Thursday, June 29, 2006


In May 2005, I visited my friend Banashree at her mother's place in Delhi. I was to collect a cheque for a generous donation she had promised in response to my appeal for funds to secure the premises of Talimi Haq (=Right to Education) School, the non-formal school for slum children I'd started in 1998. Banashree’s mother had suffered a cerebral stroke. As my grandmother and father had both suffered cerebral strokes, I conveyed to her some things I had learnt, about the behaviour of such patients and living with them. Notwithstanding the circumstances, Banashree still made a sizeable donation to the school.

In her sitting room, I looked through a book of photographs, and there was a page with a caption quoting a couple of verses by Shantideva.

Shantideva! I presumed these stanzas were from the Bodhicharyavatara. This text (whose title in English is "Engaging in Bodhisattva Deeds" or "A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life"), is a very important one in Mahayana Buddhism, it is about the heart and vision of a Buddhist monk. Shantideva was a Buddhist monk from southeastern Bengal, who lived in the 6th century AD. After a great urge to read this text, I finally managed to get a Sanskrit-to-Hindi translation from the Mahabodhi temple at Sarnath in 1997, and later a Sanskrit-to-English translation from the Mahabodhi book shop in College Square in Calcutta. (How many books I’ve bought from here, how many serendipitious finds!)

Seeing the lines at Banashree’s mother's - took me back to this text again. So returning to Calcutta, I found the original stanzas in Sanskrit (Ch 8, ver 95-96), and learnt them and set them to melody.

Yada mama pareshama cha
Tulyameva sukham priyam
Tadatmana ko vishesho
Yena traiva sukhodhyam

Yada mama pareshama cha
Bhayam dukkham cha na priyam
Tadatmana ko vishesho
Yattam rakshami netaram


"When both myself and others
Are similar in that we love happiness,
What is so special about me?
Why do I strive for my happiness alone?

And when both myself and others
Dislike fear and suffering,
What is so special about me?
Why do I look to protect myself and not others?"

This encapsulates the enlightenment wish, living for others, the great compassion.


Anonymous said...

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گђrιηι∂ђι ... said...

so easy to hear..but then when think about it appears quite difficult

nonetheless inspiring! :D