The Way of the Bodhisattva: An Immersive Workshop in Boulder May 18-22, 2016


[Note, this event occurred in the past and the videos are all available on this site for free.]

Few texts are more frequently taught and quoted, have as colorful a history, and as much relevance to Buddhists today more than the eighth-century Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva's The  Way of the Bodhisattva.  The Dalai Lama has said that "if I have any understanding of compassion and the bodhisattva path, it all comes from studying this text. "

The living tradition of this text radiates most brightly from the Tibetan tradition where it was translated from Sanskrit in the ninth  century and is  central to all the traditions there, the Tibetan diaspora, and those receiving it in the West. You can view our recent guide to the many works on this text including translations as well as its early and contemporary commentaries.

One aspect that is singular about the text is that unlike many of the important authored texts from India, it is fundamentally a practice text. As the Dalai Lama described it, "Shantideva composed his text in the form of an inner dialog. He turned his own weapons upon himself, doing battle with his negative emotions. Therefore, when we teach or listen to this text, it is important that we do so in order to progress spiritually, rather than making it simply a subject of academic study. "

Fletcher-Wulstan-2014new-245x300In the spirit of this approach, Shambhala Publications and the Tsadra Foundation are pleased to host a four-day workshop on the text led by Wulstan Fletcher from the Padmakara Translation Group and recent recipient of the 2016 Khyentse Foundation Fellowship for his service to the Buddhadharma. Wulstan's brief biography is below, suffice it to say there are few in the west who have worked as closely with this text and who can articulate so clearly its value, importance, and potential for us all. Wulstan will be joined by several of the leading lights in Buddhist studies, translation, and teaching communities of  Boulder, Colorado, including Sarah Harding, Holly Gayley, and Judy Lief.

This workshop will be a 360-degree view of the text, exploring its translation, history, commentaries, the famous ninth chapter on wisdom, and its relevance today. He will  also  be joined by others throughout the week. Wulstan is an extraordinary translator and scholar who has studied and gone through  retreat with some of the greatest masters of the twentieth  century. This workshop, which we plan to follow with many more, is meant to help impart the knowledge, experience, and wisdom from people like Wulstan to a new generation of translators, practitioners, and scholars. The Tsadra Foundation is flying Wulstan in from France to give us this rare opportunity to engage with him and this extraordinary text that has been so fundamental for so many.

All these sessions will be open to the public, but space is limited so you must register for one of the tickets.


[You will need to register for each session you plan to attend.]

Translating the Bodhicharyavatara

Wednesday, May 18 6:30-8:30

Wulstan Fletcher,  Holly Gayley (CU), and Sarah Harding (Naropa)

The first session is an invitation to students and specialists of the Tibetan language and will focus on the translation of the text itself and how a master translator approaches such a daunting and challenging masterpiece. Students and faculty from Naropa and CU have been invited, as well as members of the community interested in translation.  Master translators and scholars of Tibetan Buddhism will discuss issues related to translating classical Sanskrit texts in Tibetan translation, as well as details of the challenges of style, word choice, considerations of audience, all while using examples from other translations (Wallace, Crosby/Skilton, Batchelor, Eliot) to demonstrate how choices were made. Wulstan will share how Padmakara Translation Group used Khenpo Kunpel's commentary to inform their translation and discuss the complexities of presenting the text in English in a way that elevates the text rather than diminish it through a more vulgar use of language.

Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

An Overview of the Bodhicharyavatara

Friday, May 20, 6:30-8:30, Shambhala Publications

Wulstan Fletcher

This session is an invitation to the general public to explore the beauty, history, and importance of Shantideva's most famous text. It will cover, at a higher level, all the other topics in the subsequent sessions: the history and context of Shantideva and the text, its reception in Tibet, the most important Tibetan commentaries, the key interpretations of the meaning and the relevance of the text for practitioners.

