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The Six Paramitas (The Six Perfections)

A Discourse By H.E. Khempo Yurmed Tinly Rinpoche
Oral translation by Robert Clark, Ph.D. (T. T. Dorje)

Prior to Receiving Teachings

Mandala Offering
Request For Teachings
Today's Topic - The Six Perfections

The Five Aspects of Excellence

Preparing to Receive the Teachings - Preliminary Practices

The First Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Place
The Second Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Disciples
The Third Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teachings
The Fourth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Time
The Fifth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teacher

The Prajnaparamita

Dependent Arising and Emptiness
Conventional Truth and Ultimate Truth
The Chain of Cause and Effect

The First Paramita - Generosity

The Second Paramita - Perfection of Ethics

Cause and Effect, Buddhist Ethics

The Third Paramita - Patience

The First Type of Patience
The Second Type of Patience
The Third Type of Patience

The Fourth Paramita - Virtuous Effort

The Fifth Paramita - Meditative Concentration

Mindfulness & Circumspection
Nine Grounds
Moving from Meditative Ground to Paramita

The Sixth Paramita - Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom

Questions From Audience

Traditional End to Teachings

Dedication of Merit
Longevity Prayer

Prior to Receiving Teachings

Following tradition, we will make the offering and request for teachings, which appear in our text. We will say these prayers once in English and once in Tibetan. We start with the second one, which is the Mandala Offering; then we do the first one, which is the Request For Teaching. Please read it together:

Mandala Offering

This ground anointed with perfumed water and strewn with flowers,
Mt. Meru, the four continents, the sun, the moon are offered as a Buddha Realm.
May all beings attain the Pure Land through this offering.
I send forth this jeweled mandala to you, precious Guru.


Request For Teachings

To fulfill the needs of all sentient beings in their various states of mental
capacity, including the lesser, greater, common and extraordinary vehicles,
we beseech you to turn the wheel of the Dharma.


Now Rinpoche will invoke the blessings of the Lord of Infinite Wisdom, Manjushri, with the traditional prayer for his wisdom, so that we may clearly understand the teachings that will be given.


Today's Topic - The Six Perfections

Today's topic is the Six Perfections, or Paramitas, which is the central feature of the Prajnaparamita teachings. These are part of what is called "The Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma" by the Lord Buddha, Sakyamuni. He turned the Wheel of Dharma three times.

This second turning of the wheel, which was done from his place of teaching on Vulture's Peak, is called "The Wheel of the Lack of Intrinsic Characteristics." That was the name of that whole cycle of teaching.

The Five Aspects of Excellence

In this second turning of the wheel, the Lord Buddha presented what are called the five aspects of excellence, the first of which is the fact that the place of the teaching was the most excellent place from where to give teachings, from where to turn the Wheel of the Dharma for the sake of living beings. So the first of the five is said to be most excellent place of teaching, meaning this place in India called Vulture's Peak.

The second aspect of excellence is the audience or disciples, so it's called the most excellent disciples - these were the assembly of bodhisattvas together with eighty thousand divinities.

The third aspect of excellence is the Dharma, that is, the content of the teaching itself was most excellent - namely, the teachings on the Prajnaparamita.

The fourth aspect of excellence is the timing of the teaching, of the turning of the wheel. This was the most excellent time for living beings to receive the teaching. This is indicated by the fact that human beings at the time had great longevity, living to be normally around one hundred years old.

The fifth aspect of excellence is that here we have the most excellent teacher, meaning the Lord Buddha himself, who had attained the state of highest perfect and peerless enlightenment.

Preparing to Receive the Teachings - Preliminary Practices

The manner in which these teachings were given is said to be by way of the three types of miraculous activity, namely the physical manifestations, the verbal manifestations and the mental manifestations, all three being miraculous by nature.

What was the reason behind these three types of miraculous activity? The reason why the Lord Buddha manifested miraculous activities of body, of speech and of mind was in order to prepare the students, or disciples, to receive the teachings, to make them suitable to absorb the teachings that he was giving to them. If they were not prepared properly, then giving the teaching would be a waste of time.

So to prepare the disciples, he manifested the three types of miracles. The greatest obstacle to acquiring the teaching, once it is made available to you, is your own mental defilements. Principally, pride and arrogance can make a disciple immune or disinterested in the teachings, thinking that they already, in many ways, have everything they need of an intellectual or spiritual nature. So to overcome that pride and arrogance, the Buddha manifests the three types of miraculous activity.

In Buddhist practice, there is a universal aspect, which is called preliminary practices. Here, depending upon the teaching that you are getting and the teacher that is giving it to you, a series of preliminary practices, often comprised of a large number of repetitions of such things as prostrations and recitations and so forth, may be required. All of these are preliminaries designed to prepare the student or disciple to receive and to practice the actual teachings.

The purpose of all of these preliminaries is not just to amass a great number, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of repetitions of various practices, but to receive the benefit of their collective effect upon the mind. The preliminaries are always designed to reduce the great obstacle to effective engagement in Buddhist practice or meditation; that great obstacle is the inner obstacle of pride, that sense of arrogance where one thinks that one is already completely sufficient and does not really need to acquire any new teachings. This subtle pride or arrogance makes it completely impossible to truly listen to the teachings, to truly benefit from what one hears and to truly put it into effective practice. So to overcome that subtle or coarse pride in one's own mind, the teacher prescribes various preliminary practices. So that's the nature of, the reason behind, these three types of miracles that were manifested by the Lord Buddha.

The Lord Buddha, looking out upon his audience, the vast numbers of divinities and bodhisattvas, understood clearly and directly the types of obstacles that prevented them from effectively listening to the teachings and putting it into practice. What he saw is described under the category of the five types of arrogance, and these include the arrogance in which one takes great pride in one's own powers, one's own beauty, one's own wealth, one's possessions, and in one's own knowledge.

These are the types of pride which were possessed by the audience (the disciples), and which prevented them, before these miracles were manifested, from truly listening to what the Buddha had to say. So to overcome these, he exhibited the miracles. Had he not done that, the disciples would have been left with their pride and arrogance, and left without any means to attain liberation from all of the causes of their own misery. So they would remain stuck in the round of birth and death, and all of the miseries that that entails.

The First Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Place

The location where the teachings took place was called the most excellent place, the first of the five aspects of excellence, because this so-called Vulture's Peak was in fact the place where the six great emperors of India established their capitals. This was the most powerful, most desirable place from which the six universal emperors of India exerted their influence over the entire subcontinent. This was the place of their palace and their capitals, so throughout that early history of India, this was always considered the supreme place in the entire land.

The Second Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Disciples

Another of the five aspects of excellence is that the disciples themselves constitute the most excellent circle of disciples. These included all of the great bodhisattvas as well as the eighty thousand divinities. So each of these possess all of these aspects of excellence themselves, such as the highest attainments in the worldly sense, the greatest retinues, the greatest radiance, the greatest possessions, the greatest powers, even the greatest ability to perform miraculous activities. All of these aspects are possessed by the members of this audience of disciples. All of them have these powers, but altogether they, of course, do not match even a small bit of what the Lord Buddha was able to exhibit. In the entire world system, these were the most powerful persons. Therefore they are called the most excellent retinue or the most excellent audience of disciples.

The Third Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teachings

What the Lord Buddha spoke or communicated with these sixty aspects of enlightened speech, was what was referred to earlier as the most excellent teaching or most excellent Dharma. To understand why the teachings of the Buddha were most excellent, we have to see that whatever he spoke arose out of his enlightened mind, his enlightened experience. That is to say, it was based on his eons of practice, of developing and perfecting himself, of eliminating all flaws and attaining all excellences. And from that state of supreme enlightenment, whatever he said had the great power to liberate living beings from their illusions and to establish them in the state of liberation. So other teachers, hearing his words, and trying to emulate it or repeat it, could do so only to a certain degree. The power of the Buddha's speech, arising directly from his experience of ultimate enlightenment, can not be matched by any who do not also possess that state of highest enlightenment. So what he gave at Vulture's Peak is the aspect that is referred to as the most excellent teaching, because it arose directly from his experience of supreme enlightenment and cannot be matched by any who have not attained that level of perfect insight.

The Prajnaparamita teachings, given by the Lord Buddha from Vulture's Peak, is the supreme teaching. This is the most excellent teaching, the teaching which expresses directly his enlightenment. Of all other religious teachers who give instructions in this world, none can match the teachings on the Prajnaparamita because only the person with that state of highest, perfect, supreme enlightenment can teach in this way. Therefore it is called the most excellent teaching.

