Questions on the Bodhicharyavatara

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Study Questions on the Bodhicharyavatara - Here you can test your knowledge of [the first 4 chapters of] Shantideva's classic text, the Bodhicharyavatara.


  • What does the title Bodhicharyavatara mean?
  • The first three verses of the text contain four important points. What are they?
  • Give the outline of the main body of the text according to the four-line bodhichitta prayer.
  • How do the ten chapters of the text relate to the six paramitas?

Chapter 1

  • Give the general structure for the first chapter.
  • What is the purpose of this chapter?
  • Why is Bodhichitta superior to all other virtues?
  • What happens to our identity when we give rise to Bodhichitta?
  • Give the five examples (or images) which describe the benefits of Bodhichitta.
  • What do these examples mean?
  • What is the limit to the merit of bodhichitta in aspiration?
  • How are benefits of bodhichitta proven by scripture?
  • What is the reasoning which demonstrates the benefit of bodhichitta in aspiration?
  • Why is a person who practises bodhichitta great?
  • How can it be that to harm a bodhisattva leads to rebirth in hell yet any connection with a bodhisattva is beneficial?
  • What is the point of reflecting on the benefits of bodhichitta?

Chapter 2

  • What are the four main topics of chapter 2? And how do they support the generation of Bodhichitta?
  • Why is it important to make offerings in this context?
  • To make the very best of offerings they should be made with the three purities. What are they?
  • How is it possible for us to offer things that we do not own?
  • What are the different types of offering made by Shantideva?
  • Why does refuge come at this point in the text?
  • What are the four powers of confession in the order presented in this text?
  • Why is it necessary to confess our faults swiftly?

Chapter 3

  • What are the eight branches for accumulating merit taught in the Bodhicharyavatara?
  • What are the three kinds of virtues one can rejoice in?
  • What is the result of requesting the Buddhas to turn the wheel of the Dharma?
  • Why is mind training presented before the Bodhisattva vow?
  • What are the three foundations of ego-clinging?
  • Bodhisattvas’ prayers are so sublime that it seems unlikely that they can become reality. What is their purpose?
  • In which verse is the reasoned demonstration of the need for mind training explained?
  • Why is it best to take the bodhichitta vow from a fully qualified teacher?
  • When do you actually receive the Bodhichitta Vow and what kind of conviction should be born at that moment?
  • What are the two traditions for taking the bodhisattva vow?
  • Who are the two masters who founded them?
  • Which two verses constitute the actual vow of Bodhichitta?
  • What are the benefits of training “progressively” or “step by step”?
  • Why should we rejoice after having generated bodhichitta?
  • What are the definitions of emotional and cognitive obscurations?

Chapter 4

  • What is carefulness and why do we need to practise it?
  • Which three factors make the practice of discipline possible?
  • What are the Bodhisattva precepts in general?
  • What are the three main topics we reflect on in order to develop carefulness?
  • How does reflecting on the precious human birth encourage us to take care in our actions?
  • What is it that makes us squander this immensely rare and precious human life?
  • Why are destructive emotions more harmful than any other enemy?
  • Overcoming our negative emotions may result in hardships. What should be our attitude in this case?
  • How do we eliminate our destructive emotions?
  • Why are destructive emotions weak?
  • What does it mean in this context to be like a lion and not like a dog?