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:
Precept observation (shila)
Meditative concentration (dhyana)
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 truly content.
Second is the giving of teaching. By teaching others, we are helping them to learn
how to rely more on themselves. We give material resources to try to solve immediate
needs. But, if we want to solve needs that are more far-reaching, 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 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 properly accomplish our tasks. 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 minds will become calmer and less agitated. When our minds
are 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
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.
It is our innate, all-knowing wisdom.
If we begin to practice these six perfections
in even just some small measure every day, starting with today, gradually, we will
begin to look in the right direction, and gradually we will awaken to the perfect
goodness, perfect contentment, and perfect joy that are already within our true nature,