The Fourth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Time

In world cycles, there are various times in which there is the development or evolution of the world, and then times of devolution as things go into a period of decline. There is a certain time when the evolution is at its peak before the devolution or decline starts. The very peak of the cosmic cycle, when living beings have the greatest fortune, the highest level of ability to acquire and practice the teachings, was the time in which the Lord Buddha gave these teachings from Vulture's Peak. Therefore it is called the most excellent time. It was a time when the average lifespan was around one hundred years, when people had, almost universally, the leisure and the opportunity to engage in effective spiritual practice, untroubled by all of the various distractions and difficulties which obstruct spiritual practice. So of the five aspects of excellence, this is what is called the most excellent time.

So having all these aspects of excellence present, the most excellent place, the most excellent assemblage of disciples, the most excellent teachings, the most excellent time, and the most excellent teacher, the teaching would still not be effective as long as within the mind of the disciple there remains a sense of pride and arrogance. So to eliminate that, the Lord Buddha exhibited the miracles. These functioned to get the attention of the disciples, to make them attentive, to make them realize that no matter how powerful, influential, clever, wealthy, beautiful and so forth, that they were, that they were still insignificant in the face of this supreme being, the Lord Buddha, who appeared before them. So to convince them of that he exhibits the miracles, which has the effect of subduing that pride and making them receptive to learning the Dharma.

Having subdued their pride in this way and having gotten their attention, at this point the disciples look to the Lord Buddha to enlighten them, to show them the way from their relatively insignificant powers and abilities and knowledge to find this higher level, this state of supreme knowledge. So at this point, they willingly and diligently listened to what he had to say.

The Fifth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teacher

Why was the Buddha the most excellent teacher? This is related to the three types of miracles and how he subdued the pride and arrogance of the disciples. The teacher who lacks true excellence, who has serious gaps in his or her knowledge, whose understanding is very small, but who pretends to be qualified to teach, such a person will not be able to truly help disciples. A typical manifestation of such a person is to be very arrogant and proud, to cover up the inadequacies in such a person's understanding and ability to teach.

The Lord Buddha, having amassed accumulations of merit over three endless eons, having perfected all of the infinite varieties of good attributes and having freed himself from all aspects of mental, physical and verbal stains or defilements, had achieved the state of ultimate perfection, wherein nothing was beyond his knowledge or ability. For such a person, then, there is no need to make any great show. There is no pride whatsoever in such a person. All things such as pride and arrogance have been eliminated. As Sakya Penchen describes it, such a person is like a very deep ocean where the surface is very, very smooth and calm because of its great depth. The person without such depth, without such knowledge and understanding, is like a very shallow body of water that is always turbulent, muddy, unclear, noisy, unstable and is easily moved by any little bit of wind. The Lord Buddha is like the very deep, even bottomless ocean - very, very calm and clear. So such a person manifesting these three types of miracles does so without the smallest trace of pride or arrogance, but does so in order to benefit the disciples.

Sakya Penchen described it like this: if you have something very valuable, like a very precious jewel, and you put that into the ocean, it sinks to the bottom and it abides there. It is heavy in all its wondrous features. A perfect jewel or something made of pure gold goes to the bottom and remains there.

Something without any value, like some dried grass or dried wood, remains on the surface, pushed around by the waves and blown by the wind. The teacher, with all of the excellent qualities, is like that jewel or the gold that remains calmly at the bottom, no matter how turbulent the waves and the wind. It is never disturbed, never blown around. The teacher with less good qualities is like the dry wood or straw that remains at the top and is tossed by the waves and blown by the wind. The teacher who is like the straw or the dried wood has great pride and arrogance, but very little good qualities and knowledge. The teacher who is like the jewel has great good qualities and knowledge, but no pride and arrogance.

The excellent teacher is filled with the weight of knowledge, of good qualities, of self-discipline and so forth, and remains like the jewel at the bottom. The poor or unqualified teacher does not have those solid, heavy qualities and has just appearances, so it is like the straw remaining at the top of the water, with all sorts of arrogance and show, speaking loudly, praising himself or herself, but lacking these good qualities that constitute the true substance of the qualified teacher.

What brings about those heavy, substantial qualities is the training which the individual undergoes. Study, contemplation and meditation bestow substance upon the individual teacher. Without those qualities, which arise from study, contemplation and meditation, there is no substance. All there is, is the superficial, the show.

So this is the reason why the Lord Buddha is called the most excellent teacher. Because he has acquired all of those good qualities from the many, many lifetimes of practice, study, contemplation, meditation, spiritual development, of bestowing all of his wealth, possessions, even his bodies to benefit others, thinking only of the benefit of others. In this way he acquired countless virtues and freed himself of all defilements.

In exhibiting the three types of miracles, the Lord Buddha subdued the pride of the gods, which was no easy thing - the gods having all of these fantastic powers, having tremendous retinues of followers, having all of the radiance and the glory of the divine beings, having all of the wealth and possessions and all of the various types of powers unique to gods and goddesses. Such beings then, looking upon an ordinary person, feel tremendous pride and arrogance and are completely unsuitable to listen to any sort of teachings. Therefore, the Lord Buddha exhibited the three types of miracles, so that the gods and goddesses looking upon him felt their own radiance and their own powers to be very small, if not insignificant, so great were the miracles exhibited by the Lord Buddha. The gods and goddesses came to feel that they were like a small candle being held opposite the great sun. Their illumination powers were like the light of a candle, whereas the Lord Buddha was like the light of the sun.

These miracles were shown by the Buddha at this time, before giving the teachings on the Prajnaparamita at Vulture's Peak, for the benefit of the gods, to overcome their pride and arrogance. So, his first type of miracle was the physical miracle. The gods and goddesses had such great radiance that in their divine abodes they had no need for sun or moon, nor any sort of celestial light. Their own bodies gave off such light, such brilliant radiance. Very proud of this, at first, they came to see the Lord Buddha.

To overcome that pride, he sent out from the place between his eyes on his forehead, rays of light which went forth and illumined, not just the area around there, not just this world, not just this world system, but went out to illuminate all of the hundreds of billion world systems. Giving out light more than hundreds of trillions of suns, all together. Just from him, he sent out this great radiance. It went out in all directions, illuminated all these billions of world systems, then came back and dissolved back into his forehead. In this way, that aspect of the arrogance of the gods was subdued.

The Buddha has these inconceivable abilities, like fitting the entire world into a single atom or a single dust particle, right in front of him. So he can hold the whole world on a single atom or a single particle of dust. Likewise, he can make something as small as a single particle of dust as great as the entire world. In this way, what he expresses with his own tongue can go forth to the entire world and come back again, without his tongue growing greater or the world growing smaller. The activities of his tongue extend out, throughout the world's systems - he has such an ability to overcome time and space.

The verbal abilities of the Buddha, that is the miraculous powers of his speech, are such that he has what are called the sixty aspects of enlightened speech. Without going into all of those, we can understand that when he spoke a word, that word was just as clear and intelligible from millions of miles away as it would be sitting right in front of him, without having to yell or raise his voice. Another of these aspects of enlightened speech is that the speech of the enlightened ones is understood by the disciple in his or her own idiom or language. With no need of a translator, the Lord Buddha could speak to all sorts of diverse audiences. Though the languages of certain heavens or parts of certain heavens might be totally different from the language of other gods or goddesses, all of them would understand it the same. Some of the nagas, speaking one naga language, would understand it in their idiom, others in their idiom. Likewise with any of his other disciples, they would perceive what he said to have been spoken in their own language.

The Prajnaparamita

So he began at that point to give the teaching on the Prajnaparamita. This teaching begins with the first of the Six Paramitas. Paramita means the most perfect practice which leads one to the attainment of liberation. The first of these is the perfection of generosity.

Dependent Arising and Emptiness

But first, in order to put this teaching on the practice and perfection of generosity into a context of the ultimate meaning of all of the teachings, to show that it is part of this path to supreme knowledge and ultimate liberation, the Lord Buddha first gave instructions on what is called dependent arising. Dependent arising is the way in which all phenomena arise, abide and dissolve. As part of that, he gave the teachings on emptiness, that is, on the ultimate reality or ultimate nature of all phenomena.

The teachings on the Six Paramitas - generosity, morality, patience, virtuous effort, concentration and wisdom - all of these are meaningful only in the context of ultimate truth. Were it not for this ultimate truth, then the engagement or practice of these things would not be effective or even sensible. So the Buddha starts out by giving these teachings on dependent arising, and on the nature of the ultimate truth characterized by dependent arising. That is what we call shunyata, or emptiness. As Nagarjuna says in the Tsawe Sherab, the Mulamadyamika Karika, "Whatever arises dependently, that is, all things which are dependent arising, meaning all phenomena without exception, are free of both annihilation and eternal existence". In other words, they are not non-existent, nor are they truly or eternally existent. They are neither of those two things.

