The Buddha is credited with clearly and succinctly expounding the Buddhist path (mārga). Despite the eloquence and brevity of the Buddha’s exposition, the corpus of Buddhist scriptures explaining the path is prolix.
It is generally thought that the moral precepts (śikṣāpadas), correct practices (samudācāras) and restraints (saṃvaras) for a bodhisattva are to be found in Mahāyāna sūtras. Yet it seems that the most likely outcome of reading these sūtras is not enlightenment, but confusion. Mahāyāna sūtras appear too extensive and complex to be of much practical benefit to an incipient bodhisattva.
This paper asserts that the Śikṣāsamuccaya (ŚS) and Śikṣāsamuccayakārikā (ŚSKā) are composed by Śāntideva (Ś) to counter the bewilderment which results from reading Mahāyāna sūtras. Both works explicate the essential principles (marmasthānas) of these sūtras for the benefit of a bodhisattva new to the way.
Further, this paper asserts that of all the various practices described in Mahāyāna sūtras, Ś believes that the practice of giving (dāna ≡ utsarjana) is fundamental. In the ŚS and ŚSKā the way of the bodhisattva (bodhisattvamārga) is essentially the way of giving (dānamārga).
In short, Ś expects a bodhisattva:
to give everything (sarva+√dā ≡ sarva+ut+√sṛj) in order to attain perfect enlightenment (samyaksaṃbodhi);
to make a worthy gift of his person (ātmabhāva), enjoyments (bhogas) and merit (puṇya) in order to give everything;
to preserve (√rakṣ), purify (√śudh), and increase (√vṛdh) his gift in order to make a worthy gift; and
to practice the four right strivings (samyakpradhānas) in order to preserve, purify and increase his gift.
It is asserted in this paper, then, that Ś considers the unsurpassed and perfect enlightenment of the Buddha attained by the practice of complete giving (sarvadāna ≡ sarvotsarjana) and complete giving attained by the practice of the right strivings. ...
Overall, this paper attempts to provide a comprehensive analysis of the content, structure, theme and meaning of the ŚS and ŚSKā. To the knowledge of the present writer, it is the first of its kind. ...