the six paramitas

By Bhiksu Heng K'ung

The Six Paramitas are Giving, Morality, Patience, Vigor, Concentration, and Wisdom. Paramita is a Sanskrit word and means to reach over to the other shore, or cross over to the other shore. The contemplation and active embodiment of these Paramitas will level the lumps that often times those traveling the Road to Self Realization must endure. These Six Paramitas are equal and complement each other, and therefore should be practiced together. It is not uncommon however that one allows one of these to have greater influence and the others lesser influence. It is up to the personal inclinations of the individual.

When we give we should be impartial, like the full moon shedding light on a thousand streams, without partiality or favoritism. We should let giving end with the act of giving, and never regret that we have given, or have remorse that what was given is not being used as we wanted it to be. Also giving should be a natural and spontaneous action without forethought or apprehension. We should simply give when the occasion arises without adjustment. This is the first Paramita, Giving.

The second Paramita is Morality. Maintaining a high standard of ethics and pure conduct will provide a solid foundation for the cultivation of meditation and other Dharmas of liberation. Often it is said that because modern times are quite different from ancient times, some of the rules governing the mode of behavior of the aspirant of the Way can be relaxed or abandoned altogether. But what caused a person to breathe over two thousand years ago during the time of the Buddha is also causing him or her to breathe today. The same goes for all the myriad habits that bind us to the wheel of rebirth. If we want to get at their cause it is unlikely that we can come up with a more effective method than what was employed over two thousand years ago. The five precepts form the basis of the Paramita. The five precepts are, no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, and no intoxicants.

Patience is the third Paramita. A hundred days of wood gathering can go up in a single blaze and a half year of sincere cultivation can be destroyed in a single burst of anger. The hard work that cultivation entails, will often cause one to have anxiety and be over sensitive. Therefore this Paramita is indispensable to those treading the Holy Path. The endurance of hardships and doing what others don't like to do perfects one's patience and also makes the way of proper action obvious.

Vigor is the fourth Paramita. If we exercise great effort in our actions, the results of our actions will also be great. Vigor is never applied sporadically or impulsively. We must put forth our effort evenly and persistently like a mighty river carving a gorge in a canyon. We must never relax until all our hindrances have been worn away. Nothing is as effective for the wearing away of impurities as a steady application of effort.

The saying "mind your own business" is an old saying little practiced. Our Concentration will develop easily if we guard our minds from affairs that are not directly related to us. It is natural for the mind to wander so we must train the mind to focus itself on one thing. If we are careful to involve ourselves in affairs that are our own affairs, we will spontaneously awaken to the "I", that all these affairs pertain to. This is the Concentration Paramita, and is the fifth.

The last of the Six Paramitas is Wisdom. Wisdom is best expressed in simplicity. It is only because we try to be wise that we are stupid. If we just leave ourselves alone, and we remain within the guidelines of the first five Paramitas in our conduct, work, and deed, our natural wisdom will spontaneously appear. Wisdom is just eating when it's time to eat and going to sleep when one is tired. There is nothing complicated about it.

A brief explanation of the Six Paramitas has been given. Anyone who applies these principles to his or her life will certainly expand the meaning infinitely. Anyone who improves himself or herself also improves the world. If we wish to improve the world, let us begin by improving ourselves.