Red Pine on “The Six Paramitas ”


Red Pine on “The Six Paramitas ”

….Concerning the first paramita of generosity, Bodhidharma once told his disciples, “Since what is real includes nothing worth begrudging, practitioners give their body, life, and property in charity, without regret, without the vanity of giver, gift, or recipient, and without bias or attachment. And to eliminate impurity, they teach others, but without becoming attached t form” (Red Pine trans., The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, p.7). Thus, since the practice of the paramita of generosity is based on an insight as to what is real, early Mahayana practitioners focused on wisdom as the key that makes the other paramitas effective. Wisdom is often described as the center of a five-petalled flower from which the fruit of buddhahood grows. In the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, the Buddha tells Ananda, “The paramita of wisdom incorporates the other five paramita by means of practices that are based on all-embracing knowledge. Thus does the paramita of wisdom include the other five paramitas. The ‘paramita of wisdom; is simply a synonym for the fruition of all six paramitas”

Taken together, the paramitas are also likened to a boat that takes us across the sea of suffering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The paramita of generosity, according to this analogy, is the wood, light enough to float but not so light that it floats away. Thus bodhisattvas practice giving and renunciation but not so much that they have nothing left with which to work.

The paramita of morality is the keel, deep enough to hold the boat upright but not so deep that it drags the shoals or holds it back. Thus the bodhisattva observes the precepts but no so many that they have no freedom of choice.

The paramita of forbearance is the hull, wide enough to hold a deck but not so wide that it can’t cut through waves. Thus the bodhisattvas don’t confront what opposes them but find the place of least resistance.

The paramita of vigor is the mast, high enough to hold a sail but not so high that it tips the boat over. Thus the bodhisattvas work hard but not so hard that they don’t stop for tea.

The paramita of meditation is the sail, flat enough to catch the wind of karma but not so flat that it holds no breeze or rips apart in a gale. Thus the bodhisattvas still the mind but not so much that it withers and dies.

And the paramita of wisdom is the helm, ingenious enough to give the boat direction but not so ingenious that it leads in circles. Thus the bodhisattvas who practice the paramitas embark on the greatest of all voyages to the far shore of liberation.

 

 

Excerpt taken from the book  “The Heart Sutra” A Translation and Commentary by Red Pine

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