The Paramitas

Dana   Sila   Ksanti   Virya   Dhyana   Prajna

When the Lord saw that the whole universe with the world of the gods, the world of Mara and the world of Brahma with its sramanas and brahmanas had assembled, and also the Bodhisattvas who would one day reach the state of a Buddha, he said to the Ven. Sariputra: A Bodhisattva, a great being, who wants to fully know all dharmas in all their aspects should be diligent in the perfection of wisdom (prajna paramita).

Sariputra – How then should he be diligent in the perfection of wisdom?

The Lord – Here, Sariputra, a Bodhisattva, a great being, having stood in the perfection of wisdom by not standing in it,* should perfect the perfection of giving by seeing that no giving has taken place, since gift, giver, and recipient cannot be seized. He should perfect himself in the perfection of morality by not falling into either transgression or [pride because of his] non-transgression. He should perfect the perfection of patience and remain imperturbable. He should perfect the perfection of vigour and remain indefatigable in his physical and mental vigour. He should perfect the perfection of meditation and derive no enjoyment from it. He should perfect the perfection of wisdom, neither grasping for wisdom nor ignorance.** Maha Prajnaparamita Sutra (Conze, p. 45)

*Not standing in the prajna paramita: in reality there is no self that can stand anywhere.
**I.e. Do not become attached to the idea of a self who attains wisdom; at the same time, ignorance is not real because beings are not real. – Editor

Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Dana Paramita: Ideal Charity


The practice of being in accord with the Dharma is this: the Way, which we [Hindus] call the Dharma, in its essence is pure, and this Dharma is the principle of emptiness in all that is manifested. In it there are no defilements and attachments, no self or not-self. Says the Sutra: In the Dharma there are no sentient beings because it is free from the impurity of being; in the Dharma there is no self because it is free from the impurity of selfhood. When the wise understand this truth and believe in it, their lives will be in accord with the Dharma.

As there is in the essence of the Dharma no desire to possess, the wise are ever ready to practise charity with their body, life, and property, without begrudging or regret. As they understand perfectly the emptiness of the threefold blessing (giver, gift, recipient), they have no partiality or attachment. Only because of their will to cleanse all beings of their impurities do they come among them as of them, but they are not attached to form. Thus through their own practice they benefit others and glorify the truth of enlightenment. As with the perfection of charity, so with the other five perfections. The wise practise the six perfections in order to rid themselves of confused thoughts, and yet there is no consciousness on their part that they are engaged in any meritorious deeds. This is what is meant by being in accord with the Dharma. (The Twofold Entrance)

Maha Prajnaparamita Sutra

Subhuti: How should a Bodhisattva, a great being, behave if he wants to go forth to the supreme enlightenment?

The Lord: Here the Bodhisattva who wants to know full enlightenment should behave towards beings with an even mind. Towards all beings he should produce an even mind, and he should not produce an uneven mind. He should regard all beings with an even, and not an uneven mind. Towards all beings he should produce the great friendliness and the great compassion. He should treat all beings with a friendly thought, with the thought of great compassion. He should towards all beings produce a thought which has slain pride and he should be honest towards all of them.

He should produce towards all beings a thought of benefit and not of non-benefit; he should regard them with a thought of benefit and not of non-benefit. Towards all beings he should produce a thought free from aversion, and he should regard them with a thought free from aversion. Towards all beings he should produce a thought of non-harming, and he should regard them with a thought of non-harming.

He should treat all beings as if they were his mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter, his friends, relatives, or kinsmen. It is thus that a Bodhisattva should behave if he wants to go forth to the supreme enlightenment. – Maha Prajnaparamita Sutra (Conze p. 385)

The Diamond Sutra

“Moreover, Subhuti, a Bodhisattva who gives of himself is not to dwell on anything, nor is he to dwell anywhere. When he gives of himself he is not to dwell on that which is seen, nor on that which is heard, smelled, tasted, felt, or thought. For, Subhuti, the Bodhisattva, the great being, is to give of himself in such a way that he does not dwell on the slightest difference between things. And why? Because the accumulation of merit of that Bodhisattva who gives of himself without dwelling anywhere is difficult to measure.”

“What do you think, Subhuti, is it easy to take the measure of space in the east?”
Subhuti said: “Indeed not, Lord.”
The Lord said: “Likewise, is it easy to take the measure of space in the south, west, north, below, above—in all of the ten directions?”
Subhuti said: “Indeed not, Lord.”
The Lord said: “In the same way it is difficult to measure the accumulation of merit of that Bodhisattva who gives of himself without dwelling on anything. That is why those who have set out in the Bodhisattva path are to give of themselves without dwelling on any knowledge of a characteristic.” (Diamond Sutra)

Comment of Dhyana Master Hsuan Hua (1974)

To have no dwelling is to have no attachment. No attachment is liberation. Therefore, not dwelling, one is liberated, independent, and not blocked or obstructed by anything. Moreover, a Bodhisattva should not dwell anywhere when he practices giving. In other words he should not be attached when he gives. If he is able to free himself from attachment, he has understood that the essence of the threefold blessing (cakka), composed of one who gives, one who receives and that which is given, is empty. If your act of giving carries with it the thought, “I practice giving and have done many meritorious and virtuous deeds,” or if you are aware of the recipient or of the goods given, then you have not abandoned the characteristic of giving. You should give and be as if you had not given.


Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you freely. (Matthew 6: 1-3 NKJV)

Sila Paramita: Ideal Conduct

Confucius: (From Wing-Tsit Chan)

1:2. Yu Tzu said, “Few of those who are filial sons and respectful brothers will show disrespect to superiors, and there has never been a man who is unfailingly respectful to superiors and yet creates disorder. A superior man is devoted to the fundamentals (the root). When the root is firmly established, the moral law (Tao) will grow. Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity (jen).”

1:3. Confucius said, “A man with clever words and an ingratiating appearance is seldom a man of humanity.”

1:4. Tseng-Tzu said, “Every day I examine myself on three points: whether in counseling others I have not been loyal; whether in intercourse with my friends I have not been faithful; and whether I have not repeated again and again and practiced the instructions of my teacher.”

1:6. Young men should be filial when at home and respectful to their elders when away from home. They should be earnest and faithful. They should love all to the utmost and be intimate with men of humanity. When they have any energy to spare after the performance of moral duties, they should use it to study literature and the arts (wen).

1:8. Confucius said, “If the superior man is not grave, he will not inspire awe, and his learning will not be on a firm foundation. Hold loyalty and faithfulness to be fundamental. Have no friends who are not as good as yourself. When you yourself have made mistakes, don’t be afraid to correct them.”

1:12. Yu Tzu said, “Among the functions of propriety (li) the most valuable is that it establishes harmony. The excellence of the ways of  ancient kings consists of this. It is the guiding principle of all things great and small. If things go amiss, and you, understanding harmony, try to achieve it without regulating it by the rules of propriety, they will still go amiss.”

1:14. Confucius said, “The superior man does not seek fulfillment of  his appetite nor comfort in his lodging. He is diligent in his duties andcareful in his speech. He associates with men of moral principles andthereby realizes himself. Such a person may be said to love learning.”

1:15. Tzu-kung said, “What do you think of a man who is poor and yet does not flatter, and the rich man who is not proud?”

Confucius replied, “They will do. But they are not as good as the poor man who is happy and the rich man who loves the rules of propriety (li).”

Tzu-kung said, “The Book of Odes says: As a thing is cut and filed, As a thing is carved and polished. . . . Does that not mean what you have just said?”

Confucius said, “Ah, Tz’u! Now I can begin to talk about the odes with you. When I have told you the beginnning, you know what is to follow.”

1:16. Confucius said, “[A good man] does not worry about not being known by others but rather worries about not knowing them.” [Editor’s comment: to know others means to clearly perceive both the “robe” that they are wearing, whether it be good or evil, and their original nature, which is always pure. It is a mistake to expect inferior people to behave as if they are superior.]

Maha Prajnaparamita Sutra 

The Bodhisattva should become one who abstains from taking life, and also he should encourage others to abstain from taking life; he should speak in praise of not taking life, and he should praise also those other people who abstain from taking life as obedient ones. It is thus that a Bodhisattva should stand if he wants to go forth to the supreme enlightenment. And what is said of abstaining from taking life applies also to taking what is not given to you, to sexual misconduct, to false speech, harsh speech, malicious speech, senseless prattling, covetousness, ill will and wrong views. (Conze, p. 386)

Kshanti Paramita: Ideal Patience (Kṣānti)

  1. patience towards beings (sattvakṣanti)
  2. patience towards events (dharmakṣanti)

Awakening of Faith Sutra (Goddard, 1932)

If disciples meet with the ills of life they should not shun them. If they suffer painful experiences, they should not feel afflicted or treated unjustly, but should always rejoice in remembering and contemplating the deep significance of the Dharma.

