The Six Paramitas are the six virtues in Buddhist tradition. Paramita literally means "that which has achieved sufficient perfection to reach the other shore." The six Paramitas are giving, morality, patience, diligence, meditation and wisdom.
Giving is the first perfection (Dana Paramita) in Buddhist life. Dana means voluntary giving of one's material goods, time or wisdom to others.
Dana is a means to overcome greed and egoism and to avoid suffering in the future. Charity begins at home. Our generosity toward our loved ones can become an ever-expanding circle that includes members of Sangha, the poor, the sick, the weak and helpless.
What can we give? We can give generous contributions, giving of our material possessions to Sangha and to the poor. We can give fearlessness, which is a unique Buddhist concept, giving of the mind that is free of fear, worry and anxiety. We can give generous thoughts and speeches. We can give through generous actions, and through the giving of our time. Above all, Dharma is the highest form of giving. The invaluable gift of instruction about the Dharma is the highest form of Dana Paramita. Your contribution and participation in the giving of Dharma is the highest form of giving.
How can you practice the perfection of giving? Be happy and joyful when you practice the Paramita of giving. This condition is important and essential in Buddhist practice. The donor should be happier than the recipient of the gift. The motivation of giving in Buddhism is to bring enlightenment to all sentient beings.
Thus giving is the proper antecedent to empathy and compassion. Kindness and compassion are viewed as essential factors in leading all beings to enlightenment. For giving to embody perfection, it must be practiced with a selfless attitude based on insight into the Buddhist teachings of emptiness, impermanence, interdependency and the law of causality. In Won Buddhism, the perfection of giving corresponds with the Grace of Heaven and Earth and the Grace of Parents.
The second perfection is morality (Shila Paramita). Among the components of the Eightfold Path, morality refers to right speech, right action and right livelihood. Shila Paramita is a high ethical standard that demands not harming oneself or others through personal moral behavior. Moral purification is not just a matter of changing the ways we behave.
In practicing Shila Paramita, we must purify the mind and the internal attitudes that lie beneath our actions. Purification of the mind is not achieved simply through a willful suppression of negative desires or an unhealthy state of mind, but through a process of self-understanding and letting go. The result of the perfection of morality is freedom from troubling passions and thereby a greater inner balance and equanimity. This freedom and balance provide the basis for deeper spiritual development in meditation and wisdom. Shila Paramita corresponds with the Selection of Right Conduct of the Threefold Learnings in Won Buddhism.
Patience is the third perfection (Kshanti Paramita). We need a lot of patience with others and with ourselves in this modern day. Patience arises from spiritual knowledge that leads to freedom from attachment. Patience nurtures forgiveness and understanding. Through patience we can learn to forgive those who harm us instead of hating them. Following Buddhist teachings, we can see that the person who harms us is caught up in negative attitudes and ways of living based on previous causes and conditions.
The most important thing in the practice of Kshanti Paramita is to be patient in following the difficult teachings in Buddhist doctrines such as Emptiness. This can be confusing to beginners. To become truly patient in our practice, we need at least ten years of attending Dharma services and of sincere daily practice. Only then can we experience true inner transformation. Buddha was the model of patience, practicing continuously for five hundred lifetimes until he attained his great enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. If you are impatient, you may lose a precious opportunity to elevate yourself toward enlightenment. While the perfection of giving helps us to overcome greed, patience helps us to overcome the hatred that leads to anger and to the desire for retaliation and revenge.
Kshanti Paramita corresponds with the Courage of the Eight Articles in Won Buddhism. By Courage is meant a heroic zeal, a passion to make progress in accomplishing our goals. Courage in Won Buddhism means that we will persevere in our efforts regardless of the obstacles or difficulties in order to carry out the Threefold Learning.
The fourth perfection is diligence (Virya Paramita). Diligence is the power to transform what is impure into what is pure. It includes right effort, enthusiasm, and the energy needed to overcome unwholesome thoughts and attitudes as well as the cultivation of positive virtues, study of Dharma and the choice of right actions.
Diligence requires eagerness and sharp interest in pursuit of the good. It requires active bodily or mental strength to improve our personality for individual enlightenment and supreme Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. It leads to active, healthy, well-balanced growth. We need sustained energy to maintain enthusiasm on our spiritual journey which, at times, can seem like a long, difficult and arduous path. Diligence is inspired by the deep compassion that arises from seeing others in their need and realizing that through your Buddha nature you can be of most help to all living beings.
When we are on the right path, we will be diligent in studying ourselves, in seeing the true reality, and in having the sustained energy needed to attain Buddhahood. Through diligence we can generate great compassion to help others and ourselves. Diligence corresponds with the Sincerity of the Eight Articles in Won Buddhism. Sincerity means unwavering focus and purposefulness.
Meditation is the fifth perfection (Dhyana Paramita). Buddhists believe that everyone has a light within. We need to spend time in meditation in order to find that light and to express it in our daily life. Meditation serves to calm your mind, to eliminate distraction and to restore the true nature of the mind. Physically, meditation balances energy by sending down the flaming (fire) energy and sending up the fluid (water) energy within the body. Meditation helps you to become the master of your mind.
There are four stages of meditation. The first stage is the giving up of unwholesome desires and thoughts while conceptualizing and concentrating on Buddhist teachings. In this stage, there is joyful interest and well being. When we meditate, we feel light, joyful and happy. However, in the beginning of meditation, you struggle with negative memories, anxieties, tensions, stress, worry, regret, resentment and fear. It is useful to challenge these negative distractions, because they are not helping you. The second stage is the attainment of inner peace and concentration of mind. In this stage, you can concentrate your mind on the lower abdomen, about three fingers below the navel. By concentrating your mind on the lower abdomen, your life energy will flow smoothly downward and your mind will easily become stable. Joyful interest and well being continue in this stage. The third stage is equanimity and a feeling of well being. The fourth stage is wakefulness. We are waking up from ordinary consciousness into a state in which each moment is a peak experience. Equanimity and wakefulness gives us an appreciation of the beauty, freedom and goodness of Nirvana. Dhyana Paramita corresponds with the Cultivation of Spiritual Stability in Won Buddhism.
The sixth perfection is wisdom (Prajna Paramita). Wisdom is a central notion in Buddhism. Wisdom is an immediately experienced intuitive knowing that cannot be conveyed by concepts or in intellectual terms. The definitive moment of Prajna is insight into emptiness, seeing the true nature of reality. The realization of Prajna is often equated with the attainment of enlightenment. It is an insight into the essential nature of phenomena. Wisdom dispels the darkness of delusion, one of three root evils.
The experience of wisdom penetrates the empty nature of reality that leads to greater freedom and peace. Therefore wisdom is the door to awakening and to Buddhahood. Wisdom overturns ignorance and the attitudes that lead to those negative thoughts, feelings, words and behaviors. In their place, compassion arises as the spontaneous expression of emptiness and of the deepened altruistic attitude of the Bodhisattva toward all living beings. Prajna Paramita corresponds with the Study of Human Affairs and Universal Principles of the Threefold Learnings in Won Buddhism.
ven. Chung Lee