1. Thus with patience I will bravely persevere through zeal it is that I shall reach enlightenment. If no wind blows, then nothing stirs, and neither is there merit without perseverance.
2. Heroic perseverance means delight in virtue. Its contrary may be defined as laziness: an inclination for unwholesome ways, despondency, and self-contempt.
3. Complacent pleasure in the joys of idleness, a craving for repose and sleep, no qualms about the sorrows of samsara: these are the source and nurse of laziness.
4. Snared by the trapper of defiled emotion, enmeshed and taken in the toils of birth, how could I not know that thus I’ve strayed into the mouth, the very jaws, of death?
5. Don’t you see how one by one, death comes to claim your fellow men? And yet you slumber on so soundly, like a buffalo beside its butcher.
6. All paths of flight are blocked, the Lord of Death now has you in his sights, how can you take pleasure in your food? How can you delight to rest and sleep?
7. Death will be so quick to swoop on you; gather merit till that moment comes! Wait till then to banish laziness? Then there’ll be no time, what will you do?
8. “This I have not done. And this I’m only starting. And this – I’m only halfway through…” Then is the sudden coming of the Lord of Death, and oh, the thought “Alas, I’m finished!”
9. Your tear-stained cheeks, your red and swollen eyes, such will be the depths of your distress. You’ll gaze into the faces of your hopeless friends, and see the coming servants of the Deadly Lord.
10. The memory of former sins will torture you: the screams and din of hell break on your ears. With very terror you will foul yourself; what will you do then, in such extremity of fear?
11. And if you are so scared while still alive, like fishes writhing on the open ground, what need to speak of pain unbearable in hells created by past evil deeds?
12. The hells in which the boiling molten bronze will burn your body, tender like a baby’s flesh – all is now prepared, your former deeds have done it! How can you lie back, so free of care?
13. Much harm will come to those with small forbearance, who wish to have the fruit without endeavor. Seized by death, they’ll cry out like the gods: “Alas I fall, by pain and sorrow crushed.”
14. Take advantage of this human boat: free yourself from sorrow’s mighty stream! This vessel will be later hard to find. The time that you have now, you fool, is not for sleep!
15. You turn your back upon the sacred doctrine, the supreme joy and boundless source of bliss. What pleasure can you have in mere amusement straying to the causes of your misery?
16. Do not be downcast, but marshal all your strength; take heart and be the master of yourself! Practice the equality of self and other; practice the exchange of self and other.
17. “Oh, but how could I become enlightened?” Don’t excuse yourself with such despondency! The Buddhas, who declare the truth, have spoken and indeed proclaimed,
18. That if they bring forth strength of perseverance, the very bees and flies and stinging gnats or grubs will find with ease, enlightenment so hard to find!
19. Able to distinguish good from ill, if I, by birth and lineage of human kind, devote myself to bodhisattva training, why should I not gain the state of buddhahood?
20. “That I must give away my life and limbs, alarms and frightens me” – if so you say, your terror is misplaced. Confused, you fail to see what’s hard and what is easy.
21. For myriads of ages, measureless, uncounted, your body has been cut, impaled, burned, flayed – for times past numbering! Yet none of this has brought you buddhahood.
22. The hardships suffered on the path to buddhahood are different, for their span is limited, and likened to the pain of an incision. Made to cure the harm of hidden ailments.
23. The doctors and those skilled in healing arts, use bitter remedies to cure our ills. Likewise we, to uproot dreadful sorrow, should bear what are indeed but little pains.
24. And yet the Supreme Healer does not use, Like them, these common remedies. With antidotes of extreme tenderness, He soothes away intense and boundless suffering.
25. Our guide instructs us to begin by giving food or other little charities, that later, step by step, the habit once acquired, we may be able to donate our very flesh.
26. For when one has the view that sees equality between one’s body and the food one gives, why then! What hardship can there be in giving up, relinquishing, one’s very flesh?
27. Sin has been abandoned, thus there is no pain. Mind is skilled, and thus there is no sorrow. For so it is that mind and body both are injured by false views and sinfulness.
28. Merit is the true cause of the body’s ease, while happiness of mind is brought about by training. What can sadden those who have compassion, who linger in samsara for the sake of beings?
29. For through their power of bodhicitta, former sins are totally consumed, and merit, ocean-vast, is gathered in: therefore we say they’re higher than the shravakas.
30. For, mounted on the horse of bodhicitta, that puts to flight all mournful weariness, who could ever be dejected, riding such a steed from joy to toy?
31. The forces that secure the good of beings, are aspiration, firmness, joy and moderation. Aspiration grows through fear of suffering and contemplation of the benefits to be attained.
32. Therefore leaving everything that is adverse to it, I’ll labor to increase my perseverance – through cheerful effort, keenness, self-control, through aspiration, firmness, joy and moderation.
33. Thus the boundless evils of myself and others – I alone must bring them all to nothing, even though a single of these ills may take unnumbered ages to exhaust!
34. And yet for this great enterprise I do not see within myself the slightest aptitude – I whose destiny is boundless suffering, why does not my heart now burst asunder?”
35. All virtues for my own and others’ sake, though they be many, I must now accomplish, even if for each I must endeavor for unnumbered ages.
36. Acquaintance I have never gained with even part of such great qualities. So strange to waste in trivial pursuits this life that chance has brought to me!
37. Offerings to the Buddhas I have never made; no feasts were ever held through my donations; no works have I accomplished for the Teachings; The wishes of the poor, alas, I left unsatisfied.
38. The frightened I have not encouraged, and to the weary I have given no rest. My mother’s birth pangs and her womb’s discomfort, these alone are my accomplishments!