In this teaching on dependent arising as explicated by Nagarjuna, where he comments on these teachings on the Prajnaparamita, he explains this teaching on dependent arising and emptiness. Where do things arise from? In this world we have so many different philosophies and ideas and explanations for the arising of phenomena, that is, how and why the world was created, how phenomena arise, how they exist, how they change and dissolve - so many different teachings, so many different philosophies. Only the Lord Buddha taught dependent arising. This teaching is what clears away the clouds of confusion with regard to how things truly exist.

This principle of dependent arising, to describe it very briefly, is that all phenomena arise from a cause. So long as causes and conditions produce it, it is said to exist. But it has no true existence apart from its causes and conditions. So it then becomes a part of this chain, or this process, becoming the cause and condition for the arising of something else, which also has no true or independent existence apart from its own causes and conditions. In this way all things arise in connection and dependence upon something else. Nothing whatsoever, not the smallest atom or atomic particle, or anything, exists in and of its own right. Its existence is merely apparent or merely a transitional appearance, without any true or inherent existence. So this is the description of the subject matter of the teaching on dependent arising, and how all things lack that inherent existence; all things can neither be said to truly exist nor to be nonexistent. That middle way between those two extremes is what we have when we understand the nature of reality and its dependent arising.

The teaching on dependent arising is not something that you can just listen to and say, "Oh, OK, things are dependently arisen, things lack inherent or true existence," and sort of leave it at that. The topic as the Buddha has taught it is not as something to be simply accepted. Rather he provided a framework for analysis and investigation which must be carried out by the individual disciple. That is to say, the faculty of wisdom or the perfection of the faculty of wisdom (which is roughly the translation of Prajnaparamita, the ultimate development of wisdom), comes about only by the individual using this framework of the teachings on dependent arising and emptiness to investigate the nature of the arising of all things -- all inner things associated with the mind, all external phenomena - everything, getting closer and closer to the direct understanding of how things truly come into being, how they abide, how they dissolve, how they change. Through that great effort at personally and directly understanding these things, the faculty of wisdom increases in the disciple.

This is in contrast to other philosophies or teachings which attribute the arising of things in the world to some type of an agency or to a deity who creates things. That the world and the things in the world, whether they're external or whether they are one's mind, whether they're one's own good fortune or bad fortune, to say that this is created by a certain deity or group of deities, is given so that people can accept that and go on, and say, "I understand everything now; the world and everything in it is created by such and such deity," and then not think about it anymore - other than to pay homage to that deity. And if you do accept this, then you can be part of that group, that religion or that culture; if you don't then you can get into conflict with them and have all sorts of problems because you don't believe this basic tenet.

In the meantime, you're not investigating, you're not looking into reality, you're not using your own reasoning or your own faculties, and you're not developing that faculty of discriminative awareness or wisdom. That is then contrary to what the Buddha has taught. He always emphasizes, again, that the individual must come to an understanding, a very minute, perfect, focused understanding about how all things arise, and emphasizes that this understanding is possible, and that the pursuit of this understanding is what leads to the development of this faculty of wisdom.

Among the tremendous variety of teachings, of views and of faith systems in the world, there are those who assert that things arise in the world, that phenomena arise, that the world arises, that living beings arise, as the result of the miraculous and inscrutable activities of a creator. These various creators, or views of what a creator might be, are propounded by all of these different schools. The Buddha disagrees with this, refutes the idea of a creator, and insists that we use our own mental faculties to see for ourselves how things arise. He insists that we can do that and we can develop the ability to have perfect insight into this.

On the other hand, there are many schools and systems that are nihilistic in nature. What they are doing is denying the reality of cause and effect, saying things are not dependently arisen; they do not arise on the basis of a whole complex of causes and conditions. Rather, they arise randomly, without a cause. Such teachings insist that there are no former lives, that there are no future lives, that things truly do not exist at all. The Buddha refutes this also. When he speaks of emptiness he is never speaking of nonexistence, but rather empty of self nature or inherent nature. So the idea that things do not exist at all, that they are merely illusion, that everything is arisen without any cause or without any creative process, this is also thoroughly refuted by the teachings of the Buddha.

So the Lord Buddha teaches the middle way, between the creationists and the nihilists, saying that things are neither created by some sort of eternal power or agency, nor are things non-existent by nature. He describes the middle way, where nothing exists by way of its own nature. Rather, things arise in dependence on causes and conditions and disappear in the absence of those causes and conditions. Everything that we can see or perceive is of this nature. It is a dependent arising, not existing in its own nature. Therefore it is said to neither truly exist, nor to be non-existent. So the extremes of existence and non-existence are refuted, and the middle way of dependent arising is taught by the Buddha.

Conventional Truth and Ultimate Truth

These dual principles of dependent arising and emptiness are the central teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha teaches the two truths: the conventional truth and the ultimate truth, and says that the true state of knowledge, the enlightened state, is the one where we can see the two of these as being not only non-contradictory but as being completely unified. To understand reality, we have to understand both that everything is dependently arisen and is empty by nature. In fact, that the evidence or the proof of things being empty is that they are dependently arisen, and the proof that they are dependently arisen is that they are empty. These can both be established independently. Through the process of meditative analysis we can directly perceive the conventional truth, how things arise in dependence upon each other, and we can realize the ultimate truth, that all things lack true or inherent existence.

This teaching on emptiness and dependent arising, the central teaching of the Prajnaparamita and indeed the central philosophy of Buddhism, is the teaching of great freedom, the teaching of liberation. That is to say, that because things are empty and dependently arisen, therefore liberation is possible, therefore supreme enlightenment and Buddhahood are possible. If things inherently existed, that is to say that things were simply created by some sort of a creator, then there would be no ability of an individual by his or her own efforts to attain enlightenment. Rather, any sort of state of bliss or happiness or peace would be something bestowed at the whim of the creator. If we found a way to please this creator, we would get these benefits. If we didn't, we couldn't get them. It would not be something that we could do ourselves, by our own efforts, by our own diligence; we could not attain any supreme state. Likewise if things were non-existent, as the nihilists would have it, then any efforts to attain insight into reality would simply be vanities. There would again be no possibility of liberation or supreme bliss or Buddhahood.

The nihilists do not believe in former and future lifetimes, for instance. They do not believe in the inexorable process of karma or cause and effect, so they don't recognize that there is a future life, that what exists today produces or accounts for what will exist tomorrow. In this way, there is no way to bring about any desired results. There is no way to understand the process by which things arise and through that arising, to establish one's own good fortune and one's desired goals.

With the nihilists there is no reason to engage in study, there is no reason to engage in any sort of practice or to develop any insight. There is no former life and no future life. So the only sensible thing is to do anything you want in this life, to enjoy yourself and not worry about the future because there is no future. There is no connection between today and tomorrow, between this life and a future life.

The Chain of Cause and Effect

This nihilistic view represents an inability to look closely at reality, to see the connection between one thing and another, to see how everything that exists now is the result of what existed before and what led up to it, that everything that will exist in the future arises out of what exists now, and that there is this cause and effect process which is responsible for all things in the world. The Buddha therefore taught about the chain of cause and effect, that tomorrow is caused by today, and that the future lifetime is determined by this lifetime. He taught this continuity of cause and effect and showed how it is responsible for the arising, abiding and dissolution of all phenomena.

The Six Paramitas, the practices of generosity, morality, patience and so forth, are meaningful only within this context of cause and effect. That is to say, the Buddha taught that all things arise from a cause. He taught what those causes are. He taught the dissolution of all things through this process of cause and effect. He taught the two truths so that we can understand the way things appear to us, to our senses and so forth, and the underlying way in which they actually exist. The way they appear to us is what is called the conventional reality, the underlying reality being the ultimate one, the lack of true existence, the emptiness, and the way that things arise only through this process of dependent origination.

So in this light, it becomes appropriate to act in certain ways in which it would not be appropriate to act were the world and all phenomena either non-existent by nature, or randomly existent, or created at the whim of some type of creator. In other words, because all things are causally related, those who desire happiness and wish to avoid misery must act in a certain way to establish the causes of what they desire. Desiring happiness, you act in a moral way. Desiring to have wealth and possessions, you act in a generous manner, and so forth. So the meaning, the purpose, of all these Paramitas can only be understood in this context of the middle way, of dependent arising.

The First Paramita - Generosity

We now go to the topic of the first of the Paramitas, which is the Dana Paramita, or the perfection of the practice of generosity. To understand this, it is important to understand that all things are connected in this process of dependent arising. Therefore the practice of generosity is meaningful. Were it not for this, it would not be sensible to engage in these great activities of giving to others. It is through the process of dependent arising, from the practice of generosity, both the recipients are benefited, as well as oneself.

