The Practice of the Paramitas

March 5, 2016

We  use the word practice for the path we take as we live  more and more deeply into our humanity. We are guided on this path by the teachings of the Buddha and the many masters who followed him. We use the word practice because it is a deliberate path guided also by our desire, aspiration, and intention. We are moved in a direction that we seem to  both know and not know. We pay attention and sense our humanity pulling us toward its fulfillment.

Paramita is a Sanskrit word meaning “that which has reached the other shore”. The paramitas, generally translated as “the perfections”, are the qualities perfected by those aspiring to the wisdom and compassion of a whole human being. The word “perfection” reflects the wholeness we feel pulled to experience and express. The teachings call this wholeness the experience and expression of wisdom and compassion in the living of our lives. The other shore is here in our everyday lives.

In the Indian tradition, the Paramitas come to us as a list of virtues: generosity (dana paramita),
ethics or discipline (sila paramita), patience (kshanti paramita), energy or effort (virya paramita), meditation or settled focus (dhyana paramita), wisdom (prajna paramita), right method (upaya paramita), vow or aspiration (pranidhana paramita), spiritual power (bala paramita), and knowledge (jnana paramita). Engaging in the effort to manifest these qualities in our everyday life, living out the consequences whatever they are, is the way that practice permeates us. The expression of our wholeness is naturally the expression of these qualities. We aspire to “reach the other shore”. In every moment we are on “the other shore.” Our practice embodies the dynamic of these  realities, different in experience, one in essence.