The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva

A. Namo Lokeshvaraya
Seeing that all phenomena neither come nor go,
Yet seeking only to benefit living beings,
The supreme master and protector Chenrezik
I honour continually with body, speech and mind.

B. Perfect Buddhas, source of all benefit and happiness,
Arise from accomplishing genuine dharma,
Since this, in turn depends on knowing how to practice,
The practices of a bodhisattva will be explained.

1. Now that we have found a vessel of leisure and resources, so difficult to obtain,
So that we may bring ourselves and others across the ocean of samsara,
Without a break during day and night,
To listen, reflect and meditate is the practice of a bodhisattva.

2. Attachment to friends churns like water,
Aversion to enemies burns like fire,
Dark with ignorance, not knowing what to adopt or reject,
To give up our homeland is the practice of a bodhisattva.

3. By leaving harmful places, afflictions gradually decline,
With no distractions, virtuous activities naturally increase,
With a clear mind, certainty in the dharma arises,
To rely on solitude is the practice of a bodhisattva.

4. Everyone will part from relatives and old friends,
The wealth of long labour will be left behind,
The guest, consciousness will be left behind,
To give up concern for this life is the practice of a bodhisattva.

5. Make friends with these and the three poisons grow,
The activities of listening, reflecting and meditating decline,
While love and compassion are destroyed,
To cast off bad friends is the practice of a bodhisattva.

6. Rely on this one and defects disappear,
Qualities increase like the waxing moon,
To cherish a genuine spiritual friend,
More than your own life is the practice of a bodhisattva.

7. Captive themselves in the prison of samsara,
Whom can the worldly Gods protect?
When seeking protection,
To take refuge in the unfailing three jewels is the practice of a bodhisattva.

8. The suffering of the lower realms, so difficult to bear,
Come from misdeeds, thus the Buddha taught,
Therefore, even at the risk of our own life,
Never to commit these actions is the practice of a bodhisattva.

9. Happiness of the three realms is like dew on a blade of grass,
Its nature is to evaporate instantly,
Therefore, to strive for the supreme state of liberation,
That never changes is the practice of a bodhisattva.

10. From time beyond time, our mothers have cared for us.
If they suffer, what good is our own happiness?
Thus to liberate living beings beyond number,
To engender bodhichitta is the practice of a bodhisattva.

11. All suffering comes from wanting happiness for ourselves,
Perfect buddhas arise from the intention to benefit others,
Therefore, to truly exchange our happiness,
For the suffering of others is the practice of a bodhisattva.

12. If out of great desire, someone steals all your wealth,
Or makes another do so,
To dedicate our body, possessions and merit of the three times,
To this person is the practice of a bodhisattva.

13. If another were to cut off our head,
Though we not the slightest fault,
To take on their negativity,
With compassion is the practice of a bodhisattva.

14. Although someone broadcasts, throughout a billion worlds,
A legion of unpleasant things about us,
With a mind full of love,
To tell of their qualities is the practice of a bodhisattva.

15. Before a large crowd, if another were to speak harsh words,
And reveal our hidden faults,
To see this person as a spiritual friend,
And bow with respect is the practice of a bodhisattva.

16. If someone who we’ve cherished as our only child,
Came to see us as an enemy,
Like a mother whos child is gravely ill,
To love this person even more is the practice of a bodhisattva.

17. If someone who is equal or less,
Through pride, puts us down,
To respect this person as for our teacher,
And place them above us is the practice of a bodhisattva.

18. Although stricken with poverty and always scorned,
Plagued by grave illness and bad spirits too,
Not to lose heart, but to take on the misery,
And misdeeds of all beings is the practice of a bodhisattva.

19. Although famous with crowds bowing down,
And affluent as a god of wealth,
To see samsara’s riches as devoid of essence,
And remain free of arrogance is the practice of a bodhisattva.

20. Not conquering the foe of our anger,
Yet fighting with enemies outside, We’ll just make more,
With an army of love and compassion,
To tame our mind is the practice of a bodhisattva.