.The History of the Bodhicharyavatara

Saturday, May 21 10:00am-12:00pm

Wulstan Fletcher & Sarah Harding

This session will focus on the historical context of the text and its reception in Tibet. Topics that Wulstan will cover include: What are its textual roots, i.e. Shantideva's likely influences?   What was happening at Nalanda? Why did the text fall into disuse? How was it taught early on? When and why was there a renaissance

Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

The Commentaries on the Bodhicharyavatara

Saturday, May 21 2:00pm-4:00pm

Wulstan Fletcher

This session will present an overview of the important commentaries and the useful things we can learn by studying different Buddhist masters' views (Buton, Thogme Sangpo, Tsongkhapa, Mipham Rinpoche, Khenpo Kunpel, etc.).

Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

The Ninth Chapter on Wisdom

Sunday, May 22 10:00am-12:00pm

Wulstan Fletcher

This session will focus on the most challenging chapter of Shantideva's text, the wisdom chapter, which covers key Buddhist philosophical topics. Wulstan will explore this chapter through the lens of Mipham Rinpoche's commentary, which he recently translated, as well as the famous critiques and responses this prompted.

Register Now  to attend this in person in Boulder.

How is the Bodhicharyavatara Relevant?

Sunday, May 22 2:00pm-4:00pm

Wulstan Fletcher and Judy Lief

This session, featuring  Wulstan Fletcher and teacher/author Judy Lief in conversation, will be concerned with  what this text means for practitioners and how they can use it as a way to study and practice Buddhism. Why is it such a widely studied text? How might it relate to contemporary issues of ethics?

These sessions will all be recorded and made available online in June 2016.


Wulstan Fletcher studied modern languages and theology in Oxford and Rome. He completed a three-year meditation retreat in Chanteloube, France (1986-1989) and is a member of the Padmakara Translation Group. He has studied under some of the most extraordinary masters of the twentieth-century. He has been a Tsadra Fellow since 2001. Wulstan has completed several Tibetan-English translation projects in collaboration with Helena Blankleder, including  Treasury of Precious Qualities  (Book 1 2010; Book 2, 2013),    The Root Stanzas of the Middle Way  (2016),  The Way of the Bodhisattva  (revised 2006),  The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech  (2007),  White Lotus  (2007),  Introduction to the Middle Way  (2005),  The Adornment of the Middle Way  (2005),  Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat  (2004),  Counsels from My Heart  (2003) and the forthcoming  The Wisdom Chapter:  Jamgön Mipham's Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva. Wulstan is currently working on Longchenpa's  sems nyid ngal gso. In 2016, Wulstan was awarded the Khyentse Foundation Fellowship for his service to the Buddhadharma.

Sarah Harding (Tsadra Foundation Fellow;   Naropa University) has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1974 and has been teaching and translating since completing a three-year retreat in 1980 under the guidance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. Her publications include Creation and Completion, The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa, Treasury of Knowledge: Esoteric Instructions, Machig's Complete Explanation and Niguma, and Lady of Illusion. She is an associate professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where she has been teaching since 1992, and has been a fellow of the Tsadra Foundation since 2000. Currently, she is working on translating the zhi byed and gcod sections of the gdams ngag rin po che'i mdzod.

Judy Lief  is a Buddhist teacher who trained under the Tibetan meditation master Ven. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She has been a teacher and practitioner for over thirty-five  years and continues to teach throughout the world. Ms. Lief was a close student of Ven. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who trained and empowered her as a teacher in the Buddhist and Shambhala traditions. She is also the editor of many of Trungpa Rinpoche's books, including the recently published three-volume set,  The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, which gives a penetrating overview of the three-yana journey from beginning to end.

Holly Gayley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research focuses on the revitalization of Buddhism in Tibetan areas of the PRC in the post-Maoist period. Dr. Gayley became interested in the academic study of Buddhism through her travels among Tibetan communities in India, Nepal, and China. She completed her master's degree in Buddhist Studies at Naropa University in 2000 and PhD at Harvard University in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies in 2009. Dr. Gayley is currently publishing a book titled,  Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet,  about the life and love letters of a contemporary Buddhist tantric couple, Khandro Tāre Lhamo and Namtrul Jigme Phuntsok, who played a significant role in revitalizing Buddhism in eastern Tibet since the 1980s. Examining Buddhist conceptions of gender, agency, and healing, this book recovers Tibetan voices in representing their own modern history under Chinese rule and contributes to burgeoning scholarly literature on Buddhist women, minorities in China, and studies of collective trauma.