Now, why did the Lord Buddha teach as first of the Six Paramitas, generosity? He taught it by way of its compatibility to the thoughts and attitudes of the living beings in the world. That is to say, that those who inhabit the world, the objects of the Buddha's teaching, are people who enjoy the wealth and enjoyments of the world. So he's teaching by way of effect, saying that if you desire the effect, which is to have possessions and enjoyments, then you must engage in the causes which bring about the possessions of wealth and enjoyment. So to show the cause of our own enjoyment of wealth and possessions, the Buddha taught this practice of engaging in the perfection of generosity.

Looking at this in an overly simplistic or immature manner, one might think, "Oh I have a certain amount of possession of wealth right now, and if I engage in this practice of generosity, I'll be giving it away, I'll be reducing my own wealth and enjoyments. And this is the opposite of what I want. I want to have more and not less." This is the wrong way to look at things, the Buddha has taught. He said we have to have more long-range thinking here. It is like a farmer who has a certain amount of wheat or corn, and what is that farmer best advised to do? To hoard what he has, and then it can deteriorate or be eaten up by bugs or whatever, if he is stingy with it, or take it out and plant it in the ground so that each seed will produce a crop and will produce so much more? Obviously it is much more sensible to take the seeds that he has and instead of hoarding them, to plant them properly and cultivate crops, and then have thousands of times more seeds in the future than he has now. But if the farmer looks at it from a short-term or immature way and thinks that casting what seeds he has out on the ground is just throwing them away, then that farmer will never be prosperous.

So the farmer has to have a little more long-term thinking, and be willing to give those seeds that he possesses forth to the land with the reasonable expectation that a crop will be produced. Just hoarding them, again, is to waste them. But just as the farmer planting the seeds does not expect that the moment he plants them immediately a plant will arise and he will be enjoying all that profit, likewise the person engaged in the practice of generosity, who gives away things to others, should not expect that instantly great wealth is going to come back, but rather should understand the cause and effect process. It may take some time for that deed to produce its result, but indeed acts of generosity in this lifetime will produce great enjoyment of wealth in the future.

If we look at people in the world, we see that some people are very wealthy and have all sorts of things and other people are extremely poor and cannot manage to provide themselves with any wealth or enjoyment. If we look at this just in the very limited context of the present, it seems very random and senseless. If we understand, on the other hand, that all things arise in this complex of causes and conditions, of dependent arising, then we have to understand that there is a cause for some people to become very wealthy and others to be poor in this life. Not seeing any particular reason in the context of this life, for example someone born into a wealthy family, but understanding that things are causally related, then we can look to the former lifetime to understand that in the past lifetimes, the person who is born into the wealthy family engaged in great deeds of generosity which are ripening in this present lifetime. Whereas the poor person did not do that and the lack of generosity is manifesting in the present lifetime. That is to say, a specific pattern in some former lifetime of either generosity or stinginess manifests at a certain point in the future, in these ways.

So this is what was taught by the Lord Buddha, in opposition to other views which posit some sort of an external, magical agency that arbitrarily, or by some whim, chooses that some persons will be wealthy and others will be poor. The Buddha taught that it is not like that. If it were like that, there would be nothing that we could do about it. But in fact, because things are related and dependent and arise as the result of causes and conditions, it is therefore in our own hands whether in the future we will be prosperous or poor.

The Buddha laid out very clearly the pattern of cause and effect, understanding that all people want to be prosperous, that they want to be endowed with requisites and resources and do not want to suffer poverty. He taught the causes of prosperity and that this is within our own ability, within our own hands to establish those causes. By having given generously to others, we can confidently await the time that we ourselves will be prosperous, if not later in this lifetime, then in a future lifetime.

The Buddha taught that this is our own responsibility, this is completely in our own hands - just as liberation itself is not something bestowed upon us from some external power or being or agency, but rather something which we ourselves either produce through establishing its causes, or do not produce by failing to establish those causes. Just like wealth and enjoyment, so enlightenment and Buddhahood are the result of the cause and effect process. The Buddha taught that it is in our own hands and not anywhere else.

Through understanding this process, the attitude of miserliness or stinginess then becomes apparent as the cause of all of our material suffering, all of our depravation, and becomes the antithesis of what we seek to do. Through understanding these teachings of the Buddha, we find any type of miserliness or stinginess to be something which we must diligently avoid, and must instead engage with great effort in practices of generosity and charity.

So the Lord Buddha taught this first among all the teachings on the Paramitas. Understanding that he did not need to convince people to desire wealth and enjoyment, that this was natural for people in the world, and to get them involved in understanding and practicing the activities which follow from the nature of reality, that is from the interdependent nature of all things, the easiest way is to start with the practice of generosity, having established that that is the cause of all wealth and enjoyment.

Regarding what is meant by generosity, there are three ways in which we practice it. Of the three types of charity, the first involves giving things, such as wealth or possessions. That is the first type of charity in the practice of the perfection of generosity. The second is the giving of refuge, that is protecting living beings from the things that they fear, principally things like injury and death. Third is the highest form of charity, which is called the giving of that which is sublime, that is the gift of the Dharma, that of the Buddha's teachings.

The third type of charity, giving the gift of the Dharma, is the highest type because giving that, one gives the person the means whereby all good things can be obtained and all negative or unfortunate things can be avoided, whereas with other types of giving, such as giving things, this is only temporary. You can give someone things - wealth, possessions, material things - and those material things can be used up. Once they are used up, the person can be poor again. So the highest form is the gift of the teaching, the teaching which allows them to bring about the causes of wealth, of happiness and so forth, which allows living beings to attain the state of supreme bliss, which is the cessation of all of the miseries of the phenomenal world, the world of birth and death.

The Buddha taught that through giving things such as wealth and enjoyments, we ourselves will come to be endowed with the various desirable things - the wealth, enjoyment and so forth. And he said that this is not something he can do; he cannot do the giving for us. He can neither give things for us on our behalf, and then we enjoy the effects of that, nor can he just directly give us the wealth and enjoyment that we desire. We must do it ourselves. We must establish the causes for our own enjoyment of possessions, of wealth and resources. The individual must establish the causes for that individual's coming into possession of things. Likewise we must establish the causes of our own liberation. Liberation cannot be bestowed from the outside. Not by any divinity. Not by the Buddha himself. Why? Because the causes for our continued bondage to the wheel of birth and death are within us. So we must remove them.

The Lord Buddha has taught the ways in which we can bring about that state of enlightenment, of liberation, the ways in which we can engage in the activities which bring about the purification and the acquisition of good qualities which allow us to attain liberation and enlightenment, and the fact that we are not presently liberated from cyclic existence, not enlightened, is because we have not taken up these teachings. We have not taken seriously the teachings on cause and effect, on dependent arising. And we have acted habitually under the influence of the delusions which cause us to see things as being either non-existent or truly existent, the delusions that the world and the things in it are created by something external. Acting in that way, neglecting the teachings on dependent arising and cause and effect, we act in such a way as to establish the causes of things we don't want and not establish the causes of things that we do want. Therefore we remain in the unenlightened, samsaric state.

So, in the teachings on the First Paramita, on generosity, the Buddha clearly gives all of the explanation in detail of how giving to others, through being generous, we bring about the desired state of happiness, that is, of the acquisition and enjoyment of things in the future.

The Second Paramita - Perfection of Ethics

The second of the Six Paramitas is the perfection of ethics. Again, teaching from the point of view of effect, the Buddha recognizes that living beings want happiness; they do not want misery. Just in general, that's a universal rule that you cannot find contradicted or violated anywhere. All living beings desire happiness. So the Buddha, under the heading of the Second Paramita, that of ethics, teaches the cause of happiness. Why are some people happy? What is the cause and effect process that leads to happiness? He shows here how ethical constraint, how a pattern of moral behavior, results in the future in the experience of happiness, and the opposite, the violation of ethics, is what brings about misery.

Under this topic of ethics, we have the division into things which are virtuous, and things which are not virtuous. That which is bad or sinful or non-virtuous is whatever brings about unhappiness or is a cause of misery. That is the Buddhist conception of non-virtue or sin: that which brings about states of unhappiness. That which brings about states of happiness is called virtue or merit. To understand this, we have an example of the laws and customs of a particular country. If we live in a particular country and we follow the laws and customs of that country, then we will tend to stay out of trouble and not have problems come to us from within that country or that culture. If we understand the customs and the laws and we follow them, then we can expect to live in a peaceful, comfortable and happy way within that country. If we violate them, then there is the expectation that we will bring all sorts of trouble to ourselves. So this is just an analogy within the present lifetime, within the worldly context. What this illustrates is the broader context of reality, of our birth and death and rebirth. What is it that brings about happiness? It is following the laws and customs of reality. That is where you have the teachings on ethics.