21. Desired objects are like water mixed with salt,
To the extent we enjoy them, our thirst increases.
Therefore, to give up instantly,
Everything that arouses attachment is the practice of a bodhisattva.

22. Everything as it appears is the mind.
The mind itself is free of fabrications.
Therefore, not to engage the attributes,
Of a subject or object is the practice of a bodhisattva.

23. When encountering a pleasant object,
To see it as a rainbow in summer,
A beautiful appearance, but not real.
To give up attachment is the practice of a bodhisattva.

24. All suffering is like our child dying in dream.
To take these delusive appearances as real – How exhausting!
When encountering difficult situations,
To see them as delusions is the practice of a bodhisattva.

25. If those who aspire to become enlightened,
Give their own bodies away,
What need is there to talk about outer objects?
Therefore, without hope of return or a good result,
To be generous is the practice of a bodhisattva.

26. If lacking discipline, we cannot even help ourselves,
Wishing to benefit others is a joke!
Therefore, to maintain a discipline,
That is free of desire for samsara is the practice of a bodhisattva.

27. For a bodhisattva who aspires to a wealth of virtue,
Anything that harms is a treasury of jewels.
Therefore, without turning aggressive or angry,
To be patient is the practice of a bodhisattva.

28. If hearers and solitary realisers for their benefit alone,
Practice diligence as if their heads are on fire,
To develop diligence, the wellspring of all qualities,
That benefits all beings is the practice of a bodhisattva.

29. Knowing that deep insight fully endowed with calm abiding,
Completely conquers all afflictions,
To develop a concentration,
That transcends the four formless states is the practice of a bodhisattva.

30. Without wisdom, the five perfections,
Cannot bring forth full awakening.
To cultivate a wisdom endowed with skilful means,
And free of concepts in the three domains is the practice of a bodhisattva.

31. Not examining our confusion,
We could masquerade as a practitioner,
While not in harmony with the dharma,
Therefore, to continually examine our confusion,
And discard it is the practice of a bodhisattva.

32. If afflictions compel us to fault other bodhisattvas,
We ourselves will be diminished.
Therefore, not to find fault,
With those that have entered the Mahayana path is the practice of a bodhisattva.

33. Disputes arise from wanting honour and gain.
The activities of listening, reflecting and meditating decline.
To give up attachment to the homes,
Of friends, relatives and donors is the practice of a bodhisattva.

34. Harsh words trouble the minds of others,
And diminish a bodhisattva’s conduct.
Therefore, to give up rough words,
Not pleasing to others is the practice of a bodhisattva.

35. Once they’ve become habits, afflictions resist their remedies.
Alert attention, the noble being seizes the weapon of an antidote,
And slays in a flash its enemy, every affliction –
Excessive desire and the others; such is the practice of a bodhisattva.

36. In brief, wherever we are ad whatever we do,
While remaining continually mindful and alert,
To our state of mind,
To benefit others is the practice of a bodhisattva.

37. Do dispel the suffering of limitless beings,
With a wisdom not tainted by concepts of the three domains,
To dedicate for full wakening,
All merit gained by this effort is the practice of a bodhisattva.

C. Following the meaning of the sutras and treatises,
And the teachings of genuine masters too,
I have given these 37 verses of a bodhisattvas practice,
For the benefit of those who would train on this path.

D. Since my intellect is limited and little trained,
The artistry of this text will not please the learned,
Yet, relying on the sutras and teachings of genuine masters,
These verses, I trust are free of confusion.

E. For an inferior intellect like mine,
It is impossible to measure the vast activity of a bodhisattva.
So I pray that genuine masters will tolerate,
All the defects, contradictions and non sequiturs found here.

F. From the virtue arising from these verses,
Through relative and ultimate bodhichitta,
May all beings become equal to the protector Chenrezik,
Who dwells in neither extreme of existence or peace.

These verses were written by Ngulche Thogme Zhanpgo.

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