The Ten Paramis

Originally published in Unity Newsletter, November 2006

By Will Tuttle, Ph.D.

Over the past five months we have been discussing the Four Viharas, an ancient Buddhist practice based on the understanding that our true nature is fundamentally whole, perfect, and complete, and that it is endowed with four “immeasurable” qualities: lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity or inner peace. We saw that by focusing on these inner attributes and cultivating them, we are able to increasingly live in our true home, the ever-abiding consciousness of love, compassion, joy, and peace. Like our Unity core teachings, these Buddhist teachings emphasize our innate goodness and freedom (which we refer to as the inner Christ) and our calling to practice the presence of the inner Christ in order to deepen our understanding, and thereby to bless others (and by extension ourselves).

It is interesting to note that these Four Viharas are part of a larger and more expansive practice known as the Ten Paramis. The Ten Paramis are comprised of the Four Viharas practice together with another practice called the Six Paramitas. Together, these two practices cover an almost inconceivable range of inner development potentials. Very briefly, the Six Paramitas are: Dana (Giving), Sila (Ethics), Kshanti (Patience), Virya (Zealous Effort), Dhyana (Meditative Stillness and Stability of Mind), and Prajna (Wisdom.)

The essential underlying perspective concerns the vital role that our inner attitudes and outer actions play in shaping our consciousness. There is an unfortunate tendency in much of what currently passes as spiritual teaching that purification of our thoughts and actions will occur naturally as our consciousness unfolds spiritually, so we needn’t pay much attention to it. It is important to understand, though, that our consciousness will never be able to progress very far beyond the current level of our thoughts and behavior.

The foundation of spiritual awakening has been recognized by great spiritual teachers to be living a life where we bring awareness to our behavior and consciously strive to be a force of blessing and kindness in the world. The root cause of misery is putting our own happiness, comfort, and rightness above that of others, and the root cause of happiness is moving from self-concern and self-righteousness to heart-felt concern for the welfare of others. We feel the joy of being loved to the extent that we are authentically loving and kind to others.

We have been born into a competitive and individualistic culture that, while resisting this ancient wisdom, yearns to evolve to a higher and more spiritually mature and intuitive level where there is more peace, freedom, and happiness for everyone. The essential and heretofore missing foundation for this is moving beyond the isolated self orientation to a broad-based community orientation of serving the welfare of all living beings. From this foundation an awakening is possible—an awakening, through inner realization, to the infinite freedom and love that is our true nature. Practicing the Ten Paramis can contribute to this solid foundation and help lead us on our path to spiritual awakening.

Together, let’s continue to work to create a world that reflects the unity of all life, and that cares for the welfare of all living beings, especially those who are most vulnerable. This month, let’s practice awareness of the ripples that radiate into our world from our thoughts, words, gestures, actions, and inactions.

Will Tuttle, Ph.D., composer, pianist, Zen priest, and author of The World Peace Diet, is cofounder of Karuna Music & Art and of the Prayer Circle for Animals and Circle of Compassion ministry.

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