Paramis or Perfections

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Paramis or Perfections

Postby cooran » Tue Dec 01, 2009 9:22 am

Hello all,

Are the 10 Paramis or Perfections clearly mentioned in the Suttas ...
particularly where the Bodhisatta laboriously cultivated them over many lifetimes - or is it only in later teachings - or The Jatakas?

References would be appreciated.

metta
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:04 am

Hello Chris

I'm no expert on this, but I'll try to poke around in the canon (ie. do some quick digital searches for "parami"), and see if I land any fish. :)
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:13 am

The Apadanas, Buddhavamsa, Cariyapitaka and Milindapanha have a few entries.
Some include "ten perfections".
Of course, there are some differences of opinion as to whether these are "canonical" or not.
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:14 am

Greetings Chris,

From venerable Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary...

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Buddh ... dic3_p.htm

paramí = páramitá: 'perfection'. Ten qualities leading to Buddhahood: (1) perfection in giving (or liberality; dána-páramí), (2) morality (síla-p.), (3) renunciation (nekkhamma-p.), (4) wisdom (paññá-p.), (5) energy (viriya-p.), (6) patience (or forbearance; khanti p.), (7) truthfulness (sacca-p.), (8) resolution (adhitthána-p.), (9) loving-kindness (mettá-p.) (10) equanimity (upekkhá-p.).

These qualities were developed and brought to maturity by the Bodhisatta in his past existences, and his way of practising them is illustrated in many of the Birth Stories (Játaka), of which, however, only the verses are regarded as canonical. Apart from the latter, the 10 páramí are mentioned in only two other canonical works which are probably apocryphal, the Buddhavamsa (in the Story of Sumedha) and the Cariyapitaka. A long and methodical exposition of the páramí is given in the concluding Miscellaneous Section (pakinnakakathá) of the Com. to Cariyapitaka

In Vis.M. IX it is said that through developing the 4 sublime states (loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, equanimity; s. brahma-vihára), one may reach these 10 perfections, namely:

"As the Great Beings (mahá-satta; a synonym often found in the Maháyana scriptures for Bodhisatta (q.v.), i.e. 'Enlightenment Being or Being destined for Buddhahood) are concerned about the welfare of living beings, not tolerating the suffering of beings, wishing long duration to the higher states of happiness of beings, and being impartial and just to all beings, therefore (1) they give alms (dána, q.v.) to all beings so that they may be happy, without Investigating whether they are worthy or not. (2) By avoiding to do them any harm, they observe morality (síla q.v.). (3) In order to bring morality to perfection, they train themselves in renunciation (nekkhamma). (4) In order to understand clearly what is beneficial and injurious to beings, they purify their wisdom (paññá). (5) For the sake of the welfare and happiness of others they constantly exert their energy (viriya). (6) Though having become heroes through utmost energy, they are nevertheless full of forbearance (khanti) toward s the manifold failings of beings . (7) Once they have promised to give or do something, they do not break their promise ('truthfulness'; sacca). (8) With unshakable resolution (adhitthána) they work for the weal and welfare of beings. (9) With unshakable kindness (mettá) they are helpful to all. (10) By reason of their equanimity (upekkhá) they do not expect anything in return" (Vis.M. IX. 24).

In the Maháyana scriptures, where the páramí occupy a much more prominent place, a partly differing list of six is given: liberality, morality, patience, energy, meditation. and wisdom.

Literature: Ten Jataka Stories (illustrating the 10 páramí), by I. B. Horner (London 1957, Luzac & Co.); Buddhavamsa & Cariyapitaka. tr. by I. B. Horner (Minor Anthologies III, Sacred Books of the Buddhists. PTS). - Narada Thera, The Buddha & His Teachings, Ch. 41; Parami (BPS) - The treatise on the perfections from the Com. to Cariyapitaka has been translated in The Discourse on the All-Embracing Net of Views (Brahmajala Sutta, with Com.). tr. by Bhikkhu Bodhi (BPS) .


Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:17 am

Chris wrote:Are the 10 Paramis or Perfections clearly mentioned in the Suttas ...
Not in the suttas that I have ever seen. As Ven Paññāsikhara pointed out, it is in the later Apadanas, Buddhavamsa, and Cariyapitaka, texts that reflect a post-mortem "Buddha-ology."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby cooran » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:35 am

Hello all,

This is quite interesting because it is the stories of the development of the Paramis in Theravada literature which creates the perception that the enlightenment of Siddattha Gotama was the culmination of an inexpressibly long and arduous journey over aeons and aeons. Interesting that teachings about this doesn't seem to appear in the Suttas ....

metta
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:04 am

Chris wrote: Interesting that teachings about this doesn't seem to appear in the Suttas ....

