The Concept of Bodhicitta in Śāntideva's Bodhicaryāvatāra

By Francis Brassard

Subjects: Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series, McGill Studies in the History of Religions, A Series Devoted to International Scholarship
Paperback : 9780791445761, 203 pages, April 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445754, 203 pages, April 2000

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Table of contents

List of Abbreviations


1. Bodhicitta and the spiritual path of the Bodhisattva

1. Methodological considerations
2. Santideva’s Bodhicaryavatara


i. The text
ii. Santideva
iii. Prajñakaramati


3. Review of literature


i. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
ii. Sangharakshita


2. Bodhicitta as a desire for enlightenment

1. The idea of desire
2. Criticism of bodhicitta as an act of will


i. Citta (mind)
ii. Citta-utpada (arising of the mind)
iii. The two types of bodhicitta
iv. The ethical aspect of bodhicitta


3. Conclusion

3. Bodhicitta as an object of concentration

1. Arguments in favor of bodhicitta as an object of concentration


i. Derivatives of the Sanskrit verbal roots √grah (to take) and √dhr (to hold)
ii. The practice of meditation
iii. Implications related to the idea of bodhicitta as an object of concentration


2. Criticism of bodhicitta as an object of concentration

4. Bodhicitta as cultivation of awareness

1. The nature of religious language


i. The functional aspect of religious language
ii. The metaphysical aspect of religious language
iii. The ethical aspect of religious language


2. The cultivation of awareness


i. Examples of the cultivation of awareness
ii. The feeling of detachment
iii. The breaking up of distinctions


3. The practice of devotion


i. Saddha/sraddha


4. Conclusion

5. The aspect of renunciation


i. The klesas (mental afflictions) and the cultivation of awareness
ii. Ksantiparamita (the Perfection of patience)
iii. The workings of the mind


6. The aspect of conversion


i. Viryaparamita (the Perfection of endeavor)


7. The aspect of contemplation



An examination of bodhicitta, a key concept in Mahauyauna Buddhism.


This book explores an important concept within the Buddhist Mahāyāna tradition, bodhicitta. This term appears frequently in Sanskrit literature relating to the spiritual practices of the bodhisattva in Mahāyāna Buddhism and has been variously translated as "thought of enlightenment" or "desire of enlightenment." Francis Brassard offers a contextual analysis of bodhicitta based on the presuppositions underlying the spiritual practice of the bodhisattva. Since the understanding that emerges involves how one ought to view the process of spiritual transformation, this work contributes to Buddhist psychology and soteriology in particular, and to comparative religions in general. The book surveys the various interpretations of the concept of bodhicitta, analyzes its possible functions in the context of the spiritual path of the aspirant to enlightenment, and discusses an understanding of bodhicitta in the context of the Śāntideva's Bodhicaryāvatāra.

Francis Brassard is Assistant Professor of Religion at Berry College, Georgia.


"Brassard deals clearly and intelligently with key issues involved in this crucial topic." -- Taigen Dan Leighton, cotranslator of Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi

"This is a thorough and careful exploration of the psychology and soteriology of a particular medieval Indian Buddhist work, Santideva's Bodhicaryavatara, with occasional reference to its only surviving Indian commentary (by Prajnakaramati)." -- Paul J. Griffiths, author of On Being Buddha: The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood