Posted in buddhism, way of the bodhisattva

Shantideva on the first 5 Perfections

In “Way of the Bodhisattva” Shantideva starts going through the six perfections, our method for practicing the bodhisattva path. This section is only going to be about the first five. The sixth perfection, the Perfection of Wisdom, is something we will be saving for later.

The teaching of the Six Paramitas was created early in the history of Mahayana Buddhism.

Paramita is usually translated as “perfection” and that’s how I’m going to translate it. It doesn’t mean we do any of this perfectly (obviously) it just means that cultivating these virtues is very important.

5.9

If transcendent giving is

To dissipate the poverty of beings,

In what way, since the poor are always with us,

Have former buddhas practiced perfect generosity?

5.10

The true intention to bestow on every being

All possessions–and the fruits of such a gift:

By such, the teachings say, is generosity perfected.

And this, as we may seem, is but the mind itself.

This is about the perfection of generosity. The Perfection of Generosity is about more than simply giving things. It’s an expression of non-attachment to possessions, but it also represents other forms of giving, such as giving our time to others, helping them with difficult tasks, or just listening when someone needs to be heard.

5.11

Where could beings

Be placed to shield them from suffering?

Deciding to refrain from harming them

Is the perfection of virtue.

The Perfection of Virtue is not necessarily about living according to rules. We have plenty of rules in Buddhism. Living by rules is important, but more important, in this context, is the idea of living in harmony with others. We should strive to bring harmony to all of our relationships, whether personal or professional. If we set an example of virtue we can make the world a better place.

5.12

The hostile multitudes are vast as space–

What chance is there that all should be subdued?

Let but this angry mind be overthrown

And every foe is then destroyed.

This refers to the tool we use against aggression, the perfection of patience.

The Perfection of Patience represents not only patience with ourselves and others, but also tolerance and endurance. It represents our ability to “weather the storm”, to bear hardship without letting it get us down and, especially, to avoid lashing out at others because of our personal difficulties.

5.13

To cover all the earth with sheets of hide–

Where could such amounts of skin be found?

But simply wrap leather around your feet,

And it’s as if the whole earth has been covered!

This is a famous verse, often quoted from the Way of the Bodhisattva. Our problems can’t be solved by making the world a perfect place. They can only be solved by working on ourselves and figuring out how we can better respond to the world around us.

5.14

Likewise, we can never take

And turn aside the outer course of things.

But only seize and discipline the mind itself,

And what is there remaining to be curbed.

Controlling our minds, controlling ourselves, is all we can really do. Shantideva implores us to discipline our minds.

5.15

A clear intent can fructify

And bring us  birth in a better realm.
The acts of body and of speech are less-

They do not generate a like result.

This is a little bit less clear, but the clear intent Shantideva refers to is the perfection of diligence.

The Perfection of Diligence is about tirelessly overcoming obstacles, walking the path even when it’s difficult and it would be simple to give up. Without diligence we might not have the determination necessary to continue to walk the path when things get difficult.

5.16

Recitations and austerities,

Though they may be long,

If practiced with distracted mind,

Are futile.

We can practice and practice, but we really need to be better at avoided distraction. The perfection of concentration is about taming our minds, so we can weather the storms of life with a clear and direct focus.

The Perfection of Concentration represents those practices that are dedicated to helping us improve our ability to focus and concentrate. These include several meditation and mindfulness practices. We are cultivating our mental stability and our ability to contemplate things clearly without getting held back by distractions or preconceptions. We are training our minds so we can have focus, composure, and tranquility.

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Posted in Mahayana, Uncategorized

The Six Perfections

The six perfections are: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom.

 

The Perfection of Generosity

The perfection of generosity represents more than just giving material things. Obviously, it does represent giving money or items to the needy. It also represents giving your time, things like helping a friend move or spending time comforting someone who is suffering from a loss.

We can also give someone less tangible things, like our love, respect, or patience. We can offer stability, being reliable. If we make plans with someone and keep those plans, we are giving them stability. We can give someone space when they want to be alone, or quiet when they are being bothered by too much noise.

The practice of generosity is beneficial to us. It increases our confidence and self-esteem. It also helps lessen our attachments. If we give material things, it helps us lessen our attachment to material things. Cultivating generosity is helpful in developing love, joy, and compassion.

 

The Perfection of Virtue

This perfection represents ethical behavior, morality, self-discipline, integrity, and nonviolence. The essence of this perfection is that through our love and compassion we do not harm others. We are devoted to being virtuous in our thoughts, speech, and actions. This practice of ethical conduct is an important aspect of our path.

We abstain from killing, stealing, lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, gossip, and greed. We follow this path so that we can enjoy greater freedom, happiness, and security in our lives, because through our virtuous behavior we are no longer creating suffering for ourselves and others. We must realize that unethical behavior is always the cause of suffering and unhappiness. Practicing the perfection of virtue, we are free of negativity, we cause no harm to others by our actions, our speech is kind and compassionate, and our thoughts are free of anger.

When our commitment is strong in the perfection of virtue we naturally become more positive.

 

The Perfection of Patience

This perfection is the enlightened quality of patience, tolerance, forbearance, and acceptance. The essence of this perfection of patience is the strength of mind and heart that enables us to face the challenges and difficulties of life without losing our composure and inner tranquility. We embrace and forbear adversity, insult, distress, and the wrongs of others with patience and tolerance, free of resentment, irritation, emotional reactivity, or retaliation.

