January 04, 2011

What are the Ten Perfections?

From the first talk of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's ongoing Tricycle Retreat:

The Ten Perfections, or paramis (paramitas), are the Buddhist teachings that are probably the most useful for bringing the path of awakening into everyday life.  They are a list of qualities that you can develop in any situation—as you're working with your family at home, at the office, as you're driving, as you're meditating.  The qualities are:

Generosity
Virtue
Renunciation
Discernment
Equanimity
Patience
Persistence
Truth
Determination
Goodwill


These ten qualities can also be thought of as "priorities."  In fact, the word parami is related to paramam which means "something of foremost importance."  You try to think of these as the priorities in your life.   If you make things like material wealth, status, or relationships your priorities then you're placing your happiness on things that are largely out of your control, whereas the qualities you develop in your mind as you go through life are in your control.  They are things you can determine that you'll develop in any situation, regardless.

So for this retreat we are going to be discussing the ten perfections under the parami of determination.  Determination means taking a vow, making up your mind that you are going to do something.  This reflects the fact that awakening is something that you have to will.  Sometimes you hear that awakening is our true nature, but the Buddha never actually said that. He simply said that the mind has good qualities and has bad qualities.  In order to find awakening, you have to learn how to develop the good, or skillful,  qualities and abandon the bad, or unskillful, ones.  This isn't something that is going to happen on its own.  You have to make up your mind that this is what you want and that you are determined to go in that direction.  The Buddha said that there are four aspects to good determination: discernment, truth, generosity, and calm.  You can place the ten paramis into these four categories. 

In the category of discernment you have:
discernment
goodwill 


In truth you have:
truth
virtue
persistance  


In generosity you have:
giving
renunciation 

In calm you have:
patience
equanimity


One of the advantages of organizing the paramis this way is that you put discernment first. continued

To watch Thanissaro Bhikkhu's complete talk, "The Ten Perfections Week 1: Discernment," click here.

To participate in this online retreat, become a Supporting or Sustaining Member here.

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