The Ten Paramitas

The term paramita has two etymologies. The first derives it from the word parama, meaning “highest,” “most distant,” and hence, “chief,” “primary,” “most excellent.” Hence, the substantive can be rendered “excellence” or “perfection.” Paramita also means “that which has gone beyond,” “that which goes beyond,” or “transcendent.” This reading is reflected in the Tibetan translation pha rol tu phyin pa (“gone to the other side”).

The paramitas are “transcendent action” in the sense that they are performed in a non-egocentric manner. The Wisdom Sutras, the Lotus Sutra, and the Sutra of the Ten Grounds, as well as a large number of other Mahayana texts, list the perfections: 

  1. dana paramita: generosity, giving of oneself
  2. shila paramita : virtue, morality, discipline, proper conduct
  3. kshanti paramita : patience, tolerance, forbearance, endurance
  4. virya paramita : effort, diligence, vigor
  5. dhyana paramita : one-pointed concentration, contemplation
  6. prajña paramita : discernment, insight
  7. upaya paramita: skillful means, method
  8. pranidhana paramita: vow, resolution, aspiration, determination
  9. bala paramita: spiritual power, confidence
  10.  jñana paramita: non-dual wisdom  

In the Paramitayana, these virtues are cultivated as a way of purifying karma and helping the aspirant to live an unobstructed life, in order to reach enlightenment. In the Vajrayana, these transcendent actions are performed strictly to benefit others, especially among those who ‘enter the Holy Path through the Pure Land portal’. 

On the path to perfect enlightenment, the Bodhisattva proceeds through ten distinct stages or grounds (bhumis), each of which is predominantly associated with one of the paramitas 

  1. Generosity: Very Joyous Ground (paramudita bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth
  2. Discipline: Stainless Ground (vimala bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva is free from all defilement
  3. Patience: Luminous Ground (prabhakari bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva radiates the light of wisdom
  4. Effort: Radiant Ground (archishmati bhumi), in which the radiant flame of wisdom burns away worldly desires
  5. Concentration: Difficult to Cultivate Ground (sudurjaya bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva surmounts the illusion of ignorance
  6. Discernment: Manifest Ground (abhimukhi bhumi) in which supreme wisdom begins to manifest
  7. Method: Gone Afar Ground (duramgama bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva rises above attachment to a specific vehicle or practice
  8. Power: Immovable Ground (achala bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva dwells firmly in the truth of the Great Middle Way and cannot be perturbed
  9. Aspiration: Wholesome Intelligence Ground (sadhumati bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva shares the Dharma freely and without restriction
  10. Wisdom: Cloud of Dharma Ground (dharmamegha bhumi), in which the Bodhisattva benefits all sentient beings, just as a cloud sends down rain impartially on all things

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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5 Responses to The Ten Paramitas

  1. MindMindful says:

    Very nice exposition of the Paramitas. I guess I’m at the 1st stage, barely ……..LongLongLong way to go………… Still, it’s a start, eh??

  2. Diana Doshin Johnson says:

    Wonderful effort; thank you!

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