The Buddha teaches in particular, the ten non-virtues that are to be avoided. Why? Because these are the causes of unhappiness both in this world and in our future lives. So these are non-virtues which, if we engage in them, will bring about immediate unhappiness to ourselves and others, as well as unhappiness in the future. Many of these are similar to laws and customs found anywhere, such as the non-virtue of killing, of stealing, of sexual misconduct, of lying, of harsh speech, divisive speech, senseless talk, harmful attitude, covetous attitude and wrong views.

So of these ten non-virtues, the first three refer to or entail actions of the body. The second group of four involve harmful or negative activities of speech. The final three involve negative activities of the mind. That is to say, killing, stealing and sexual misconduct are predominantly physical, whereas lying, divisive speech, harsh speech and senseless talk are non-virtues of speech. The harmful attitude, covetous attitude and wrong views are negative activities of the mind.

We can understand Buddhist ethics to be divided into three categories, according to the type of happiness that results from that ethic. The first type of ethics is what was just described, the abandonment or avoidance of the ten non-virtues. That is the first type. That is the universal ethic which brings about the causes of happiness in general and the avoidance of states of great misery. The second is the type of ethics that brings about both happiness in this lifetime, but more particularly, the attainment of the high states of existence in future lifetimes - high states being the state of fortunate human beings, demi-gods and gods. The third type is the morality which brings about the states of liberation, beyond the cycle of birth and death.

Cause and Effect, Buddhist Ethics

Again, these teachings on morality are based upon the interdependent nature of all things, on cause and effect; we're looking here at the causes of misery and finding them in these ten non-virtues. Engagement in the ten non-virtues brings about, through the inexorable process of cause and effect, states of misery both in this world right here and now, as well as in future rebirths. Likewise the avoidance of them is the cause of happiness both in the present life and in the future.

The second type of ethics, in particular, is establishing the causes for high rebirths. Certain types of morality, certain efforts at avoiding non-virtues, allows us to avoid falling into any sort of unfortunate rebirth in the future, and to attain to the pleasant, happy rebirths of human beings and gods. Ethics in itself is not going to lead to liberation or enlightenment, but it will cause us to attain good rebirth.

Third, the motivation for engaging in ethical activity needs to be considered. Motivation should not be based on a desire to attain a pleasant rebirth, but you should be motivated by a recognition that all types of rebirth within cyclic existence are pervaded by one form of misery or another. As long one remains in the cycle of birth and death, one is vulnerable to falling down to a very unfortunate and painful rebirth. Nowhere within the cycle of existence, of Samsara, is there any type of rebirth where we can be safe and secure and never have to worry about terrible calamities and misery. Misery pervades all of it. Understanding that, then, we seek liberation from the cycles of birth and death. When we're motivated by that search, then our ethics result in bringing us closer and closer, and then finally allowing us to attain that state of liberation.

The Third Paramita - Patience

The third of the Six Paramitas is patience. To understand patience, we have a quote from Shantideva's Bodhisattvacaryavatara. In the sixth chapter, which is on patience, he begins by saying, "There is no evil so great as anger. There is no religious practice so powerful as patience." The reason for this is that through the practice of patience, we attain a good or pleasant state of existence. Through indulging in anger, which is the opposite of patience, we attain the great sufferings of the lower realms. Just as generosity brings about a state of prosperity, enjoyments and wealth, and just as morality brings about happiness, so the practice of patience is the cause of the attainment of a good 'form', that is a good 'life form'. Those who have the most glorious, beautiful, radiant, and powerful types of bodies or physical forms (namely the gods and goddesses of the various heavenly realms), attained these wonderful states through avoiding anger, through practicing patience. Likewise among human beings, those with the more fortunate bodies - more attractive, healthy, powerful, etc., these good qualities of one's form come from the practice of patience. Bad, unfortunate qualities of the body come from indulging in anger; those who indulge in great anger then establish the causes for taking on terrible forms such as the bodies of hell-beings that undergo all manner of terrible suffering. So falling into a hellish type of existence is the result of indulging in anger and hatred towards others.

So again, there is no sin so great as anger. There is no virtue so powerful as patience. This is taught again and again. If we look at the various unfortunate types of rebirth, these are characterized as being the result of indulging in anger. Now even among a certain group of beings, for instance human beings, you have those with the more pleasing, healthy, powerful forms, and those who have various sorts of physical difficulties or challenges or are not so attractive. All of those things are the result of either more, or less, practice of patience. If we look at animals for instance, we can find animals which are characterized by anger; for instance some type of snake, is very angry. Its nature is angry, always seeking to harm those around it. It has this form as the result of a former pattern of indulging in anger and hatred, so this results in the taking on of this form.

The First Type of Patience

There are three types of patience. The first we could call forbearance against those who would do harm to us. We can understand that when someone attacks us in some way, verbally or physically, or in any way, they are not doing this because they are in possession of true understanding and virtues and so forth. Their acts of anger and their aggression are based upon their own lack of good qualities. So we must feel compassion towards them. If we respond to them with anger, then we are reducing ourselves to that same level of lack of good qualities, of indulgence in bad qualities. Anyone who acts in a harmful, aggressive manner is someone who is bereft of good qualities at that point. Towards those who indulge in the very worst type of activities, we must feel compassion. They are establishing the causes, by what they are doing, of their own suffering. And again, if we join them in angry and aggressive activities, we establish the causes of our own suffering, our own bad rebirths, and our own difficulties. On the other hand, if we respond with forbearance, then we are establishing the causes of our own welfare, happiness and good qualities in the future.

The Second Type of Patience

The second type of patience is the patience towards the demands of the spiritual path, or the requirements of religious accomplishment. This is to say, that to engage in the spiritual path, to practice the Dharma that leads to the states of happiness and liberation, we have to be patient. We have to exert ourselves. We can't be impatient and annoyed at all of the demands that are made by that path, but must steadily work at it in a steady, consistent manner and not allow ourselves to become annoyed or angry about what we have to do. If we become annoyed and angry and abandon the process, then of course we will continue as we have for innumerable lifetimes to wander in the Samsara, to continue to experience the countless miseries of samsaric existence. So to practice and accomplish the Dharma, you must have this type of patience to steadily engage in whatever effort is necessary to accomplish the various aspects of the path to liberation and Buddhahood.

The Third Type of Patience

The third type of patience has to do with one's attitude towards the vast and extensive path to highest enlightenment. When one contemplates that path of perfect Buddhahood, of what is required to attain the state of highest enlightenment and sees that it is almost inconceivably great, there can arise in the mind a fear, a trepidation, a sense that I am inadequate to even take this path on, to fear that one has no ability. And based on that type of fear, one abandons the whole enterprise, and engages once again in ordinary worldly activities. One engages in some sort of false pretense of a spiritual path, rather than facing and overcoming that fear and realizing one's own ability to accomplish all of those things, given a state of patience and of continued virtuous enthusiastic and diligent effort towards the accomplishment of all of the aspects of the path to the sublime and enlightened state.

The Fourth Paramita - Virtuous Effort

This brings us to the fourth of the Six Paramitas, which is the protection of virtuous effort. Here, the result of the perfection of virtuous effort is to accomplish all good things. All truly worthwhile accomplishments arise only in the presence of this factor of virtuous effort. So this is the abandonment of lethargy and of laziness, and the enthusiastic engagement in activities that are required to bring about the desired goal.

To accomplish any virtuous goal, one needs this factor of virtuous effort. Virtue is put in here because to accomplish anything in the world we need to be diligent; we need to make effort. Even in the worldly sense, nothing good or bad is accomplished without effort. Here the term virtuous is added as part of this concept of the perfection of effort, which does not mean just any efforts, but efforts directed towards a virtuous purpose, guided by the understanding of ethics and so forth. So virtuous efforts accomplish all good or worthwhile goals. Here we are speaking specifically of the goals of the Dharma, which is the transcendence of misery in both this lifetime and future lifetimes and ultimately for all living beings.

The obstacle to accomplishing the first type of virtuous effort is overcoming what can be characterized as false modesty. Thoughts such as "Oh, I am such a small, insignificant, powerless person. There's nothing really I can do. I can't really accomplish anything worthwhile," or, with respect to any given type of accomplishment, to have a sense of inadequacy like, "Oh, there's nothing I can do. I won't even bother to try, because that is so far beyond me," that is the first type of laziness. This laziness is characterized by that false modesty or that sense of inadequacy where one will not even undertake efforts thinking that they couldn't possibly succeed. The effort which overcomes that is the first type of effort.