Jacob, brother and foremost disciple of Yeshua:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2, New King James)

The Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra

Furthermore, a Bodhisattva stands firm in the perfection of patience. He instigates, exhorts, introduces beings to patience, in the following way: Upon taking the vow of enlightenment he puts on the armour thus: “If all beings were to hit me with sticks, clods, fists, or swords, not even one single thought of anger should arise in me; and also should I introduce all beings to such patience!”

It is as if a clever magician or magician’s apprentice had conjured up a great crowd of people: if they all hit him with sticks, clods, fists, or swords, he would bear towards them not even a single thought of anger; and if he were to introduce these magically created beings to such patience, no being at all would have been introduced to it, however many he had introduced to it. The same is true of the Bodhisattva. And why? For such is the true nature of things that in fact they are illusory. (Conze, 1975, p. 139)


The sage has patience with things and is impatient with himself, and with him there is no grasping and rejecting, disliking or liking. The stupid one has patience with himself and is impatient with things, and with him there is grasping and rejecting, disliking and liking. If you can empty your mind, be unhurried and free and completely forget the world, this is having patience with things and going along with events, which is easy. Opposing, resisting and changing things is difficult. If something wills to come, let it come and do not resist it; if it wills to depart, let it go and do not chase after it. Whatever you have done is past and not to be regretted. That which has not yet happened, let go of it and do not think of it. This is to be a practitioner of the Way. Having patience, one leaves the world to its own devices, and gain and loss do not arise from the self. If you have patience and do not oppose what comes, if you let go and do not resist what departs, where and when will you not roam in the beyond? (Bodhidharma’s Method for Quieting the Mind)

Meister Eckhart

Sickness or poverty, hunger or thirst—whatever God sends you or does not send you, what He grants you or withholds, that is best for you. Even should you lack spiritual fervour and inwardness—whatever you have or lack, be minded to honour God in all things, and then whatever He sends you will be the best. Be assured, if it were not God’s will it would not be. You have neither sickness nor anything else unless God wills it. And so, knowing it is God’s will, you should rejoice in it and be so content that pain would be no pain to you.  (Sermon Forty)


You have heard that it has been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;
But I say unto you, resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue you at the law and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two.
Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not away. (Matthew 5: 38)

Dhyana Paramita: Ideal Meditation

The Lord Buddha said:

Not by means of visible form,
Not by audible sound,
Is Buddha to be perceived;
Only in the solitude and purity of Dhyana
Is one to realise the blessedness of Buddha.


Even though thoughts have entered delusion, do not counter them with thoughts of non-delusion. Instead, when a thought arises, rely on the doctrine to gaze at the place from which it arises. If the mind discriminates (judges), rely on the doctrine to gaze at the place from which discrimination arises. Whether it is greed, anger or delusion that arises, rely on the doctrine to gaze at the place from which it arises. To see that there is no place from which they can arise is to cultivate the Way. If there is arising of the mind, then investigate it, and relying on the doctrine, resolve it! (Bodhidharma’s Method for Quieting the Mind)


When practicing with the satipatthana, it is important to remember that our task is just to contemplate these things. In mindfulness practice we observe; attachment and aversion will go away if we bring them up into awareness. We observe our judgments of good and bad, right and wrong and let go of them. Judgment only leads to suffering. The objective is to observe with equanimity and detachment. (The Four Foundations of Mindfulness)


The Buddha said, “If a monk should form a wish as follows: “Let me exercise the various magical powers; let me being one become multiform, let me being multiform become one; let me become visible and become invisible; let me pass unhindered through walls, ramparts or mountains as if through air; let me rise and sink in the ground as if in the water; let me walk on the water as if on unyielding ground; let me travel cross-legged through the air like a winged bird; let me touch and caress with my hand the moon and the sun, mighty and powerful though they are; and let me go without my body even up to the Brahma-world”—then he must he be perfect in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Dhyana), attain to insight (Prajna), and be one who frequents lonely places.” (China Buddhism Encyclopedia)

Analayo (2004). Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization. Cambridge, UK: Windhorse Publications.

The Buddhist Text Translation Society (1974). The Diamond Sutra: A General Explanation of the Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra. San Francisco: Sino-American Buddhist Association, Inc. (Diamond-Sutra-BTTS)

China Buddhism Encyclopedia:

Conze, Edward. (1975). Buddhist Wisdom Books : Containing the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. 2nd Ed. London : George Allen & Unwin. First Ed. 1957. (Diamond-Sutra-Conze)

Conze, Edward (1975). The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom. University of California Press. (download)

Goddard, Dwight (1932). A Buddhist Bible (First Edition). (

Suzuki, D. T. (1949). Essays in Zen Buddhism (First Series). New York: Grove Press.

Wing-Tsit Chan (1963). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

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