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When we read about or meet great spiritual masters, we apprehend in their perfect happiness something of the sublime. A dear example is the bodhisattva and great being H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, who radiates love for all. This great love is the source of his unshakeable joy and courage, lifting everyone who meets him. With our dualistic perception we may think, “Oh, how wonderful—but certainly I could never be like that,” yet Garchen Rinpoche said to me personally, “If you want to be like me, here is how I became the way I am”—and held out in his hand a small text called The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices. “Take it literally,” he said. “Read it, study it. Practice every day, every moment, what is contained in this small book, and you will accomplish what I have accomplished.”




The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices are the entire Buddhadharma, distilled as the nectar of bodhicitta, the Great Love. This is an unmistaken path, teaching us how to transform the confused self-grasping that creates suffering into the love that brings clarity, happiness, peace and wisdom to ourselves and all beings.


The root text, by Gyalse Tokme Zangpo (1295 - 1369), is given here, in the scrollable sidebar. I encourage friends to study it with some of the many commentaries written by excellent lamas and teachers. I especially love the luminous commentary of Dilgo Khyentse: The Heart of Compassion: The Thirty-seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva (Boston: Shambhala, 2007).


A good method of study and practice:


1. Once a day, recite the entire text, preferably aloud...then sit quietly for a bit, allowing the words and meanings gradually to permeate your mind.


2. Starting at the beginning of the text, take one verse each week for study and practice. Every day, contemplate that verse, drawing on teachings, commentaries and your own experience. Bring the verse and its meanings into your awareness over and over again throughout the coming week.


3. Each verse contains a practice instruction; apply this practice every day throughout the coming week.


4. Remember to dedicate the merit of your study, contemplation and practice to the liberation of all.






by Gyalse Tokme Zangpo



Namo Lokeshvaraya!


While seeing that all phenomena neither come nor go, you strive solely for the sake of all beings. Supreme guru and protector Chenrezig, at all times I respectfully pay homage to you with my body, speech and mind!



The perfect buddhas - source of all well-being and ultimate peace - arise from having accomplished the true Dharma, and since that depends on knowing the practices, I shall explain the way of the bodhisattvas.


[1] Having now gained this great ship of freedom and fortune - so difficult to find - in order to free yourself and others from the ocean of cyclic existence, listen, reflect, and meditate day and night without distraction. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[2] Attachment to loved ones churns like water. Hatred for enemies rages like fire. In the darkness of ignorance, one forgets what to adopt and what to avoid. Abandon your homeland. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[3] When negative places are abandoned, disturbing emotions will gradually decline. Without distractions, attention to virtue naturally grows. When the mind becomes clear, certainty in the Dharma arises. Live alone in seclusion. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[4] Family and longtime companions will part from each other. Possessions gained with effort will be left behind. Consciousness, a guest, will leave the guesthouse of the body. Let go of all worldly concerns. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[5] In bad company, the three poisons grow stronger. The activities of learning, reflecting, and meditating decline, and love and compassion are lost. Give up such companions. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[6] When one follows a true spiritual friend, faults will dissolve and good qualities will grow like a waxing moon. Consider this friend more dear than your own body. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[7] Who can worldly gods, themselves imprisoned in samsara, protect? Therefore, seek refuge in the Three Jewels, the undeceiving source of refuge. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[8] The Buddha taught that all the unbearable suffering of the lower realms is caused by wrongdoing. Therefore, never do wrong, even at the cost of your life. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[9] Like a dewdrop on a blade of grass, the happiness of the three worlds vanishes in but an instant. Strive for the supreme state of never-changing liberation. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[10] When mothers who have loved you since beginningless time are suffering, what good is your own happiness? Therefore, give rise to bodhicitta in order to liberate infinite sentient beings. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[11] All suffering without exception comes from seeking your own happiness. The perfect buddhas are born from the altruistic mind. Therefore, truly exchange your own happiness for the suffering of others. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[12] Even if someone driven by great desire steals all your wealth or lets others steal it, dedicate to them your body, possessions, and all virtue of the three times. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[13] Even if someone cuts off your head when you haven't done anything wrong, take all their negative deeds upon yourself through the power of compassion. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[14] Even if others slander you throughout a billion worlds, in return, speak with a loving mind of their good qualities. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[15] Even if someone exposes your hidden faults and insults you in front of others, view that person as a teacher and bow with respect. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[16] Even if someone you have cared for as dearly as your own child regards you as an enemy, love that person even more, as a mother would her ailing child. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[17] Even if someone of equal or lower status, driven by pride, treats you with disdain, respectfully place them on your crown as your teacher. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[18]  Though you may be impoverished, always be disparaged, gripped by disease, and tormented by spirits, never lose courage but take on the misdeeds and pains of all beings. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[19] Though you may be famous and admired by many who bow to you, and as rich as the Wealth God himself, having seen that worldly fortune is without essence, do not be proud. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[20] If the enemy - your own anger - is not tamed, subduing outer enemies will only make them increase. Therefore, subdue your own mind with the army of love and compassion. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[21] Sensory pleasures are like salt water: the more you drink, the greater your thirst. Abandon at once all things that bring forth clinging attachment.This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[22] The way things appear is your own mind. Mind itself primordially transcends fabricated extremes. Knowing just this, do not create concepts of subject and oject. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[23] When you come across things that attract you, like beautiful rainbows in summertime, do not regard them as real and abandon clinging attachment. This is the way of a bodhisattva. 


