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Virtuous BodiesThe Physical Dimensions of Morality in Buddhist Ethics$

Susanne Mrozik

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195305005

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195305005.001.0001

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 Introduction to the Compendium of Training

 Introduction to the Compendium of Training

(p.3) 1 Introduction to the Compendium of Training
Virtuous Bodies

Susanne Mrozik (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter begins with an explanation of the purpose of the book, which is to offer a new approach to the study of Buddhist ethics by asking what we can learn about Buddhist ethics if we make the body the focus of ethical inquiry. It then discusses the two main goals of the study, methodological and theoretical perspectives, literary genre of the text, and the historical origins of the Compendium of Training. An overview of the succeeding chapters is presented.

Keywords:   Buddhist ethics, body, Compendium of Training, Buddhist teachings

A person who generates the aspiration to attain awakening (bodhicitta) and worships at the stūpa, or shrine, of the Teacher [i.e., Buddha] is never blind or lame even in vast numbers of eons.1

A Focus on Bodies

This book offers a new approach to the study of Buddhist ethics by asking what we can learn about Buddhist ethics if we make body the focus of ethical inquiry.2 More often studies of Buddhist ethics place heartmind at the center of investigation, defining ethical development as the cultivation of desired affective and cognitive qualities such as compassion and wisdom.3 By making body the focus of ethical inquiry, I hope to demonstrate that ethical development also includes the cultivation of desired physical qualities such as the serene appearance and deportment of monastics. Buddhist traditions admit no easy or absolute separation between the physical and moral dimensions of living beings. Body and morality are inextricably linked. Thus Buddhist literature is replete with descriptions of living beings who literally stink with sin, are disfigured by vices, and, conversely, are perfumed or adorned with merit and virtues. The close relationship Buddhists posit between body and morality means that the formation of ethical persons is conceived of as a process (p.4) of both physical and moral transformation, affecting the entire complex of body, feelings, and thoughts.

Although body and morality are inextricably linked in Buddhist ethical discourse, studies of Buddhist ethics rarely devote much attention to bodies. There are various reasons for this oversight. The tendency of the more culturally authoritative strands of modern Western thought to posit a sharp distinction between body and mind is likely in part to blame. Buddhist ethical discourse itself, however, directs our attention to heartmind. Specifically it directs our attention to cetanā, a term usually translated as “intention,” “motive,” “volition,” or “will,” but more recently by Damien Keown as “moral psychology.”4 It is well known that Buddhist traditions place great weight on taking into account the intentions or motives of a person in evaluating his or her actions.5 Cetanā is such an important issue in Buddhist ethics that karma is specifically defined as volitional action.6 Thus a person earns good karma, or merit (puṇya), and bad karma, or sin (pāpa), in accordance with the good or bad intentions he or she had in performing that action. For instance, some negative karmic debt may accrue to me if I inadvertently run over a dog with my car (particularly if I have been careless), but the karmic consequences will be far less grave than had I done so on purpose. Hence studies of Buddhist ethics often quote the following canonical statement: “It is intention [cetanā], O monks, that I call karma; having willed, one acts through body, speech, or mind.”7

Given the importance of cetanā in Buddhist ethics, it is perhaps not surprising that studies of Buddhist ethics privilege heartmind over body. This book will demonstrate, however, that Buddhist attention to heartmind does not preclude an equal attention to body. Both body and heartmind figure prominently in Buddhist ethical discourse. Taking an early medieval Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist text as a case study, this book explores the important and diverse roles Buddhists have ascribed to bodies in the ethical development of living beings. The text, written in Sanskrit, is the Compendium of Training (Śikṣāsamuccaya). According to Buddhist tradition, it was composed in north India in the seventh or eighth century by a scholar‐monk named Śāntideva. The Compendium of Training is, as its title implies, a compendium or compilation of Buddhist teachings. It quotes extensively from approximately one hundred Buddhist sources in order to describe the training (śikṣā) of bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are living beings who seek liberation in order to become capable of liberating others from the suffering inherent in saṃsāric existence, that is, in the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Because Buddhists believe in rebirth, the path to liberation, which is defined in Mahāyāna Buddhist terms as the experience of awakening or buddhahood, may take (p.5) countless lifetimes. Bodhisattvas dedicate all of their lifetimes to the happiness and well‐being of others. They thus represent one of the highest ethical ideals in Buddhist traditions. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, the bodhisattva path is open to all Buddhist practitioners, lay and monastic. Nevertheless, the Compendium of Training regards a monastic lifestyle as most conducive to concentrated practice. Thus the text is primarily, although not exclusively, addressed to monastic bodhisattvas. Additionally, even householder bodhisattvas are at times exhorted to adopt monastic attitudes such as detachment from sensual pleasures, including sex with one's own spouse. The Compendium of Training's preference for a monastic bodhisattva lifestyle flies in the face of modern popular representations of Mahāyāna Buddhism as a lay‐oriented tradition. The Compendium of Training is one of many South Asian Mahāyāna texts that advocate a monastic, rather than lay, bodhisattva lifestyle.8

The Compendium of Training places bodies front and center in bodhisattva training, especially monastic bodhisattva training. The philosopher and historian Michel Foucault has illumined the physical effects of a wide range of disciplinary practices, from those found in modern prisons to those enjoined by ancient Greek and Greco‐Roman philosophers.9 The Compendium of Training prescribes many different kinds of disciplinary practices for bodhisattvas, including study of scriptures, confession liturgies (pāpadeśanā), forms of meditation, codes of ethical conduct, and observance of monastic etiquette and deportment. As Foucault would argue, these disciplinary practices were intended to have physical as well as moral effects. For example, observance of monastic etiquette and deportment produces bodhisattvas with serene features and gestures as well as serene feelings and thoughts. The Compendium of Training's bodhisattva ideal is an embodied ideal. The effects of bodhisattva practices are as manifest in the features, postures, and movements of bodies as they are in the experience of particular affective and cognitive states. Thus bodhisattva practices are intended to produce virtuous bodies as well as virtuous heartminds.