And neither does the name Siddattha, which seems to part of the "biography" that arose post-mortem.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:32 am

PTS Dict: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... 2:102.pali

Pāramitā
Pāramitā (f.) [pāramī+tā]=pāramī Nett 87.

Pāramī
Pāramī (f.) [abstr. fr. parama, cp. BSk. mantrāṇāŋ pāra- miŋ gata Divy 637] completeness, perfection, highest state Sn 1018, 1020; Pug 70; DhA i.5; VvA 2 (sāvakañāṇa˚); PvA 139; Sdhp 328. In later literature there is mentioned a group of 10 perfections (dasa pāramiyo) as the perfect exercise of the 10 principal virtues by a Bodhisatta, viz. dāna˚, sīla˚, nekkhamma˚, paññā˚, viriya˚, khanti˚, sacca˚, adhiṭṭhāna˚, mettā˚, upekhā˚ J i.73; DhA i.84.
-- ppatta (pārami˚) having attained perfection M iii.28; Nd2 435; Miln 21 22; cp. Miln trsl. i.34.

And speaking of things that only appear in later-ish literature, how about this favorite:

http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... 1:634.pali
...
The 3 properties (tilakkhaṇaŋ) of existing things or of the phenomenal world are anicca, dukkha, anatta, or impermanence, suffering, unreality: thus at J i.48 (dhamma -- desanā ti -- l -- ˚muttā), 275; iii.377 (through contemplating them arises vipassanā & pacceka -- bodhi -- ñāṇa).
...

Which many like to cite as a sort of be-all-and-end-all of what is, or is not, Dhamma.
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:37 pm

Greetings bhante,

Paññāsikhara wrote:And speaking of things that only appear in later-ish literature, how about this favorite:
....
Which many like to cite as a sort of be-all-and-end-all of what is, or is not, Dhamma.


Yes, it certainly is interesting. Thankfully though, neither list introduces anything new which was not already found within the early-ish literature.

The anatta, anicca and dukkha triad are frequently listed together in the suttas, but were not given the collective name of tilakkhaṇaŋ until later. Thankfully the application of this over-arching term has not (as far as I have discerned) led to any distortion of meaning and significance of the original terms. Alas, the above quotation from the Visuddhimagga shows the same principle does not hold true for the paramis.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:49 pm

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: The anatta, anicca and dukkha triad are frequently listed together in the suttas, but were not given the collective name of tilakkhaṇaŋ until later. Thankfully the application of this over-arching term has not (as far as I have discerned) led to any distortion of meaning and significance of the original terms.Alas, the above quotation from the Visuddhimagga shows the same principle does not true for the paramis.

I'm confused. Why "alas"? Is there something in that list that great beings do not aspire to?

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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:04 pm

Greetings Mike,

It's just more of what Tilt termed "post-mortem Buddha-ology".

If you look at a text like "The Life of the Buddha, The According to the Pali Canon" translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli (published by BPS) you come to see how much of what we would generally assume to be related to the life of the Buddha comes from later sources. Even the pinning of the classic story of the Bodhisatta seeing the sick man, the old man, the dead man and so on onto the Buddha, is not to be found in the Pali Canon. Now, that example of the "sights" is a relatively harmless one, because it doesn't really distort anyone's interpretation of the Buddha, what he was about, and what he taught.

Much of this "Post-mortem Buddha-ology" however introduces many things that are at odds with the Sutta Pitaka (take the "Dhamma" contained within the Jataka Tales for instance) and are also at odds with what he taught his dispensation to strive for (take the bodhisattva ideal for instance). Some is also so implausible and frankly absurd, that it eventually turns the Buddha into some kind of magical god, and in turn, creates the perception of an infinite divide between what a Buddha can achieve versus what a Buddhist can achieve. These little things may seem inoccuous in and of themselves, but they form the foundation of myriad "traditions" that exist now, and in turn, lay the framework for increasingly divergent interpretations of the Dhamma. To think that even the Theravada tradition is somehow immune to these divergences is a commonly made mistake.

Hence "alas". ;)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:14 pm

Hi Retro,

What you say about "what we would generally assume to be related to the life of the Buddha" may be true but I don't see it as relevant to my question. Can you explain specifically where the list in the Visuddhimagga departs from the Buddha's teachings?