The second type of effort is that which overcomes the second type of laziness. The second type of laziness we could call procrastination. That is where we continually put things off, thinking, "Oh, I have to do this, but I don't have to do it today. It can be accomplished sometime in the future; it's work for tomorrow, I'll wait for tomorrow." Then tomorrow never comes, so one keeps putting things off. So to oppose that, we have the second type of effort which is to actively take on and anticipate what has to be done, to do tomorrow's work today, the next day's work tomorrow and so forth. To actively accomplish whatever possibly has to be done without ever putting it off.

The third type of virtuous effort is that which overcomes the third type of laziness. This could be called the laziness of distraction. Unlike the first two types of laziness, it does not typically appear as laziness or lethargy. With the third type of laziness, we can be very active, working very hard and keeping ourselves extremely busy. But nevertheless it is laziness, because what we are doing is distracting ourselves by working at something which is not useful or productive. Useful and productive here is in the context of understanding that one's purpose in life is to establish the causes of a good rebirth at the very least, but to fully engage in the Dharma, to attain the state of liberation and beyond that, the state of perfect Buddhahood. So, in the context of seeing this life as a rare, precious and brief opportunity to attain liberation and enlightenment, one's efforts must all be focused on making progress towards that worthwhile goal. Any other worldly efforts then just become distractions, and constitute this third type of laziness, whose antidote, again, is this factor of virtuous effort.

The Fifth Paramita - Meditative Concentration

The fifth of the Six Paramitas is the perfection of what we could call meditative concentration. Meditative concentration has two varieties. One is the focusing meditation, which trains the mind to hold its object single-pointedly, the ultimate goal or result of which is the state of shamatha, wherein the object is held undistractedly in perfect clarity for as long as one wishes. The second type of meditation is the analytical one, which is translated as the term vipashana, where we develop clear insight into reality by means of an analytical process based upon the mind, which has been trained to hold its object undistractedly. Meditative concentration in general is the practice which frees our mind from the two types of distracted states.

The first type of distraction is literally what is called sinking. That's where the mind becomes distracted into states of drowsiness, a sort of sleepiness. It sinks into a state, more or less, of unconsciousness or obscurity. That is the first type of distraction.

The second type is the wandering mind, the mind that is distracted this way and that, thinking about all sorts of things, out of control, going from this thought to that thought without the ability to hold onto a single focus, but rather lost in all sorts of thoughts, images, emotions, and so forth, one after another in a great proliferation. This second type of distraction is where the focus of the mind is lost and out of control. The antidote to these two faults is the practice of meditative concentration.

The second factor, that is overcome by meditative concentration, this wildness, scattering, or distraction of the mind, is based upon the mind getting caught up in the objects of the six sense powers. That is to say, caught up in the visual field of the eyes, seeing something attractive, having some attachment towards it so the mind goes out towards that. It is distracted into that visual object. Likewise the mind can be distracted by sounds, caught up in them, carried away by them, you could say, going under the power of that auditory object. Likewise the olfactory objects, those things we smell or which we taste or which we feel with our tactile sense, all of those can distract the mind and carry the mind away. Likewise, the sixth sense power is that of mental objects, the conceptions or mental imagery into which we become distracted. All of these function to lead the mind away, to put the mind in a state of distraction, so that it no longer can abide peacefully, calmly and clearly within. Rather it goes outward towards these objects of the six senses.

Mindfulness & Circumspection

The antidote to all things which disturb the clarity and focus of the mind, to these two ways in which the mind is carried away, the outward distraction and the inward drowsy, sinking of the mind, is found in two faculties. When we say, "What is meditative concentration? What is the technique that is practiced?" we see that there are two faculties called mindfulness and circumspection.

Circumspection functions as the faculty that stands back and looks in on what is going on. It is sort of like spying on what's going on in one's own mind. It stands back and says, "OK, what's going on here? Where is my mind right now? What am I doing with my mind? Is it on its object of meditation or has it gone somewhere else?" So you have to develop that faculty of circumspection so that you are aware at all times of what you are doing so that you don't just get carried away with a thought or a proliferation of thoughts, sensations, ideas, or other distractions. Rather you can catch it because you've developed circumspection. You can see, "Oh, I've become distracted from that object." So it brings into awareness what is going on in the mind at all times.

Then combined with that you have to have this faculty of mindfulness. Mindfulness is that which enables you to keep in mind the proper object of your mental focus. So here in the context of meditative concentration, we have certain objects of meditation that we work on. In any type of meditation you have the instructions of your teacher, the lama, who says "meditate on such and such". So you start meditating on it. You enter into a meditative state or meditative practice and there is always a focus of the mind. So you must be mindful of that, you must be able to quickly call it to mind. With the faculty of circumspection, you know when and if the mind becomes distracted. With the faculty of mindfulness, you know the proper focus, "I should now concentrate on such and such," and then you bring that into your mind, into the center of your mental focus.

So these faculties of mindfulness and circumspection keep the mind both from scattering outside to all of this proliferation of sensations and thoughts, as well as prevent it from sinking within, into the states of drowsiness and sleep. So both of these distracting factors must be eliminated for meditation to succeed. If the mind is scattered outward to some object, mindfulness and circumspection allows one to draw it back in to the object of meditative focus. On the other hand, if the mind has become drowsy and sleepy, then mindfulness and circumspection can draw it outward, again, to that object. So here we sometimes have objects of meditative focus, or techniques which employ objects, in order to train the mind to hold an object one-pointedly. This could be an image of the Buddha, such as a bronze image, something which when placed in front of you, can function as an object of meditation. It allows you then, to avoid that sinking within, because the object is something actual out in front of you. As one's meditation becomes stronger, one can meditate on a teaching or on an internalized image - of the Buddha for instance. Whatever object is taken up, it is held there through this process of mindfulness and circumspection.

To understand this perfection of meditation, it is necessary to understand all of the stages, from the very coarsest to the most subtle, the entire process or range of meditative concentration, which goes from the beginning efforts to keep the mind from being totally wild and distracted, on the one hand, or fast asleep on the other - to go from that very coarse state of mind, to more and more subtle, focused, clear states of mind. So at each stage there are obstacles to be overcome and there are more and more subtle techniques employed, using more and more subtle aspects of circumspection and mindfulness, and at each level, more and more types of the sinking and the scattering. Clearly, we don't have time to go into all of these, but you should understand that in general this is laid out very carefully and in great detail to help us develop our meditative practice to higher and more refined, more powerful states of clarity and undistractedness.

Now when we look at this in detail, we will find that there are nine discreet mental states or stages through which we progress in the cultivation of shamatha, in other words, in the cultivation of the state of perfect, undistracted clarity and focus. To attain that state that is called shamatha, we go through nine levels of refinement and of greater power of meditative concentration. Each of those nine levels is characterized by various things, so we can understand, as we engage in meditative practice, where we are, how far we have progressed, and how far we have to go. Then, there are eight discreet techniques employed to advance ourselves, to advance our practice, through these nine levels. There are five, what is called, 'applications' to the object. These are the five mental states which take up the object in different ways so as to establish that perfect focus.

Nine Grounds

These levels of meditation correspond to what is called the Nine Grounds. These Nine Grounds take place in the Three Realms. As ordinary beings, we abide in what is called the Desire Realm. The Desire Realm has within it states of meditative concentration. The first of the nine, is the Ground of Meditative Concentration which takes place in the ordinary world or in the ordinary state of consciousness. Then above that, you have the more refined states of consciousness which correspond to the four levels of the Form Realm, that is the four concentrations of the Form Realm, the Brahma Loka. Then beyond that are the four concentrations, the four levels, of the Formless Realm. So in each higher realm, there is a state of mind, a state of clarity and concentration and expansiveness of mind, which can be attained in the context of meditative practice. So the nine levels of meditative practice correspond to those nine levels of the world, and that's all of samsara included in the Desire Realm, the Form Realm and the Formless Realm.

