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make mine a tall order, please

Shantideva was a member of the monastic university of Nalanda, one of the great centres of learning in ancient India. His classic work, The Way of the Bodhisattva, is an exposition of the path of beings who “renounce the peace of an individual salvation and vow to work for the deliverance of all beings.” It spells out in great detail (and hundreds of two- and four-line stanzas) the methods by which this might be achieved.

Originally written in Sanskrit, the text first appeared in Tibetan translation in the 7th-8th century and is available in various English translations both in print and on-line. The following samples capture my intention to live a life of service. Their language may appear grandiloquent to the modern ear, but their message is as clear to me as when written over 1,200 years ago.

May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for light;
For those who need a resting place, a bed;
For all who need a servant, may I be their slave.

Like the earth and the pervading elements,
Enduring as the sky itself endures.
For boundless multitudes of living beings,

May I be their ground and sustenance.

Just so, and for the benefit of beings,
I will also have this attitude of mind,
And on those precepts, step by step,
I will abide and train myself.

source: Shantideva, 7th cent. (1997). The way of the bodhisattava: a translation of the Bodhicharyavatara from the Tibetan. Boston: Shambhala Publications, pp. 31-32.


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