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The Six Perfections

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The Six Perfections

The Six Perfections  according to Tibetan Buddhism.

Giving. Generosity.

Practicing generosity means having the will to dedicate body, possessions and merits to others, and making the actions of body and speech with such virtuous impulse.

Generosity is said to be an entry way to the dharma. Generosity is the beginning of bodhicitta – self, an enlightened being, total happiness… The aspiration to realize enlightenment for all beings, which is critically important in Mahayana.

True generosity of spirit. It is giving from sincere desire to benefit others, without expectation of reward or recognition. There must be no selfishness attached. Even charity work done to “feel good about myself” is not true dana paramita.

Morality. Ethics.

Ethics means giving up the thought of committing actions of body, speech and mind that are harmful to sentient beings. Completing the practice of ethics does not mean making all other sentient beings devoid of harmfulness. If it did, then all the previous buddhas would have yet to complete its practice. What it does mean is completely and progressively giving up the thought of actions harmful to sentient beings.

In the practice of our ethics, we develop selfless compassion. Along the way we practice renunciation and gain an appreciation for karma.

Patience.

Practicing patience means having a tranquil mind with the antagonist, and compassion for him.

The completion of the perfection of patience does not depend on the cessation of sentient beings causing bother. Rather, it only depends on our fully developing the training of the thought stopping our angry reactions.

In the teaching, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Shantideva said:

Bothersome sentient beings are like the infinite sky; but once the angry mind is destroyed, all enemies are destroyed. There can never be enough leather to cover the earth, but with the amount required to make the sole of a shoe, it is as if the whole earth were covered. Similarly, while I cannot dispel external phenomena themselves, I can get rid of them by dispelling the one disturbing mind.

Enthusiastic Perseverance.

Practicing enthusiastic perseverance means being pleased to perform virtuous actions.

As it says in the teachings:

If we have great perseverance and do not get upset, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

Meditation. Concentration.

Meditation is a discipline intended to cultivate the mind. Dhyana also means “concentration,” and in this case great concentration is applied to achieve clarity and insight. Single-pointed concentration in which all sense of self falls away. Concentration and Wisdom are said to be the foundations of wisdom, which is the next perfection.

Wisdom. 

Wisdom is the direct and intimate realization of sunyata, or emptiness. Very simply, this is the teaching that all phenomena are without self-essence.

Wisdom the ultimate perfection that includes all other perfections.

That all phenomena are without self-essence may not strike you as especially wise, but as you work with these perfection teachings the significance of wisdom becomes more and more evident, and the importance of wisdom to Tibetan Buddhism cannot be overstated.

However, this wisdom cannot be understood by intellect alone. So how do we understand it? Through the practice of the other perfections — generosity, morality, patience, Perseverance. and meditation.

 

Peace and Blessings

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Christopher Rivas

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