Given the close relationship between physical and moral transformation, bodies serve in the Compendium of Training, as they do more broadly in Buddhist ethical discourse, as markers of moral character. For example, in the quotation at the start of this chapter the absence of certain disabilities serves as a physical marker of past virtuous actions. The fact that bodies serve as markers of moral character is, however, but one of several reasons why bodies are front and center in the Compendium of Training's description of bodhisattva training. Perhaps the most important reason why bodies figure so prominently is that the text assumes that certain kinds of bodies, especially (p.6) the virtuous bodies of bodhisattvas, can have profoundly transformative effects on other living beings. The Compendium of Training teaches bodhisattvas how to cultivate bodies in present and future lifetimes whose very sight, sound, and in some instances even touch and taste, transform other living beings in both physical and moral ways. For instance, animals who eat bodhisattva corpses are reborn as gods in heaven; humans who touch the living bodies of bodhisattvas are no longer tormented by lust, anger, and delusion. Throughout the text, the Compendium of Training draws attention to the physically and morally transformative power of bodhisattva bodies. Bodhisattvas use their bodies as much as their heartminds to transform living beings. The Compendium of Training thereby foregrounds the role bodhisattva bodies play in the bodhisattva ideal of liberating others from the suffering of saṃsāric existence.

Goals of the Study

This book has two broad goals. First it corrects the common misperception in scholarship on Buddhism and Buddhist ethics that South Asian Buddhists (with the exception of practitioners of Vajrayāna or Tantric Buddhism) ascribed little value to bodies. Bodies are frequently characterized in South Asian Buddhist literature as impermanent, foul, and without any intrinsic and eternal essence. Scholars have thus often concluded that bodies were of limited concern to most South Asian Buddhists. There are two problems with this assumption. First, a negative discourse on bodies does not bespeak a lack of interest in bodies. To the contrary, it bespeaks a deep fascination with bodies, a point I argue in chapter 5. Second, there is more than one kind of discourse on bodies in Buddhist literature. Alongside a negative discourse that represents bodies as impermanent, foul, and without intrinsic and eternal essence, we find a positive discourse that underscores the inextricable link between body and morality. This positive discourse highlights the critical role bodies play in the ethical development of oneself and others. I call the negative discourse on bodies an “ascetic discourse,” and the positive discourse on bodies a “physiomoral discourse.” Both are present in the Compendium of Training. One of the challenges of this book is to examine how both ascetic and physiomoral discourses contribute to the Compendium of Training's larger goal of producing bodhisattvas with virtuous bodies as well as virtuous heartminds. In this text the ascetic discourse is always in service of the physiomoral discourse, because the goal of the text is to produce bodhisattvas whose bodies as well as heartminds benefit other living beings.

(p.7) It should be noted that one well‐known form of body discourse is altogether absent from the Compendium of Training. It does not discuss the three‐body (trikāya) doctrine. The three‐body doctrine is a sophisticated scholastic discourse on the nature of a buddha's body. Perhaps surprisingly for a text penned by the scholar‐monk Śāntideva, the Compendium of Training does not discuss this most famous of Mahāyāna scholastic body discourses. There is not a single reference to the trikāya doctrine in the entire text. Instead, the Compendium of Training reveals the presence of other kinds of body discourse in medieval South Asia, including a physiomoral discourse, which links body to morality and links physical transformation to moral transformation. The text is a training manual for bodhisattvas. Its primary concern is to teach bodhisattvas how to cultivate virtuous bodies as well as virtuous heartminds. It is less concerned with describing the precise nature of a buddha's or bodhisattva's body than it is with describing the physically and morally beneficial effects bodhisattva bodies have on other living beings. Analysis of this text's body discourse thus requires a different interpretive framework than that of the three‐body doctrine.

The second aim of the book is to explore the ethical implications of the Compendium of Training's discourse on bodies for both medieval and contemporary audiences. The book is motivated as much by a desire to learn from medieval Indian Buddhist ethics as it is by a desire to learn about medieval Indian Buddhist ethics. This approach—and its very formulation—bespeak the influence of Charles Hallisey, who describes the experience of studying Buddhist literature as one in which ideally we learn to listen to and think alongside this literature.10 Similarly, Ronald Inden challenges positivist readings of medieval South Asian literature, urging scholars to

establish a dialogical or interdiscursive relationship with the texts we study. Instead of looking at them as dead monuments, as mere sources of factual information or the expression of a creative and exotic genius that we can only appreciate in itself for itself, or as the accidental expression/sedimentation of some larger structure or context, we want to see them as living arguments both in their historic usages and by virtue of our reenactment of their arguments, in our own present. We want to see what we can learn from these texts that pertains to our own time and its problems.11

By exploring the ethical implications of an early medieval Buddhist discourse on bodies for contemporary as well as medieval audiences, the book seeks to make a place for the Compendium of Training in the living arguments of the present. A growing number of scholars have argued that we should take (p.8) the corporeal specificity of human beings as the starting point for ethical inquiry.12 Feminists, in particular, have been extremely suspicious of ethical theories that presume a generic universal subject, because that subject is frequently implicitly male. This book introduces a medieval Indian Buddhist perspective on bodies to current work in this area. The Compendium of Training underscores the corporeal specificity of ethical ideals. There is a bodily dimension to morality and a moral dimension to bodies. The text displays a fascination with bodily differences and the ways in which such differences affect the ethical development of oneself and others.

