The rest of chapter five deals with the perfection of morality and the guarding of awareness. In verse V.11 Śāntideva asks, “Where can fish and other creatures be taken where I might not kill them? Yet when the mental attitude to cease from worldly acts is achieved, that is agreed to be the perfection of morality.” As with the perfection of generosity, the important thing for Śāntideva is the cultivation of an underlying attitude of non-violence and self-discipline, rather than merely trying to arrange external relations so as to keep oneself from harming others. He continues in verse V.12, “How many wicked people, as unending as the sky, can I kill? But when the mental attitude of anger is slain, slain is every enemy.” The idea seems to be that if you don’t make enemies, you won’t have enemies, and in this way one rids the world bit-by-bit of enmity starting with one’s own attitude. Of course, others may try to make you into an enemy, but if you are a bodhisattva you will not reciprocate their enmity, and will instead try to change the adversarial relationship into something more productive. In verses V.13-14 Śāntideva reflects, “Where is there hide to cover the whole world? The wide world can be covered with hide enough for a pair of shoes alone. In the same way, since I cannot control external events, I will control my own mind. What concern is it of mine whether other things are controlled?” The perfection of morality is here defined as minding one’s own business. Instead of trying to control the outside world and other people we instead focus on controlling our own minds so that instead of seeing problems (or making) problems we see and implement solutions.

Śāntideva points out that our practice will come to nothing if we are not aware of what we are doing. We need to be vigilant and aware of the causes that we are making or failing to make. In verse V.16 he says that the Buddha has “declared that all recitation and austerity, even though performed over a long time, is completely useless if the mind is on something else or is dull.” In vese V.17 Śāntideva warns, “Those who have not developed this mind, which is hidden and contains the whole sum of dharmas, wander the compass in vain trying to attain happiness and destroy suffering.” Unless the practitioner is mindful, any other practice they undertake will be undermined by thoughtlessness and carelessness, whereby the true spirit of even the most excellent teaching and practice will be lost. Verse V.18 states, “Therefore I should manage and guard my mind well. If I let go of the vow to guard my mind, what will become of my many other vows.”

In terms of Nichiren Shū practice, it is not enough to simply chant the Lotus Sūtra or the Odaimoku, we must be fully present to our practice and the true spirit of our practice. This is the purpose for the unzō, or passages for “directing thought,” used in Nichiren Shū practice. Their purpose is to help focus one’s thoughts in a deep and contemplative way on the practice of reciting the sūtra or Odaimoku. Otherwise, faith, practice, and study will all be undermined by lack of awareness. As Śāntideva says in verses V.25-26, “What is heard, reflected upon, or cultivated in meditation, like water in a leaky jar, does not stay in the memory of a mind which lacks awareness. Many, though learned, possessing faith, and though absorbed in effort, are befouled by offenses due to the fault of lacking awareness.”

In verses V.27-33, it is argued that mindfulness should always be guarding the door of the mind from the robbers of the defilements. The shame one feels for having committed offences, the respect one has for one’s teachers and for the buddhas and bodhisattas who have unobstructed spiritual vision can therefore observe one’s actions, and fear of falling into the hells are three things that enable one to always maintain mindfulness of one’s actions (V.32).

Śāntideva resolves that he “should act at all times as if lacking senses, like a block of wood.” (V.34, see also V.48-53) In other words, one should not be constantly pushed and pulled by one’s attachments and aversions but remain still and silent, acting only in an intelligent, thoughtful and helpful way and not impusively under the control of the defilements. As he says, “in all situations one should proceed only after ascertaining what needs to be done.” (V.38) One should always keep the mind concentrated and not let it wander, and when acting he says, “One should think of nothing else other than that which one has decided to undertake, with heart fully involved there, until it is completed. For in this way everything is done well.” (V.43-44) Also, “When one wishes to move or speak, first one should examine one’s mind, and then act appropriately and with self-possession.” (V.47) This is a prescription for living life in a thoughtful and intentional way, with a mind as unshakeable as Mount Sumeru (V.58).

Verses V.59-79 are a reflection on how the bodhisattva should relate to his or her body. Here Śāntideva reflects that it makes no sense to identify with the body or act more protectively of the body than the mind. He reflects on the impurity of the body (filled as it is with sweat, mucus, urine, feces, and other substances that we usually consider dirty) and that if analyzed there can be found no unchanging essence that can be identified as the sef-nature. Śāntideva does acknowledge that the body should be protected, but only so that it can be utilized as the “implent of action for the benefit of humankind.” (V.66) Even though one protects the body, it should never be forgotten that the body cannot last and will inevitably become food for vultures (V.67-68). One should therefore regard the body like a laborer, or a ship that can be set on course to “fulfill the needs of beings.” (V.69-70)

Śāntideva also addresses the relative importance of each of the six perfections and exceptions to their practice. In verses V.83-84 he says, “Each of the perfections, beginning with generosity, is more excellent than its predecessor. One should not neglect a higher one for the sake of a lower, unless because of a fixed rule of conduct. Realizing this, one should always be striving for others’ well-being. Even what is proscribed is permitted for a compassionate person who sees it will be of benefit.” (See also V.42) This means that morality has more precedence than generosity, partience has more precedence than morality, and so on up to the perfectin of wisdom, which is the guide and ultimate aim of the first five. Overriding this order of precedence, however, is the well-being of others, and for the sake of others even what would not normally be permitted can be done. This can lead to all kinds of rationalizations, however, so it must be emphasized any action must be motivated by compassion and guided by wisdom.

In the Perfection of Skillful Means Sūtra, the Buddha tells a story about his past life as the leader of a group of five hundred traders (who were also bodhisattvas) to illustrate such an exceptional case wherein even a bodhisattva might have to kill out of compassion. Among the traders was a robber who was planning on killing them all, a crime for which he would have to spend many ages in hell. The bodhisattva, named Great Compassion, learns of this plot and so kills the robber himself, so as to protect the lives of the five hundred bodhisatta-traders, and to prevent the robber from performing an evil action that would land him in hell. Great Compassion is even prepared to fall into hell himself for the act of killing. The Buddha explains, however, that because he had killed the robber as a skillful means motivated solely by compassion he was able to avoid suffering and attain buddhahood and even the murdered robber was able to be reborn in heaven rather than hell. (Chang, pp. 456-457) The moral, so to speak, of the story is that the morality of the bodhisattva is not guided by rigid standards or fixed set of rules but only by compassion and an ability to discern what precise action will best alleviate the suffering of all concerned in any given situation.

An important caveat to all the self-sacrificing idealism appears in verses V.86-87. “The body serves the True Dharma. One should not harm it for some inferior reason. For it is the only way that one can quickly fulfill the hopes of living beings. Therefore one should not relinquish one’s life for someone whose disposition to compassion is not as pure. But for someone whose disposition is comparable, one should relinquish it. That way, there is no overall loss.” This would appear to mean that the advanced bodhisattva would not give their lives for another unless that other person were also an advanced person, and that giving one’s life even to protect an innocent though not suffiently advanced person is not appropriate. It would also seem to invalidate all the past life stories of the Buddha wherein he gives his life to save others, including even a family of hungry tigers. These two verses raise a lot of questions, but at the very least they warn the bodhisattva not to become an indiscriminate martyr but to think through all the consequences of their actions for other beings in the long term.

Many of the other recommendations in chapter five have to do with minor monastic rules and matters of etiquette and propriety. Verse V.90, however, is something that modern Buddhist practitioners should make sure to keep in mind. It says, “One should not restrict someone who is worthy of the higher teaching to the lesser teaching, nor, disregarding the matter of good conduct, beguile them with the Scriptures and spells.” One should not restrict practitioners to provisional teachings, nor disregard the basic sanity and common decency taught in the provisional teachings. In other words, if someone has the awakening mind of a bodhisattva, do not try to restrict them to teachings whose only aim is the attainment of arhatship, the cessation of birth and death for oneself alone. On the other hand, do not teach others (or fool oneself in thinking) that the practice of sūtra recitation or mantras is so beneficial that one can ignore the provisional teachings dealing with the law of cause and effect without repercussions. The aim of any of the teachings and practices of Buddhism is to enable self-cultivation (and eventually selfless compassion). Thinking that one can act as one pleases by presuming upon the merit gained from rituals and formal observances is to misuse otherwise legitimate practices and decieve oneself into thinking that one can act without fear of consequences.

The chapter ends with further exhortations such as “One should do nothing other than what is either directly or indirectly of benefit to living beings, and for the benefit of living beings alone one should dedicate everything to Awakening.” (V. 101)

Śāntideval also succinctly defines awareness as: “the observation at every moment of the state of one’s body and one’s mind.” (V.108) This is the way to guard one’s mind and direct one’s actions towards the liberation of all beings and the full flowering of the awakening mind.