Shantideva : Way of the Bodhisattva

Shantideva : Way of the Bodhisattva

Shantideva was an Indian Buddhist monk and scholar at Nalanda University, who was an adherent of the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) philosophies of Nagarjuna.

He lived in the 8th century CE and was born in Saurastra (modern Gujarat) and was the son of King Kalyanavarman, so was part of the Brahmin caste.

However, Shantideva didn’t act like the other monks and was purportedly not well liked.  He spent his time sleeping when the other monks were studying.  He also relaxed and dozed in the afternoon sun.  No one ever saw him pick up a book and he infuriated his teachers when he snored during class.  They said that all he did was eat, sleep, and poop.


Shantideva’s Speech

One day, some of the monks decided to play a trick on Shantideva.  They goaded him into delivering a speech in the courtyard.  Laughingly, the monks told him that they wanted him to teach them how to be a bodhisattva.  Shantideva lazily agreed, and the next day he went to the monastery courtyard and climbed up onto the seat that the other monks had set up for him.

Shantideva: I don’t have any new ideas, and I am not very clever, so this might be a bit boring for you.  Should I recite one of the sutras or should I tell you something in my own words.

Monks: Teach us something new!

It is said at this point that Shantideva rose up into the air and delivered one of his most famous works “The Way of the Bodhisattva” which needless to say astounded his fellow monks.


Shantideva is the author of a several works including the Shiksasamuccaya (“Training Anthology”) which consists of quotations that are said to be the word of the Buddha.

He also authored the Bodhischaryavatara “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”, which is a poem describing the process of enlightenment.


One of Shantideva’s most famous teachings is called “Exchanging Oneself and Others”.  This involves a meditation practice called “Tonglen” which aims to generate compassion for oneself and others.  In the meditation, the meditator attempts to put oneself into “another person’s shoes” and generate great compassion for them.


Shantideva now is one of the most influential figures that influenced the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, which itself came directly from the Indian Buddhist tradition.

See a few Amazon picks below for further reading!  Enjoy!

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4 Responses to Shantideva : Way of the Bodhisattva

  1. Giulia says:

    Ian, what a very educational article on shanti devo and the introduction to the Bodhisattva way.
    I am a Christian myself, but have always been fascinated by Buddism as a way of life, if not for its religious teachings. I shall therefore be intrigued to learn more from your website regarding meditation techniques and other expressions of being at peace with the world and others.
    i also read about the abuse you were subjected to, and am sorry to hear that. Can you however elaborate if and how Buddism has helped you overcome and come to terms with unfortunately nasty aspects of your life?
    I hope I have not been too intrusive with my question. If I was, it was not meant to be, but it is just my wanting to learn more.
    Thank you. Giulia

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Giulia,
      Thanks for your comment. Buddhist mindfulness meditation helps me stay grounded in the present moment. With PTSD, the past impinges upon the present and causes flashbacks. I wouldn’t say that I’ve overcome the nasty aspects of my life, but I’m learning to pay attention to what I’m feeling in the present moment and learn to let go.

  2. Genevieve says:

    Haha, those silly Buddhists. They must get bored just sitting around meditating all the time. This I guess is when they make huge revelations. Awesome. I wish I could do something revolutionary when I get bored.. lol.

    I love learning about monks and Buddhism, so this is a great read. Thank you so much for this.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for your comment. Sitting around meditating is much harder than it looks. I’m sure that boredom comes up for them too.

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