Many aspects of philosophy surrounding the evolution of meditation can be attributed to Buddha — an ancient sage whose teachings have helped illuminate the mind and release the human being from the confines of suffering.
The practice of compassion, gratitude, and self-awareness is what gave rise to the Buddhism culture. But even though this school of thought is often considered a religious path, the wisdom and aesthetics of Buddhism present much more of a way of being than a belief system restricted to religious practice.
This ideology is valuable and something that anyone has access to. In today’s world, and with the challenges we all face, the philosophy hidden beneath these ancient teachings can help us attain a greatly enhanced life.
The Paramitas (six perfections) are a perfect example of how ancient philosophy can be integrated with modern practice. The benefits of an illuminated mind are not to be taken lightly and something that we all carry deep within, waiting to be unlocked.
The Meaning of Paramitas
In the ancient texts entitled ‘Perfection of Wisdom’, a disciple asks the Buddha, “How many bases for training are there for those seeking enlightenment?” The Buddha replied, “There are six: generosity, morality, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom.”
The six perfections act as a guide stemming from Mahayana Buddhism, which is the dominant form of Buddhism. Although there are three different lists, the paramitas are derived from several Mahayana sutras, including the Lotus Sutras and the Large Sutra of the ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ texts.
The paramitas–or six perfections–are virtues to be cultivated in order to bring concentrated strength into one’s path towards enlightenment. Perfection signifies the true nature of an enlightened being.
Cultivating and developing these perfections is to bring this true nature into expression.
Paramitas in Sanskrit means “to cross over to the other shore.” This meaning represents one’s journey from the sea of suffering to the shore of happiness; a transition from ignorance to illumination. Traditionally, the paramitas are practiced by bodhisattva ("Buddhas-to-be"), with the intention of helping others by sharing wisdom and prosperous energy.
The Six Perfections | Paramitas
This is the virtue of giving, whether it be the giving of wealth (material), Dharma (teachings and resources), or courage (motivation / time / energy). When we learn to share unconditionally with the intention of helping others, we are liberating ourselves from attachment and selfish, destructive behavior.
Developing natural tendencies of generosity comes with the realization of how little we actually need to be truly happy and content.
This discipline provides us with the strength and stability to maintain our true path without deviation. Developing this virtue allows us to transcend feelings of worry, fear, self-doubt, and unhappiness and continue on our way to awakening. The purpose of practicing morality is to enjoy greater comfort, control, freedom, joy, and security.
This virtue provides us with the strength and endurance to tolerate adverse situations without distress. Patience in this context is not blind faith; it is a complete and perfect understanding and realization of nature.
In practicing the virtue of patience, one is able to recognize the beauty of the process and the natural wonder of life as it unfolds. Practicing patience also helps us become more productive in all areas of life by enabling us to become more connected to life’s moments and to those around us.
Energy is the inspired joy we bring into each aspect of our life. This virtue refers to the energy and vigor of the mind; a consistent effort to develop mental strength and self-reliance. By cultivating this virtue, we are generating inspiration into our environment and towards others. We are countering laziness and mediocrity in order to tap into our deepest potential of exhilarating greatness.
The virtue of energy and diligence provides us with the momentum to push forward when times get tough. When we are able to activate our universal energy source, we are countering fatigue and tapping into a level of grit and persistence that may have once been unknown.
No one can attain the true wisdom of an illuminated mind without developing a consistent meditation practice. By training the mind into a state of controlled concentration and one pointed focus, we are purifying the mind and therefore developing a better understanding of the nature of reality.
As we break through the fog of limiting and negative thinking habits, the mind becomes calm and less distracted. The energy that arises through meditation is the perfect compliment to the path towards an awakened mind.
This virtue is derived from the intuitive knowledge of prajna. This is an inner knowing; a penetrative intelligence that provides guidance and a clearer vision of the other paramitas. In Buddhism, this is the highest form of wisdom that a person can attain.
This wisdom is acquired from the learning from the experience of life; however, this arises naturally from within and developed through practice of the other five perfections. Prajna is integrated into one’s life for the purpose of helping others advance in a positive way. This paramita is the acquisition of superior wisdom and the realization of instinctive truth.
Integration of Paramitas
Traditionally, these virtues are used as a guiding light towards awakening and self realization. In modern context, however, enlightenment may naturally arise through one’s path, but might not be the main reason to incorporate these life enhancing practices into a personal belief system.
When we are able to invite these ancient philosophies into modern context, we are creating space for wisdom to flow into our human progression.
As you practice the six paramitas, you are able to share the energy and spread the wisdom as a natural occurrence. When the paramitas are aligned in your life, beautiful things will start to take place.