The Six Paramitas
by Gelek Rimpoche
Just taking refuge alone is not enough. It is like saying, ‘Ha, I want to be good, good, good’ and you don’t do anything, and then when you do something bad, you feel bad. It’s not like that. So what do you do? You do something good. Generosity is one of them; morality is another one; patience is another one; enthusiasm is another one; meditation is another one and the last one is wisdom. These are called the six paramitas or the six perfections. Sometimes, you find there are ten perfections; which means these six and four more on top. Basically, these perfections are meant to change the individual, to change the individual habitual way of functioning. If we look into our characteristics, our usual thinking, we have a problem of sharing things with people, because we want everything to be mine. We talked last night about ‘me’ and ‘my,’ our superiority and all these type of things that give problems. In order to overcome that you practice generosity.
Generosity itself also has generosity of generosity, morality of generosity, generosity of patience, generosity of enthusiasm, generosity of meditation and generosity of wisdom. All six paramitas work that way. Sharing itself is generosity of generosity. It doesn’t have to be money or wealth only; giving dharma or giving guidance is generosity, giving protection is generosity, protecting an animal, protecting the environment, protecting sick people, all these are generosity of generosity.
Doing it constantly without getting corrupted is the morality of generosity. The moment it gets corrupted, you lose the morality of generosity. That gives you an idea what we talk about when we talk about morality. We may not be talking here about morality the way it has been emphasised in the Judeo-Christian tradition; when we talk about morality here it means honesty, straightforwardness, keeping your own commitments honouring your vows. I am talking now about morality on the basis of generosity.
When you are giving protection constantly and you constantly try to help, you will be having patience. Taking care of someone very patiently, is patience of generosity. We do have difficulties with that, everybody does. When people who have been generous on something, and have to go on constantly doing that, they get fed up. And people who are working for the benefit of others, like in organisations like this, get tired and lose their patience. Whatever the reason might be; it is lack of patience of generosity.
Enthusiasm of generosity. Losing enthusiasm is almost the same as losing patience. Losing enthusiasm is, ‘Well, I got to do it, but I may not do it, maybe I let it go, maybe I’ll do it tomorrow,’ and that tomorrow never comes. The laziness that takes over is weakening the generosity of whatever you do, whether sharing time, or giving guidance, or working for. That is lack of enthusiasm of generosity.
Meditation of generosity is thinking about it, planning, working, making sure it will benefit best, thinking what you can do best. It is concentration.
And the wisdom of generosity, one part on the basis of self, and the other part on the basis of others. On the self part of it, you analyse: what is the reality of generosity? What are the aspects of generosity? What is the result of generosity? How will it benefit others, and how will it benefit me? This is the wisdom of generosity, or the generosity of wisdom of looking into yourself. And the wisdom of generosity of looking towards others is: is this particular generosity going to be suitable for this particular person, or not? For example, what is the generosity of a chocolate to a diabetic? Or, whiskey to an alcoholic. You see, even though you committed yourself to be very generous and sharing, you have to say, ‘no,’ in certain areas. That is how the wisdom of generosity works.
Basically, these six perfections make every single damned thing you do, perfect. If you do those sort of things, what happens? Our habitual way of working will change. Our basic habitual way is negative, actually. We do it because we are so used to it; it is like an addiction. An addicted drug-user has to have his drugs, he can’t live without. An addicted alcoholic has to have alcohol, otherwise he’ll shake; addicted coffee-drinkers have to have coffee, otherwise they can’t wake up, get a headache. We do have these negative patterns; it’s nothing bad, it is the way it is. When you put in a little discipline, and you work with these six different frameworks, it will make a change to every functioning in your daily life.
You need to know one thing: you can not leave the six perfections over-there somewhere and say, ‘Oh yes, this is generosity, that’s morality, that’s patience, that’s enthusiasm, that’s meditation, that’s wisdom.’ If that is there, and I am here, there is a big gap. It is a problem, it doesn’t affect me, it is almost like visiting a museum. If you take these perfections, don’t leave them in the museum, put them into your own life. How does it affect me? Then, it becomes a living tradition, it will work and make a difference to you.