The 37 Practices Of Bodhisattvas

 

I am a beginner Buddhist and to the other beginner or all time practitioners or someone who is interested in Tibetan Buddhism, I would like to share a short story of a great compassionate master, Gyelse Tokme Zangpo / Prince Thogme Sangpo, the name I have never heard until a few years ago, after that, I went to a bookshop in Lhasa for his biography. 

 

The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas in Spoken Tibetan

 

I was so inspired with Prince Thogme Sangpo who used to cry every time when he sees or hear strangers get sick or bad things happen to someone. Every time when he teaches the Dharma, whole crowd and including him will be crying. When disciple request him to laugh so he can get more sponsor, he said when I see the sufferings of sentient beings, I can't laugh.

 

This great compassionate being has composed one of the greatest qualities of Bodhisattvas from Tibet. 

 

Below is one of the translations of 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas.

 

The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas

 

1.Having gained this rare ship 

of freedom and fortune,

Hear, think, and meditate 

unwaveringly night and day

In order to free yourself and others

From the ocean of cyclic existence—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

2.Attached to your loved ones 

you’re stirred up like water.

Hating your enemies you burn like fire.

In the darkness of confusion, 

you forget what to adopt and discard.

Give up your homeland—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

3. By avoiding bad objects, 

disturbing emotions gradually decrease.

Without distraction, virtuous 

activities naturally increase.

With clarity of mind, 

conviction in the teaching arises.

Cultivate seclusion—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

4. Loved ones who have 

long kept company will part.

Wealth created with 

the difficulty will be left behind.

Consciousness, the guest, 

will leave the guesthouse of the body.

Let go of this life—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

5. When you keep their company 

your three poisons increase,

Your activities of hearing, thinking, 

and meditating decline,

And they make you lose 

your love and compassion.

Give up bad friends—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

6. When you rely on them 

your faults come to an end

And your good qualities 

grow like the waxing moon.

Cherish spiritual teachers

Even more than your own body—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

7. Bound himself in the jail of cyclic existence,

What worldly God can give you protection?

Therefore when you seek refuge, take refuge in

The Three Jewels which will not betray you—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

8. The Subduer said all the unbearable suffering

Of bad rebirths is the fruit of wrongdoing.

Therefore, even at the cost of your life,

Never do wrong—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

9. Like dew on the tip of a blade of grass, 

pleasures of the three worlds

Last only a while and then vanish.

Aspire to the never-changing

Supreme state of liberation—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

10. When your mothers, who’ve loved 

you since time without beginning,

Are suffering, what use is your own happiness?

Therefore to free limitless living beings

Develop the altruistic intention—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

11. All suffering comes from 

the wish for your own happiness.

Perfect Buddhas are born from 

the thought to help others.

Therefore exchange your own happiness

For the suffering of others—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

12. Even if someone out of strong desire

Steals all your wealth or has it stolen,

Dedicate to him your body, possessions

And your virtue, past, present, and future—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

13. Even if someone tries to cut off your head

When you haven’t done the slightest thing wrong,

Out of compassion take all her misdeeds

Upon yourself—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

14. Even if someone broadcasts 

all kinds of unpleasant remarks

About you throughout the three thousand worlds,

In return, with a loving mind,

Speak of his good qualities—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

15. Though someone may 

deride and speak bad words

About you in a public gathering,

Looking on her as a spiritual teacher,

Bow to her with respect—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

16. Even if a person for whom you’re cared

Like your own child regards you as an enemy,

Cherish him especially, like a mother

Does her child who is stricken by sickness—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

17. If an equal or inferior person

Disparages you out of pride,

Place her, as you would your spiritual teacher,

With respect on the crown of your head—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

18. Though you lack what you need 

and are constantly disparaged,

Afflicted by dangerous sickness and spirits,

Without discouragement take on the misdeeds

And the pain of all living beings—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

19. Though you become 

famous and many bow to you,

And you gain riches to equal Vaishravana’s,

See that worldly fortune is without essence,

And be unconceited—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

20. While the enemy of your 

own anger is unsubdued,

Though you conquer external foes, 

they will only increase.

Therefore with the militia of love and compassion

Subdue your own mind—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

21. Sensual pleasures are like saltwater:

The more you indulge, the more thirst increases.

Abandon at once those things which breed

Clinging attachment—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

22. Whatever appears is your own mind.

Your mind from the start was 

free from fabricated extremes.

Understanding this, do not take to mind

[Inherent] signs of subject and object—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

23. When you encounter attractive objects,

Though they seem beautiful

Like a rainbow in summer, 

don’t regard them as real

And give up attachment—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

24. All forms of suffering are 

like a child’s death in a dream.

Holding illusory appearances 

to be true makes you weary.

Therefore when you meet 

with disagreeable circumstances,

See them as illusory—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

25. When those who want enlightenment 

must give even their body,

There’s no need to mention external things.

Therefore, without hope for return or any fruition

Give generously—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

26. Without ethics you can’t 

accomplish your own well being,

So wanting to accomplish others’ is laughable.

Therefore, without worldly aspirations

Safeguard your ethical discipline—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

27. To Bodhisattvas who want a wealth of virtue

Those who harm are like a precious treasure.

Therefore, towards all cultivate fortitude

Without hostility—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

28. Seeing even Hearers and 

Solitary Realizers, who accomplish

Only their own good, 

strive as if to put out a fire on their head,

For the sake of all beings make enthusiastic effort,

The source of all good qualities—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

29. Understanding that 

disturbing emotions are destroyed

By special insight with calm abiding,

Cultivate concentration which surpasses

The four formless absorptions—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

30. Since the five perfections without wisdom

Cannot bring perfect enlightenment,

Along with skillful means cultivate the wisdom

Which does not conceive 

the three spheres [as real]—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

31. If you don’t examine your own errors,

You may look like a practitioner but not act as one.

Therefore, always examining your own errors,

Rid yourself of them—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

32. If through the influence of disturbing emotions

You point out the faults of another Bodhisattva,

You yourself are diminished, 

so don’t mention the faults

Of those who have entered the Great Vehicle—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

33. Reward and respect cause 

us to quarrel and make hearing, 

thinking, and meditation decline.

For this reason give up attachment to

The households of friends, 

relations and benefactors—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

34. Harsh words disturb the minds of others

And cause deterioration in a Bodhisattva’s conduct.

Therefore give up harsh words

Which are unpleasant to others—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

35. Habitual disturbing emotions 

are hard to stop through counteractions.

Armed with antidotes, the guards of 

mindfulness and mental alertness

Destroy disturbing emotions like attachment

At once, as soon as they arise—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

36. In brief, whatever you are doing,

Ask yourself “What’s the state of my mind?”

With constant mindfulness and mental alertness

Accomplish others’ good—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

37. To remove the suffering of limitless beings,

Understanding the purity of the three spheres,

Dedicate the virtue from making such effort

To enlightenment—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

 

 

Written by the Tibetan monk and Bodhisattva Gyelsay Togmay Zangpo (1295-1369).translated and edited by Ruth Sonam, 1997, with permission from the publisher, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York.

 

Photo: Four-Armed Chenrezig (Compassion Buddha)

 

Thank you for reading Tibet Travelers blog, May Buddha Dharma prevails on earth.

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