Ngulchu Gyalsas Thogmed Zangmo's The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva is one of Tibetan Buddhist's most popular texts, incorporated in the Mind Training text and also able to be explained according to the Lam Rim tradition. Its advice is timeless and its relevance is universal
This commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as expounded during Kalachakra teachings at Bodh Gaya, is characterised by its clarity, practicality and profundity. Each stanza of the root text is elucidated precisely and in accessible language; in addition, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives introductory talks at the start of each day of teaching in which he touches on every aspects of our daily lives.
Thus, the contents of this book will be beneficial to Buddhist scholars and general readers alike.
This document is the comprises soley of the 'bare' verses without the essential commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. For further study see the reference section.
The possession of this human base, this precious vessel so difficult to obtain, in order to liberate others and ourselves from the ocean of samsara, allows us to hear, reflect, and meditate day and night without distractions. This is the practice of the bodhisattva.
Towards our friends and those we love run the waters of attachment, towards our enemies burns the fire of aversion; in the obscurity of ignorance, we lose sight of what should be abandoned and what should be practised. Therefore, renunciation of one's country and home is a practice of the bodhisattva.
When we abandon our harmful surroundings, our illusions diminish, and because we have no distractions our practice of virtue develops spontaneously, leaving us with a clear mind, Our trust in the Dharma grows. To live in solitude is a practice of the bodhisattva.
One day old and dear friends will separate, goods and riches obtained by great effort will be left behind. Consciousness, a guest of the body, this temporary dwelling, will depart. From this moment on, to renounce all attachment to this life is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If we have harmful companions, the three poisons are increased, our reflection and meditation becomes degraded; love and compassion are destroyed. To abandon dangerous company is a practice of the bodhisattva.
To rely on a spiritual friend who has eliminated all illusions, whose competence in the teachings and practice is complete, and whose qualities increase like the crescent moon; to cherish this perfect guru more than one's own body is a practice of the bodhisattva.
How could the gods of this would possibly liberate us, being themselves tied to the prison of samsara? Instead let us take refuge in that on which we can rely. To take refuge in the Three Jewels is a practice of the bodhisattva.
The intolerable suffering of the lower realms is said by the Buddha to be the fruit of karma, therefore never to commit unwise deeds is a practice of the bodhisattva.
The happiness of the three worlds is like the dew on the tip of aa blade of grass, disappearing in an instant. To aspire to supreme, immutable liberation is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Since beginningless time, our mothers took care of us with tenderness. What use is our own happiness when they still suffer? To generate bodhichitta in order to liberate infinite beings is a practice of the bodhisattva.
All suffering, without exception, comes from the desire for happiness for oneself, while perfect buddahood is born from the desire to make others happy. This is why completely exchanging one's happiness for that of others is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If, in the grip of violent desire or cruel necessity, an unfortunate person steals our possessions or incites someone else to steal them, to be full of compassion, to dedicate to this person or body, possessions, and past, present and future merit, is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Even if we are beaten or tortured, we must not allow any aversion to arise within us. To have great compassion for those poor beings who, out of ignorance, mistreat us is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If, without reason, certain people slander us to the point where the entire world is filled with their malicious gossip, to praise their virtues lovingly is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If in the company of several people, one among them reveals a fault that we would have liked hidden, not to become irritated with the one who treats us in this manner but to consider him as a supreme guru is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If someone whom we have helped and protected as our own child show only ingratitude and dislike in return, to have towards this person the tender pity a mother has for her sick child is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If someone who is your equal or someone who is obviously your inferior despises you or out of arrogance attempts to debase you, to respect him as your master is a practice of the bodhisattva.
When we are abandoned, overcome with sickness and worry, not to become discouraged but to think of taking on all the wrongful actions committed by others and suffering their consequences is a practice of the bodhisattva.
When we enjoy a good reputation and the respect of everyone, the wealth of Vaishravana, to see that the fruits of karma are without substance and not to take pride in this observation is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Unless the aggression of our inner adversaries ceases, the more we fight them the more they multiply. Similarly, until we have mastered our own mind, negative forces will invade us. To discipline the mind through love and compassion is a practice of the bodhisattva.
