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If the suffering of the many disappears because of the suffering of one, then a compassionate person should induce that suffering for his own sake and for the sake of others. —Śāntideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life 8:105 Expanding and Dispelling the Self Chapter 8 in the Bodhicaryāvatāra takes us to another level, focusing on the eighth bodhisattva perfection, meditation. The word for this perfection , dhyāna, covers both the practices of meditation and the ascending states of consciousness they attain. As described above, in Chapter 1, in Buddhist tradition there are two broad types of meditation: calming meditation and insight meditation. Perhaps these could be better pictured as two trees with shared roots, since both rest upon some common practices and build upon the same initial attainments. The first meditative attainment of calming practice is a clarity of mind and a purifying of positive emotions, still operating in the realm of discursive thought. Beyond this, there is meditative concentration, in which conceptual thoughts disappear, and two further levels in which even sensation or awareness of pain or pleasure are dissipated.1 Insight practice, however, seeks a perfection that utilizes and depends upon the mental activity that subsides in the higher levels of calming meditation. If calming meditation perfects the equanimity of mind, then insight meditation perfects its wisdom . The precise and fullest account of the way that things really are, of the nature of the dharma, requires a mind able to know that this is the truth of things, and then, through further training, able to experience the world directly as what it is. To practice insight meditation is to find 3 Extreme Wisdom, Groundless Compassion Extreme Wisdom, Groundless Compassion 83 a sweet spot where the mind is calmed to achieve the greatest clarity of discursive thought, but held back from ascent (or descent) into the bare awareness where thought itself ceases.2 Just as one might practice for a long time before being forced to a fork in the road between these two approaches, one might progress on the bodhisattva path without having to choose sides among competing versions of insight wisdom. But, of course, one would not be consciously on the bodhisattva path at all if one had not already chosen the Mahāyāna reading of the Buddha’s teaching. To be a bodhisattva in the aspirational sense is to have formed this specific intention. Just as, on the ultimate side, enlightenment is the meeting of supreme wisdom and the experience that coincides with it, the bodhisattva beginning point is the intentional bodhicitta and the aspirational experience that coincides with it. At this point in the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the discussion of meditation moves us closer to consideration of the nature of enlightenment itself. This will eventually require Śāntideva to pay increasing attention to the subtle differences between contending Mahāyāna forms of wisdom.3 But the first long section in the chapter, verses 5 through 88, stakes out common ground in perfecting calming meditation: Realizing that one who is well endowed with insight through quiescence [defined as samādhi] eradicates mental afflictions, one should first seek quiescence. Quiescence is due to detachment toward the world and due to joy.4 What follows is a kind of hymn to solitude as the setting for spiritual development . It is attachment to impermanent things, especially to loved ones, that bars us from progress on this front. Even if we are trying to perceive reality and the pointlessness of the cycle of existence, living among other ignorant people makes it too easy for us to be caught up in love, creative striving, grief, rivalry, and anger. We cannot possibly please such people and still stay on the path.5 As Śāntideva concisely puts it, because of “association with someone else, one encounters adversity.”6 He draws a practical conclusion from this. I shall happily live alone with a non-afflicted mind. One should flee far from a fool.7 In this environment, it is very difficult to give up identification with one’s body, which is only an animated corpse. 84 P e r f e c t i o n o f W i s d o m a n d t h e B o d h i s at t va Pat h A person is born alone and also dies alone. No one else has a share in one’s agony. What is the use of loved...


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