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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 73 |spring 2006 pandits who were invited to Tibet in the ninth century to begin the great task of creating a Tibetan Buddhist canon. As with many ancient Indian texts, there are lingering questions about the dating, authorship, and textual integrity of the Bodhicaryavatara as it now stands. The version translated into Tibetan differs in both length and organization from a manu script of the same era discovered in the Dunhuang caves of western China, leading scholars to wonder what the “original” text may have been, and how it might have been altered over the years. And Shantideva himself remains a shadowy figure, known to us only through colorful legends written down by Tibetan historians many centuries after his death. Despite these uncertainties, and although it was composed by a Buddhist monk for other Buddhist monks in an elite mon astery in late medieval India, the Bodhicaryavatara has been influential nearly everywhere it has appeared, from India, to Indonesia, to Tibet, to Mongolia, to the modern West. It is easy to see why: it is one of the handful of Buddhist texts that with supreme skillfulness combines poetic beauty with argumentative rigor, longing for enlightenment with ruthless selfanalysis, and ritual formality with everyday advice. Like classics everywhere, the Bodhicaryavatara is many things to many readers. It has been described as a philosophical poem, a meditation manual, an inner dialogue, a code of ethical conduct, and a devotional hymn. It is all these, and more. Above all, it is, in Pema Chödrön’s words, “the essential guidebook for fledgling bodhisattvas,” providing a multitude of ways in which one can spur oneself to arouse, act upon, and perfect the central mindstate of the Mahayana practitioner: bodhicitta, which in its conventional sense is the commitment to gain enlightenment for the sake of all beings, and in its ultimate sense is the tran scendent insight into emptiness that is necessary if enlighten ment is to be won. To the degree that the bodhisattva is the central ideal of Mahayana, the Bodhicaryavatara’s imaginative and inspiring presentation of the bodhisattva path has insured its wide and appreciative readership. Pema Chödrön is well known to readers of Buddhadharma as the author of such popular and practical guides to applied dharma as When Things Fall Apart and The Places That Scare You (both published by Shambhala). She is an articulate expo nent of the approach to Buddhism developed by her principal teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, but has studied as well with numerous Tibetan masters, especially in the Nyingma and Kagyü lineages. She is the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey, in Nova Scotia – a Tibetan monastery established for Westerners – and she travels widely, giving lectures and courses. Her teach ings and writings over the years have been marked by compassion, humor, directness, and a gift for presenting upto date examples and anecdotes. She has displayed an especially keen appreciation for the psychological dimension of Tibetan Buddhist thought and practice, and unusual skill in translating that dimension into language readily accessible to her modern, largely Western, audience. No Time to Lose is based primarily on transcripts of teach ings on the Bodhicaryavatara that Pema Chödrön gave at Gampo Abbey in 2001. It is, so far as I know, the first published uPAYA zen center JOAN HALIFAX ROSHI PERSONAL RETREATS SOCIAL ACTION WOR KSHOPS SEMINARS SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO WWW.UPAYA .ORG 505.986 .8518 SAN FRANCISCO ZEN CENTER 300 Page Street San Francisco, CA 94102 415-863-3136 www.sfzc.org Tassajara Zen Mountain Center 39171 Tassajara Rd. Carmel Valley, CA 93924 City Center 300 Page St. San Francisco, CA 94102 415-863-3136 Green Gulch Farm 1601 Shoreline Hwy. Sausalito, CA 94965 415-383-3134 Offers one-day and weeklong medi- tation retreats, practice periods, residential training, and a guest student program. Offers one-day and weeklong medi- tation retreats, one and two month practice periods, residential farm and work apprenticeship programs, and a guest student program. Offers traditional Soto Zen 90-day training periods and a summer work practice program. Call the City Center front office for infor- mation: 415-863-3136.