The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas
by Togmay Sangpo
Translation by Ruth Sonam


Homage to Lokeshwara

I pay constant homage through my three doors,
To my supreme teacher and protector Chenrezig,
Who while seeing all phenomena lack coming and going,
Makes single-minded effort for the good of living beings.

Perfect Buddhas, source of all well-being and happiness,
Arise from accomplishing the excellent teachings,
And this depends on knowing the practices.
So I will explain the practices of Bodhisattvas.

1. Having gained this rare ship of freedom and fortune,
Hear, think and meditate unwaveringly night and day
In order to free yourself and others
From the ocean of cyclic existence--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

2. Attached to your loved ones youíre stirred up like water.
Hating your enemies you burn like fire.
In the darkness of confusion you forget what to adopt and discard.
Give up your homeland--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

3. By avoiding bad objects, disturbing emotions gradually decrease.
Without distraction, virtuous activities naturally increase.
With clarity of mind, conviction in the teaching arises.
Cultivate seclusion--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

4. Loved ones who have long kept company will part.
Wealth created with difficulty will be left behind.
Consciousness, the guest, will leave the guest-house of the body.
Let go of this life--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

5. When you keep their company your three poisons increase,
Your activities of hearing, thinking and meditating decline,
And they make you lose your love and compassion.
Give up bad friends--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

6. When you rely on them your faults come to an end
And your good qualities grow like the waxing moon.
Cherish spiritual teachers
Even more than your own body--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

7. Bound himself in the jail of cyclic existence,
What worldly god can give you protection?
Therefore when you seek refuge, take refuge in
The Three Jewels which will not betray you--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

8. The Subduer said all the unbearable suffering
Of bad rebirths is the fruit of wrong-doing.
Therefore, even at the cost of your life,
Never do wrong--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

9. Like dew on the tip of a blade of grass, pleasures of the three worlds
Last only a while and then vanish.
Aspire to the never-changing
Supreme state of liberation--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

10. When your mothers, whoíve loved you since time without beginning,
Are suffering, what use is your own happiness?
Therefore to free limitless living beings
Develop the altruistic intention--
This the practice of Bodhisattvas.

11. All suffering comes from the wish for your own happiness.
Perfect Buddhas are born from the thought to help others.
Therefore exchange your own happiness
For the suffering of others--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

12. Even if someone out of strong desire
Steals all your wealth or has it stolen,
Dedicate to him your body, possessions
And your virtue, past, present, and future--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

13. Even if someone tries to cut off your head
When you havenít done the slightest thing wrong,
Out of compassion take all his misdeeds
Upon yourself--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

14. Even if someone broadcasts all kinds of unpleasant remarks
About you throughout the three thousand worlds,
In return, with a loving mind,
Speak of his good qualities--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

15. Though someone may deride and speak bad words
About you in a public gathering,
Looking on him as a spiritual teacher,
Bow to him with respect--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

16. Even if a person for whom youíve cared
Like your own child regards you as an enemy,
Cherish him specially, like a mother
Does her child who is stricken by sickness--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

17. If an equal or inferior person
Disparages you out of pride,
Place him, as you would your spiritual teacher,
With respect on the crown of your head--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

18. Though you lack what you need and are constantly disparaged,
Afflicted by dangerous sickness and spirits,
Without discouragement take on the misdeeds
And the pain of all living beings--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

19. Though you become famous and many bow to you,
And you gain riches to equal Vaishravanaís,
See that worldly fortune is without essence,
And be unconceited--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

20. While the enemy of your own anger is unsubdued,
Though you conquer external foes, they will only increase.
Therefore with the militia of love and compassion
Subdue your own mind--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

21. Sensual pleasures are like saltwater:
The more you indulge, the more thirst increases.
Abandon at once those things which breed
Clinging attachment--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

22. Whatever appears is your own mind.
Your mind from the start was free from fabricated extremes.
Understanding this, do not take to mind
[Inherent] signs of subject and object--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

23. When you encounter attractive objects,
Though they seem beautiful
Like a rainbow in summer, donít regard them as real
And give up attachment--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

24. All forms of suffering are like a childís death in a dream.
Holding illusory appearances to be true makes you weary.
Therefore when you meet with disagreeable circumstances,
See them as illusory--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

25. When those who want enlightenment must give even their body,
Thereís no need to mention external things.
Therefore without hope for return or any fruition
Give generously--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

26. Without ethics you canít accomplish your own well-being,
So wanting to accomplish othersí is laughable.
Therefore without worldly aspirations
Safeguard your ethical discipline
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

27. To Bodhisattvas who want a wealth of virtue
Those who harm are like a precious treasure.
Therefore towards all cultivate patience
Without hostility--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

28. Seeing even Hearers and Solitary Realizers, who accomplish
Only their own good, strive as if to put out a fire on their head,
For the sake of all beings make enthusiastic effort,
The source of all good qualities--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

29. Understanding that disturbing emotions are destroyed
By special insight with calm abiding,
Cultivate concentration which surpasses
The four formless absorptions--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

30. Since the five perfections without wisdom
Cannot bring perfect enlightenment,
Along with skillful means cultivate the wisdom
Which does not conceive the three spheres [as real]--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

31. If you donít examine your own errors,
You may look like a practitioner but not act as one.
Therefore, always examining your own errors,
Rid yourself of them--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

32. If through the influence of disturbing emotions
You point out the faults of another Bodhisattva,
You yourself are diminished, so donít mention the faults
Of those who have entered the Great Vehicle--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

33. Reward and respect cause us to quarrel
And make hearing, thinking and meditation decline.
For this reason give up attachment to
The householdsof friends, relations and benefactors--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

34. Harsh words disturb the minds of others
And cause deterioration in a Bodhisattvaís conduct.
Therefore give up harsh words
Which are unpleasant to others--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

35. Habitual disturbing emotions are hard to stop through counteractions.
Armed with antidotes, the guards of mindfulness and mental alertness
Destroy disturbing emotions like attachment
At once, as soon as they arise--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

36. In brief, whatever you are doing,
Ask yourself ìWhatís the state of my mind?î
With constant mindfulness and mental alertness
Accomplish othersí good--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

37. To remove the suffering of limitless beings,
Understanding the purity of the three spheres,
Dedicate the virtue from making such effort
To enlightenment--
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.
 

For all who want to train on the Bodhisattva path,
I have written The thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas,
Following what has been said by the excellent ones
On the meaning of the sutras, tantras and treatises.

Though not poetically pleasing to scholars
Owing to my poor intelligence and lack of learning,
Iíve relied on the sutras and the words of the excellent,
So I think these Bodhissatva practices are without error.

However, as the great deeds of Bodhisattvas
Are hard to fathom for one of my poor intelligence,
I beg the excellent to forgive all faults,
Such as contradictions and non sequiturs.

Through the virtue from this may all living beings
Gain the ultimate and conventional altruistic intention
And thereby become like the Protector Chenrezig
Who dwell in neither extreme--not in the world nor in peace.

This was written for his own and others' benefit by the monk Togmay, an exponent of scripture and reasoning, in a cave in Ngulchu Rinchen.


Please address your comments to buddhism@ic.sunysb.edu, thank you.