Shantideva on Happiness in All Things

More on the subject of happiness, and more from Shantideva, the 8th century Buddhist poet/scholar.

Little is truly known about Shantideva’s life. His myth is basically the same old story: son of a king, renounces worldly life, becomes awakened, teaches. His renunciation is said to have been the result of having a vision of Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. A follower of Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka Philosophy, Shantideva is thought to have spent most of his career at Nalanda University.

Nalanda was a Buddhist center of learning for some 770 years (427 to 1197 CE). In 1193, the university was largely destroyed by forces under the command of Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turkic Muslim. According to Wikepedia, “The great library of Nalanda University was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the Moguls set fire to it, sacked and destroyed the monasteries, and drove the monks from the site.”

Shantideva wrote the book on Bodhisattvas. His Bodhicaryavatara or “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way Of Life” is considered the sine qua non of teachings on the Bodhisattva path and is one of the foundational texts of Tibetan Buddhism.

This is from the Siksasamuccaya or “Manual of Wisdom”:

Nothing is difficult after practice. For instance even simple folk, such as porters, fishermen, and ploughmen, do not succumb to depression, though their minds are calloused with the healed scars of the many pains they have learned to bear through the course of earning their modest livings. So much more should one be cheerful in the mission to attain the incomparable state where the happiness of all beings, and the happiness of all the bodhisattvas are found.

So the ignorant attack those who injure them, and who are struck by their own bad actions, and are to die by natural death; how much more should there not be effort and endurance of pain to attack the enemies, that injure for the longest time, pilferers of the good gotten by pain, killing the condemned in hell, jailors of the prison of existence, destroying the realm of the door of exit, who cause more deadly injuries even to those well-disposed towards them, unprovoked enemies, foes firmly fixed through endless ages, sins that are our enemies; especially of those whose flanks are girded, fighting for the emancipation of the world caught prisoner by Mara’s demons.

There by practice, consciousness of sorrow and happiness becomes more and more intense. As the perception of happiness and unhappiness comes by habit; so, in all cases of unhappiness arising, we make it a habit of associating with it a feeling of happiness and the consciousness of happiness arises. The fruit of this is a contemplative mind that that finds happiness in all things.

It is said in the Pitdputra-samdgama (The Meeting of Father and Son): There is a mind of contemplation called ‘That Which Finds Happiness in All Things’; through acquiring this mind the bodhisattva is happy and feels things painful as pleasant, not painful, nor indifferent, even when subject to the tortures of hell, even when suffering a torment in human life . . .’

And why is this? For the resolve of the bodhisattva is thus: ‘May those who feed me obtain the joy of calm and tranquility; may those who protect me, who maintain me, respect me, honor me, revere me, all receive the bliss of tranquility; and may they who curse me, who afflict me, who torment me, tear me with knives until they completely sever me from life, all partake of the happiness of complete enlightenment; may they awaken the incomparable and sublime enlightenment.’

With these thoughts and actions and these aspirations the bodhisattva seeks and ensures, cherishes and multiplies the feeling of happiness in relation to all beings; and by the ripening of this course of action, touches the mind of contemplation that finds happiness in all things.

At the time when the bodhisattva has touched the mind that finds happiness in all things, at that time he becomes equanimous, not to be shaken by all the deeds of Mara. That is the sum of the matter.


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