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The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas

Gyelsay Togmay Sangpo

I pay homage through my three doors,
To my supreme teacher and protector, Chenrezig,
Who while seeing all phenomena lack coming and going,
Makes single-minded effort for the good of living beings.

Perfect Buddhas, source of all well-being and happiness,
Arise from accomplishing the excellent teachings,
And this depends on knowing the practices,
So I will explain the 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 are 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 teaching arises.
Cultivate seclusion—This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

4. Loved ones who have long kept company will part.
Wealth created with 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 that 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 have 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 of your wealth or has it stolen,
Dedicate to him your body, your 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 have not done the slightest thing wrong,
Out of compassion take all his 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 him as a spiritual teacher,
Bow to him with respect—This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

16. Even if a person for whom you have cared
Like your own child regards you as an enemy,
Cherish him specially, like a mother
Does her child who is stricken with sickness—This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

17. If an equal or inferior person
Disparages you out of pride,
Place him, 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 do not be conceited—This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

20. While the enemy of your own anger is not subdued
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 is 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, do not 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 is no need to mention external things.
Therefore without hope of return or any fruition
Give generously—This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

26. Without ethics you cannot accomplish your own wellbeing,
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 patience
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 joyful effort
Toward 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 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 do not examine your 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 do not 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 meditating 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 counter actions.
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 is 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.

For all who want to train on the Bodhisattva path,
I have written The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas
Following what has been said by excellent ones
On the meaning of sutras, tantras and treatises.

Though not poetically pleasing to scholars
Owing to my poor intelligence and lack of learning,
I have relied on the sutras and the words of the excellent,
So I think these Bodhisattva practices are without error.

However, as the great deeds of Bodhisattvas
Are hard to fathom for one of my poor intelligence,
I beg the excellent to forgive all faults,
Such as contradictions and non sequiturs.

Through the virtues from this may all living beings
Gain the ultimate and conventional altruistic intention
And thereby become like the Protector Chenrezig
Who dwells in neither extreme—not in the world nor in peace.

This was written for his own and others' benefit by the monk Togmay, an exponent of scripture and reasoning, in a cave in Ngulchu Rinchen.




Gyelsay Togmay Sangpo (Geshe Sonam Rinchen) was the author of The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. He lived from 1295 to 1369, being born in southwestern Tibet near Sakya. This work by him is about training the mind. This means ridding ourselves completely of all disturbing emotions and their imprints.

At the very least it should help us to prevent their coarser forms and gradually to decrease them.

 

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