The nature of sense pleasures is like that of saltwater: the more we drink, the more our thirst increases. To abandon the objects towards which desire arises is a practice of the bodhisattva.
All that appears comes from an illusion of the mind and the mind itself is from beginningless time without inherent existence, free from the two extremes of manifestation (eternalism and nihilism) and beyond all elaboration. To understand this nature (Tathata) and not to conceive of subjects and objects as really existing is a practice of the bodhisattva.
When we encounter an attractive object, or something that pleases our mind, we see it as beautiful and real, but actually it is empty as a summer rainbow. To abandon attachment towards it is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Various sufferings are like those experienced from the death of an only child in a dream. To take as truth that which is only a false appearance is uselessly to exhaust the body and mind. When we meet with unfavourable circumstances, to approach them thinking they are only illusion is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If he who desires awakening must sacrifice his own body, his precious human life, what need is there to mention external objects to abandon? This is why practising generosity without hoping for a reward or a 'karmic fruit' is a practice of the bodhisattva.
If, lacking ethical discipline, we cannot realise our own intentions, to want to fulfil the vows of other beings is simply a joke. To keep rules and vows, not for a temporal and samsaric goal but in order to help all sentient beings, is a practice of the bodhisattva.
For a Son (or Daughter) of the Buddha who desires the rewards of virtuous merit, all adverse circumstances are a precious treasure for they require the practice of kshanti (patience). To be perfectly patient, without irritation or resentment towards anyone, is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Even the Pratyekabuddhas and the Shravakas who are concerned only with their own liberation make great efforts to obtain virya (energy). To perfectly practise energy, the source of all qualities for the benefit of all beings, is a practice of the bodhisattva.
In understanding that vipashyana in union with shamatha completely destroys kleshas (desires, obstacles), to meditate on the dhyanas which are beyond the four realms is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Without prajna, the five preceding virtues cannot be called 'paramita' (excellent, perfect) and are incapable of leading us to Buddhahood. To have the right view which perceives that the one who acts, the act, and the one for whom we act completely lack inherent existence is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Not to analyse our actions and feelings allows desire to arise. To examine our errors and faults in order to separate ourselves from them completely is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Never to criticise others or speak of the errors that those who are on the path of the Mahayana may have committed is a practice is a practice of the bodhisattva.
In order to receive offerings and be surrounded by respect, we fight among ourselves in a spirit of competition to the detriment of our attention towards study; our meditation slackens. To abandon all attachment to the gifts of those who care for us is a practice of the bodhisattva.
Harsh speech disturbs the mind of others, and our practice feels the effects of this. To abandon all coarse and vulgar language, all harsh speech and all idle chatter is a practice of the bodhisattva.
As we are accustomed to acting under the rule of our passions, destroying them demands great effort. Mindfulness of these (opposing forces) is the weapon that allows us to repel them immediately. In short: whatever we do, in whatever circumstance or conditions, always to be attentive to the situation that presents itself and to the reaction that it awakens in our mind; this, with the motivation of amending our behaviour for the well-being of all sentient beings, is a practice of the bodhisattva.
To dedicate the merit that results from our efforts to obtain Buddhahood, towards illumination through the wisdom of the view of emptiness of the three realms of action and in order to overcome the suffering of infinite beings, is a practice of the bodhisattva.
The thirty-seventh practice is the explication given by Lama Thogs-med bsang-po of his work and his dedication of it.
Basing myself in the teachings of the Sutra, the Tantra and the Shastra, I have grouped these Thirty-seven Practices of the Sons of the Buddha for usage and for the benefit of those who would like to follow their path.
Because of my limited understanding and my inadequate knowledge, this composition lacks the poetry and elegance of the language that the scholars revived, but as these teachings depend strictly on the Sutra of the Supreme, I think that they reveal the practices of the bodhisattva free of errors.
However, the immense course of action of the bodhisattvas is difficult for someone of my level of ignorance to understand and realise; I ask also of the Supreme Ones to practise patience towards me and to pardon my imprecision and whatever contradictions and inconsistencies may have crept into this text.
By the merit that I have obtained through this effort, as well as through the power of the two Bodhicittas, the relative and the ultimate, may all sentient beings, without remaining within the limits of samsara and nirvana, become like Avalokiteshvara.