[24] All suffering is like the death of your child in a dream. How exhausting it is to hold illusory appearances as real! Therefore, when you meet with difficult circumstances, see them as illusory. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[25] When even one's body must be given up when aspiring for enlightenment, what need is there to mention material things? Therefore, practice generosity, without hope of reward or karmic results. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[26] If you lack moral discipline, you cannot accomplish even your own purpose, so wanting to achieve the purpose of others is truly absurd. Therefore, protect your discipline without concern for worldly existence. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[27] For bodhisattvas who desire a wealth of virtue, all harm is like a precious treasure. Therefore, without hostility, be patient with everyone. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[28] Even hearers or solitary realizers, who accomplish only their own purpose, strive as if putting out a fire on their head. Seeing this, practice with diligence - the source of good qualities - for the sake of all beings. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[29] Disturbing emotions are destroyed by insight grounded in calm abiding. Knowing this, cultivate meditative concentration that purely transcends the four formless absorptions. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[30] Without wisdom, the other five perfections alone are not enough to reach complete enlightenment. Thus, combined with  skillful means, develop the wisdom that does not distinguish among the three spheres. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[31] Unless you examine your own confused ideas, you might look like a practitioner but not be acting like one. Therefore, always examine yourself and abandon confusion. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[32] If you are driven by disturbing emotions and talk about another bodhisattva's faults, it is actually to your own detriment. So, don't mention the faults of those who have entered the Great Vehicle. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[33] Concern for gain and respect causes conflict and a decline in the activities of learning, reflecting, and meditating. So abandon attachment to your circle of friends, relations, and benefactors. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[34] Harsh words disturb others' minds and thus diminish the practice of a bodhisattva. Therefore, abandon harsh speech, which is unpleasant to others. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[35] When disturbing emotions become habitual, it is difficult to reverse them with antidotes. Thus, the soldier of mindfulness wields antidotes as weapons and destroys disturbing emotions such as attachment the moment they start to arise. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[36] In brief, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, always examine the state of your mind. Act to accomplish the purpose of others through constant mindfulness and awareness. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


[37] With the wisdom of threefold purity, dedicate all the virtue gained from having made such effort toward enlightenment. Dedicate it to clear away the suffering of infinite beings. This is the way of a bodhisattva.


In accordance with the words of the holy ones regarding the meaning of the sutras, tantras, and their commentaries, I have written these thirty-seven verses on the ways of a bodhisattva for those who wish to train on the bodhisattva's path.

This composition will not be admired by the learned because my intellect is poor and my education is limited. However, I have followed the sutras and the words of holy ones, so I believe these ways of a bodhisattva are not mistaken.

Still, becausethe vast deeds of bodhisattvas are difficult to grasp by simple-minded beings like myself, I beg the forgiveness of the holy ones for the mass of my errors such as contraditions and inconsistencies.

By the virtue arising from this, may all beings give rise to relative and ultimate bodhicitta and therefy become like the Protector Chenrezig, who does not abide in the extremes of existence or peace.

The monk Tokme, a proponent of scripture and reasoning, composed these verses in the Precious Cave of Ngulchu, for his own and others' benefit.


English translation © 2017 Ina Trinley Wangmo