39. Thus my poverty, my lack of fortune, come from failure to aspire to Dharma in the past and likewise in the present! Whoever would reject this aspiration?
40. Aspiration is the root of every virtue, thus the Mighty One has said. And aspiration’s root in turn is constant meditation on the fruits of action.
41. The body’s pains, anxieties of mind, our every fear and trepidation, separation from the objects of our wanting: such is the harvest of our sinful deeds.
42. If my acts are wholesome, mirroring my mind, then no matter where I turn my steps, respect and honor will be paid to me, the fruit and recompense of merit.
43. But if, in search of happiness, my works are evil, then no matter where I turn my steps, the knives of misery will cut me down – the wage and retribution of a sinful life.
44. I will arise, through virtue, in the cool heart of a fragrant, spreading lotus, its petal opened in the Buddha’s light, with glory nourished by the sweet words of the Conqueror, and live, the buddha’s heir, within the presence of Victorious Ones.
45. Or else as wages for my sins, I’ll be struck down, my skin flayed off by creatures, of the Lord of Death, who on my body pour the liquid bronze that’s melted in the dreadful blaze. And pierced by burning swords and knives, my flesh dismembered in a hundred parts, will part upon the white-hot iron ground.
46. And so I will aspire and tend to virtue, and steep myself in it with great devotion. And with the method stated in the Vajradhvaja, I will train in confident assurance.
47. Let me first consider my resources – to start or not to start accordingly, for it is better not to start at all, than to begin and then retrace my steps.
48. For, acting thus, the pattern will return in later lives, and sin and pain will grow. And other actions will be left undone or else will bear a meager fruit.
49. Action, the afflictions, and ability: three things to which my pride should be applied. “I will do this, I myself, alone!” These words define my pride of action.
50. Enfeebled by their minds’ afflictions, worldly folk are helpless to secure their happiness. Compared to those who wander, I am able – this indeed shall be my chosen task.
51. When others give themselves to base activities, how can I connive as their companion? But I shall not refrain through pride of arrogance; my best way is to give up such conceit.
52. When they find a dying serpent, even crows behave like soaring eagles. Therefore if I’m weak and feeble-hearted, even little faults will strike and injure me.
53. How will those basely flee the conflict, ever free themselves from their debility? But those who stand their ground with proud resolve are hard to vanquish even by the mighty.
54. Therefore with a steadfast heart I’ll get the better of my weakness. But if my failings get the upper hand, my wish to overcome the world is laughable indeed.
55. “I will be the victor over all: nothing shall prevail and bring me down!” The lion-offspring of the Conqueror should constantly abide in this proud confidence.
56. Those whom arrogance and pride destroy are thus defiled: they lack proud confidence. They fall into the power of an evil pride, but those with true pride will escape the enemy.
57. When arrogance inflates the mind, it draws it down to states of misery, or else it ruins human birth, should this be gained. Thus one is born a slave, dependent for one’s food.
58. Or feebleminded, ugly, without strength, the butt and laughingstock of everyone. Hapless creatures puffed up with conceit! If these you call the proud, then tell me who are wretched?
59. Those who uphold pride to vanquish pride, the enemy, are truly proud, the victors in the war. Those who overwhelm the progress of that evil pride; perfect the fruit of buddhahood and satisfy the longings of the world.
60. When you are beleaguered by defilements, fight them in a thousand ways, do no surrender to the host of the afflictions; be like a lion in a crowd of foxes.
61. However great may be their peril, people will be reflex guard their eyes. And likewise I, regardless of all hardship, must not fall beneath defilement’s power.
62. Even though I may be burned to death, and though I may be killed, my head cut off, at no time will I bow and scrape before that foe of mine, defiled emotion.
62 a. Thus in every time and place, I will not wander from the wholesome path.
63. Like those who take great pleasure in their games, the bodhisattvas in their every deed will feel the greatest joy, exhilaration, pleasure that will never fade or pass.
64. People labor hard to gain contentment though success is very far from sure; but how can they be happy if they do not labor, those whose joy is in the work itself?
65. And since I never have enough of pleasure, honey on the razor’s edge, how could I have enough of merit, fruits of which are happiness and peace?
66. The elephant, tormented by noonday sun, will drive into the waters of a lake, and likewise I must plunge into this work that I might bring it to completion.
67. If impaired by weakness of fatigue, I’ll lay the work aside, the better to resume. And I will leave tasks completed, anticipating thus the work to come.
68. As seasoned fighters face the swords of enemies upon the battle line, lightly dodge the weapons of defilement and overcome the foe with nimble skill!
69. If, in the fray, the soldier drops his sword, in fright, he swiftly takes it up again. So likewise, if the arm of mindfulness is lost, in fear of hell be quick to get it back.
70. Just as seeping venom fills the body, carried on the current of the blood, and evil thought that finds its chance, will spread and permeate the mind.
71. Be like a frightened man, a brimming oil jar in his hand, and menaced by swordsman saying: “Spill one drop and you shall die!” This is how the disciplined should hold themselves.
72. As such a man would leap in fright to find a snake coiled in his lap, if sleep and sluggishness beset me, I will instantly dispel them.
73. Every time, then, that I fail, I will reprove and vilify myself, thinking long that by whatever means such faults in future shall no more occur.
74. At all times and in any situation, mindfulness will be my constant habit. This will be the cause whereby I am to meet with teachers and fulfill the proper tasks.
75. By all means, before I start this work, that I might have the strength sufficient to the task, I will reflect upon these words on mindfulness and lightly rise to what is to be done.
76. The lichen hanging in the trees wafts to and fro, stirred by every breath of wind: likewise, all I do will be achieved, enlivened by the movements of a joyful heart.
~ The Way of the Bodhisattva ~