Yet, if the Compendium of Training displays perspectives resonant with those of some current scholars as well as religious practitioners, it also displays perspectives that many of these would regard as highly problematic, notably its hierarchical ranking of bodily differences. Humans are superior to animals, high castes to low castes, men to women, and so forth. Analysis of the Compendium of Training thus entails both a hermeneutics of recovery and suspicion, suggesting how a complex, brilliant, and yet often problematic discourse on bodies can offer intellectual resources to contemporary scholars and practitioners committed to a vision of human flourishing that values human differences.

Methodological and Theoretical Perspectives

This study of the Compendium of Training is based on a close reading of Cecil Bendall's 1897–1902 edition of the sole complete extant Sanskrit manuscript, with reference to a copy of the manuscript itself.13 While there are some problems with Bendall's edition, for the most part these are not critical to the interpretation of this study. Exceptions, in the form of emendations to Bendall's edition, are duly recorded in the notes. This study is in sympathy with Gregory Schopen's suggestion that we study texts in their historically attested form.14 Therefore the book leaves aside questions of the original authorial version of the text as well as the original date of composition. It also leaves for other scholars an analysis of the Tibetan and Chinese recensions of the Compendium of Training, although, as will be evident from my notes, I have occasionally consulted the Tibetan when faced with a particularly problematic Sanskrit passage. A Tibetan translation was made in the beginning of the ninth century and was subsequently revised at the end of the eleventh century.15 A Chinese translation was made in the Northern Song dynasty between 1058 and 1072.16 Some scholars have insisted that the Tibetan translation in particular is crucial to a “correct” (or corrected) reading of the Sanskrit text.17 (p.9) Again, this study of the Compendium of Training is a study of a text in its historically attested form. It does not attempt to “correct” the Sanskrit manuscript. Instead it attends to the details and nuances of its Sanskrit language in order to understand how and why bodies figure so prominently in its conception of the bodhisattva ideal.

The book is methodologically informed by three broad areas of study. First, it draws upon the research of historians and anthropologists of South Asia such as E. Valentine Daniel, Ronald Inden, McKim Marriott, and Ralph W. Nicholas, who have argued that South Asians frequently posit a close relationship between body and morality.18 Speaking of Bengal, Inden and Nicholas state that there is “no absolute separation between natural and moral orders or material and spiritual orders.”19 The assumption that body and morality are closely linked is at such a sufficient level of generalization in South Asia that it is ubiquitous in Sanskrit literature. Although it is beyond the scope of this study to engage in systematic comparison of South Asian perspectives on bodies, the study nevertheless situates the Compendium of Training within broader patterns of ethical thought and practice in South Asia.

Second, the book is in conversation with recent scholarship on bodies. Over the last few decades scholars in diverse fields have shown increasing interest in this topic. Michel Foucault's work has had a particularly strong influence on many academic disciplines, including that of the history of religions. His studies of the “technologies of power” (e.g., Discipline and Punish) and the “technologies of the self” (e.g., The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self) have made it impossible to ignore the corporeal effects of diverse forms of disciplinary practices—whether these practices are imposed upon one by others, as is the case with technologies of power, or are self‐imposed, as is the case with technologies of the self. Of particular relevance to this book is Foucault's research on the technologies of the self. He defines the technologies of the self as those disciplinary practices individuals intentionally adopt in order to transform themselves into ideal ethical subjects. Bodhisattva practices are disciplinary practices in the Foucauldian sense of the term. Individuals who are committed to the bodhisattva ideal self‐consciously adopt these practices in order to transform themselves into ideal ethical beings, that is, bodhisattvas. The Compendium of Training is quite explicit about the intended physical effects of its disciplinary practices. It seeks to shape bodies as much as heartminds. This book explores how the Compendium of Training uses Buddhist (and especially monastic) disciplinary practices to cultivate bodhisattvas with bodies capable of transforming others.

Feminist scholarship arguably has made the most important contributions to recent research on bodies, countering the problematic presumption of (p.10) a generic body in the work of earlier scholars such as Foucault. In this book I draw especially on the work of the feminist philosopher Elizabeth Grosz. Rejecting a Cartesian body–mind dualism, Grosz asks us to reconceptualize human beings in such a way that we acknowledge the corporeal specificity of human beings—that is, the fact that human beings are (1) bodied, and (2) bodied in different kinds of ways.20 The Compendium of Training is especially well suited for such a project, because it displays a fascination with the details of bodily differences. Bodies are marked in diverse ways in this text (as in Buddhist literature in general), including by one's realm of rebirth (gati)—that is, whether one is reborn as a god, human, demon (asura), animal, hungry ghost (preta), or hell being—as well as by physical beauty, health, longevity, absence or presence of physical or mental disability, sex, caste (varṇa, jāti), and family (kula). Although bodies are marked in different ways, one form of bodily difference is especially important in the Compendium of Training, namely, sexual difference. As we will see, the text primarily represents a male monastic perspective on the bodhisattva ideal. Thus I pay particular attention to the ways in which sexual difference affects the ability of bodhisattvas to use their bodies to transform living beings.