We cultivate the ability to be loving and compassionate in the face of criticism, misunderstanding, or aggression.

The ability to endure, to have forbearance, is an important part of the path. In practicing this perfection of patience and forbearance, we never give up on or abandon others—we help them cross over the sea of suffering. We maintain our inner peace, calmness, and equanimity under all circumstances, having enduring patience and tolerance for ourselves and others.

With the strength of patience, we maintain our effort and enthusiasm in our Dharma practice.

 

The Perfection of Diligence

The fourth perfection is diligence. It involves continuing to persevere when the path is difficult. It includes right effort, enthusiasm, and the energy needed to overcome unwholesome thoughts and attitudes as well as the cultivation of positive virtues, study of Dharma and the choice of right actions.

Diligence requires eagerness and sharp interest in the path. It requires active bodily or mental strength to improve our personality for individual enlightenment and supreme Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. We need the energy of diligence to stay on the path.

When we are on the right path, we will be diligent in studying ourselves, in seeing the true reality, and in having the sustained energy needed to attain Buddhahood. Through diligence we can generate great compassion to help others and ourselves.

 

The Perfection of Concentration

This perfection represents concentration, meditation, contemplation, and mental stability. Our minds have the tendency to be very distracted and restless, always moving from one thought or feeling to another. This can cause us to be heavily attached to our thoughts and emotions. The perfection of concentration means training our mind so that it does what we want it to. We stabilize our mind and emotions by striving to be mindful and aware in everything we do. When we train our minds in this way we achieve focus, composure, and tranquility.

Concentration allows the deep insight needed to challenge our delusions and attachments that cause confusion and suffering. This development of concentration requires diligence. In addition, when there is no practice of meditation and concentration, we cannot achieve the other perfections, because their essence, which is the inner awareness that comes from meditation, is lacking.

To attain wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment, it is essential that we develop the mind through concentration, meditation, and mindfulness.

 

The Perfection of Wisdom

This perfection is the enlightened quality of transcendental wisdom, insight, and the perfection of understanding. The essence of this perfection is the supreme wisdom, the highest understanding that living beings can attain, beyond words and completely free from the limitation of mere ideas, concepts, or intellectual knowledge.

The Perfection of Wisdom is the supreme wisdom that knows emptiness and the interconnectedness of all things.

The Perfection of Wisdom is a result of contemplation, meditation, and rightly understanding the nature of reality. The sixth paramita is what truly ties the other five together and is often considered the most important.

In a way, the Perfection of Wisdom is the sum of the other five perfections. If one is able cultivate generosity, patience, virtue, diligence, and concentration, this will naturally lead to the cultivation of wisdom. Wisdom represents an awareness of the truth of our nature. It is our intuition, our innate understanding that everything is interconnected, that we are one with everything. Just as a wave in the ocean is never really separate from the water although for a time it appears to be, so are we.

We are all waves and the universe is our ocean. When we act in accordance with this fact, then we are dwelling in nirvana. Recognizing our interconnectedness is unleashing our Buddha Nature. We have this wisdom already, we just have to clear away the delusion and unleash it.

 

 

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Posted in diamond sutra

Diamond Sutra, chapter 21


“Subhuti, when someone is selflessly generous, they should also practice being ethical by remembering that there is no distinction between one’s self others. Thus one practices generosity by giving not only gifts, but also through kindness and sympathy. Practice kindness and charity without attachment and you can become fully enlightened.”

Practice kindness but don’t be attached to results. When we understand that the boundaries between self and other are illusory, being generous, kind, and compassionate comes very naturally to us.

Posted in diamond sutra

Diamond Sutra: chapter 4

“Also, in the practice of kindness and generosity, a disciple should be detached. Give for the sake of giving, not for the sake of appearances. Be compassionate because being compassionate is good, not for some external reward. Why? Because practicing kindness and generosity without attachment is the way to reaching the Highest Perfect Wisdom, it is the way to becoming a living Buddha.”
“Subhuti, do you think that you can measure all of space?”
“No, Most Honored One. One cannot possibly measure all of space.”

“Well, Subhuti, the same is true of the merit of the disciple who practices kindness and generosity without any attachment to appearances, without cherishing any idea of form. It is impossible to measure the merit gained by this. Subhuti, my disciples should let their minds absorb and dwell in these teachings.”

The Buddha is telling Subhuti (and us) that what we should do is give for the sake of giving, not to create a good reputation. Generosity is the first of the Six Perfections in Mahayana Buddhism. The perfection of generosity represents more than just giving material things. Obviously, it does represent giving money or items to the needy. It also represents giving your time, things like helping a friend move or spending time comforting someone who is suffering from a loss.
We can also give someone less tangible things, like our love, respect, or patience. We can offer stability, being reliable. If we make plans with someone and keep those plans, we are giving them stability. We can give someone space when they want to be alone, or quiet when they are being bothered by too much noise.
The practice of generosity is beneficial to us. It increases our confidence and self-esteem. It also helps lessen our attachments. If we give material things, it helps us lessen our attachment to material things. Cultivating generosity is helpful in developing love, joy, and compassion.