BUDDHISM > Six Paramitas
To interact successfully with others, the Buddha taught us the six paramitas. The fourth of the five guidelines, the paramitas are the practices of bodhisattvas, awakened beings who are dedicated to helping all other beings. The six paramitas are:
The first paramita is giving. Giving counters greed, and ensures that in the future, we will have ample resources to continue helping others. The underlying meaning of giving is letting go.
There are three major kinds of giving. The first is the giving of wealth, be it material resources or our time and energy. When our giving becomes increasingly unconditional, we will begin to feel more liberated spiritually. The more we give away, the fewer possessions we have to worry about. Soon we will realize that we need very little to be genuinely content.
Second is the giving of teaching. By teaching others, we help them to learn how to rely more on themselves. We give material resources to try to solve immediate needs. But, if we want to address more far-reaching needs, we teach. It is not necessary to have exceptional skills. Simply teach whatever we are good at and what others are not. The highest form of teaching is the Dharma, which can help people find lasting happiness and liberation.
And third is the giving of fearlessness. It is to remove the insecurities, worries, and fears of others, whether the “other” is human or non-human. This giving can be the sharing of a kind word, the giving of our strength and stability, or our understanding. When we relieve the worries and fears of others, and help them to feel more secure, they will be able to find peace and self-respect.
The second paramita is moral self-discipline, which counters worries and unhappiness, and enables us to continue on our way to awakening. In a more literal sense, it means abiding by the precepts. In a broader sense, the second perfection means ethical behavior, as we follow the customs and laws of wherever we are. Initially, as we begin our practice of discipline, we can focus on refraining from harming others. Gradually, we begin to develop and increase our virtue. The ultimate form of this practice is to benefit others.
The third paramita is patience, which counters anger and hatred, and helps us to avoid arguments and to achieve our goals. We need patience in almost everything we do. If we are in school, we need patience to persevere in our study. At work, patience helps us to accomplish our tasks properly. At home, patience is the foundation for interacting well with family members. Patience enables us to get along more harmoniously with those around us. For ourselves, patience allows us to recognize our bad habits and to improve ourselves by changing those habits.
The fourth paramita is diligence, or enthusiastic effort. It is the joy that we bring to our practice and to all that is worthwhile in our lives. It is the true delight that arises from deep within us when we are doing what is wholesome. It enables us to keep going when we feel tired or overwhelmed. It is refreshing and inspiring. Cultivating enthusiastic effort counters laziness, and brings joy to our lives as we feel a sense of accomplishment in finishing what we have started.
The fifth perfection is meditative concentration. Our practice and training in discipline and not harming others will reduce and gradually eliminate our harmful verbal and physical behaviors. Our mind will become calmer and less agitated. When our mind is thus settled, we will be better able to concentrate. Our concentration will initially reduce and, then, gradually eliminate our disturbing thoughts and emotional behavior. We will then gain meditative concentration, which will enable us to uncover our innate wisdom. Thus, discipline, meditative concentration, and wisdom work together, and are complementary.
The sixth paramita is wisdom. Wisdom counters ignorance, and enables us to know how best to help others and to improve ourselves, including our ability to get along well with others. This wisdom is not that which is gained through intense study and analysis of many diverse subjects. That would be seeking wisdom from external sources. What we seek is our innate, all-knowing wisdom.
If we begin to practice these six paramitas daily, in even just some small measure, we will gradually begin to look in the right direction. In time, we will awaken to the perfect goodness, perfect contentment, and perfect joy that are already within our true nature, our Buddha-nature.