Third, the book is inspired by Charles Hallisey's research on “the ethics of care and responsibility” in Theravāda Buddhism.21 Hallisey explores the critical role human relationships play in the formation of ethical persons. According to Hallisey, we do not become virtuous by ourselves but are made virtuous through relationships with others. Hallisey shifts the focus of inquiry in ethical projects from individual to community. In this book I am especially interested in how the bodies of ideal ethical persons such as bodhisattvas influence the ethical development of other living beings.

Literary Genre of the Text

The Compendium of Training employs the literary genre of the compendium to make its case for the importance of bodies to the bodhisattva ideal. The text consists of Śāntideva's generally brief comments in prose and verse along with copious quotations from diverse Buddhist texts variously classified as sūtra, paripṛcchā, dhāraṇī, prātimokṣa, avadāna, and vimokṣa. (It should be noted that although the Compendium of Training is a Mahāyāna Buddhist text, not all of its sources belong exclusively to the Mahāyāna tradition.) As a compendium, the text shows us, among other things, how Buddhist texts circulated in the past. Texts or portions thereof often circulated as part of compendia or anthologies. Readers did not necessarily have access to an entire (p.11) text, as these are constituted in modern print editions, but rather had particular chapters, passages, or other smaller units of a text. Not only is the Compendium of Training itself an instantiation of this fact, but, as Bendall notes, it cites passages that were regularly quoted in other works and appear to have circulated as stock pieces.22 The Compendium of Training thus reminds us that the boundaries of texts were much more fluid in medieval Indian Buddhist manuscript culture than they are in modern print culture.

The Compendium of Training has sometimes been dismissed by modern scholars precisely because it is a compendium. They dismiss the work because so much of it consists of quotations from other sources. For instance, one scholar characterizes it as “more of an encyclopedia of sources than a creation of original thinking.”23 Paul Harrison observes, “Right from the start [the Compendium of Training's] general lack of originality and largely derivative nature have been taken as a matter of fact.”24 Harrison, however, has recently discovered that a significant number of verses in the final chapter of the text, heretofore attributed to other sources, were actually penned by Śāntideva himself. Harrison, who together with Jens‐Uwe Hartmann is currently preparing a new English translation of the text, believes that this may be the case for other verse and prose passages as well.25 Assessment of the full extent of Śāntideva's original contributions to the text will have to wait until Harrison and Hartmann complete their study and translation of the text. Nevertheless it is already apparent from Harrison's research that a greater portion of the text may be original to Śāntideva than was previously recognized by scholars.26

Regardless of how much of the text was written by Śāntideva himself, the text as a whole offers an original and compelling vision of the bodhisattva ideal. Maria Heim has drawn attention to the importance of compendia as a literary genre in South Asia. She cautions against the tendency of scholars to assume that compendia are merely “redundant reiterations of earlier material.”27 Rather, the very act of choosing which material to include in a compendium entails significant editorial interpretation.28 Additionally, the Compendium of Training guides the reader's understanding of quoted passages by framing these with commentary. Anne M. Blackburn's study of eighteenth‐century Sri Lankan Buddhist textual practices demonstrates the extent to which an author's commentary “orchestrat[es] his readers' encounter with the texts in ways that privileged his understanding of their significance.”29 Although I regret that this study of the Compendium of Training will not benefit from Harrison and Hartmann's research, it makes no difference to my overall argument which passages are original to Śāntideva and which he has drawn from other sources. The text as a whole represents his vision of the bodhisattva (p.12) ideal. That vision is one in which bodies play critical roles in the ethical development of living beings.

The Compendium of Training's summary of Buddhist teachings was meant to serve as a practical handbook or manual of bodhisattva—especially monastic bodhisattva—practice. Writing on South Asian Pāli Buddhist compendia (saṅgaha), Heim argues that these “handbooks” or “manuals” “often usurp the earlier canonical and more authoritative sources in their use as training material for monks up to the present day.”30 Similarly, Schopen observes that most monks in ancient and medieval India probably did not read the canonical monastic regulations (vinaya) because these were so lengthy. Instead they would have relied on summaries, manuals, and handbooks.31 The Compendium of Training calls itself a bodhisattva vinaya and likely was intended to function in the manner outlined by Heim and Schopen.32 Unfortunately, however, it is difficult to ascertain the actual extent or manner of the Compendium of Training's use in medieval India. In the first place, as Jan Nattier has noted, most Buddhist scriptures are prescriptive rather than descriptive.33 The Compendium of Training tells us how bodhisattvas should live, not necessarily how they actually lived. In the second place, we do not know how many Buddhists had access to this text in medieval India. Only one complete Sanskrit manuscript and a fragment of a second one, both from north India, have survived to the present day (see the next section, “Locating the Text in Time and Place”). Passages from the text are cited in the works of a number of other famous Indian monastic scholars such as Prajñākaramati and Atīśa (ca. tenth and eleventh centuries).34 We also know from references to the text in writings of Tibetan scholars such as Tsong kha pa (1357–1419) that its influence extended well beyond north India.35 Indeed the text continues to be studied by contemporary Tibetan religious teachers. For example, H. H. the Dalai Lama has given teachings on the text in recent years. Modern scholars of Buddhism regard Śāntideva as one of the most important Buddhist intellectuals of his day. Nevertheless, the extent to which the Compendium of Training was disseminated in medieval north Indian monasteries and the precise manner in which it might have been used in these monasteries remains unclear.

