Born in Saurashtra (on the west coast of India) in 685, the younger son of a minor king, Śantivarman went on to ordain and study at the famed Nalanda University in Magadha (then part of the Pala Empire). According to legend, he was a particularly lazy and unpopular monk, only revealing his writing when dared into delivering a lecture to the entire university. He nonchalantly agreed to read for them some poetry he had been working on and the rest, as they say, is history.
This epic poem on grasping firmly the intention to awaken has inspired many generations of Buddhists to live a more ethical and spiritual life and it captures beautifully the aesthetic of Buddhist ethics. Well worth reading again and again and again.