If something can be done about it, What need is there for dejection? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?
Way of Life
Topic: Wisdom & Understanding
If something can be done about it, what need is there for dejection? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?
Shantideva was an 8th-century (c. 685-c. 763) Indian Buddhist monk and scholar, born in Saurastra, in what is now modern Gujarat. He was the son of King Kalyanavarman, and he went by the name Śantivarman. A prominent figure at the esteemed university of Nalanda, Shantideva was an adherent of the Madhyamaka philosophy, a system of thought developed by Nagarjuna. This philosophical approach sought to explain the nature of existence and the essence of enlightenment, profoundly influencing Mahayana Buddhism.
Despite his noble birth and philosophical alignment, Shantideva's time at Nalanda was marked by controversy. According to the well-known Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, "Shantideva was not well liked at Nalanda." Rather than engaging in the scholarly pursuits expected of a monk at such a renowned institution, Shantideva was known for his absence from study and practice sessions. Fellow students and teachers perceived him as disinterested and aloof, contributing to an air of mystery and misunderstanding surrounding his character.
This perception was dramatically altered when Shantideva was goaded into giving a talk to the entire university body. To the astonishment of those who had doubted him, he delivered "The Way of the Bodhisattva" ("Bodhicharyavatara"), a profound and seminal text that has become one of the most cherished works in Mahayana Buddhism. In it, he explores the virtues of compassion, wisdom, and patience, weaving complex philosophical insights into practical teachings. The text's brilliance not only vindicated Shantideva's unconventional approach to his studies but also ensured his place as one of the most revered figures in Buddhist history. His teachings continue to inspire and guide practitioners and scholars alike, offering a timeless wisdom that transcends cultural and temporal boundaries.
Way of the Bodhisattva
The Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. Edited by Douglas Carlton Abrams, Viking, 2016, pp. 333-334 [Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva].