What Are the Six Transcendent Perfections?

In Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva practices the six paramitas, or transcendent perfections.

Lion’s Roar Staff16 November 2016
Illustration by Ray Fenwick

In Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva practices the six paramitas, or transcendent perfections. These are a path to enlightenment, the fruition of the bodhisattva way, and a means to benefit sentient beings. They are transcendent because the subject, object, and practice of the perfections are all free of self, which is known as the threefold purity.

1. Generosity (dana)

You give without expecting anything in return, the essence of nonattachment.

2. Discipline (sila)

You joyfully practice the dharma in everything you do.

3. Patience (ksanti)

You are free of aggression and maintain your equilibrium in the midst of samara’s confusion.

4. Exertion (virya)

You work hard because you delight in the path and appreciate virtue. Overcoming laziness, you never give up.

5. Meditation (dhyana)

Body and mind synchronized, you cut distraction and tame your mind with one-pointed mindfulness.

6. Wisdom (prajna)

You develop the “superior know-ledge” of both ultimate reality (shunyata, emptiness) and relative phenomena. As prajna cuts through mistaken beliefs about reality, compassion naturally arises.

You don’t have to be perfect to practice the perfections. Because each of the paramitas is the antidote to a particular obstacle—generosity overcomes stinginess, etc.—you can practice them now as the step-by-step path to your own bodhisattvahood.

Lion s Roar Staff

Lion’s Roar Staff

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