A Gift Pure in Thought like the Sky

Shantideva’s Sikshasamuccaya or “Compendium of Doctrine” is a veritable treasure house of passages from Buddhist sutras that are either no longer extant or have not yet been translated into English. Shantideva, in case the name is unfamiliar, was a Buddhist poet/scholar in the 8th century CE, thought to have spent most of his career at the famed Nalanda University.

His most famous work is of course the Bodhicaryavatara or “Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life.” The Sikshasamuccaya is his only other work (that we know of) and it is described by Wikipedia as “a prose work in nineteen chapters. It is organized as a commentary on twenty-seven short mnemonic verses known as the Sikshasamuccaya Karika. It consists primarily of quotations (of varying length) from sutras, authoritative texts considered to be the word of the Buddha — generally those sutras associated with Mahayana tradition . . .”

The passage I’m sharing today is from the Gaganaganja Sutra. I don’t know anything about this sutra, however, Gaganaganja (Sanskrit: “sky-inhabitant”) is a Bodhisattva mentioned in the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. Robert Thurman in his translation of the Vimalakirti notes that the word also refers to “a particular samadhi”.

From the chapter entitled “Purity in Enjoyment and Religious Action” (translated by Cecil Bendall), this poetic passage conveys the true spirit of giving, as well as the real meaning of renunciation:

Purification of religious action comes from behavior pervaded by sunyata [emptiness] and by compassion.

For it is said in the holy Gaganaganja Sutra: “He gives that gift, pure of the notion of I, pure of the notion of mine, pure of the notion of motive, of heresy, of reason, of kind, of expecting profit, a gift pure in thought like the sky, … as the sky is infinite, so is the thought with which he gives; as the sky is outspread over all, so that gift is applied unto wisdom; as the sky is immaterial, so that gift is dependent upon no matter; as the sky is without feeling, so that gift is detached from all feeling; so it is without consciousness, not composite, with the characteristic of manifesting nothing;  as the sky pervades all the Buddha’s field, so that gift is pervaded with compassion for all creatures;  . . . as the sky is always transparent, so his gift is clear of the nature of thought; as the sky illuminates all creatures, so his gift gives life to all creatures; … as one seeped in spiritual power gives to another, so he is without imagination and without reflection; without thought, mind, consciousness, not desiring anything; thus by the absence of duality, his gift is clear of the natural marks of illusion. When he has this renunciation in giving, renunciation of the passions of all creatures by knowledge of wisdom, non-abandonment of all creatures by knowledge of expedients, so, young sir, the Bodhisattva becomes self-sacrificing in heart, and his gifts are like the sky.”

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