July 11 Chapt 5 verses 88 – 100


Many, if not all, of the behaviors Shantideva mentions in these verses are straight out of the monastic code, the Vinaya. Does it seem surprising to you that these verses are so explicit, even mundane? What is the underlying motivation / rationale? Did you find them helpful?

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4 thoughts on “July 11 Chapt 5 verses 88 – 100

  1. It seems as though these simple actions which Shantideva describes such as in verse 94 “One should not point out anything with one’s finger but should respectfully show the way with one’s whole right hand.” could be interpreted as mundane, cultural differences, or out of date advice. I believe what Shantideva is actually saying here is that when your mind changes, when you have entered into mindfulness, when you enter into mind training, you will be changed, and things you might never have considered before as thoughtless become thoughtful. When you enter into everything you do mindfully, with underlying motivation, the subtlest gestures of hand even change. This is most useful to think of, as he is saying that even simple everyday behavior and actions should be entered into with correct motivation, and thought, in this way we can enter into every moment virtuously as all of these moments suddenly compile and converge and end up being our lives in total. So, every moment from our own side is very important, we now have a precious human rebirth which we must remember not to waste.

  2. Shantideva is showing us the path to Enlightenment — how to break free from our habitual pre-occupation with “self”. By truly understanding emptiness and bodhicitta, our focus turns naturally towards others. Just as we pay close attention to understanding and meeting even the most trivial needs of our loved ones, every action of a Buddha’s body, speech, and mind if for the benefit of others. As you said clearly in your response, correct motivation is the key to creating virtue. With the correct motivation, any action that we perform no matter how mundane can become our preliminary practices for Enlightenment.

    In the West we’re taught manners when we’re growing up, then we’re surrounded by rules and regulations — no spitting, no loud music, no eating on the bus, wear a shirt in a restaurant etc. What’s the point of all these restrictions? To help people live harmoniously and prevent discourteous / selfish behavior.

    Likewise, the monastic code which Shantideva based his teaching on is designed to preserve harmony within the monastic community and to build good relations with the surrounding society.

  3. Upon first reading these verses, I thought that they were much to do with 8th century India. And still I think that this is somewhat true. Maybe they are totally within that context and can be translated to something related to today. But this question reminds me of an ‘argument’ I often have with a sangha member who often talks about how he, as a Vietnamese person, eats noodles as opposed to how others eat When he is talking about this it is usually at a sangha gathering where we are meeting for dharma. It seems trivial but often it bothers me that it is so repeated and the appreciation for meeting in dharma is ignored in the moment, my ‘argument’ is that we are gathered as people on the path as bodhisattvas, I mean people practicing the path of a bodhisattva. So I ask my friend how does a practicing bodhisattva eat noodles? Even though we have talked about this together several times, it still continues and still bothers me. Why? Because something is missing if we do not help, each other examine the way of the bodhisattva. It is not about the cultural differences of ways of eating noodles or not eating noodles, but how we are with each other, in our relations are we being considerate of the teachings?

    Also, this week my housemate was eating her food exceptionally loud, it really bothered me, and I wanted to say that we had just covered the subject of eating in a way of not disturbing others at Shantideva class. But I was so disturbed I just left the room, and several times after. Being disturbed by the actions of others is certainly not the intention of Shantideva, but having concern for how we honor the teachings in sangha has to be OK on some level (?) – this is a question, just as an example, idle talk about noodles in an endless fashion has to be brought out for discussion. It is helpful to have guidelines even if they seem trivial – I guess it is about sangha and harmonious relationships with each other and the world. Today some of those guidelines would be about cell phones, aggressive driving and such. Should cell phones be acceptable at dharma functions, should rules be set forth? I set some of these rules recently with people in dharma settings because I felt the respect for the teaching was being compromised.

    It seems that if people behaved better, we could have less rules, more freedom, for instance in New York which I think without a doubt is more violent than DC, there are a long list of rules written so small you can hardly read them on the subway and here in DC on the metro the list is smaller. There are more written rules in NY because people behave poorly. When we behave less selfishly we are more free. If I had the definitive answer to this question about the importance of these mundane matters than I think that I would not be bothered about the behavior of others so much.

    When I have been on retreat there are guidelines that people follow, these are always special and memorable times, and maybe one reason is the behavior of a group of people making it more pleasant. There is something required of a bodhisattva, and maybe it could be summed up as a commitment to act in a way that is not selfish.

    • I think society’s with lots of rules of conduct such as in NYC are developed by people who are hyper-sensitive. Rules are designed to prevent selfish behavior (someone indulging in a cup of coffee on a crowded bus could spill it on someone else), at the same time, the rules themselves are sort of selfish. For example, I’m not a morning person, so my rules before I have a cup of coffee are: “Don’t talk to me”, “Don’t bump into me”, “Don’t take my parking spot” etc. So I think your comment “I would not be bothered about the behavior of others so much” is correct. People shouldn’t be so caught up in themselves that every little thing bothers them so we need more rules to control the behavior of other people who, in their opinion, are acting selfishly. It all comes down to the same thing, doesn’t it? The evil, self-cherishing mind.

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