Perfections of a Bodhisattva

On the giving, character, going forth, insight, inner strength, pliability, sincerity, stabilisation, universal love and bliss.

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Perfections of a Bodhisattva

Perfections of a Bodhisattva

Introduction

The world as a whole and the overwhelming majority of the people in it are suffering nowadays from a deep sense of frustration. The first world-war 1914–18 was begun with some enthusiasm; it was thought to be a war to end all war. But within a few years it had proved a lost ideal to all. And when the second world-war became unavoidable in 1939, there was not even that shade of self-deception. Now that war too has ended, more than twenty-five years ago, and has been lost by all, leaving a tense of frustration hang over the world, heavier than ever before. Even the will for reconstruction is damped by the gloom and threat of an almost certain break-down once more, perhaps within our life-time.

Unless the rebuilding of society is undertaken in all its layers, to be placed upon a new foundation, it is bound to be mere patchwork. But the nations are not united in their isolated determination to see each one’s individual advantage. And hence, there is not much chance that the conflict of opposites will be solved in peace. Even if all causes which produced war will be temporarily shelved, the same wants and fears continue to dominate the economic, political, social and even the intellectual life of the world and its individuals. And so, all striving to bring about a lasting and satisfactory settlement will fail.

This continued sense of frustration has produced a moral and mental depression in which man becomes more and more inclined to let himself go like a machine, to become a slave to the exploiting organisation called the modern state. But then it is hoped by some, that by loosing one’s identity in the mass, fulfilment can be reached for all. Individual desires and fears, however, do not become lost in the mass, but only enlarged; and thus, the sense of frustration is ever increased.

It is against this that the youth of the world rebels. They are on the point of shaking off the burden of traditional conventions; the fetters of organisation, in the hope of finding fulfilment in freedom, without responsibility.

Perfection can of necessity not be attained in one single act. There is so much to be cleared away, so much to be understood, so much to build up, before mere existence can become true life. A way will have to be walked, a way of purification, not as a method of self-purification, but a way of surrender (dāna), a growth of character (sīla), a going forth in the real sense (nekkhamma). When progress is made on that purifying path, the illuminating truth-will begin to spread its light in deeper insight in nature (paññā), while with inner strength (viriya) and pliability of thought (khanti) that truth will reveal itself in utter sincerity (sacca).

Only then, the unifying life, stabilised (adhiṭṭhāna) and universalised in love (mettā), will give that bliss of equanimity (upekkhā) in fulfilment, for which the world has been hankering in vain.

It is an old doctrine, the ten perfections of a bodhisatta (dasa pāramitā), the doctrine of fulfilment in perfection. But, the way, truth and life do not know of time. They are eternal, because they are new every moment. That which is always new cannot crave for the future or cling to the past. And thus, in this eternally new present may be found the fulfilment and perfection which the world needs so much.

These are the ten perfections (dasa pāramitā), the virtues of morality which fill the life of a bodhisatta, till fulfilment in Buddhahood. It is the path of virtue, which is morality through understanding, rather than a code of precepts, which should be the light and life of everyone. Thus, we present here the essence of Buddhist morality as these ten perfections: the gift of self (liberality: dāna) growth of character (virtue: sīla), going forth (renunciation; nekkhamma), insight (wisdom: paññā), inner strength (energy: viriya), pliability (patience: khanti), sincerity (truth: sacca), stabilisation (determination: adhiṭṭhāna), universal love (loving kindness: mettā) and bliss (equanimity: upekkhā).

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