Day 5: The Six Paramitas

Masters, fellow cultivators, good afternoon. Today is the fifth day of this discourse on An Overview of the Buddhadharma. The subject of today`s discussion is the Six Paramitas.

On the second day, I discussed the Four Noble Truths which is, in fact, one of the most profound and subtle doctrines Buddha Shakyamuni has taught us. Immediately after his Enlightenment, the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths. Towards the end of his life, the Buddha also taught the Four Noble Truths.
Although the Four Noble Truths are commonly referred to as `suffering, accumulation, extinction, and path,` the correct order should be `accumulation, suffering, path, and extinction.` What are `accumulation` and `suffering`? The principal idea to understand is that accumulation of karmic obscurations and ignorance from previous lives contributes to one`s present suffering. Accumulation is the cause while suffering is the consequence. After understanding the relationship between karmic causes and consequences, one must take up the `path` of spiritual practice. When one successfully reaches the goal of the path, one attains Nirvana, which is the `extinction of all sufferings and afflicting emotions.` The doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, although seemingly very simple, has an extremely profound significance. In four key words, it concisely sums up the essence of the Buddha`s teachings. During his lifetime, the Buddha taught his disciples to practice meditation, contemplate impermanence, take up renunciation and, finally, to release the self to reach the fruition of arhathood.

The Six Paramitas

The Six Paramitas [Six Perfections], the topic of today`s discussion, refers to practices taken up by practitioners who want to go one step beyond arhathood. These practitioners are not interested in merely becoming arhats, they want to practice the Bodhisattva Way and renounce complete entry into Nirvana until all beings are saved.

Actually the whole subject matter of An Overview of the Buddhadharma contains an inherent systematic structure, and, after studying it this life, I have found that it can be approached in the following order: (1) The first step is to understand and actualize the concepts laid down in `Faith, Comprehension, Actualization, and Realization.` (2) The `Two Gateways` or two approaches to the Buddhadharma: theoretical versus practical. (3) The Three Non-outflow Studies: Discipline, Stability, and Wisdom. (4) The Four Noble Truths: Accumulation, Suffering, Path, and Extinction. (5) The Five Roots and Five Positive Agents. (6) The Six Paramitas or Six Perfections. (7) The Seven Characteristics or Grades of Bodhi. (8) The Eightfold Noble Path. (10) The Ten Transcendental Powers of the Tathagata. (12) The Twelve Links that constitute the chain of conditioned arising. By structuring this discourse of An Overview of the Buddhadharma in this numerical fashion from one to twelve, with the omission of nine and eleven, I hope you will find it easier to retain it in your memory.
Paramita literally means `that which has reached the other shore.` The Six Paramitas, therefore, refer to the six kinds of methods or virtues that enable one to reach the shore of Enlightenment.

Actually, some of the elements of the Six Paramitas, the Seven Grades of Bodhi, and the Eightfold Noble Path, have already been covered in previous discussions. For example, three of the Six Paramitas are Discipline, Stability, and Wisdom, which I have already discussed. Also, in the Seven Grades of Bodhi, it talks about many kinds of awareness. These are very similar to the Six Paramitas.
So, I will devote most of the time today to the remaining three paramitas.

The Buddha spent many years teaching. For example, it took more than twenty years for the Buddha to teach the Great Wisdom Sutra (Mahaprajnaparamita-sutra). There was a verse describing the order and length of the major sutras.
Flower Adornment in the first twenty-one days,
Agamas took twelve years and Vaipulya took eight;
Twenty-two years in the Great Wisdom Teachings,
Finally, the last sutras were the Lotus and the Nirvana.
This verse means that the first sutra the Buddha expounded on was the Flower Adornment Sutra (Avatamsaka-sutra). Then the Buddha began the Hinayana teaching, which started with the Agamas and ended with the Vaipulya sutras.

Next the Buddha expounded on the teachings of the Great Wisdom (Mahayana), which include many sutras, over a period of twenty-two years.
The last sutras the Buddha expounded were the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra. This is a list of the major sutras taught by the Buddha in his life.
Most of us here know that the Six Paramitas are: generosity (giving), precepts (discipline), patience or endurance, energy or exertion, meditation (stability), and prajna (wisdom). These six methods constitute the six antidotes for the afflictions in each one of us. We all know (I don`t need to remind you) that the greatest enemy one faces in the world is oneself. The goal of practicing Buddhism is to first awaken oneself and then help other sentient beings to achieve awakening. The Six Paramitas work entirely towards the goal of attaining one`s own awakening. Generosity is to cure one`s greed, precepts are to cure one`s undisciplined behavior, patience is to cure one`s anger, energy or exertion is to cure one`s laxity and slothfulness, meditation is to cure one`s lack of concentration, and wisdom is to cure one`s stupidity and ignorance.

An Overview of the Buddhadharma [Day 5]
A discourse by Living Buddha Lian-sheng at Rainbow Villa, May 7th,1993.
Translated by Janny Chow

慶賀真佛宗根本傳承上師八十聖壽 「一生一咒」800萬遍上師心咒活動,從今年師尊的佛誕日正式啟動,請參加者到TBSN官網以下鏈接登記資料: 每持滿十萬遍上師心咒者,宗委會將把名單呈給師尊加持。每持滿一百萬遍者,將列名護摩法會功德主,資料請師尊主壇護摩法會時下護摩爐。