Shantideva, a Buddhist master from the monastic university of Nalanda, India, composed his work A Guide to the Bodhisattvaʹs Way of Life (Bodhisattvachary avatara) in the eighth century of the Christian era. In India at that time Mahayana Buddhism was well established and in the thousand or so stanzas of this text we find a concise yet comprehensive account of the principal features of this doctrine.
In contrast with the Arhat of Hinayana Buddhism—the being who has secured his own liberation from the misery of cyclic existence—Mahayana Buddhism has as its ideal the Bodhisattva who, uninterested in his liberation alone, strives for the wellbeing of all living creatures.
The Bodhisattva comes into being with the development of the Awakening Mind, the purely altruistic wish to achieve the state of a Buddha, and with this motivation he then proceeds to engage in a way of life that is conducive to the realization of his goal. In the first chapter of this work we shall see how Shantideva introduces the aspirant to the Awakening Mind and inspires him to develop it; in the second, how the mind is prepared; and in the third chapter how the Bodhisattvaʹs vow itself is finally taken. From this point onward the author continues to elucidate the means whereby to fulfill this commitment, namely through the practices of Moral Discipline, (Chapters 4‐5), Patience (Chapter 6 ), Enthusiasm (Chapter 7) , Meditation (Chapter 8) , and Wisdom (Chapter 9). In the final chapter, the merits gained from the composition of the work are dedicated to the welfare of all beings in the form of a prayer. Hence this short but significant work contains the essential points of Mahayana Buddhist practice and for over a thousand years has acted as a guide for people throughout India, Tibet, China, and Mongolia who have wished to follow this path.
Source: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. Published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.