgārjuna. Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 1986.

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    This book is a slightly revised version of Lindtner’s book Nāgārjuniana: Studies in the Writings and Philosophy of Nāgārjuna, which was based on Lindtner’s doctoral dissertation (Københavns Universitet, 1982) with some revisions. It contains English translations and editions of several texts he believes are validly attributable to Nāgārjuna, including Exposition of the Mind of Awakening. The introduction offers important scholarly discussions of Nāgārjuna’s works.

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  • Mahoney, Richard. Bodhicittavivaraṇa of Nāgārjuna: Sanskrit Text. Oxford: Indica et Buddhica, 2003.

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    Romanized transcription of a Sanskrit version of the text. Available online with registration.

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  • Nāgārjuna. ‘Phags mchog Klu-sgrub źabs kyis mdzad pa’i byaṅ chub sems ‘grel daṅ Slob-dpon Kamalaśīlas mdzad pa’i byaṅ chub kyi sems bsgom pa bcas bźugs so (Ācārya Nāgārjuna praṇīta Bodhicitta-vivaraṇa evaṃ Ācārya Kamalaśīla-praṇīta Bodhicitta-bhāvanā). Varanasi, India: Kendrīya Ucca Tibbatī-Śikṣā-Saṃsthāna, 1991.

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    Tibetan text with Sanskrit reconstruction and Hindi translation.

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  • Nāgārjuna. A Commentary on the Awakening Mind. Translated by Thubten Jinpa. 2007.

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    Translation from the Tibetan informed by oral commentary by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa (sGom chen Ngag dbang grags pa).

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  • Schroeder, John. “Nāgārjuna and the Doctrine of ‘Skillful Means.’” Philosophy East and West 50.4 (2000): 559–583.

    DOI: 10.1353/pew.2000.0012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examination of Nāgārjuna’s understanding of the concept of skill in means.

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  • Tenzin Gyatso. “Commentary on Bodhicitta.” In Texts and Prayers: Published on the Occasion of the Teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nantes, 16–20 August 2008. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group, 31–64. Nantes, France: Océan de Sagesse, 2008.

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    English and French translations with Tibetan text. Available online.

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Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vow

Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vow (Bodhisattva-saṃvara-viṃśaka) is a short mnemonic work, originally in Sanskrit and extant in Tibetan, consisting of twenty verses that summarize the content of the “Morality Chapter” (Śīla-paṭala) of Asaṅga’s Bodhisattva Levels (Bodhisattva-bhūmi); Tohoku #4081, sDe dge Sems tsam, Vol. hi: 192a–192b. Tatz 1978 and Tatz 1985 contain translations of the text and a commentary by Śāntarakṣita (see also Byang chub sems dpa’i sdom pa nyi shu pa’i ‘grel pa), and Tatz 1982 includes a translation of the work along with an oral commentary by a Tibetan scholar. Hahn 1993 discusses Tatz’s translations. Sonam Rinchen 2000 gives a translation of the text and oral commentary.

Tibetan Sources

Discussions of bodhicitta are a favorite topic of oral commentary for contemporary Tibetan masters, and there is a vast literature on it in the Tibetan canon, along with a large and growing number of works published by both Buddhist presses and academic presses, as well as many Internet resources. Berzin 2001 is probably the best resource on the Internet. Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche 2010 is a good resource for bKa’ brgyud pa teachings on the preliminary practices (sngon ‘gro). Gampopa 1998 is a classic work that is widely influential in Tibet. Hopkins 1980 provides a good discussion of dGe lugs pa perspectives on bodhicitta and translation of oral commentary by a modern dGe lugs pa scholar. Tenzin Gyatso 1984 is an eloquent statement regarding the development of compassion by the Dalai Lama. Tsong kha pa’s (Tsong kha pa bLo bzang grags pa, 1357–1419) Three Principal Aspects of the Path (Lam gyi gtso bo rnam gsum) is a short text by the founder of the dGe lugs pa order that is widely popular and is the focus of many commentaries. The three principal aspects are: (1) definite resolve to escape cyclic existence, (2) bodhicitta, and (3) the wisdom consciousness realizing emptiness. Wangyal 1978 offers a translation and commentary on the text by a dGe lugs pa lama from the Kalmykia region of Mongolia. Tsong kha pa 2004 is a translation of Tsong kha pa’s magnum opus The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path (Lam rim chen mo). This book contains lengthy discussions of the three phases of the bodhisattva’s career that accord with the distinction made in The Three Principal Aspects of the Path. The Great Treatise has been translated by a team of leading scholars and is both accurate and readable despite its technical nature. The translation has been published in three volumes that correspond to the three divisions of the path. Volume 2 is dedicated to techniques for generating bodhicitta, discussions of the role of compassion in the path, and Tibetan debates on the subject.

  • Berzin, Alexander. Stages of Bodhichitta. In Berezin Archives. 2001.

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    Good discussion of a Tibetan perspective on the difference between conventional and ultimate bodhicitta, which has a number of links to related pages in the Berzin Archives, one of the best online resources for Tibetan Buddhism.