Locating the Text in Time and Place

Very little can be known with absolute certainty concerning the historical origins of this text and its manuscript. On the basis of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the original composition of the Compendium of Training (p.13) is attributed to Śāntideva, a monk and scholar believed to have lived between the seventh and eighth centuries C.E. According to tradition, Śāntideva, a proponent of Mahāyāna Buddhism, lived at Nālandā monastery in north India in the modern state of Bihar. Nālandā was known as a mahāvihāra, that is, a great monastery. Mahāvihāras were the premier educational institutions of their day.36 They attracted students from as far away as China and Southeast Asia.37 They taught diverse subjects, including grammar, rhetoric, prose and verse composition, logic, metaphysics, medicine, ritual and meditation, fine arts, astronomy, and mathematics.38 Nālandā was one of the greatest of the mahāvihāras. The Chinese monk and scholar Xuanzang, who visited Nālandā in the seventh century during the reign of King Harṣa, tells us,

The priests [i.e., monks], to the number of several thousands, are men of the highest ability and talent. Their distinction is very great at the present time, and there are many hundreds whose fame has rapidly spread through distant regions. Their conduct is pure and unblamable. They follow in sincerity the precepts of the moral law. The rules of this convent are severe, and all the priests are bound to observe them. The countries of India respect them and follow them. The day is not sufficient for asking and answering profound questions. From morning till night they engage in discussion; the old and the young mutually help one another. Those who cannot discuss questions out of the Tripiṭaka [Buddhist canon] are little esteemed and are obliged to hide themselves for shame. Learned men from different cities, on this account, who desire to acquire quickly a renown in discussion, come here in multitudes to settle their doubts, and then the streams (of their wisdom) spread far and wide. For this reason some persons usurp the name (of Nālandā students), and in going to and fro receive honour in consequence.39

The sole complete extant Sanskrit manuscript of the Compendium of Training dates from several centuries after the life of Śāntideva. Bendall, who edited the manuscript, initially dated it to the fourteenth to fifteenth century C.E. and subsequently to the thirteenth to fourteenth century C.E.40 The manuscript is written in Old Bengali script.41 It consists of 166 folios and was copied by two scribes. The second scribe took over for the first and chief scribe at the bottom of folio 122a (chapter 16 of the Compendium of Training). The first scribe resumed his work again at the top of folio 132a (chapter 17 of the Compendium of Training). The colophon, written in the hand of the first scribe, states that the manuscript was copied by a scholar (paṇḍita) named Vibhṛticandra, from the Jāgandala monastery.42 The title paṇḍita indicates a (p.14) person of considerable learning.43 If this is a reference to the famous Indian Buddhist scholar‐monk known as Vibhūticandra of the Jagaddala monastery, the manuscript must be dated to the late twelfth or early thirteenth century.44 Vibhūticandra is famous for his transmission of Buddhist teachings from India and Nepal to Tibet in the early thirteenth century, a time when Indian Buddhist institutions were under attack by Turko‐Afghan invaders.45 He made three trips to Tibet, spending altogether at least fifteen years there.46 He also lived for periods of time in Nepal, eventually serving as abbot of the Stham Bihar in Kathmandu.47 Among the works that Vibhūticandra transmitted to Tibet is a commentary that he himself wrote on the Bodhicaryāvatāra (Understanding the Way to Awakening),48 another work attributed to Śāntideva.49 The commentary opens with a biography of Śāntideva.50 Was this Vibhūticandra then also the scribe of the manuscript of the Compendium of Training? It is possible but far from definite. Regrettably, the evidence is inconclusive at this time.

The precise location of the Jagaddala monastery is also uncertain. D. D. Kosambi and V. V. Gokhale locate it in the northern region of ancient Bengal, called Varendrī or Varendra.51 According to Susan L. Huntington, Varendra, also called Gauḍa, is “contiguous with Bihar and roughly corresponds with the modern districts of Malda and West Dinajpur in India, and the western portion of Dhaka (formerly Pabna) District and Rajshahi District (including former Rajshahi, Bogra, Dinajpur, and Rangpur districts) in Bangladesh. It lies north of the main branch of the Ganges known as the Padma River and west of the Brahmaputra River (called the Jamuna River in Bengal).”52 Jagaddala monastery “enjoyed special royal patronage” under the reign of Rāmapāla (ca. 1087–1141), one of the last great rulers of the Pāla dynasty (eighth to twelfth centuries) in north India.53 Like Nālandā, Jagaddala was one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in north India in its day.54

Rāhula Sāṅkṛityāyana discovered the very last folio of a second Sanskrit manuscript of the Śikṣāsamuccaya at the Sa skya monastery in Tibet. The folio is written in Māgadhī script and unfortunately contains only two lines.55 The colophon dates the manuscript to the third regnal year of a king named Kumārapāla. This may suggest that the manuscript was copied in the mid‐twelfth century. A Kumārapāla of Gujarat reigned from ca. 1143–1172.56 A much lesser‐known Kumārapāla of Bengal ruled very briefly at the end of the Pāla dynasty from ca. 1141–1143.57

The colophon of Bendall's Old Bengali manuscript and that of the only remaining folio of the Māgadhī manuscript do not specify an author. Scholars have instead relied upon long‐standing Indian and Tibetan traditions of textual exegesis as well as hagiography in attributing authorship of this text to (p.15) Śāntideva. It is clear, however, that the author of the Compendium of Training had at his disposal a sizable corpus of texts from which to cite, suggesting composition at a major monastic center such as Nālandā.58 The text bespeaks the high value placed on scholarship in medieval Indian Buddhism and also the fact that scholarship was supposed to inform religious practice. The Compendium of Training quotes extensively from other sources specifically in order to create a handbook of bodhisattva practice. If the scribe of the Old Bengali manuscript is indeed the famous Vibhūticandra of Jagaddala monastery, the transcription of this manuscript also reveals a commitment to preserving its vision of a bodhisattva's way of life precisely at a time when Buddhist monastic institutions were increasingly threatened in north India. Raids by a series of Turko‐Afghan rulers, beginning in the very late tenth century with Mahmud of Ghazni and continuing into the thirteenth century, resulted in the destruction of Indian Buddhist monasteries, including Nālandā and Jagaddala, and the eventual decline of Buddhism in India. Buddhist monastics such as Vibhūticandra, who transmitted Buddhist texts to Nepal and Tibet, enabled works like the Compendium of Training to inform the nature of bodhisattva practice outside the borders of north India.

Sanskrit and Tibetan biographies sometimes credit Śāntideva with three works: the Śikṣāsamuccaya (Compendium of Training), the Bodhicaryāvatāra (Understanding the Way to Awakening), and the Sūtrasamuccaya (Compendium of Scriptures).59 Already in medieval India, however, some Buddhist scholars attributed authorship of a text called the Sūtrasamuccaya (Compendium of Scriptures) to a scholar‐monk named Nāgārjuna rather than to Śāntideva.60 This has been the position of a number of modern scholars as well, although Ulrich Pagel has recently suggested that this position be reconsidered.61 While Śāntideva is generally regarded by Buddhist tradition as well as by modern scholars as the author of both the Compendium of Training and Understanding the Way to Awakening (Bodhicaryāvatāra), it is impossible to determine at this point exactly what form these two texts may have taken at the moment they were penned by Śāntideva.62 I therefore do not make comparisons on the assumption that the texts as they have come down to us represent a single author's intention or vision. The relationship between the extant recensions of these texts remains unclear, particularly in light of evidence that an earlier Tibetan recension of Understanding the Way to Awakening, preserved among the Dunhuang manuscripts, is shorter than the later Tibetan and extant Sanskrit recensions by some 210.5 verses.63

Comparison between the Compendium of Training and Understanding the Way to Awakening has been further complicated by the extent to which exegesis of Understanding the Way to Awakening has been dominated by (p.16) Prajñākaramati's late tenth‐century commentary on this text. Prajñākaramati devotes roughly one‐third of his commentary to a single chapter, the ninth chapter on wisdom.64 This chapter presents a Madhyamaka philosophical interpretation of the nature of ultimate reality. (The Madhyamakas are a Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophical school to which Śāntideva is said to have adhered.) The chapter refutes the interpretations of other Buddhist and Hindu philosophical schools such as Cittamātra and Sāṃkhya. Because the Compendium of Training is attributed to Śāntideva, readers may assume that this text is also concerned with demonstrating the superiority of a Madhyamaka philosophical point of view. The Compendium of Training, however, does not engage in the kind of doctrinal debates found in chapter 9 of Understanding the Way to Awakening, and it should not be read as an exemplar of Madhyamaka thought. The text draws on a wide range of sources, most of which are Mahāyāna, but not specifically Madhyamaka. In order to discourage problematic comparisons between the Compendium of Training and Understanding the Way to Awakening, I refer to the Compendium of Training by title rather than by author. My hope is that readers will be encouraged to approach this text afresh with as few preconceptions as possible.

I do not take Understanding the Way to Awakening as the framework for my investigation of the Compendium of Training because of problems of transmission not yet settled and also because I wish to place the Compendium of Training on its own terms. The Compendium of Training has often been valued in the modern scholarly community because it preserves passages from Sanskrit texts that are no longer extant or because it is thought to preserve “better readings” of extant texts.65 In such scholarship the Compendium of Training serves as a linguistic resource for the study of other texts. It is precisely because, until very recently, scholars have not studied the Compendium of Training as a text in its own right that they have overlooked, among other matters, its interest in bodhisattva bodies.66 In this book I study the Compendium of Training as a text in its own right—one that offers a coherent vision of the bodhisattva ideal and one that highlights the roles bodies play in the ethical maturation of living beings.

