Paramita is a Sanskrit term and means “perfection.” It is translated into Tibetan as pha-rol-tu-phyin-pa, which literally means “gone to the other shore.” They are also known as the six transcendental actions as they offer a means to transcend the conventional concepts of virtue and non-virtue. The six practices are generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation and wisdom.
Let’s explore the first paramita. Fear is at the heart of being stingy. We are afraid, and so we hoard. Generosity challenges these fears. It has nothing to do with economic status, but is a state of mind.
Once a wealthy monarch invited the Buddha and his monks for a feast. Although the king had done a great deed, it was revealed that an old beggar woman standing at the gate had gained the most merit from the occasion. Rather than being jealous, she had been overjoyed that the king could serve the Buddha in this way. Among all gathered, she possessed the most generous heart.
All our lives we’ve employed attachment, aggression, arrogance and jealousy to maintain the walls of ego’s fortress. Yet, the structure has no more substance than a sand castle. Generosity provides a means to de-construct our self-obsession. As a result, we confidently dismiss the builders and let the walls crumble. Suddenly, it is as if we are on top of a mountain, with the deep blue sky and lush valleys meeting at the horizon. In this way we connect with our innate goodness of heart.
All the paramitas should be undertaken in this spirit. They are not moral injunctions, but practices aimed at undermining the illusion of a permanent and separate self. In this respect, the first four paramitas must be connected to meditation and wisdom. When we meditate, for example, we renounce worldly prejudices. Whatever arises, we allow it to pass. Generosity born from this practice is not moralistic, but spacious and all encompassing. Likewise, in order to develop a meditation practice we need the qualities of patience, discipline and enthusiasm.
Wisdom means insight into the interdependent and impermanent nature of self and other. Deprived of this view, the paramitas cannot lead to enlightenment, but merely operate on a mundane level. Wisdom infuses them with transcendental qualities.
His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche explains the six Paramitas in Tibetan and Sanskrit (Click the link below to read)