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  • Gampopa. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-Fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings. Translated by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1998.

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    Discussion of the bodhisattva path by sGam po pa, one of the most important scholars of the formative period of the bKa’ brgyud pa order, with an extensive commentary on the concept of bodhicitta by a scholar of the ‘Bri gung bka’ brgyud pa order.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism. London: Rider, 1980.

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    Contains teachings on compassion by Khensur Ngawang Lekden and a commentary by Tsong kha pa on Candrakīrti’s Entry into the Middle Way (Madhyamakāvatāra).

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  • Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche. Drikung Kagyu Ngöndro Teaching. 2010.

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    Discussion of the cultivation of bodhicitta from the perspective of the ‘Bri gung bka’ brgyud pa order of Tibetan Buddhism given as part of the preliminary practices (sngon ‘gro), which links bodhicitta to the concept of an innate buddha-nature, referred to as the “womb of the thus gone ones” (Skt. tathāgata-garbha; Tib. de bzhin gshegs pa’i snying po).

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  • Tenzin Gyatso. “Altruism and the Six Perfections.” In Kindness, Clarity, and Insight. By Tenzin Gyatso, 43–56. Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1984.

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    Outlines two traditional Mahayana mental trainings designed to lead to the dawning of bodhicitta and the transformation of a practitioner’s consciousness, along with the subsequent training in the six perfections (pāramitā). Particularly suitable as an introductory text.

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  • Tsong kha pa. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment: Lam Rim Chen Mo. Vol. 2. Translated by Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2004.

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    This is Tsong kha pa’s major work on the bodhisattva path from the perspective of the Mahayana sutras.

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  • Wangyal, Geshe (dGe bshes Thub bstan dbang rgyal). The Door of Liberation. New York: Lotsawa, 1978.

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    Translation and oral commentary on Tsong kha pa’s Three Principal Aspects of the Path. Discussion of bodhicitta ranges from pp. 126 to 160.

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East Asian Sources

Most East Asian Buddhist traditions identify themselves as Mahayana, and so bodhicitta is an aspect of their buddhologies. In East Asia, the concept of an innate buddha-nature became widely popular; bodhicitta is commonly seen as the actualization of a potential for buddhahood and its associated exalted qualities inherent in the minds of all sentient beings. As a result of this notion, discussions of bodhicitta as a separate topic are not as numerous as in Tibetan tradition, where it is viewed as the beginning point of the bodhisattva path. Taking the Precepts for the Mind of Awakening (Bodhicitta-śīlādānakalpa) by Amoghavajra discusses the relation between taking bodhisattva vows and the development of bodhicitta (see Amoghavajra 1924–1934). Shōjun 2004 defends Shinran (親鸞, b. 1173–d. 1263) from the charge that his interpretation of Buddhism lacked a clear focus on compassion. Kiyota 1983 includes a translation of three texts that are important in the Shingon school and that focus on bodhicitta. White 2005 translates three texts from Chinese and discusses the influence of bodhicitta in East Asian traditions.

  • Amoghavajra 不空金剛. Shòu pútíxīn jièyí (受菩提心戒義). In Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō (大正新脩大藏經). T 915.18.940–941. Edited by Takakusu Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku. Tokyo: Daizōkyōka, 1924–1934.

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    Discussion of the precepts according to Vajrayāna; one fascicle. Amoghavajra (b. 705–d. 774) was born in Samarkand, and his Indian father and Sogdian mother moved to China when he was ten years old. He later became a noted translator and is regarded as one of the patriarchs of the Shingon school (眞言宗).

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  • Kiyota, Minoru. Tantric Concept of Bodhicitta: A Buddhist Experiential Philosophy. Madison: South Asian Area Center, University of Wisconsin, 1983.

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    Focuses on how bodhicitta is interpreted in three of the main scriptural sources for East Asian tantric Buddhism: the Discourse of Mahāvairocana (Mahāvairocana-sūtra), Treatise on the Mind of Awakening (Bodhicitta-śāstra), and Attainment of Buddhahood in the Present Body (Sokushin-jōbutsu-gi).

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  • Shōjun, Bandō. “Shinran’s Indebtedness to T’an-luan.” In Living in Amida’s Universal Vow: Essays in Shin Buddhism. Edited by Alfred Bloom, 217–230. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2004.

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    Discussion of Shinran’s interpretation of bodhicitta. The author defends Pure Land Buddhism against attacks that it ignores bodhicitta, situating Pure Land doctrine within Mahayana through quotations from various texts.

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  • White, Kenneth R. The Role of Bodhicitta in Buddhist Enlightenment. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2005.

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    Includes translations of the Treatise on the Mind of Awakening (Bodhicitta-śāstra), Distinguishing Exoteric and Esoteric Discourse (辯顯密二教論, Ben kenmitsu nikyōron by Kūkai 空海, T 2427.77.374–381), and the Sammaya-kaijo.

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LAST MODIFIED: 04/24/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0091

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