[By the way, the passage is Visuddhimagga IX, 124, (not 24), at the very end of the chapter on the Brahmaviharas - there seems to be a misprint in the quotation.]

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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:54 pm

Greetings Mike,

Take dána-páramí for example...

Dána... it's in the suttas, praised, explained regularly etc. No one would object to that.

When presented as dána-páramí it takes on a different perspective. Why?

Well for one, it infers that to be a truly Great Being (maha-satta) one must first...

Vism wrote:(1) they give alms (dána, q.v.) to all beings so that they may be happy, without Investigating whether they are worthy or not.


Now, the Buddha regularly praised life as a monk vis-a-vis the life of a householder, but this first parami as explained in the Visuddhimagga cannot be practiced by a bhikkhu (as a bhikkhu receives, rather than dispenses alms) and thus as a "path of purification" accords more with the Mahayana view of a higher goal with a longer path, involving a training period as a householder. Did the Buddha teach like that?

So essentially it's taken something simple, basic and praiseworthy like dana... and turned it into something which, taken to the extreme, can end up looking like this...

viewtopic.php?f=24&t=2742&p=41178#p41174

I'm all for people believing what they want, and for them to take whatever textual sources they like as valuable in their practice, but I think it's also very important to be able to work out exactly where a particular notion has come from, and in turn, how likely it is to be representative of what the Buddha actually wanted to teach us. In other words, does it muddy, or clarify the waters? In my mind, the notion of páramís in Theravada Buddhism muddies the waters for the reasons I've stated in this topic. If the waters hadn't been muddied, I doubt Chris would have needed to ask her questions.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 02, 2009 12:49 am

Hi Retro,

I don't really think that it is relevant how some might misinterpret or overexpand things when analysing the classical Tipitika and Commentaries. I don't see anything in the passage itself (at least as I read it in Ven Nanamoli's version) that contradicts the Canon.

The passage in question is discussing the usefulness of the Brahmaviharas:
Vism IX, 124 ... for the Great Beings' minds retain their balance by giving preference to beings' welfare, by dislike of beings' suffering, by desire for the various successes achieved by beings to last, and by impartiality towards all beings. [This, of course, is a summary of the four Brahmaviharas] And to all beings they give gifts, which are a source of pleasure, without discriminating thus: 'It must be given to this one; it must not be given to this one'. ...

I don't understand why you claim that bhikkhus cannot practise this. It's certainly what my teachers practise and encourage me to practise. I have often received gifts from bhikkhus (both Dhamma and physical things such as food and other requisites that others have given to them), and they clearly give to each other.

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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:50 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:I don't really think that it is relevant how some might misinterpret or overexpand things when analysing the classical Tipitika and Commentaries. I don't see anything in the passage itself (at least as I read it in Ven Nanamoli's version) that contradicts the Canon.


The problem is the general problem of designating a separate path for the achievement of a different more lofty goal.

The commentaries say things in relation to the paramitas like...

How much time is required to accomplish them?

As a minimum, four incalculables (asa"nkheyya) and a hundred thousand great aeons (mahaakappa); as a middle figure, eight incalculables and a hundred thousand great aeons; and as a maximum, sixteen incalculables and a hundred thousand great aeons.


Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el409.html

But where did the Buddha ever teach like this? Is there a single example in the Pali Canon where he recommended that a bhikkhu should embark on such an epically long spiritual journey, or does he instead encourage them to attain arahantship, as quickly as possible? And if it really is going to take that long... bang, instantly one has virtually cut off the possibility of attaining aryan nobility in this lifetime. Would the Buddha endorse this?

If people follow this "vehicle to great enlightenment" (mahaabodhiyaana) that has been concocted by the commentarial tradition, how is this not a deviation from the teachings of the Buddha, as recorded in suttas?

As Bhikkhu Bodhi states (same source)...

it was not recommended in the oldest authentic records of the Buddha's teaching...

...As time passed, however, perhaps partly through the influence of the Mahaayaana, the bodhisattva ideal must have come to acquire an increasing appeal for the minds of the Buddhist populace, and the need became felt for a work explaining in a practical manner the factors and phases of the paaramitaa path without deviating from the established doctrinal position of the Theravaada. Works expounding the bodhisattva career abounded in the Mahaayaana schools, since this was their axial concern, but a comparable work was lacking in Theravaada circles. To meet this need, apparently, AAcariya Dhammapaala composed his "Treatise on the Paaramiis," which is found in at least two places in the Paali exegetical literature, in a complete version in the Cariyaapi.taka A.t.thakathaa, and in an abridged version in the .tiikaa or subcommentary to the Brahmajaala Sutta.


