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Bornc. 685 Edit this on Wikidata
Diedc. 763 Edit this on Wikidata

Shantideva (Sanskrit: Śāntideva; Chinese: 寂天; Tibetan: ཞི་བ་ལྷ།, THL: Zhiwa Lha; Mongolian: Шантидэва гэгээн; Vietnamese: Tịch Thiên) was an 8th-century CE Indian philosopher, Buddhist monk, poet, and scholar at the mahavihara of Nalanda. He was an adherent of the Mādhyamaka philosophy of Nāgārjuna.

He is also considered to be one of the 84 mahasiddhas and is known as Bhusuku Pa (布苏固巴).[1]



The Zhansi Lun of the East Asian Mādhyamaka identifies two different individuals given the name "Shantideva": the founder of the Avaivartika Mahāyānika Sangha in 6th century CE (in Samataṭa, modern Bangladesh) and a later Shantideva who studied at Nalanda in the 8th century CE and appears to be the source of the Tibetan biographies. Archaeological discoveries support this thesis.[2][3] Two Tibetan sources of the life of Shantideva are the historians Buton Rinchen Drub and Tāranātha. Recent scholarship has brought to light a short Sanskrit life of Shantideva in a 14th-century CE Nepalese manuscript.[4] An accessible account that follows the Butön closely can be found in Kunzang Pelden, The Nectar of Manjushri's speech.[5]

Shantideva was born in the Saurastra (in modern Gujarat), son of King Kalyanavarman, and he went by the name Śantivarman.[6]

According to Pema Chödrön, "Shantideva was not well liked at Nalanda."[7]

Apparently he was one of those people who didn't show up for anything, never studying or coming to practice sessions. His fellow monks said that his three "realizations" were eating, sleeping, and shitting.[7]

After being goaded into giving a talk to the entire university body, Shantideva delivered The Way of the Bodhisattva.[7]



The Śikṣāsamuccaya ("Training Anthology") is a prose work in nineteen chapters. It is organized as a commentary on twenty-seven short mnemonic verses known as the Śikṣāsamuccaya Kārikā. It consists primarily of quotations (of varying length) from sūtras, authoritative texts considered to be the word of the Buddha — generally those sūtras associated with Mahāyāna tradition, including the Samadhiraja Sutra.[8]


Shantideva is particularly renowned as the author of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra. A variety of English translations exist, sometimes glossed as "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life" or "Entering the Path of Enlightenment."[9] It is a long poem describing the process of enlightenment from the first thought to full buddhahood and is still studied by Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists today.

An introduction to and commentary on the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra by the 14th Dalai Lama called A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night was printed in 1994. A commentary on the Patience chapter was provided by the Dalai Lama in Healing Anger (1997), and his commentaries on the Wisdom chapter can be found in Practicing Wisdom (2004). Kunzang Palden has written a commentary based on that given by Patrul Rinpoche, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. Patrul Rinpoche was a wandering monk of great scholarship, who dedicated his life to the propagation of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.[10]

Philosophical views[edit]

Personal identity and free will[edit]

Following the Buddha, Śāntideva understood that our innate investment in an inherent, personal, self or essence is not only groundless but toxic. Goodman suggests that Śāntideva also touches on the problem of free will in the Bodhicaryāvatāra, writing that "whatever transgressions (aparādha) and vile actions (pāpa) there are, all arise through the power of conditioning factors, while there is nothing that arises independently."[11]

Ethical views[edit]

In line with his views on personal identity and the nature of the self, Śāntideva wrote that one ought to "stop all the present and future pain and suffering of all sentient beings, and to bring about all present and future pleasure and happiness", in what may have been "the very earliest clearly articulated statement of that view, preceding Jeremy Bentham by approximately a thousand years".[11]

His basis for preferring altruism over egoism was that "the continuum of consciousness, like a queue, and the combination of constituents, like an army, are not real. The person who experiences suffering does not exist." Similarly, he asks, "when happiness is dear to me and others equally, what is so special about me that I strive after happiness only for myself?"[11]

Ancestral debate[edit]

Haraprasad Shastri considered him as Bengali for writing this poem: "Aji Bhusuku Bangali hoilii, nio ghorini Chondaley lelii" আজি ভুসুকু বঙ্গালী হইলী। নিঅ ঘরিণী চন্ডালে লেলী" (Because of bhusuku being bengal, today Chandal has taken away his wife) but Muhammad Shahidullah denied this opinion.[12]


  1. ^ Donald S. Lopez Jr. (28 May 2019). Seeing the Sacred in Samsara: An Illustrated Guide to the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas. Shambhala. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-8348-4212-0.
  2. ^ Rahsid, More Harunur (2012). "Deva Dynasty". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  3. ^ Bodhicaryāvatāra Historical Project Archived 6 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Pezzali, Amalia (1968), Śāntideva Mystjique buddhiste des VII et VIIIe siècles, Florence: Vallechi Edtore
  5. ^ Shantideva (1997), The Way of the Bodhisattva, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, Boston l: Shambala, ISBN 1-57062-253-1
  6. ^ Kunzang Pelden (2007), The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech. A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva, Shambala Publications, p. 17, ISBN 978-1-59030-439-6
  7. ^ a b c "Cutting Ties: The Fruits of Solitude". Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  8. ^ Amod Lele, "Śāntideva", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  9. ^ The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara. Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. Shambhala Publications. 2003. ISBN 1590300572.
  10. ^ Kunzang Palden (2007), The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech. A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva, Shambala Publications, ISBN 978-1-59030-439-6
  11. ^ a b c Goodman, Charles (2016), "Śāntideva", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 15 July 2022
  12. ^ Source: History of Bengali Literature, Mahbubul Alam.


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