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Shantideva

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Shantideva

(skt.: Shantideva; tib.: Zhi Wa Lha) Master Shantideva was born at around 700 AD in India, the west of Bodhgaya. His father was a king named Armor of Virtue, and his mother was said to be an emanation of Vajra Yogini. He was able to choose the details of his birth, and when he was born he was given the name Armor of Peace.

When he was six years old he met a great practitioner of the secret teachings, and received an initiation and a practice for reaching the enlightened being named Manjushri. As a child he made great efforts in this practice, doing its meditations and reciting its secret words, and was soon able to meet Manjushri himself and receive many teachings from him directly. When his father the King passed away, all the people of the land requested Prince Shantideva to be King. Because he had practiced the bodhisattva path in many previous lives, he had no desire to live a life of royalty, but so as not to upset the people he agreed. The night before his crowning ceremony though he had a dream. In the dream he saw Manjushri sitting on the Kings throne, and He said: Son, this is my seat and I am your Teacher. It would be improper for us to sit on the same seat. Upon waking he realized that it was wrong for him to enjoy the pleasures of owning a kingdom, and he ran away.
 
Master Shantideva first went to Nalanda Monastery where he met the supreme leader of all the learned scholars there and it also was from this master that he received the name Shantideva, which means God of Peace. He served him well, studied the three collections of scripture, and became a great scholar. He continued to receive many teachings from Manjushri himself, and was able to grasp the meaning of all the Buddhas teachings, both open and secret. This was his inner life, but to the eyes of impure people Shantideva seemed to be interested in only three things: eating, sleeping, and going to the toilet. He thus became known by the name Bhusuku, which means Mister Three Thoughts. Because the only fitting activity for a man who has left the home life is to involve himself in teaching, some of the monks who could not see who he really was perceived Master Shantideva as someone who was just living off the kindness of the laypeople, and decided that they should expel him from the monastery. They asked him to recite a scripture from memory before a gathering of the monastery, hoping that their request would cause him to decide to leave on his own. The entire monastery was then invited to this gathering, and a very high throne was set up, one without any stairs so there was no way for anyone to climb atop it. But when the bodhisattva Shantideva reached the front of the throne, he touched it gently, and without the slightest effort he appeared sitting on top of it. He then began to recite that book which we call the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life. He began at the very beginning of the text, and by the time he had gotten about a third of the way through the ninth chapter he began to rise up into the sky. He rose higher and higher, and it seemed as though the sky and his knowledge were pitted in competition, until he could no longer be seen at all, only heard. Then he totally disappeared.
 
Later on some of the monks who had clairvoyance of the ear, and others who were masters of total recall, pieced the whole book together. The group who were from Kashmir said that it had nine chapters, and the group from central India said it had ten. People then began to get curious about two of his other books which were mentioned in the fifth chapter of the Guide, and so they sent two monks to the place where Master Shantideva was living. They travelled to a stupa in the south of India called Pelyun Chen to invite him to come back to Nalanda. The master refused to come, but he did tell them that the people from central India were correct, and that the two books they sought could be found written in tiny letters hidden in the rafters of his old room at the monastery. He then gave these monks a complete explanation of the both the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life and the Compendium of Trainings.
 
This biography recounts only some events of the great life of the great Master Shantideva. It is a paraphrase of sections from the Life Stories of the Lineage Teachers of the Steps of the Path (Lam-rim bla-ma brgyud-pai rnam-thar) written by Yongdzin Yeshe Gyeltsen (1713-1793), the teacher of the eighth Dalai Lama.

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"What is born will die, what has been gathered will be dispersed, what has been accumulated will be exhausted, what has been built up will collapse, and what has been high will be brought low."
- Buddhist scripture

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