Looking a little closer at this, we find that the states of concentration correspond with the states of mind of the deities in the Divine Realms. So to understand this, we look at the Divine Realms. Within the Desire Realm, being our present abode, we have all of the six classes of beings: the hell-beings, all the way up to animals, human beings, demi-gods and gods of the Desire Realm. Within the gods of the Desire Realm there are six different varieties from the lowest to the highest. The lowest heavenly abode or heaven of the Desire Realm is called the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. Those are the kings of the four directions. Above that is the Heaven of Indra, which is called the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, because of its thirty-three different divine or heavenly neighborhoods in that heaven. Above that is called the Heaven which is Free of Strife. From that heaven on upwards there's no possibility of conflict, such as conflict with the demi-gods who disturb the lower Heavens of the Four Great Kings and Indra's Heaven of the Thirty-Three. Above the Heaven which is Free from Strife, you have the Tushita Heaven, in Tibetan, Ganden. Above that is the heaven which is called the Topdrel. The fifth of the six is the heaven which is called the Heaven of Enjoying Emanations (Nirmanarati), wherein the divine beings can emanate, that is manifest at will, whatever they want. Their enjoyments come just by desiring something, it appears, and they can enjoy it. And the highest heaven is called the Heaven of Enjoying the Emanations of Others (Paranirmita-Vashavartin), because there the gods don't even have to desire something. Their desires are anticipated and emanated by the lower gods and goddesses. So before they can even bother to desire or want anything, it appears. That is the very highest level of the Desire Realm, which is the peak of the Desire Realm.

So when we practice meditative concentration, we have these Nine Grounds. The very first of the Nine Grounds corresponds with that highest heaven of the Desire Realm, Enjoying the Emanations of Others, so we attain that in the context of our meditation as the first of the Nine Grounds.

When we go on above that highest level of the Desire Realm, we enter into the Form Realm. There we have four levels, what is called the four concentrations of the Form Realm. These four concentrations of the Form Realm include seventeen Divine Abodes of the gods of the Form Realm. The seventeen are divided up such that the first concentration contains three Divine Abodes, as does the second and the third. Each has three Divine Abodes. The fourth concentration of the Form Realm has eight Divine Abodes, so that we have a total of seventeen Divine Abodes in the Form Realm.

One perceives in one's meditation, through these seventeen Divine Abodes of the Form Realm, having left behind the Desire Realm, the lowest of the Divine Abodes in the first concentration of the Form Realm. And how does one do that? When one becomes aware of the coarseness of that divine abode and the subtlety of the next one, one passes on to that higher state of concentration, entering into the Form Realm. In such fashion, one goes throughout the seventeen Divine Abodes of the Form Realm.

Continuing this process of refining the state of meditation, when one has gone through the seventeen Divine Abodes of the Form Realm and reached the very highest, there comes a time in the practice of the meditation, as one continues to exert oneself, that one sees the unsuitability or the coarseness of that state of mind, and wishing to refine the mind, makes the concentration more powerful. At that point, one leaves behind the Form Realm and enters into the Formless Realm.

The first of the four levels of the Formless Realm is called 'the infinite space.' When the mind has been stabilized within infinite space and has come to discriminate in this coarseness and subtlety that there is a higher, more refined meditation, one enters into the second level of the Formless Realm, which is called 'the infinite consciousness.' Stabilizing the mind there and discriminating between subtlety and grossness, seeing that there is a higher, more refined state, one enters into the third level of the Formless Realm, which is called the absolutely nothing level, or nothing at all level, or 'nothingness level.' Then entering into this nothingness, stabilizing the mind there in absolute nothingness, one again discriminates between coarseness and subtlety, seeing there is a higher state, and enters into the fourth and highest level of the Formless Realm, and that is the level called 'neither existence nor non-existence.'

Moving from Meditative Ground to Paramita

This process described so far is called the practice of meditative concentration. Everything described so far is meditative concentration, but it is not the perfection of meditative concentration. In other words, it is not the paramita. To translate it as perfection is not quite right. 'That which brings one to a state beyond the world' is the meaning of paramita, not just perfecting in giving or ethics or anything else, but engaging in these in a manner which brings one to the further shore, to the place beyond the cycle of birth and death. So how do we transform this ordinary meditative concentration that has been described so far, into the paramita, the transcendent practice of meditation? We do that by conjoining, with meditative concentration as described so far, that which is called vipashana, or the analytical process which provides insight into or realization of ultimate reality.

The Sixth Paramita - Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom

To understand this analytical insight into the nature of reality, this factor of vipashana, we have to add to meditative concentration to make it a transcendent practice, a Paramita. We have to go to the sixth of the Six Paramitas, that is the perfection of transcendent wisdom. The nature of that vipashana is transcendent wisdom. So we have to conjoin that with meditative concentration to attain the Paramita of meditative concentration. This state of perfect insight into the nature of reality is what is called the Prajnaparamita or the perfection of wisdom.

There are varieties of this transcendent wisdom which are developed. The first ones are common to both the Hinayana and the Mahayana schools of Buddhism. What is common to both is the practice that is called the 'four close contemplations'. These are examined in the light of the sixteen aspects of The Four Noble Truths, the first of which is impermanence. So using those sixteen aspects of The Four Noble Truths, we examine the four objects of the close placement of mindfulness. There arises the certain wisdoms or insights into reality which are common to both the Hinayana and the Mahayana traditions.

The unique aspect of Mahayana wisdom arises from the insight into what is called 'The Two Truths', The Conventional Truth and The Ultimate Truth, through the analytical meditation on the sixteen varieties of emptiness. Meditation on the sixteen varieties of emptiness leads to a realization that is a direct, non-conceptual perception of the sixteen aspects of emptiness. When conjoined with great compassion for living beings such that the compassion and the wisdom are no longer differentiated, are no longer two different things, such that one is able to perceive the two truths (conventional and ultimate) as non-dual, that is the realization of the sixteen varieties of emptiness and the development of great compassion. At that point one attains the highest wisdom of the Mahayana.

There are certain types of samadhi that arise from the cultivation of the perfection of wisdom. There are a great variety of them. For instance there is the samadhi that is said to be the samadhi of the actions of the lion. This is the one which overcomes all of the illusions resulting from the misapprehension of the two truths, and the inability to realize the sixteen aspects of emptiness together with the mind of great compassion. The lion activity or lion action samadhi destroys all of those illusions such that one can come to that direct perception of the non-duality of the two truths.

Then there is a samadhi which directly perceives the nature of the path. This is the type of samadhi one attains at the point of attaining perfect enlightenment or Buddhahood. A person at that level then can perceive the nature of the path from the very beginning, from the very first stirrings of interest in the path and how it proceeds up through the levels, the way in which it is facilitated and the way in which it is obstructed. Every aspect of the path to perfect enlightenment then becomes perfectly clear through this type of samadhi.

There are varieties of samadhi which are involved in the higher levels of meditative concentration joined with the perfections of wisdom. There is a tremendous variety of samadhis which take on all of the obstacles to omniscience, that is to full perfect awareness or ultimate enlightenment, and see through or eliminate those obstacles through these samadhis, such that when one completes them one attains a state of peerless, perfect enlightenment. So, we do not have time to go into any more of these, but you should be aware that each of them is characterized by a certain development of insight based upon the meditative stabilization that arises through the Fifth Paramita and allows for the application of wisdom of the Sixth Paramita. So in this way, the entirety of the path to Buddhahood is accomplished.

Questions From Audience

At this point we are just in time for the end of the session and we will conclude it with the Dedication of Merit. We have time for a couple of questions. Anything specific?

(Could you explain the meaning of the term Dharma?)

The term Dharma, its derivation - or not really its derivation as it is not really etymology but rather a description of its actual meaning, is sort of like 'fixing'. That's not really an elegant word for it. But it's fixing the mind, taking the mind from its normal amorphous state and fixing it so it attains the proper condition. So maybe one would say fixing or repairing. Establishing? Evolving? It's more active. It's like you're doing something. Refining? Sort of actively forming. Taking something that is sort of all messed up and getting rid of the negative aspects and making it positive, making it function properly. The word literally means fixing or making something, like clearing away and making it what you want. If it is a sculpture or something that's broken, you fix it. It means perfecting or completing or accomplishing.

(Please explain more about the sixteen aspects of emptiness.)

So, you could have great detail on each of the sixteen aspects of emptiness. Rinpoche just mentioned them really quickly. So first there is the emptiness of the external world, the lack of true existence anywhere in the external world. There is the lack of true existence anywhere in the internal world, of the mind, that is. There is the lack of true existence or emptiness of both the inner and the outer. So you have the emptiness of the entity of things; things do not exist by way of their own entity, by way of their own nature. Then you have the emptiness of the lack of emptiness; not only are things empty of any true existence, but they're empty of any lack of existence. Then there is the description of the emptiness of composite things, and the descriptions of the emptiness of non-composite things, then the emptiness of spatial distinctions, that is, close by and far away. There's the emptiness of temporal distinctions, early and late, beginning and end, things like that and the emptiness of movement, away from oneself, towards oneself. Then there's a description of what is called natural emptiness or the emptiness of things by their nature, that they lack any inherent nature or self nature - the emptiness of phenomena without exception, to eliminate any possibility that anything is other than empty. Then there is the emptiness which is described as the lack of any object, whatsoever, that there is no external object which has any true existence. That is getting near sixteen, but it is close enough if not.