As I said, if people wish to proceed on this sort of spiritual path, they're more than welcome to... but to me it's far too incongruent with the suttas for me to consider. It's also precisely why "it is relevant how some might misinterpret or overexpand things when analysing the classical Tipitika and Commentaries"

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:53 am

I'm going to be lazy, and ask Retro to look it up, but are the comments above in the Vsm talking about sambuddha bodhisattas, or other types of bodhisattvas? (like paccekas or savakas?) I ask, because we must keep in mind that the (later at least) Theravada uses the term "bodhisatta" to talk about all types, not just those who seek samma sambuddhata. If it does include these others, then it is referring to all practitioners.
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:58 am

Greetings venerable,

I'll attempt to do so, but I don't have a copy with me at the moment (so if anyone wants to beat me to it, then by all means...)

In the meantime... (from the same source as my last post)

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:It should be noted that in established Theravaada tradition the paaramiis are not regarded as a discipline peculiar to candidates for Buddhahood alone but as practices which must be fulfilled by all aspirants to enlightenment and deliverance, whether as Buddhas, paccekabuddhas, or disciples. What distinguishes the supreme bodhisattva from aspirants in the other two vehicles is the degree to which the paaramiis must be cultivated and the length of time they must be pursued. But the qualities themselves are universal requisites for deliverance, which all must fulfill to at least a minimal degree to merit the fruits of the liberating path.


Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Dec 02, 2009 4:11 am

Well, there we go. I thought as much.

I still don't really see them as saying anything other than, or in contradiction to, the early suttas.

Perhaps the difference being, as "systemization" was the norm, rather than the direct "What you have to do right now" teachings that the Buddha gave to his disciples who were obviously mostly quite spiritually advanced persons, these slightly later teachings are saying "What one has to do as a whole", outlining a complete path from beginning to end, to be followed by anyone.

Any given person may be at any given point along that "whole path", from which a "what to do right now" teaching may be indicated.

A different style or form / genre, that direct comparison may confuse (asking if one lives up to the standard of the other, for instance).

Sorry, not a particularly coherent post, but hey, you get that sometimes! :P
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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 02, 2009 4:16 am

Hi Venerable,
Paññāsikhara wrote:I'm going to be lazy, and ask Retro to look it up, but are the comments above in the Vsm talking about sambuddha bodhisattas, or other types of bodhisattvas? (like paccekas or savakas?) I ask, because we must keep in mind that the (later at least) Theravada uses the term "bodhisatta" to talk about all types, not just those who seek samma sambuddhata. If it does include these others, then it is referring to all practitioners.

It's hard to tell by looking at the translation. I'll add the start of the verse:
Vism IX,124:
"When he has understood thus the special efficacy of each [Brahmavihara] resides respectively in 'Having beauty as the highest', etc, he should understand how they bring to perfection all the good states beginning with giving. For the Great Beings' minds retain their balance by giving preference to beings' welfare, by dislike of beings' suffering, by desire for the various successes achieved by beings to last, and by impartiality towards all beings. [This, of course, is a summary of the four Brahmaviharas] And to all beings they give gifts, which are a source of pleasure, without discriminating thus: 'It must be given to this one; it must not be given to this one'. ...

So it's not clear to me whether the "Great Beings" are Buddhas or Arahants, and it's not clear that this is an instruction to "follow some slow path", or whether is is just an instruction to just reflect that this is what a Buddha (or Arahant) has achieved and how that relates to these particular meditation practises.

I think it's interesting to consider to what extent those perfections are just a collecting together of advice from various parts of the Suttas, and to what extent they are an "alternative path". They certainly sound to me like sensible things to develop that are fully consistent with the Suttas. Whether one considers them part of a separate "Bodhisatta Path" is, for me, a different issue.

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Re: Paramis or Perfections

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 02, 2009 4:25 am

Hi Venerable,
Paññāsikhara wrote:Perhaps the difference being, as "systemization" was the norm, rather than the direct "What you have to do right now" teachings that the Buddha gave to his disciples who were obviously mostly quite spiritually advanced persons, these slightly later teachings are saying "What one has to do as a whole", outlining a complete path from beginning to end, to be followed by anyone.

I agree (I think). The Visuddhimagga has all kinds of advice, ranging from very mundane practical advice to very advanced doctrinal analysis. And, as you say, various systematizations. I look on it as the sort of advice one of my teachers might give me from time to time, except that they would just mention the bits that were appropriate for the occasion. They wouldn't just give me 1000-odd pages of instructions at once...

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