Overview of Chapters

Chapter 2 outlines what the Compendium of Training calls the “vital points” of the bodhisattva discipline (saṃvara), demonstrating the centrality of body to the bodhisattva ideal. This includes analysis of the text's Sanskrit vocabulary for body as well as consideration of what the concept of body meant to a (p.17) medieval Indian Buddhist audience. Chapter 3 examines the physically and morally transformative effects bodhisattva bodies have on other living beings, demonstrating that these bodies play a critical role in the “ripening,” or ethical maturation, of living beings. Situating the Compendium of Training within broader patterns of ethical thought and practice in South Asia, chapter 4 explores the complex relationship between body and morality presumed by the physiomoral discourse. Chapter 5 turns its attention to the ascetic discourse. Side by side in the Compendium of Training we find both positive and negative statements about bodies. Chapter 5 investigates how even an apparently negative discourse on bodies serves the text's larger purpose of producing bodhisattvas with bodies that have transformative effects on others. Throughout the book there is attention to the gendered nature of the bodhisattva ideal in the Compendium of Training. The final chapter employs a feminist hermeneutics of recovery and suspicion in order to suggest how an early medieval Indian Buddhist discourse on bodies can offer intellectual resources to contemporary scholars and practitioners. (p.18)


(1.)  Bendall, Śikshāsamuccaya, 299.1–2 (quotation from the Avalokanasūtra): na jātu so ‘ndhaḥ khañjo vā kalpānām api koṭibhiḥ | utpādya bodhicittaṃ yaḥ śāstu stūpaṃ hi vandate

(2.)  Following Margaret R. Miles, I avoid the expression “the body” because this implies a generic body. There is no such thing as a generic body, as bodies are always marked by a variety of physical differences (whether genetic or environmental). See Miles, Plotinus on Body and Beauty, xii; and “Sex and the City (of God),” 308. I discuss this point in further detail in chapter 2.

(3.)  I use the term “heartmind” because, as Sid Brown has observed, “In Buddhism, as in most Asian religions, the heart and mind are one; thoughts and feelings often are located in one place, called the ‘heartmind’ ” (Brown, The Journey of One Buddhist Nun, 9). The Sanskrit word for heartmind is citta.

(4.)  Keown, Buddhism & Bioethics, 39.

(5.)  See Harvey, “Vinaya Principles for Assigning Degrees of Culpability,” 271–291.

(6.)  de Silva, “Buddhist Ethics,” 61.

(7.)   Cetanāhaṃ bhikkhave kammaṃ vadāmi; cetayitvā kammaṃ karoti kāyena vācāya manasā (Hardy, The Aṅguttara‐Nikāya, pt. III, 415. Peter Harvey quotes this passage in his An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, 17; see also de Silva, “Buddhist Ethics,” 61; and Gombrich, Buddhist Precept and Practice, 288.

(8.)  See Harrison, “Who Gets to Ride in the Great Vehicle?” 67–89; and Nattier, A Few Good Men.

(9.)  See Foucault, Discipline and Punish, The Use of Pleasure, and The Care of the Self.

(10.)  Hallisey, “In Defense of Rather Fragile and Local Achievement,” 150.

(11.)  Inden, “Introduction: From Philological to Dialogical Texts,” 14.

(12.)  For instance, Frank, “For a Sociology of the Body,” 95.

(13.)  I thank Jens Braarvig and Jonathan A. Silk for making a copy of the manuscript available to me.

(14.)  Schopen, “The Manuscript of the Vajracchedikā Found at Gilgit,” 95–98.

(15.)  Klaus, “Einige Textkritische und exegetische Bemerkungen zu Śāntidevas Śikṣāsamuccaya (Kapitel XII und XIII),” 397–398; see also Nattier, A Few Good Men, 19–20.

(16.)  Nattier, A Few Good Men, 19.

(17.)  See, for instance, de Jong, review of Aspekte der Schulung in der Laufbahn eines Bodhisattva, 233.

(18.)  Daniel, Fluid Signs; Inden and Nicholas, Kinship in Bengali Culture; Marriott, “Hindu Transactions,” 109–142; and Marriott and Inden, “Toward an Ethnosociology of South Asian Caste Systems,” 227–238.

(19.)  Inden and Nicholas, Kinship in Bengali Culture, 65.

(20.)  Grosz, Volatile Bodies.

(21.)  Hallisey lectured extensively on this subject in his graduate and undergraduate courses at Harvard University.

(22.)  Bendall, Śikshāsamuccaya, vii–viii.

(23.)  Matics, Entering the Path of Enlightenment, 28.

(24.)  Harrison, “The Case of the Vanishing Poet,” forthcoming.

(25.)  Ibid.

(26.)  Ibid.

(27.)  Heim, Theories of the Gift in South Asia, 23.

(28.)  Ibid.

(29.)  Blackburn, Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth‐Century Lankan Monastic Culture, 117.

(30.)  Heim, Theories of the Gift in South Asia, 23. Jens Braarvig remarks, concerning “anthologies” such as the Compendium of Training, that these “probably replaced the original sūtras as canonical sources being shorter and more systematic” (Braarvig, The Tradition of Imperishability in Buddhist Thought, vol. 2 of Akṣayamatinirdeśasūtra, lvi).

(31.)  Schopen, “Vinaya,” 889.

(32.)  The text calls itself a vinaya at Bendall, Śikshāsamuccaya, 366.4.

(33.)  Nattier, A Few Good Men, 63.

(34.)  Prajñākaramati quotes extensively from the Compendium of Training in his commentary on the Bodhicaryāvatāra (see La Vallée Poussin, Prajñākaramati's Commentary to the Bodhicaryāvatāra of Śāntideva). Atīśa quotes the Compendium of Training in his Bodhipathapradīpa (see Sherburne, A Lamp for the Path and Commentary of Atīśa).

(35.)  Tsong‐kha‐pa, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.