(What about abandoning the senses?)

(Translator) Avoid the senses? The five senses or the six senses? In this system we have six senses, because we include the intellectual faculty, the mental sense.

There's no sense here of abandoning things. The sense powers and their fields should not be abandoned, but rather we should overcome the illusions or ways in which we misperceive reality through the six senses. There's no problem with the senses themselves. It's the way in which we mistake the data or input from the six senses and are caught up in illusions. Once we overcome our mistaken view towards the six senses and their objects, then there is no problem. Actually, that is one of the sixteen emptinesses -- the emptiness of emptiness.

(Can the Buddhas be perceived by humans?)

Yes, all of them appear in human world and they can be perceived by human beings and receive their teaching. They are called the thousand Buddhas of the fortunate eon, and Sakyamuni is the fourth.

(Can you explain more about enlightenment?)

The term 'enlightenment', since it is an English term, is applied to all manner of things by different English speaking people. This is why we rely on the Sanskrit or Tibetan. What is being translated as enlightenment, that's the thing you have to examine. Sometimes people use it in different ways like using it to mean a state of clarity or a state of peacefulness or all sorts of things, which are far short of what's being referred to by the term Buddhahood. In Buddhism we have the term 'moksha' which means liberation. Liberation means liberation from birth and death, from the cycle of birth and death, or more specifically from the miseries of birth and death. So it can be applied sometimes in slightly different ways, but when you attain the first of the ten bodhisattva grounds, which means you finish the first two of the five paths to Buddhahood, you finish the path of accumulation and the path of preparation. The moment you attain the third path, which is the path of seeing, you've attained a state of enlightenment, if you like, because at that point you have direct insight into reality, but it's yet to be stabilized and developed. At that point you are no longer caught up in the illusions of the world. You still have a long way to go. You could call that a stage of enlightenment. But then eventually you go through the five paths and attain the state of Buddhahood. Then that is the state of perfection, beyond which there is nothing more to attain. Therefore the fifth path is called the path of no more learning, because that is when you attain Buddhahood in the Mahayana tradition. In the Hinayana, at that point, you would become an arhat which means you've attained Nirvana. You'll no longer ever need to be reborn in the world.

(What is the difference between enlightenment in the Hinayana and the Mahayana?)

In the Hinayana, you are attaining the state of liberation. We say liberation in English instead of enlightenment because it's not a question of a state of all knowingness or omniscience, it's a state of liberation from cyclic existence; so we say you attain Nirvana. At that point you attain liberation, and you are no longer reborn in the world. In the Hinayana system you've attained Nirvana and that's the goal, that's it. In the Mahayana, the goal is to become a Buddha. The Buddha then has attained a state of omniscience. Therefore in Mahayana circles usually the term enlightenment is reserved for the Buddha, for the one who has attained the ultimate perfection. Then, as far as reentering the world, that's part of being a Buddha. Not that you're reborn in the world, but that you've attained the state of omniscience, but that you are the all knowing Buddha, endowed with both wisdom and compassion. You can manifest in the world, as many bodies as you wantcalled manifestation bodies (nirmanakaya), for the sake of living beings, in order to lead them out of cyclic existence. But there is no question of suffering anymore, you've transcended that, you've put an end to all of the causes of misery. So you're perfectly enlightened but still involved in the world as a teacher, as a guide to liberation.

(What is the relationship of wealth and happiness?)

Unfortunately, that's not the case. Just because we have great wealth and enjoyments does not mean you're happier. Often it's the reverse; you have so much more to worry about losing - so you're much less happy. But you do have a lot of stuff. Great wealth is often a cause of great misery for many different reasons. Normally, at the very least, it is a cause of not being able to sleep well at night. People stay up and drink lots of coffee and worry 'is this going to go up' or 'am I going to lose money in that', 'how is this money going to go' and 'what do I have to do to make more' and lose a lot of sleep and are not very happy.

You need a balance in this. So you're not so poor that you're suffering all the time, suffering physically through deprivation and hunger and all those things. You certainly don't want to be that poor. Nor do you want to be so rich that you're always worried and have all sorts of worries. So there's a balance that's good to have.

(Could you elaborate on the comment that all snakes are angry?)

The more extensive explanation there is not that the snakes are necessarily angry, but that the possession of an unfortunate form is the result of the lack of patience. A snake is considered, if you look at the various animals and inhabitants in the world, not to be very fortunate. If nothing else, when people or other animals look at the snake, some people get upset and feel aversion for it and things like that. They do bad things to it.

Just to add to your question about whether you'd want to be wealthy or poor in the next life, the priority here is the accomplishment of the Dharma, of the path to liberation and supreme bliss of enlightenment. On the other hand, you should be free of the burden of great concern over vast amounts of wealth and managing it and things like that, because that totally distracts you from Dharma. It makes Dharma practice impossible. It even makes Dharma practice undesirable because you're so concerned with all these other considerations that Dharma practice is just not relevant in your life, if you're that involved with material things.

Being oppressed by property and worried about where your next meal will come from or where you're going to sleep that night, is unsuitable for Dharma practice. You have to take care of yourself. You have to be established enough in the world that you have something to eat, something to wear and somewhere to stay. But the pattern of acquisition that characterizes so many who are wealthy is one that is unfortunate also. It turns the mind so much away from Dharma in its consideration that it is hard for such people to be interested in Dharma. Their concern, twenty-four hours a day is in the acquisition and maintenance of great wealth. It becomes totally at odds with effective Dharma practice when it reaches those dimensions, so you need a balance.

(What is the first ground you attain direct perception of emptiness or ultimate reality, and that takes place at the point of attaining the third of the five paths, called the Darshana Marga or path of seeing? What is the difference between that and the arhat, the one who attains arhatship, which means the one who has completed the five paths?)

First of all there is a big difference between the arhat on the Hinayana path and the arhat on the Mahayana. Arhat means the person who has completed the five paths. The five paths of the Mahayana lead to Buddhahood. On the Hinayana they lead to Nirvana. So there is a big difference here. In the Hinayana path, what you directly perceive is the selflessness of persons, only, when you attain that direct insight into reality. In the Mahayana, it is the direct perception of the emptiness or the selflessness not only of persons, but of phenomena. So there is a big difference in what is being realized at the point of the third of the five paths. But then what happens from there on, you have the ten grounds that are unique to the Mahayana. So the ten bodhisattva bhumis, or grounds, start with that first direct insight or direct vision, direct experience of emptiness, which is the attainment of the third of the five paths, the darshana marga. From there on, the bodhisattva proceeds through the ten grounds. With each one, what he or she is able to realize becomes greater and greater. Specifically, the ability to benefit living beings increases sort of exponentially as one goes up through those ten paths because one's understanding, one's realization, one's powers increase as one goes up. So that first direct perception of emptiness on the first bodhisattva ground, that's like the first glimpse of reality, seeing things as they actually are. It's the first glimpse of perceiving emptiness and from then on, although at that point one is no longer fooled by the illusions of the world, they have not overcome them yet. They still arise to the perception and they still have to fully integrate that experience over the next nine levels of the path.

So there are specific things that you're able to perceive at each of the bodhisattva bhumis. For instance, at the first level you are able to perceive directly, visit, and meet face to face with one hundred Buddhas. So this is where you have the exponential development of a hundred Buddhas on the first bodhisattva bhumi and the second it is thousands and on up to incalculable numbers. So the powers and realizations of the bodhisattva go up tremendously and with it the ability to benefit human beings.

(Can you elaborate on the differences between the Mahayana and Hinayana paths?)

(Translator) No, only Mahayana. No, no, no. The ten paths are only for the Mahayana. In the Hinayana there is no need for that. You become an arhat and attain Nirvana, in the Hinayana. You have the same paths on the Mahayana and the Hinayana, the same names, accumulation, preparation, seeing, meditation and no more learning. They are called the same things; the content is very different, because the goal is different.

(Can you comment on the similarities between Buddhism and Hinduism?)

There is so much that is in common there, in the cosmology. It's the same Indra, the same heavens, the same Heaven of the Thirty-Three (that's the abode of Indra).

Traditional End to Teachings


Dedication of Merit

By this merit may all attain omniscience.
May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing.
From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death,
From the ocean of samsara, may I free all beings.


Longevity Prayer

Langro the translator, cared for by Padma, has manifested in this
Unhindered manner in the perceptions of beings to be tamed;
O Excellent Padma Yurmed Tinly Odzer, may the presence of your form
Remain stable, accomplishing benefit for the teachings and for beings!


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