The book, The Way of the Bodhisattva (Sanskrit: Bodhicaryavatara) is a classic guide to the Mahayana path. It is sometimes translated into English as A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and was written about 700 AD in Sanskrit verse by Shantideva, a Buddhist monk at Nalanda Monastic University in India.


In the Bodhicharyavatara, Shantideva gives the essential path of the bodhisattva. He does not comment in detail on one particular sutra or topic, but he essentializes the whole spectrum of the Mahayana teachings, and puts them into a nutshell – so that we can see what it really means, in essence. (Ringu Tulku Rinpoche)

The Bodhicharyavatara teaches the complete Mahayana path to enlightenment, including all necessary preliminary, main, and concluding practices. Practitioners learn how to develop the motivation of bodhichitta, as well as how to carry out the application of the six paramitas or transcendental perfections. They learn how to fuse their practice of bodhichitta and the five first perfections with the sixth perfection, wisdom. (Tsoknyi Rinpoche)


Patrul Rinpoche – a prominent teacher and author who, though he lived the life of a vagabond, was one of the most illustrious spiritual teachers of the nineteenth century – stated that this text can be explained according to the following prayer for bodhichitta:

O precious, sublime bodhichitta:

May it arise in those in whom it has not arisen;

May it never decline where it has arisen;

May it go on increasing, further and further!

According to this view, the text of this book can be divided into four sections, as expressed in this prayer.

The first three chapters (1, 2 and 3) explain how to generate bodhicitta, how to make it arise.

The next three chapters (4, 5 and 6) explain how to prevent bodhichitta from decreasing or being dissipated.

The next three chapters (7, 8 and 9) explain how to make the bodhichitta increase further and further.

The 10th chapter is a concluding prayer of dedication.

As mentioned, the text of the Bodhicharyavatara has ten chapters. Most commentaries also include an introduction that establishes the context and background for the text.


Chapter 1: The Excellence of Bodhichitta (The Benefit of the Spirit of Awakening)

Chapter 2: Confession (The Confession of Sin)

Chapter 3: Commitment: Taking Hold of Bodhichitta (Adopting the Spirit of Awakening)

Chapter 4: Awareness: Carefulness (Attending to the Spirit of Awakening)

Chapter 5: Vigilance (Guarding Introspection)

Chapter 6: Patience (The Perfection of Patience)

Chapter 7: Diligence: Heroic Perseverance (The Perfection of Zeal)

Chapter 8: Meditation (The Perfection of Meditation)

Chapter 9: Wisdom (The Perfection of Wisdom)

Chapter 10: Dedication


The Bodhicharyavatara has ten chapters dedicated to the development of bodhicitta (the mind of enlightenment) through the practice of the six perfections (Skt. Paramitas).

The text begins with a chapter describing the benefits of the wish to reach enlightenment.

The sixth chapter, on the perfection of patient endurance (Skt. Ksanti), strongly criticizes anger.

Tibetan scholars consider the ninth chapter, “Wisdom”, to be one of the most succinct expositions of the Madhyamaka view.

The tenth chapter is used as one of the most popular Mahāyāna prayers.

Chapter topics:

(1) The benefits of bodhicitta (the wish to reach full enlightenment for others)

(2) Purifying bad deeds

(3) Adopting the spirit of enlightenment

(4) Using conscientiousness

(5) Guarding awareness

(6) The practice of patience

(7) The practice of joyous effort

(8) The practice of meditative concentration

(9) The perfection of wisdom

(10) Dedication


The main source for this summary was from

Also referred to:

Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara. Boston & London: Shambhala, 2003.

Shantideva. A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Bodhicaryavatara). Translated from the Sanskrit and Tibetan by Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.

One of the great classics of Mahayana Buddhism, The Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicharyavatara) is a guide to cultivating the mind of enlightenment, and to generating the qualities of love, compassion, generosity, and patience.
Presented in the form of a personal meditation in verse, it outlines the path of the bodhisattvas – those beings who renounce the peace of an individual salvation and vow to work for the deliverance of all beings, and to attain enlightenment for their sake.
The text is beloved by Buddhists of all traditions.
(From The Way of the Bodhisattva)