(36.)  See Huntington and Huntington, Leaves from the Bodhi Tree, 86–87.

(37.)  Thapar, A History of India, vol. 1, 154.

(38.)  Ibid.; Huntington and Huntington, Leaves from the Bodhi Tree, 87.

(39.)  Beal, Si‐Yu‐Ki, ii.170.

(40.)  Bendall, Catalogue of the Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts in the University Library, Cambridge, 106; Bendall, Śikshāsamuccaya, xxiv–xxvii.

(41.)  On the classification of Bengali scripts, see Dimitrov, “Tables of the Old Bengali Script,” 27–78.

(42.)  Bendall, Catalogue of the Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts in the University Library, Cambridge, 109; see also Bendall, Śikshāsamuccaya, xxvii.

(43.)  According to D. D. Kosambi and V. V. Gokhale, during the Pāla period (ca. eighth to twelfth centuries) monasteries awarded the title paṇḍita by royal decree to those scholars who had extensive formal education (Kosambi and Gokhale, The Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa Compiled by Vidyākara, xxxvi).

(44.)  Hara Prasad Shastri makes a suggestion to this effect in his A Descriptive Catalogue of Sanscrit [sic] Manuscripts in the Government Collection, 22. On Vibhūticandra, see Stearns “The Life and Tibetan Legacy of the Indian Mahāpaṇḍita Vibhūticandra,” 127–171.

(45.)  Stearns, “The Life and Tibetan Legacy of the Indian Mahāpaṇḍita Vibhūticandra,” 158–159.

(46.)  Ibid., 158.

(47.)  Ibid., 137.

(48.)  I am using Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton's translation of the title of the Bodhicaryāvatāra (Śāntideva, The Bodhicaryāvatāra, xxx).

(49.)  The text is the Bodhicaryāvatāratātparyapañjikā Viśeṣadyotanī (Byang chub kyi spyod pa la 'jug pa'i dgongs pa'i 'grel pa khyad par gsal byed). See Stearns, “The Life and Tibetan Legacy of the Indian Mahāpaṇḍita Vibhūticandra,” 160; and Williams, Altruism and Reality, 4.

(50.)  de Jong, “La Légende de Śāntideva,” 164.

(51.)  Kosambi and Gokhale, The Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa, xxxvi–xxxvii, including n. 6–7.

(52.)  Huntington and Huntington, Leaves from the Bodhi Tree, 76–77. See also Kosambi and Gokhale, The Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa, xxxvii, nn. 6–7.

(53.)  Kosambi and Gokhale, The Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa, xxxvii. Approximate dates of Rāmapāla are from Huntington and Huntington, Leaves from the Bodhi Tree, 542.

(54.)  See Huntington and Huntington, op. cit., 88; and Dutt, Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, 376–380.

(55.)  Sāṅkṛityāyana, “Second Search of Sanskrit Palm‐Leaf Mss. in Tibet,” 32.

(56.)  Majumdar, Raychaudhuri, and Datta, An Advanced History of India, 1053. I thank David E. Pingree and Kim L. Pflofker for their generous help in interpreting this colophon.

(57.)  Huntington and Huntington, Leaves from the Bodhi Tree, 542. Unfortunately, not much is known about Kumārapāla of Bengal (Huntington, The “Pāla‐Sena” Schools of Sculpture, 69).

(58.)  See Williams, “General Introduction,” to Śāntideva, The Bodhicaryāvatāra, viii.

(59.)  For instance, Vibhūticandra of Jagaddala does so in the brief biography of Śāntideva included in his commentary on Understanding the Way to Awakening (de Jong, “La Légende de Śāntideva,” 171).

(60.)  See Pāsādika,“Tib J 380, a Dunhuang Manuscript Fragment of the Sūtrasamuccaya,” 483.

(61.)  Pagel, The Bodhisattvapiṭaka, 71.

(62.)  It should be noted that the Dunhuang recension of Understanding the Way to Awakening (Bodhicaryāvatāra) names Akṣayamati, rather than Śāntideva, as the author of this text (Crosby and Skilton's “Translators' Introduction” to Śāntideva, The Bodhicaryāvatāra, xxxi).

(63.)  Crosby and Skilton, “Translators' Introduction” to Śāntideva, The Bodhicaryāvatāra, xxxi. Crosby and Skilton cite the work of Akira Saito (Saito, A Study of Akṣayamati (= Śāntideva)'s Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra as Found in the Tibetan Manuscripts from Tun‐huang, and “On the Difference between the Earlier and the Current Versions of Śāntideva's Bodhi(sattva)caryāvatāra”; see also Saito, “Śāntideva in the History of Mādhyamika Philosophy,” 258.)

(64.)  Crosby and Skilton, “Translators' Introduction” to Śāntideva, The Bodhicaryāvatāra, xli; see also xxxiii.

(65.)  For instance, see de Jong, review of Aspekte der Schulung in der Laufbahn eines Bodhisattva, 230, 233.

(66.)  Recent studies of the Compendium of Training include Clayton, “Ethics in the Śikṣāsamuccaya”; Clayton, Moral Theory in Śāntideva's Śikṣāsamuccaya; Hedinger, Aspekte der Schulung in der Laufbahn eines Bodhisattva; Mahoney, “Of the Progresse of the Bodhisattva”; and Mrozik, “The Relationship between Morality and the Body in Monastic Training According to the Śikṣāsamuccaya.”